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2007 SILVERDOCS Award Winners

Please Vote For MePlease Vote For Me

Monday, June 18---------After a stimulating and chockful of quality program of 100 films from 42 countries over 5 days (not to mention panels and master classes at the parallel International Documentary Conference), SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival announced its distinguished award winners at ceremonies at the AFI Silver Theater on Saturday evening. Winning filmmakers received over $55,000 in cash, goods and in-kind services. Award winners will have special repeat screenings today and into Monday, allowing enthusiastic audiences to sample this year's group of winning films.

This year’s SILVERDOCS Sterling Award for a Feature Film was won by PLEASE VOTE FOR ME, by Chinese director Weijun Chen. The film explores what democracy looks like in the world’s largest Communist country by following the intense politicking to become class monitor of a third grade class in China's Wuhan Province. The director will receive $10,000 cash and $10,000 in-kind services from Video Labs and $5,000 in film stock from Kodak. Liesl Copland of Red Envelope Entertainment noted on behalf of the Sterling Feature Jury that “the film had everything any movie could hope to have. It was emotionally moving, evoked laughter, invited us to think deeper about ourselves and our democracy, which we learned is not a gift, but a responsibility.” Honorable Mention went to ENEMIES OF HAPPINESS by Eva Mulvad. The film follows Malalai Joya, the first woman elected to Afghanistan’s parliament, whose democratic spirit has made her a heroine to many Afghans.Nomadak TXNomadak TX

The SILVERDOCS Sterling Award for a Short Film was given to LOT 63, GRAVE, directed by Sam Green, which examines the death of Meredith Hunter, who was killed at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969. Although his death became a symbol for the end of the Summer of Love, he now lies forgotten, buried in an unmarked and unvisited grave. The filmmaker will receive $5,000 cash. Special mention went to I WANT TO BE A PILOT directed by Diego Quemada-Díez, a visual poem highlighting the desperation felt by AIDS orphans living in the slums of Kenya, and their hopes of leaving. The SILVERDOCS Music Documentary Award presented by Pump Audio was presented to NOMADAK TX,  directed by Raul De la Fuente. The film follows two musicians as they traverse the world with a magical instrument, the Txalaparta. The Beyond Belief Award, presented to a feature documentary that exhibits excellence in chronicling complex issues of faith and society, was won by  AUDIENCE OF ONE by Michael Jacobs.  The film follows San Francisco Pentecostal minister Richard Gazowsky, who receives a message from God to write and direct an epic Biblical sci-fi movie.  But when the film crew goes on location in Italy, even a divine mission doesn't spare them from Murphy's Law....or the ravings of an egomaniacal director.

Kurt Cobain, About A SonKurt Cobain, About A SonSILVERDOCS introduced four new awards this year. The SILVERDOCS Cinematic Vision Award for a Feature Film went to KURT COBAIN ABOUT A SON, directed by AJ Schnack. The film is a surprising portrait of the man behind the icon, Kurt Cobain, narrating this visually stunning film of his childhood, Nirvana’s sudden rise to fame, his controversial relationship with Courtney Love, and his struggles with pain and depression. The filmmaker will receive $2,500 cash. The SILVERDOCS Cinematic Vision Award for a Short Film presented by Discovery HD Theater went to MY EYES directed by Erland Mo. This film explores the ways in which music is integral in Katja’s life, evoking experiences and emotion. Young Catherine is also grappling with enhanced senses in her blind world, and with her mother discovers the joy in sound and touch. The filmmaker will receive $2,500 cash.

The SILVERDOCS WITNESS Award in honor of Joey R. B. Lozano was presented to THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, a searing exposition of the violence and tragedy of the genocide in Darfur as seen through the eyes of a solitary American witness, Brian Steidle, in his role as military observer with the African Union. The award is presented to the strongest feature length documentary that is supported by the strongest distribution strategy. The filmmaker will receive $5,000 cash. Honorable mention went to THE PRICE OF SUGAR by Bill Haney, a powerful film about a charismatic Spanish priest, who arrives in the Dominican Republic and protests the enslavement of dispossessed Haitians in the sugar plantations, igniting a firestorm of tension.

Finally, the SILVERDOCS/American Film Market Award for a film that shows exceptional market promise was awarded to BIG RIG by Doug Pray, a film that shatters the anonymity of long-haul truck drives in a portrait of working-class America and the diverse individuals whose largely invisible labor drives our economy. Their complex personal histories and perspectives play out against America’s iconic “ribbon highway.” The filmmaker will be presented passes to the American Film Market (October 31 to November 7, 2007), airfare, five nights hotel and pre-arranged meetings with potential partners (a$5,000 value).

The Award Winner for the Animal Content in Entertainment (ACE) Grant went to THE CONCRETE JUNGLE by Rachel Buchanan and Dan Berier. The feature-length documentary explores the complex relationships that exist between humans and wildlife in urban settings. The film examines the past, present and future of our long-standing tug-of-war with the natural world. Stretching from New York to New Delhi, the film presents the successes and failures of city dweller facing this growing global concern. The director received a $10,000 grant.SouvenirsSouvenirs

The SILVERDOCS Audience Award Winner for a Feature was SOUVENIRS directed by Shahar Cohen and Halil Efrat. When Shahar Cohen hears his 82-year-old father bragging about the “souvenirs” he left behind during WWII, the young filmmaker determines to retrace his father’s history in the Jewish brigade, with the hopes of locating his potential half-siblings. The SILVERDOCS Audience Award Winner for a Short was given to A SON’S SACRIFICE by Yoni Brook. Imran quit being a Manhattan ad man to run the family Halal slaughterhouse in Queens. His faith and patience are tested during Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice.

PLEASE VOTE FOR ME strikes a perfect balance", Patricia Finneran, SILVERDOCS Festival Director stated. "The story of three young candidates for third grade class monitor touches our hearts with humor and humanity, while addressing complex questions about the future of China and the meaning of democracy.” As in past years, winning an award at this prestigious documentary festival invariably leads to other prizes and extensive exposure on the international film festival circuit. It is also hoped that intrepid distributors will be impressed by the sold-out screenings and enthusiastic audience response to bring the films to a wider public, so that they may provide invaluable perspective in the discourse of national and international events. If you want to know what are the current trends that are shaping minds and moving hearts, the program of the 2007 SILVERDOCS is a good place to start.

Sandy Mandelberger, Awards Watch Editor

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