That gurgling sound you hear is me finally coming up for air more than a week after the conclusion of this year's incredible 18th annual Florida Film Festival. Once again we'd like to thank the filmmakers, special guests, panelists, and audiences who made this year perhaps the best one yet--at least that's what we're hearing from just about everyone. Nothing makes it more worthwhile than to get such positive feedback and glowing comments from those that participated and experienced our special 10-day cinematic party.
Multiple award winners ruled the day, which was highly unusual. We've had films win double awards before (going all the way back to the Belic Brothers' GENGHIS BLUES), but rarely in both the Narrative Feature and Doc Feature categories. But that's just what happened in 2009 with Rafael Monserrate's hilarious dysfunctional family comedy, POUNDCAKE, taking not only the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature, but a Special Jury Award for Original Screenplay to its co-writers and cast members, Troy Hall and Kevin Logie. Doc features hit the daily double as well with Scott Hamilton Kennedy's Oscar-nominated, David vs. Goliath urban struggle gripper, THE GARDEN, winning both the Grand Jury Award and Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature. Considering the other films in the competition, that's a pretty remarkable feat.
And let's not forget about San Francisco's Lev Yilmaz and his ongoing series of film-while-he-draws observations on life and relationships, TALES OF MERE EXISTENCE. Central Florida audiences simply love this unique filmmaker's work (and perspective), honoring him with a third Audience Award for Best Short Film in the last four years! Since that award can be given to any of the domestic narrative, documentary, or animated shorts in the American Independent Competition, it is technically the hardest one to win, with the worst odds. Pretty damn impressive...
For those of you who may not have caught it elsewhere, here's the rest of the awards bestowed by both the juries and the audiences: Sean Baker's gritty immigrant drama, PRINCE OF BROADWAY, won the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature; in the Docs category, Kimberly Reed won a Special Jury Award for Fearless Filmmaking for her jaw-dropping and intimate PRODIGAL SONS, while Matt Morris won the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Short for his peek into a North Carolina, bluegrass rockin' barber shop, PICKIN' & TRIMMIN'; in the Shorts category, Benh Zeitlin's haunting GLORY AT SEA won the coveted Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Short (the first step in qualifying for next year's Academy Awards); the always brilliant Don Hertzfeldt won the Grand Jury Award for Best Animated Short; teen actress Jasmine Jessica Anthony won a Special Jury Award for Outstanding Performance (opposite a riveting Winona Ryder) in Blake Sennett's WATER PILLS; and the Audience Award for Best International Feature went to Ben Whalley's definitive BBC music doc, NEIL YOUNG: DON'T BE DENIED, while Best International Short went to the comically masterful INSTEAD OF ABRACADABRA, directed by Patrik Eklund of Sweden.
Good choices, one and all. Hope you were here to enjoy with the rest of us. Can't wait to get geared up to start the process all over again for 2010 (APRIL 9 - 18 by the way).