After a very strong 11th edition, the Tribeca Film Festival announced its awards this past weekend, giving indie titles an added boost as they face the rigors of the marketplace in the months ahead. While a juried or even audience award may not impress many hardened distributors, it is still quite the accomplishment for a single film to be recognized in a stream of strong competition, and the award recognition for the films certainly fuels wanna-see interest and film festival circuit requests. A distributor or film buyer ignores award winners at their own peril. Whatever their challenges in the marketplace, they do have the qualities that have caused seasoned industry veterans to single them out or audience members to vote with their feet for films that have spoken directly to them.
So, here without further ado are the 2012 winners…….WAR WITCH and UNA NOCHE were the big winners in the Tribeca Film Festival jury awards, which were handed out last Thursday night in New York City. WAR WITCH was named Best Narrative Feature, and its leading actress Rachel Mwanza was named Best Actress. The film is a galvanizing portrait of a 14-year-old African girl who is kidnapped by rebels and forced to become a child soldier. Its star is a non-professional, which gave her performance an immediacy and authenticity that would be hard to match with a professional actor. This impressed the jury, who commented that “this indelible character study of a girl who becomes a woman before our eyes in the midst of harrowing war gives words to the unspeakable……riveting, heartbreaking, vivid, and eloquent, the movie balances scenes of crazy enemy hatred with moments of luminous private love.”
UNA NOCHE, which deals with two Cuban teens, one of whom is forced to flee to the United States, while the other debates whether to follow or remain with his sister, took home awards for director Lucy Molloy, cinematographers Trevor Forrest and Shlomo Godder, and leading actors Dariel Arrechada and Javier Nunez Florian. The film generated headlines of its own when the actor Javier Nunez Florian disappeared in Miami en route to New York. It is believed that he defected to the United States with fellow Cuban actor Anailin de la Rua.
The evening’s other major winners included ALL IN, which was honored for its screenplay, and UNIT 7, which received a special jury mention. THE WORLD BEFORE HER won the top prize in the documentary competition, with a special mention going to THE REVISIONARIES. The Tribeca (Online) Film Festival awards, which are chosen by online votes, were given to the feature film ON THE MAT and the short CATCAM. Winners received cash prizes of up to $25,000, as well as original art. The awards were presented by a number of Tribeca officials and jurors, among them founders Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal and jurors Patricia Clarkson, Irwin Winkler, Leelee Sobieski, Michael Moore, Lucy Walker and Susan Sarandon.
ANY DAY NOW, a drama about gay adoption from director Travis Fine, won the Tribeca Film Festival Heineken Audience Award for the festival’s favorite narrative feature. The film stars Alan Cumming as an aspiring singer who, together with his closeted district attorney partner (Garret Dillahunt), tries to adopt a teenager with down syndrome (Isaac Leyva). The Detroit-set documentary BURN was named favorite documentary feature. In the film, Detroit’s new Fire Commissioner, Donald Austin, attempts to help rebuild the devastated city. The film was directed by Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez, and executive produced by RESCUE ME creator and star Denis Leary. The winning films, both Tribeca premieres, received cash prizes of $25,000, along with original works of art.
In the last bit of awards news, the Tribeca Film Institute also announced the winners of its Tribeca All Access Creative Promise Awards, which are designed to nurture relationships between the film industry and filmmakers from underrepresented communities. RHYMES FOR YOUNG GHOULS by writer/director Jeff Barnaby won the Creative Promise Award for Narrative. The documentary winner was THE NEW BLACK, directed by Yoruba Richen. A number of other grants and fellowships were also announced, with cash awards in the program totaling $92,000 for the lucky winners. To find out more about the films mentioned, visit: www.tribecafilm/festival.