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Fort Lauderdale Film Festival concludes with awards

The Fort Lauderdale Film Festival concluded its 20th edition this past Sunday, with the announcement of its awards. The Festival, which has the distinction of being the longest in the world, running almost 40 days, had a year like none other; having survived a Category 3 Hurricane and a week of no electricity, phone service or internet connection.

The Festival, which featured over 200 films, premiered on October 14 with the premiere of THE MATADOR, starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear. Closing Night Film was BERKELEY, a chronicle of the student riots in 1968 against the Vietnam War. The screening was attended by director Bobby Roth and stars Nick Roth and Sarah Carter.

Despite the disruption from the Hurricane, the Festival was able to proceed with many of its planned special events, including Florida premieres of the films SHOPGIRL starring Steve Martin and Clare Danes and TRANSAMERICA, with an Oscar buzz performance by Felicity Huffman. The Centerpiece Film was the French comedy, TELL ME I’M PRETTY, attended by writer/director Bernard Jeanjean, and producers Caroline Adrian and Fabrice Goldstein.

The film was followed by the FLIFF Gala, with veteran director Arthur Penn (BONNIE AND CLYDE) receiving the Robert Wise Director of Distinction Award and honored with a montage tribute of his films.

The closing night awards ceremonies was a gala affair with a special guest in tow, Oscar-winning documentarian Michael Moore (FAHRENHEIT 911), who came out to support the Festival’s 20th anniversary and its commitment to independent film in the face of one of the most brutal natural disasters in decades. Moore participated in a Question and Answer session, where he was typically candid in his criticism of the Bush White House and their well-publicized mistakes in dealing with the fiercest hurricane season in one hundred years.

At the Awards Gala, the following films won major prizes: Best US Feature was awarded to the American independent film AURORA BOREALIS, a family drama directed by James Burke, and starring Donald Sutherland, Juliet Lewis, Louise Fletcher and up-and-coming actor Joshua Jackson (who also won the Best Actor prize).

SWINDLED, a Spanish caper thriller directed by Miguel Barded and starring Victoria April and Ernest Ulterior, snatched the prize as Best Foreign Film.

Best US Documentary honors were given to director Michael Lands berg’s FATBOY, an exploration of one man’s attempt to lose weight in a society of tempting and fattening foods. The Best Foreign Documentary prize was awarded to KAREN BLIXEN: OUT OF THIS WORLD (Denmark), a journey through the life of author Karen Bladen, the author of the book that was developed into the Oscar-winning film OUT OF AFRICA, directed by Sydney Pollock and starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.
The Best American Indie prize was given to TRANSAMERICA, which will have its theatrical release in December. The film stars Felicity Huffman as a transsexual who reaches out to her son and family. Huffman, who has already won a slew of awards for her intense performance, is on the fast track towards major nominations for Golden Globe, Independent Spirit and Oscar nods later this year. Huffman was also awarded the Best Actress Prize at the Festival. The film, which had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival last February, is directed by Duncan Tucker and also stars Graham Greene, Fionnula Flanagan and Kevin Zegers.

Richard Shephard was awarded the Best Director prize for his arresting thriller THE MATADOR, starring Pierce Brosnan as a down and out hitman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The film, which will be released in US theaters next month, also stars Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis and Phillip Baker Hall.

Best Screenplay honors were given to writer/director Erik Poppe for his film HAWAII, OSLO (Norway), the story of a handful of people who cross each other's path without necessarily knowing each other, during the hottest day of the year in Oslo. Sharing the Screenplay award was writer/director Robert LePage for his film THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOON (Canada), Lepage's adaptation of his own stage play about two estranged brothers coping with their mother's recent death.

The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival continues to cement its reputation as one of the key showcases for US independent and international films, with an ambitious slate that rivals even the major events in Toronto, Chicago and San Francisco. That most of the scheduled films slated to screen were able to do so, in spite of the major disruption of the Hurricane and its aftermath, is a testament to the enduring spirit of the Festival staff, led by the indefatigable Gregory von Hausch, and the support the Festival has built in the community at large as one of South Florida’s most respected and well liked cultural events.

Sandy Mandelberger
Industry Editor

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