Welcome to the Larry411.com Guest Columnists! April 27, 2013
In my travels to the best film festivals in…
The 20th Los Angeles Film Festival is coming to an end tonight with the Gala screening of Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys. This last day also sees the announcement of the annual awards, including the Jury Awards and Audience Awards, as voted for by viewers marking their ballots from one to four after each screening.
I'm thrilled to see that the two top awards for narrative features went to the very two films I've been raving about the most during the festival on my Twitter, where I've been posting live reports, capsule reviews, and photos over the past week. The Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature went to Dave Boyle's Man From Reno, one of a small group of titles I'd previewed as Best Bets.
The Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature went to The Young Kieslowski, directed by Kerem Sanga and starring Haley Lu Richardson (who also wowed me in The Well) and Ryan Malgarini. While I haven't announced my own festival Top Picks yet, that movie is certainly in my Top 3.
Here is the complete text of the official press release:
LOS ANGELES (June 19, 2014) – Today the Los Angeles Film Festival, in conjunction with Presenting Media Sponsor the Los Angeles Times and Host Partner Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE announced the jury and audience award winners for the 2014 Festival at the Awards Cocktail Reception. Actor Vincent Piazza of Jersey Boys was on hand to present the awards. The Awards Cocktail Reception was sponsored by Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television. The Los Angeles Film Festival ran from Wednesday, June 11 to Thursday, June 19 in downtown Los Angeles.
“This year the Los Angeles Film Festival reached a new high, thanks to the audiences who packed theaters in support of the films. We’re so proud of every single film and celebrate the winners!” said Festival Director Stephanie Allain.
The juried awards of the Los Angeles Film Festival are the Narrative Award, the Documentary Award and the LA Muse Award, each carrying an unrestricted $5,000 cash prize for the winning film’s director. The winners of the short film awards each receive a $1,500 cash prize. The awards were established by the Festival to encourage independent filmmakers to pursue their artistic ambitions.
“Huge thanks to our wonderful juries, whose enthusiasm and diligence was remarkable. There were so many outstanding movies in the competition this year, which made the jurors’ job difficult. Congratulations to the winners—and to all the filmmakers who helped make the Festival a rousing success,” said Artistic Director David Ansen.
The Narrative Award recognizes the finest narrative film in competition at the Festival and went to Dave Boyle for Man From Reno, which made its World Premiere at the Festival. The Documentary Award recognizes the finest documentary film in competition at the Festival and went to Debra Granik for Stray Dog, which made its World Premiere at the Festival. An honorable mention was also bestowed upon Eliza Kubarska's Walking Under Water, which made its US premiere at the Festival. The inaugural LA Muse Award sponsored by Fox Audience Strategy goes to Damian John Harper for his film Los Ángeles, which had its International Premiere at the Festival.
The Los Angeles Film Festival also awarded an unrestricted $1,500 cash prize to each short film category. The recipient for the Award for Best Narrative Short Film went to The Runaway, directed by Jean-Bernard Marlin. The Award for Best Documentary Short Film went to The Queen, directed by Manuel Abramovich. The Award for Best Animated or Experimental Short Film went to Butter Lamp, directed by Hu Wei. The Shorts Program Awards are funded by HBO.
The Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature went to The Young Kieslowski, directed by Kerem Sanga, and the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature went to Meet the Patels, directed by Geeta V. Patel and Ravi V. Patel. Someone You Love by Pernille Fischer Christensen won the Audience Award for Best International Feature.
The Audience Award for Best Short Film went to The Gunfighter, directed by Eric Kissack. Turn Down For What: Lil John and DJ Snake, directed by Daniels with music by Lil John and DJ Snake, won the Audience Award for Best Music Video.
