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Award Winners Announced At FLIFF Finale

After nearly four weeks of film screenings, special events, receptions and information seminars, weary Festival honcho Gregory von Hausch took to the stage of the Cinema Paradiso last evening to announce this year's award winners at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF). Winning top prize as Best Film of the Fest was Gospel Hill, the feature debut of actor/director Giancarlo Esposito. The race relations drama, made even more relevant by last week's historic Presidential election, took Esposito by surprise. As he took the mic, Esposito told a heartfelt story of how he had just gotten off the phone with his daughter Shayne; how she had fished for two hours that day and caught nothing when her friends were reeling them in. At the last minute, she caught the biggest fish. Not minutes after the phone call, Giancarlo landed his. A late entry to the film festival, Gospel Hill, a gripping and dramatic tale with an all-star cast including Danny Glover, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Julia Stiles, Nia Long and Adam Baldwin, walked away with the big catch of the night…The Seashell Best of Fest Award. The Trophy, created by Uruguayan artist, Jesus Sosa, was presented to Esposito by Professor Nelson Pilosof, President of The World Trade Center of Montevideo.

Another big winner was debut director Mark Fienberg, whose comedy about senior citizen sex habits, Play The Game, received the Audience Award for Best Indie Feature. The comedy film, which featured delicious performances by television veterans Andy Griffith, Doris Roberts and Liz Sheridan, and a star turn by newcomer Paul Campbell, had huge audience buzz. Director Fienberg was overwhelmed by the honor, running up to the stage to accept his prize. "This was our World Premiere", the excited young filmmaker exclaimed. "It's the first time Play The Game was ever shown to an audience. I’m blown away. This is such a huge honor.”

Awards were determined in distinct categories by a set of feature, documentary, short and Florida Focus juries, with the Festival's programmers Gregory von Hausch and Bonnie Leigh Adams selecting the Spirit of Independent awards. Finally, the audiences also had their say, choosing awards in the American Independent Feature, World Feature, Documentary and Short Film categories. These prizes are especially coveted, since the Festival has a reputation for discerning and enthusiastic audiences that can serve as a bellweather to a film's future success.


So, for the record, here are the major awards of the 23rd Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival:


Juried Awards The Seashell Best of Fest Award: GOSPEL HILL - directed by Giancarlo EspositoIn the town of Julia, SC, the residents of the black neighborhood of Gospel Hill are being forced out of their homes to make way for a multimillion-dollar golf course development. The film stars Angela Bassett, Julia Stiles, Danny Glover and Samuel L. Jackson. Best American Indy: LIFELINES – directed by Rob Margulies

A delicious comedy of family dysfunction, this warm and winning film stars Jane Adams, Joe Morton and Josh Pais. Ira, the Dad is a Dr. of Dermatology. He often puts his foot down like the stamping of a feather. Mom is literally at her wits end dealing with a Michael, the eldest, who is bursting with suppression, Meghan the evil-tongued daughter – abrasive and contemptuous. And then there's Spencer, the 12 year old who seemingly outwits all that challenge him in verbal battle.

Best Comedy: I DO & I DON’T – directed by Steve Blair

Three weeks before their wedding, Bob and Cheryl discover they have not taken the pre-marital classes required by their Catholic church. Their pastor arranges private classes for them with the Stelmacks, a couple whose seventeen year marriage is the definition of dysfunctional lunacy. Stars Jane Lynch, Matt Servitto, Alexei Gilmore and Bryan Callen.


Best Director: Mark Mahon, STRENGTH AND HONOUR

The story of an Irish-American boxer, Sean Kelleher, who accidentally kills his friend in the ring and promises his wife that he will never box again. However, years later, circumstances force him to take back that promise in order to save everything he loves. Stars Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones, Richard Chamberlain, Patrick Bergin.


Best Actor Comedy: Melik Malkinson, THE AUTEUR

A mélange of romantic comedy and raunchy satire set in the world of adult film, THE AUTEUR is the story of renowned porn director Arturo Domingo, the creative genius behind classics like Five Easy Nieces and Requiem for a Wet Dream, who has arrived in Portland. Stars Melik Malkasian, Katherine Flynn, John Breen, Cara Seymour.

