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Santa Barbara International Film Festival Awards

While such mega-watt movie stars as Angelina Jolie, Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones steal much of the limelight in the media coverage of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the true heart of the event are the American indie and international films that the festival showcases. More than 70,000 visitors (a record number) came out for the mix of glamour and discovery in one of America's most beautiful festival venues. So, for the record, the winners of this year's SBIFF include:

The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema, given to a unique independent feature that has been made outside mainstream Hollywood, went to Amal, Directed by Richie Mehta. The film follows and Autorickshaw driver named Amal who is bequeathed an entire estate with only one month to discover and claim the inheritance. Winner received a camera package worth approx. $60,000

The Heineken Red Star Award, recognizing and celebrating the achievement of the most progressive and gifted independent film director, went to Tao Ruspoli for his film “Fix” starring Shawn Andrews and Olivia Wilde. The film, shot in the first person, is a one day odyssey through the myriad worlds of Los Angeles as documentary filmmakers Bella and Milo race to get Milo's brother Leo from jail to rehab before 8pm. Winner receives a $25,000 promotional package.

The Best Foreign Film Award goes to “Beautiful Bitch” from Germany, directed by Martin Theo Krieger and starring Katharina Derr, Patrick von Blume, Sina Tkotsch. The film offers a powerful and honest look at friendship across social boundaries and a young's woman will to break free.

The Nueva Vision Award for the best Spanish-language film was awarded to the Cuban film “La edad de la peseta (The Silly Age)” directed by Pavel Giroud. La edad de la peseta (a common Cuban phrase that refers to the period right before entering adolescence) is a quirky, surprising coming-of-age film about Samuel who has just arrived in town with his recently divorced mother. After taking up residence in the house of his eccentric grandmother, Samuel is introduced to a new, mysterious world where he finds himself an adult in comparison to his child-like mother.

The Iconix Video Award for Best Documentary went to “ONE BAD CAT: The Reverend Albert Wagner Story” directed by Thomas G. Miller. The documentary gives rare access into the life of Reverend Albert Wagner, who after a life of poverty, adultery and charges of child molestation, is inspired to take up painting as a means toward redemption. The winner will receive a camera package worth $17,000.

The Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award Sponsored by The Fund for Santa Barbara, awarded to a film that makes a particularly valuable contribution to advancing social justice, went to “When Clouds Clear (Despues de la Neblina)” directed by Anne Slick and Danielle Bernstein. The film is a revolutionary documentary about the devastating effects of international mining projects in the small town of Junin, Ecuador. Winner receives a cash prize of $2,500.

Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film went to “Aquarium” directed by Rob Meyer. For a kid growing up in the suburbs, the truth can lie at the bottom of a fishtank.

Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animation, went to “For The Love of God,” directed by Joe Tucker. An unsettling story of one man's fascination with God Almighty, as he attempts to pursue a strange fantasy life under the nose of his overbearing mother.

The Santa Barbara Independent Audience Choice for Best Feature presented the award for the Audience Favorite for best Feature, which went to Saving Luna, directed by Suzanne Chisholm and Michael Parfit, which documents Luna, a lone baby killer whale, who gets separated from his family in a remote Vancouver Island fjord.

The esteemed jury for the 2008 SBIFF included: Jury Chair and film editor Dave Stein and Academy Award-nominated short filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt judged shorts; Academy Award-nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (“House of Sand & Fog”) and actor Anthony Zerbe (“The Matrix”) juried the International Features; Independent Features were judged by producer Clark Peterson (“Monster”) and Academy Award-nominated writer Mark Fergus (Children of Men); ; writer/director/actress Domenica Cameron-Scorsese and Academy Award nominated writer Hawk Ostby (“Children of Men) juried the Latino CineMedia; and the Documentaries were juried by producer Ron Yerxa (“Little Miss Sunshine”) and Mark Fishkin, Director, Mill Valley Film Festival.

Sandy Mandelberger, Awards Watch Editor

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