The narrative jury consists of director Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12, I Am Not A Hipster), who won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature in 2013, producer Stuart Cornfeld (Zoolander, Blades of Glory, Kafka, Dodgeball, The Fly, Tropic Thunder) and film critic Ella Taylor (NPR, Variety, The Wrap, The New York Times Arts & Leisure, LA Weekly, The Village Voice). The documentary jury is comprised of editor Lynzee Klingman (Hearts and Minds, A River Runs Through It, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, War of the Roses), Spirit Award-winning director Margaret Film Independent (The Great Invisible, The Order Of Myths, Be Here To Love Me: A Film about Townes Van Zandt) and film critic and author Justin Chang (LAFCA, Variety). The LA Muse jury includes award-winning composer/singer-songwriter Kathryn Bostic (Middle of Nowhere, Make a Wish, I Will Follow, Dear White People), writer/director/producer Maryam Keshavarz (Circumstance, Dog Sweat, The Day I Died), Executive Vice President, Fox Audience Strategy Nicole Bernard and director Kevin Bray (Walking Tall, All About the Benjamins, Linewatch). The shorts jury consists of screenwriter/actor/director Todd Berger (It’s a Disaster, The Scenesters), Film Independent Spirit Award winning writer/director Kyle Patrick Alvarez (C.O.G., Easier with Practice) and casting director Julia Kim (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Get Shorty, Bedazzled, But I’m a Cheerleader), who won the Film Independent Spirit Awards Robert Altman Award for Casting Director and Best Ensemble Cast for the film Starlet in 2013.
Also announced earlier at the festival were the Fast Track grants winners which Film Independent selects and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation sponsors. The Fast Track program is an intensive, three-day film-financing market that connects participants with established financiers, production companies, agents, managers and other film industry professionals who can move their current projects forward. Filmmakers Logan Kibens and Felipe Dieppa’s Operator won the Sloan Fast Track Grant, a $15,000 production grant. In addition to participation in Fast Track, as part of the Sloan Foundation grant, the filmmakers will also receive year-round support from Film Independent.
This year marked a special collaboration with Funny Or Die for the Make ’em LAFF internet talent competition to discover content creators of color and underrepresented voices who specialize in comedy. The winner was selected by a jury comprised of Funny Or Die founder Chris Henchy, writer/producer/director Issa Rae (Awkward Black Girl) and comedians Hannibal Buress and Kumail Nanjiani. The winner is Suzi Yoonessi’s Olive and Mocha: Fast Times at Sugar High. Yoonessi will have her next video produced by Funny Or Die and receive a talent hold deal with a cash prize presented by Fox Audience Strategy. Under the deal, she will be presented across the Fox entertainment businesses.
Now in its 20th year, the Los Angeles Film Festival showcases diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision in new American and international cinema and is produced by Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that also produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards and Film Independent at LACMA Film Series. The 2014 Festival screened nearly 200 feature films, shorts and music videos, representing 40 countries, along with signature programs such as the Filmmaker Retreat, Music in Film at The GRAMMY Museum®, Master Classes supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and launching at this year’s festival is a special section called LA Muse focused on the city of Los Angeles as an inspiration for filmmakers and artists.
The Los Angeles Film Festival kicked off on Wednesday, June 11 with the North American premiere of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer and will close tonight with Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys. Gala Screenings included Love is Strange, The Two Faces of January and Dear White People. The 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Guest Director was Lisa Cholodenko; she was also the recipient of the inaugural Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award. This year’s Spirit of Independence Award was bestowed upon Sony Pictures Classics’ Tom Bernard and Michael Barker.
The Los Angeles Film Festival is a qualifying festival in all categories for the Film Independent Spirit Awards and for the Narrative and Animated Short Film categories at the Academy Awards.
Awards were given out in the following categories:
Narrative Award (for Best Narrative Feature)
Winner: Man From Reno, directed by Dave Boyle
Producer: Ko Mori
Cast: Ayako Fujitani, Pepe Serna, Kazuki Kitamura
Film Description: A stranger in the increasingly strange city of San Francisco, Japanese crime novelist Aki is unsure of precisely what role she has to play in a real-life murder mystery involving ambiguous MacGuffins and amorphous identities. Unfolding in lonely places such as bookshops and hotel bars, Dave Boyle's moody thriller uncovers exhilarating new takes on genre conventions. Consequently, it's an alluring homme fatal who supplies Aki with the breadcrumb trail of clues that entices her into a labyrinthine plot of sinister dealings. In turn, the aging sheriff (veteran character actor Pepe Serna, fantastic in a rare leading role), who should rightfully be riding to her rescue, proves to be equally out of his depth. The game is afoot, the chase is exhilarating and the stakes are perilously high in this inspired neo-noir.