Best Actress Comedy: Jane Lynch, I DO AND I DON’TBob and Cheryl are in love and blissfully ignorant of any secrets hiding in the nooks and crannies of each other hearts. Unfortunately the Stelmacks are determined to enlighten them, and encourage indiscriminate “sharing.” As the wedding approaches, Bob and Cheryl's emotional and physical scars accumulate. Will pre-martial counseling scupper their chances of making it down the aisle? Stars Bryan Callen, Alexie Gilmore, Matt Servitto, Jane Lynch. Best Actor Drama: Joe Anderson, THE 27 CLUBEliot is the surviving member of the rock band Finn after his bandmate and best friend Tom commits suicide a week after his 27th birthday. With the help of small-town boy Three Words, and a young Irish hitchhiker, Eliot travels in a drug-enhanced stupor from LA to his home town Joplin, Missouri, to carry out Tom's last request. Stars: Joe Anderson, Alexie Gilmore, David Emrich. Best Actress Drama: Kristin Scott Thomas, I LOVED YOU SO LONGTwo sisters who haven't seen each other for 15 years gradually rediscover common ground and a way of relating to each other in "I've Loved You So Long," a movie that is utterly engrossing despite being, on the surface, about very little. Toplined by Kristin Scott Thomas as the slightly frumpy older sister, this first feature by teacher-turned-scripter Philippe Claudel is a quality item for upscale French movie buffs. Stars Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein, Best On Screen Couple: Amy Huberman & Adam Fergus, SATELLITES AND METEORITESA quirky love story set in the subconscious imagination of two coma patients after a car accident in which they were both involved. Having never met prior to the accident, Daniel and Lucinda literally have a meeting of minds as they start down the windy road of romance, however, when the hospital where they both lie asleep tries to wake them up, they have to fight to stay in their dream, and to stay together Best First-Time Director: Chris Mason Johnson, THE NEW TWENTYThey're over-educated, hyper-sensitive, too smart and only occasionally cool. They're a motley crew, a circle of friends - and they're all about to turn thirty (the new twenty). As they make tough choices in work and love, these friends reflect a generation stuck between the irrational exuberance of Wall Street's last binge and the soul-searching of a new era.


Audience Favorites



Audience Favorite American Indie Feature: PLAY THE GAME – directed by Marc Fienberg

A ladies' man, David, teaches his dating tricks to his lonely, widowed grandfather Joe. But as David's games begin to fail him, Grandpa quickly transforms into the Don Juan of the retirement community. Slowly, the teacher becomes the student, and it's up to Grandpa to teach David that the best way to win the game of love is not to play games at all. Stars Andy Griffith, Doris Roberts, Liz Sheridan, Paul Campbell and Marla Sokoloff. Audience Favorite Documentary: THEY CAME TO PLAY - directed by Alex RotaruThey Came To Play portrays several of the world's greatest amateur classical pianists striving to balance their work, home and musical lives, and then follows them to Fort Worth, Texas to compete in the Fifth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, hosted by the Van Cliburn Foundation.

Audience Favorite Foreign Feature: PARAISO TRAVEL – directed by Simon Brand

A young, seductive woman named Reina living in Medellin, Colombia, becomes infatuated with finding fortune in New York City. A young man named Marlon falls desperately in love with this rebellious teen. Entangled in her web of fantasies, Marlon has no other choice but to blindly follow her imposing lead. Driven by their will to reach their dreamland, the two embark on the brutal exodus of the Latin-American immigrants who cross illegally through Mexico. This adventure in narrated by Marlon on his voyage to find his love, his heroine, his Reina. The couple is separated upon arrival in New York, and Marlon, fueled only by the power of love, will go through hell and back trying to find her. This is his story. Spirit of Independent Features


THE 27 CLUB – directed by Chris Mason Johnson Eliot is the surviving member of the rock band Finn after his bandmate and best friend Tom commits suicide a week after his 27th birthday. With the help of small-town boy Three Words, and a young Irish hitchhiker, Eliot travels in a drug-enhanced stupor from LA to his home town Joplin, Missouri, to carry out Tom's last request. Stars: Joe Anderson, Alexie Gilmore, David Emrich. THE MAP READER – directed by Harold BrodeSixteen-year-old Michael escapes the realities of his small-town New Zealand life by immersing himself within a world of maps. Yet his seemingly-happy isolation is broken by the serendipitous arrival of two young women into his life. Mary is twenty and blind from birth, on the verge of voyaging into the world on her own. Alison is Michael's peer, whose grace betrays darker secrets. Suspended beside it all is Michael's single mother Amelia, who cherishes her son, while simultaneously pushing him away. Spirit of Independent Documentaries

TRUTH IN 24 – directed by Keith Cossrow

LeMans racing team 'Audi Sport' attempts to win a record fifth straight 24 Hours of LeMans against the local favorite and spoiler, Team Peugeot. The film goes deep inside the Audi camp to discover the high-tech genius of engineers and drivers as they set out to make history

AN UNLIKELY WEAPON – directed by Susan Morgan Cooper

Eddie Adams photographed 13 wars, six American Presidents, and every major film star of the last 50 years. History would be changed through his lens. But the person Eddie found hardest to impress was himself. In 1968, in 1/500th of a second, Eddie Adams photographed a Saigon police chief, General Nygoc Loan, shooting a Vietcong guerrilla point blank. The photo brought Eddie fame and a Pulitzer, but Eddie was haunted by the man he had vilified. With Narration by Kiefer Sutherland and Score by Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens (Letters from Iwo Jima).

KASSIM THE DREAM – directed by Kief Davidson

Kassim the Dream brings viewers into the world of Ugandan-born boxer Kassim Ouma, the 29-year-old former Int'l Boxing Federation light-middleweight champion, and his struggle with his deadly past. Abducted from school at the age of 6 and forced to become a child soldier, Ouma fought in the National Resistance Army during Uganda's harrowing “bush war” in the 80's, engaging in brutal acts that still haunt him to this day.

Sandy Mandelberger, FLIFF Dailies Editor
Watch the dailies on fest21.com


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