After screening more than 100 films from 44 countries, the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival came to a resounding climax on Sunday with the awarding of juried film prizes. The Festival, which hosted over 27,000 attendees, including more than 1000 filmmakers and industry professionals, got high marks for the diversity and quality of its overall program. Despite record setting temperatures, the Festival was, in fact, the coolest place in town and repercussions from the films and issues discussed at the 5-day documentary conference will resonate for months to come. But now for the awards…….
This year’s Sterling Award for Best U.S. Feature went to ONLY THE YOUNG, directed by Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims, which includes a $5000 cash award. The film follows three teens stuck in a chaste love triangle in a depressed Southern California suburb. The jury praised the film “for its striking and beautiful cinematography and its innovative editing, and especially for its sensitive and startlingly honest portrayal of adolescence.” The Sterling Award for Best World Feature, which includes a $5000 cash award, was given to PLANET OF SNAIL, directed by Korean filmmaker Seungiun Yi. The poetry of the cinema merges fantastically with the sensuality of touch, taste and smell in this inspiring story of the deaf and blind South Korean poet Young-Chan and his devoted wife (who serves as his guide), both of whom are unwilling to accept as limitations the world of sight and sound from which he is isolated. The jury noted the film’s “poetic cinematography of life’s seemingly ordinary moments which underscores the complexity of life itself.” The Sterling Award for Best Short Film was given to KINGS POINT by Sari Gilman, a film about seniors who are facing the final chapter of their lives with dignity and humor.
A Special U.S. Feature Jury Mention went to THE WAITING ROOM directed by Peter Nicks. The film captures the complexity of the nation’s public health care system as experienced at an understaffed ER waiting room in Oakland’s Highland Hospital. A Special World Feature Jury Mention was awarded to SPECIAL FLIGHT (VOL SPECIAL) directed by Swiss director Fernand Melgar, which chronicles the legal limbo of undocumented immigrants in Switzerland who become entrapped in a byzantine system of detention despite having lived and worked in the country for long periods of time.
Other awards announced on Sunday include the WGA Documentary Screenplay Award, which was won by ANN RICHARDS’ TEXAS, a profile of the independent-minded former Texas governor, written by Keith Patterson. The Prize includes a $1,000 cash award and a five-year membership in the WGAE Nonfiction Writers Caucus. The films ESCAPE FIRE: THE FIGHT TO RESCUE AMERICAN HEALTHCARE, directed by Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke, and THE HOUSE I LIVE IN, directed by Eugene Jarecki, jointly won the inaugural React to Film Social Issue Awards, which praises films which use the medium to offer a compelling view of a critical social issue. In ESCAPE FIRE, the filmmakers examine the nuts and bolts of the current battle raging over a healthcare system that is desperately broken. In THE HOUSE I LIVE IN, filmmaker Eugene Jarecki (WHY WE FIGHT) offers a sobering view of the ill-fated “war on drugs” and the broken system that makes the problem worse rather than better. The Cinematic Vision Award went to ¡VIVAN LAS ANTIPODAS!, directed by Russian director Victor Kossakovsky. The filmmaker reveals the sheer kinetic and visual splendor of the corners of our planet when he explores four pairs of dry-land antipodes: Argentina and China, Russia and Chile, Hawaii and Botswana, and Spain and New Zealand. The prize includes a $4,000 in-kind services deal from the Alpha Cine Labs in Seattle. Hopefully, all of these films will find their way to festivals, media centers and theatrical showcases in the months ahead. For more information on these and other films highlighted at Silverdocs, please visit: www.silverdocs.com