The Narrative Award carries an unrestricted cash prize of $5,000. The award recognizes the finest narrative film in competition and is given to the director. A special jury selects the winner, and all narrative feature-length films screening in the Narrative Competition section were eligible.
In bestowing Dave Boyle with the Narrative Award, the Jury stated:
“Man From Reno tells a complicated story in a straightforward confident manner. Its exploration of barriers of age, language and success set against a noir plot line infuses a pop energy into the well observed portrayal of its unique characters.”
Documentary Award (for Best Documentary Feature)
Winner: Stray Dog, directed by Debra Granik
Producer: Anne Rosellini
Featuring: Ron 'Stray Dog' Hall, Alicia Soriano Hall, Felipe Angel Padilla Soriano, Felipe de Jesús Padilla Soriano
Film Description: Winter's Bone director Debra Granik's searching, stereotype-shattering documentary focuses on Ron "Stray Dog" Hall. At first glance, this burly, bearded biker looks like one badass dude. Then, through Granik's incisive, sympathetic eye, we begin to see his big, battle-scarred heart. The movie follows Stray Dog as he caravans on his Harley from his rural Missouri home to Washington, D.C. with his fellow vets to pay tribute to his fallen brothers at the Vietnam Memorial. Back home, he takes in his Mexican wife and her two sons, who are, like him, struggling to find a place in a country that has become foreign. Stray Dog is at once a powerful look at the veteran experience, a surprising love story and a fresh exploration of what it takes to survive in the hardscrabble heartland of America.
The Documentary Award carries an unrestricted cash prize of $5,000. The award recognizes the finest documentary film in competition, and is given to the director. A special jury selects the winner, and all documentary feature-length films screening in the Documentary Competition section were eligible. The Documentary Competition is sponsored by Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television.
In bestowing Debra Granik with the Documentary Award, the Jury stated:
“The Documentary Award goes to a beautifully crafted observational portrait that addresses, with love, empathy and humor, some of the issues we struggle with as a country today, such as PTSD, immigration and poverty. Never lecturing, but instead revealing an intimate glimpse of a man's family and his compassionate, troubled heart, the winner of the documentary grand jury prize is Debra Granik's Stray Dog."
Honorable Mention: Walking Under Water, directed by Eliza Kubarska
Producer: Monika Braid
Film Description: In the crystal clear waters off the coast of Borneo, a unique way of life threatens to disappear forever. For generations, the Badjao were oceanic nomads, living in harmony with the sea as fishermen and free divers. Nowadays, however, only a few Badjao remain, like Alexan, who still remembers the old ways. He hopes to pass his knowledge along to his ten-year-old nephew Sari, but time and opportunities are running out. Sari loves the sea, but it can only offer a hard life of subsistence fishing, while the nearby tourist resort sings a siren song of easy money. Through the sensitive direction of Eliza Kubarska and remarkable underwater cinematography, Walking Under Water provides a haunting portrait of timeless traditions struggling to survive in the modern world.
In bestowing Eliza Kubarska with the Honorable Mention, the Jury stated:
“For its deeply moving account of human struggle in the natural and spirit worlds, told with both harrowing immediacy and stunning visual poetry, an honorable mention goes to Eliza Kubarska's Walking Under Water."
LA Muse Award
Winner: Los Ángeles by Damian John Harper
Producers: Jonas Weydemann, Jakob D. Weydemann
Cast: Mateo Bautísta Matías, Marcos Rodriguez Ruíz, Lidia García, Daniel Bautista, Donaciano Bautista Matías
Film Description: The perilous ambitions for a better life weigh heavy on the youth of a Zapotec community in rural Oaxaca. Young Mateo plans to raise money for the coyote who will smuggle him across the border and ingratiates himself with the local gang, seeking protection on the other side. Yet when his conscience catches up with him, not even the fearless mothers of their agrarian village can protect him. Forced to gather his courage and embark on a suicidal journey, Mateo's goal becomes less a physical destination and more a dangerous rite of passage. Damian John Harper's directorial debut subverts the conventions of the gang genre and transcends the ethnographic approach by knitting together the multiple perspectives of his diverse characters, who are magnetically played by non-actors.
