AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE NARRATIVE: Pájaros de Papel (Paper Birds), directed by Emilio Aragón
Spanish filmmaker Emilio Aragón made his directorial debut with Paper Birds. Lush cinematography, stunning set design and a brilliant symphonic score (composed by Aragón) anchor this epic work that asks, “Who can be trusted when the enemy can be anyone?” When entertainer Jorge del Pino loses his wife and son in the dying days of the Spanish Civil War, there’s not much left to fear. At war’s end, jobs are scarce and hunger plentiful. The outspoken Jorge, his vaudeville partner Enrique and their band of travelling artists oppose the brutal repression of the Franco regime. Miguel, a precocious child, joins the troupe, challenging the embittered Jorge to once again embrace life. The story meanders from its dreamy opening through the darkest post war days, ultimately spanning the centuries. “Show Me Your Babaloo” (sung by opportunistic diva Rocina) is but one of many elaborate performances integrated into this tale of high intrigue, betrayal and redemption. Watch for a few familiar faces slyly inserted in the final theater scene.
BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY: Always Faithful, directed by Tony Hardmon & Rachel Libert
Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger devoted nearly 25 years to the United States Marine Corps, following their motto “Always Faithful” as a way of life. When his nine-year-old daughter died of a rare form of leukemia, a grief-stricken Ensminger took on a quest that would lead him to a shocking discovery: the organization to which he had pledged his loyalty was responsible for one of the largest water contamination incidents in US history. This searing exposé follows Ensminger’s mission to make the Marine Corps live up to its own motto and be accountable for exposing thousands of soldiers and their families to carcinogens. Along the way, Ensminger sheds light on conditions that affect military families across the nation and a government regulatory system that fails to protect all of us from toxic chemicals.
HONORARY MAVERICK AWARD: Detachment, directed by Tony Kaye
In Director Tony Kaye’s Detachment Academy Award winner Adrien Brody stars as Henry Barthes, an educator with a true talent to connect with his students. Yet Henry has chosen to bury his gift. By spending his days as a substitute teacher, he conveniently avoids any emotional connections by never staying anywhere long enough to form an attachment to either students or colleagues. When a new assignment places him at a public school where a frustrated, burned-out administration has created an apathetic student body, Henry soon becomes a role model to the disaffected youth. In finding an unlikely emotional connection to the students, teachers, and a runaway teen he takes in from the streets, Henry realizes that he’s not alone in his life and death struggle to find beauty in a seemingly vicious and loveless world. Kaye, molding a contemporary vision of people who become increasingly distant from others while still feeling the need to connect, directs a stellar ensemble cast from a script by Carl Lund.
LEE MARVIN AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE NARRATIVE: On The Ice, directed by Andrew O. MacLean
Set amidst the frozen landscape and the unrelenting summer sun of America’s northernmost city- Barrow, Alaska, “On the Ice” is Andrew MacLean’s stunning feature debut. Two Iñupiat teens, Qalli and Aivaaq, struggle with the daily monotony of life- listening to rap music, drinking and seal hunting. This tedium explodes when the unthinkable happens, and an argument between the two teens and another friend ends in tragedy. Shocked and horrified, the two make an ill-fated pact to cover up the accident and their choice leads them to construct a poorly built tower of lies. In addition to brilliant cinematography, “On the Ice” features standout performances by Josiah Patkotak as the guilt-ridden Qalli, Frank Irelan as the troubled Aivaaq and Teddy Kyle Smith as Qalli’s stoic father. “On the Ice” combines the stark loneliness of “The Sweet Hereafter” with a coming-of-age tale about misplaced honor and desperation.
DIANE SELIGMAN AWARD FOR BEST SHORT DOCUMENTARY: Poetry of Resilience directed by Katja Esson
War, genocide and oppression: unfathomable tragedies affect so many and paint a dark portrait of the human condition. And yet, out of atrocity, the beauty of poetry can flow, as those who lived it attempt to make sense of it all. Through the poems and words of six extraordinary artists and a unique visual style, comes director Katja Esson’s deeply contemplative examination of the ever-present questions of violence, society and the reality of being an artist and survivor. Put best by poet Li-Young Lee: “I wish I could say the human spirit is resilient; some days I don’t think so.” Shot on location from Hiroshima to Rwanda, we are given an intimate look into the language of the soul and the creative process behind it. And in the end, we come a little closer to understanding the madness of war and how art will flourish in spite of every obstacle.
DIANE SELIGMAN AWARD FOR BEST SHORT NARRATIVE: We’re Leaving directed by Zachary Treitz
Finding a new home can be tricky when your teenager is big, green and tends to bite! Filmmaker Zachary Treitz was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. He produced The Pleasure of Being Robbed and co-produced Daddy Longlegs.
MAVERICK AWARD FOR BEST ANIMATION: Luminaris directed by Juan Pablo Zaramella
In a world controlled and timed by light, an ordinary man has a plan that could change the natural order of things. Juan Pablo Zaramella is an independent director and animator. He graduated the Instituto de Arte Cinematografico de Avellaneda as an Animation Director, directing and animating his own films, and worked in animation for advertisements, directing commercials for renowned international brands. His shorts have received more than 100 prizes, including the Best Film of the Year Award (INCAA) and Condor de Plata award for two consecutive years. He was selected for Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase in Cannes and the Annecy International Animation Festival presented a special programme of his works. Currently, Zaramella is working on a feature version of his short Journey to Mars.