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Award winners announced in Miami

The 23rd edition of the Miami International Film Festival (MIFF) reached its climax last evening, with the awarding of the Knight Grand Jury Prizes and other honors at the Festival’s Gala Awards Ceremony, held at the historic Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation contributed $75,000 (of a total grant of $250,000) to create the Knight Grand Jury Prizes for this year’s Festival, which includes a cash award of $25,000 for winners in the three main competition categories, making it one of the highest cash awards of any film festival in North America.

The evening ceremonies began with a heartfelt address by MIFF Festival Director Nicole Guillemet, who thanked the Festival's host Miami Dade College, its major sponsors and the almost 300 filmmakers, film critics and industry professionals who participated in this year’s landmark event. “Watching the audience connect to the films throughout the week, listening to the gasps and laughter that filled all the theatres, it just confirms that this year’s program has included filmmakers who have demonstrated ingenuity in concept and maturity in craft,” Guillemet exclaimed.

The ceremony then continued with the introduction of the evening’s hosts, Latino actor José Antonio and Brazilian actress Alice Braga, the star of two films in the Festival, SÓLO DIOS SABE (Mexico, director Carlos Bolado) and LOWER CITY (Brazil, director Sérgio Machado). Antonio and Braga then proceeded to introduce the jury members from all three competition categories and members of the FIPRESCI International Critics Jury, who took their seats of honor on stage (the names of jury members are listed below).

The Knight Grand Jury Prize winner in the Documentary Features- World & Ibero-American Cinema Competition was EN EL HOYO (In The Pit) by Mexican director Juan Carlos Rulfo. The film, a hard-hitting look at work crews building a new highway in traffic-clogged Mexico City, won top documentary honors at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Special Grand Jury Mentions (which includes Movie Magic’s newest release of their Entertainment Partners Budgeting 6 and Scheduling 4 software as well as a Movado watch) were awarded to GITMO - The New Rules of War by Swedish directors Erik Gandini and Tarik Saleh for, what the jury described, as “the filmmakers’ courage to pursue the truth in the face of the authority power”; and MY GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE (La casa de mi abuela) by Spanish director Adán Aliaga, for “bringing us into a grandmother and granddaughter’s world with an astounding intimacy, lyricism, and humor.”

In the Dramatic Features - Ibero-American Cinema Competition, the Knight Grand Jury Prize was awarded to LIFE IN COLOR (Vida y color) by Spanish director Santiago Tabernero. The film, a moving drama about a young boy’s coming-of-age in the waning days of the Franco regime in the 1970s, has previously won the Audience Award at the Valladolid Film Festival and was a Best New Director nominee for the Goya Award (the Spanish Oscar) for director Santiago Tabernero.

Special Grand Jury Mentions were given to 7 VIRGINS ((7 Vírgenes) by Spanish director Alberto Rodríguez, for “his extraordinary vision in directing” and LOWER CITY (Cidade Baixa) by Brazilian director Sérgio Machado, in recognition of “the extraordinary performances of actors Alice Braga, Wagner Moura, and Lázaro Rámos.”

In the Dramatic Features - World Cinema Competition, jury members voted for two films to share the Knight Grand Jury Prize of $25,000. The first film honored was ACCUSED (Anklaget) from Danish director Jacob Thuesen, a harrowing drama about a father whose unstable daughter has accused him of sexual molestation. The film also won the European Discovery of the Year Award at the European Film Awards.

The second film awarded top honors was BURNT OUT (Sauf le respect que je vous dois) by French director Fabienne Godet. The film, a psychological thriller about the rebellion of a buttoned-down white collar worker who cracks from the pressure of his job and his life, had its North American Premiere at the Festival. Director Godet was moved to tears as she accepted the award from Jury President Beki Probst.

The International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) gives awards at all the leading international film festivals. In Miami, the FIPRESCI Prize was awarded to THE MASTER (Mistrz) by Polish director Piotr Trzaskalski. The film, a kaleidoscopic road movie that includes a knife-thrower, an accordionist and a prostitute, won Best Production Design honors at this year’s Polish Film Awards.

MIFF Audience Awards, determined from the votes given by the public at screenings this week, were also announced in the three major competition categories. The Audience Awards, sponsored by American Airlines, includes a $2500 cash prize and a Movado watch.

In the World Dramatic Feature Competition, the Audience Award was given to ACCUSED (Anklaget) from Danish director Jacob Thuesen, which shared the Knight Grand Jury Prize in the same category.

In the Ibero-American Dramatic Feature Competition, the Audience Award was given to ANGELS OF THE SUN (Anjos do sol) by Brazilian director Rudi Lagemann, which had its International Premiere at the Festival.

In the World & Ibero-American Documentary Feature Competition, the Audience Award was given to THE REFUGEE ALL STARS from Guinea/Sierra Leone and co-directed by Zach Niles and Banker White. The film, one of the Festival’s most popular, chronicles the amazing story of refugees from war-torn Sierra Leone who form a musical group, and use their music to tell their harrowing personal stories. Members of the group were in Miami this week, and had several opportunities to play their provocative music.

An additional prize was awarded to one of the nine projects participating in the MIAMI ENCUENTROS development market, which brings the works of new Spanish and Latin American filmmakers to the attention of American film professionals. FRATERNAL LOVE (União Fraterna) from Brazilian director Laís Bodanzky was awarded the prize, which includes a Soundpost Music License Grant valued at $130,000. All participants in the MIAMI ENCUENTROS program received Movie Magic’s newest release of Entertainment Partners Budgeting 6 and Scheduling 4 software.

The hard-working jurors included Documentary Features - World & Ibero-American Cinema Competition: producer Deborah Dickson, arts administrator James C. Early and director Lourdes Portillo; Dramatic Features - Ibero-American Cinema Competition: Mexican director Carlos Bolado, Spanish actor Javier Càmara and American producer Linda Reisman; Dramatic Features - World Cinema Competition: European Market Director Beki Probst, Screen International US Editor Mike Goodridge and American writer/director Alfredo De Villa; and FIPRESCI Jury: American film critic John Anderson, German film writer Andrea Dittgen and Brazilian journalist/tv reviewer Marcelo Janot.

The Gala Awards Ceremony was followed by the screening of FRIENDS WITH MONEY, the latest ensemble comedy/drama from American director Nicole Holofcener, who was present for the screening. The film, which had its World Premiere as the Opening Night Film at the Sundance Film Festival, features a dream cast of Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener and Joan Cusack as girlfriends going through life’s challenges in contemporary Los Angeles. The film, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, will open in theaters later this Spring.

Following the screening, nearly 1500 audience members, filmmakers, film critics, sponsors and special guests gathered in the open-air Atrium of Miami Dade College in downtown Miami for the Awards Night Party. Award winners came with their trophies and were visibly beaming with pride, as Miami’s elite partied into the wee hours. The Festival continues today with its final day of screenings, including many of the award winners honored last night.

Sandy Mandelberger, Industry Editor

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