Focusing on independent and arts-oriented productions the Winter Film Awards presented its third edition from February 26 to March 1st, surviving the first three years during which many new festivals fade away. As Stephen Follows pointed out a third of the new festivals last only one year. Run by volunteers the Winter Film Awards fest is non-profit endeavor with a minimal budget and not widely known. 350 productions were submitted for 2014 with a final selection of 61 originating in over 20 countries. For the festival director Steffanie Finn this is certainly an achievement. The size of a festival and its reputation determines how many films are submitted as well as their quality. For broad general interest small film festivals finding noteworthy productions can be problematic unless they specialize in a niche such as the recently announced L.A. New Architecture and Design Film Festival.
The thematic range of the 2014 Winter Film fest covered documentaries, features, horror films, shorts, and music videos with numerous awards for the best picture and foreign language film, documentary, horror film, acting and directing, screen play and score as well as others for the animated, music video, and student film categories. Among the winning films were BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. Nicolas Sicurella, USA, (best picture), interconnected stories of a man with Alzheimer’s taken care of by his daughter, her sister’s troubled relation with her boyfriend, and a respected school principal eventually revealed as a criminal pedophile; AGNUS DEI by Agim Sopi from Kosovo ( best foreign language film) presenting the disastrous impact of the violent conflict between Serbs and Albanians on interpersonal family relations and communities); Scott Schimer’s FOUND,US, (for best actor and best director), a horror film of an untroubled young boy discovering that his older brother is a serial killer with graphic visuals of the slaughter he engages in; MARIA, (best actress) a short film by Elmar Freels, Germany, with a young girl in a poverty setting having religious apparitions facing disbelief, and the short film JOB INTERVIEW (best student film) by Julia Walter, Germany, on a job interview turning personal with an unexpected ending.
Set up to provide a venue for independent filmmakers and artists the Winter Film Awards stages several additional film events each year to enhance discussions and networking and to nurture emerging talent. In light of the growing number of filmmakers in the United States and the increase in productions festivals such as the Winter Film Awards are crucial for selecting quality independent productions and providing recognition to them. New distribution platforms and distributors focusing on independent production and art house cinema, frequently no longer consider individual submissions unless they have passed through the festival circuit and gained awards.