The LA Muse Award carries an unrestricted cash prize of $5,000. A special jury selects the winner, and all LA Muse films were eligible.
In bestowing Damian John Harper with the LA Muse Award, the Jury stated:
“Our Jury Award goes to Los Ángeles, directed by John Damian Harper, for its cinematic, acute ethnographic observations, featuring an amazing cast of indigenous actors, whose performances strengthen the mesmerizing story of a community held hostage by the American dream.”
Best Performance in the Narrative Competition
Winner: The Ensemble Cast of Recommended by Enrique, directed by Rania Attieh and Daniel García
Producers: Rania Attieh, Daniel García, Ivan Eibuszyc, Mahalia Cohen, Alice Kharoubi
Cast: Lino Vareia, Sarah Swinwood
Film Description: An aspiring Hollywood actress working on her first feature--a no-budget horror flick oddly crewed by enthusiastic teenagers--and a cowboy on a mysterious job arrive in the small border town of Del Rio, Texas, each with their own very clear agenda. When the starlet's film director and the cowboy's associate both fail to appear, however, there's nothing to do but wait and see. Dusty Del Rio quickly becomes a strange way station where time seems to stand still and things are not what they seem. Basing their film on an amusing, bizarre true story they delight in elaborating on, filmmakers Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia and their brilliant cast of newcomers weave a mesmerizing, witty fable that blurs the borders between dreams and reality.
In bestowing the ensemble cast of Recommended by Enrique with the Best Performance Award, the jury stated:
“We recognize the freshness and wacked-out spontaneity of the ensemble cast of Recommended by Enrique.”
Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature
Winner: The Young Kieslowski, directed by Kerem Sanga
Producers: Seth Caplan, Danny Leiner, Dave Hunter, Ross Putman
Cast: Ryan Malgarini, Haley Lu Richardson, Joshua Malina, Melora Walters, James Le Gros, Osric Chau, Jessica Lu, John Redlinger
Film Description: Grand romantic gestures need not apply in this comedic tale of star-crossed young love. Instead, freshman Brian Kieslowski displays endless reserves of bumbling awkwardness as he goes home with a girl for the first time... and then learns that he got her pregnant... with twins... all while she's going through a rather inconvenient Christianity phase. Could it be that being the good guy and doing what's right are two very different things? With writer/director Kerem Sanga presenting a seriocomic gauntlet for them to negotiate, Ryan Malgarini and Haley Lu Richardson deliver delightfully nimble performances, hitting all the right off-notes as two kids in just over their heads, whose luck seems as bad as their instincts. The fates may have conspired to prematurely drag them into adulthood, but they intend on going kicking and screaming.
This award is given to the narrative feature audiences liked most as voted by a tabulated rating system. Select narrative feature-length films screening in the following sections were eligible for the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature: Galas, Narrative Competition, International Showcase, Summer Showcase, LA Muse, Community Screenings and The Beyond.
Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature
Winner: Meet the Patels, directed by Geeta V. Patel and Ravi V. Patel
Producers: Janet Eckholm, Geeta V. Patel
Featuring: Ravi V. Patel, Vasant K. Patel, Champa V. Patel
Film Description: Largely inexperienced in the art of courtship, L.A.-based actor Ravi Patel is suddenly thrown into the deep end of the dating pool when he reluctantly consents to letting his parents find him an ideal Indian bride. As he embarks on a multi-date tour across North America, however, the self-effacing suitor can't help but wonder whether his quest represents a laudable acceptance of cherished traditions or a pathetic surrender to his own deep-seated insecurities. Co-directed by Ravi and his sister Geeta, this sharp, funny documentary is fueled by the comic banter and confessional asides that can transpire only between siblings. Meanwhile, their doting parents are the sort of larger-than-life characters that most Hollywood screenwriters can only dream of creating. If only all family videos were this enthralling and packed with plot twists.
This award is given to the documentary feature audiences liked most as voted by a tabulated rating system. Select documentary feature-length films screening in the following sections were eligible for the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature: Documentary Competition, International Showcase, Summer Showcase, LA Muse and Community Screenings.
Audience Award for Best International Feature
Winner: Someone You Love, directed by Pernille Fischer Christensen
Producers: Vinca Wiedemann, Sisse Graum Jørgensen
Cast: Mikael Persbrandt, Trine Dyrholm, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Sofus Rønnov, Eve Best
Film Description: After many years living in L.A., a world-famous, hard-living Danish singer-songwriter (think a Nordic Leonard Cohen) returns to his homeland to record a new album. Solitary, self-absorbed and nursing his hard-won sobriety, he holes up in a luxurious country home and buries himself in his music, his only passion in life. His solitude is rudely interrupted by the arrival of his troubled, coke-snorting daughter, who deposits her 11-year-old son in his lap. Mikael Persbrandt is extraordinary as the gravel-voiced egotist forced to rediscover his deeply buried humanity in award-winning Danish director Pernille Fischer Christensen's moving, immaculately crafted family drama.
This award is given to the international feature audiences liked most as voted by a tabulated rating system. Select international feature-length films, both narrative and documentary, screening in the following sections were eligible for the Audience Award for Best International Feature: Narrative Competition, Documentary Competition, International Showcase, Summer Showcase and The Beyond.
Award for Best Narrative Short Film
Winner: The Runaway, directed by Jean-Bernard Marlin. France.
Producer: Valentine de Bligniéres
Cast: Adel Bencherif, Médina Yalaoui
Description: A youth worker tries desperately to save an unstable teenage girl charged with multiple crimes.
In bestowing Jean-Bernard Marlin the Best Narrative Short Film Award, the Jury stated:
“We were moved by this depiction of a troubled teenage delinquent through the eyes of her youth councilor. It gave us unique insight into this world from a different POV. Excellent direction and performances!”
Award for Best Documentary Short Film
Winner: The Queen, directed by Manuel Abramovich. Argentina.
Producer: Daniela Raschcovsky
Description: A young beauty queen endures the pain of getting a massive headdress attached to her head.
In bestowing Manuel Abramovich with the Award for Best Documentary Short Film Award, the Jury stated:
“We found its use of unwavering perspective particularly unique and incredibly effective. It's a documentary with an opinion that avoids didacticism entirely and offers an often unseen glimpse into the behind the scenes culture of the Carnival.”
Award for Best Animated/Experimental Short Film
Winner: Butter Lamp, directed by Hu Wei. China/France
Producer: Julien Féret
Cast: Genden Punstock
Description: Cultures clash as traditional Tibetan families pose in front of backdrops of far away locales.
In bestowing Hu Wei with the Award for Best Animated or Experimental Short Film Award, the Jury stated:
“Blurring the line between fiction and reality and telling a insightful, moving story in an unconventional way is what really set this film apart. With a camera that never moves, no named characters, and no discernible plot, the film manages to take a simple, experimental idea and in only a few minutes make a powerful statement about family, tradition, and impending technological changes encroaching on a small community. ”
Audience Award for Best Short Film
Winner: The Gunfighter, directed by Eric Kissack
Producer: Sarah Platt
Cast: Nick Offerman, Shawn Parsons, Scottt Beehner, Eileen O’Connell, Jordan Black
Film Description: Characters in a Western discover each others' secrets from an evil off-screen narrator.
Awarded to the short film audiences liked most as voted on by a tabulated rating system. Short films screening in the Shorts Programs or before Narrative Competition, Documentary Competition, International Showcase, LA Muse or The Beyond feature-length screenings were eligible for the Audience Award for Best Short Film.
Audience Award for Best Music Video
Winner: Turn Down For What: Lil Jon and DJ Snake directed by Daniels
Music: Lil Jon & DJ Snake
This award is given to the music video audiences liked most as voted on by a tabulated rating system.
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In my travels to the best film festivals in…