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Starz Denver Film FestIival Awards

In 10 exciting days, the 29th Starz Denver Film Festival played host to over 180 filmmakers and 38,881 movie goers (up from 36,812 in 2005) and reports 119 sold out screenings. Films ranged in length from 1 minute - A PAINFUL GLIMPSE INTO MY WRITING PROCESS (IN LESS THAN 60 SECONDS) to 142 minutes - LIVES OF OTHERS. SDFF29 featured 194 titles from 29 countries, and 15 premieres (2 world premieres, 5 North American premieres and 8 US premieres).

Best Feature: LIVES OF OTHERS directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
In the darkest days of totalitarian East Germany, the government employed one Stasi spy for every eight citizens. Artists, writers and any other free thinkers were automatic suspects. Part thriller, part historical drama, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's taut and provocative debut feature offers a window into this era of state-sponsored deceit and intimidation, following a cold-blooded agent who finds himself entwined in the lives of the playwright and actress he has been assigned to spy on.

Best Documentary: THE TRIALS OF DARRYL HUNT directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg
North Carolina, 1984. A brutal murder leaves a white woman dead and a young black man accused. This gripping account of race and injustice in the US legal system tells the incredible story of a wrongfully convicted man's 20-year qust for vindication in the North Carolina legal system and offers a haunting examination of a community - and a criminal justice system - subject to racial bias and tainted by fear.

Best Short: a tie between A PAINFUL GLIMPSE INTO MY WRITING PROCESS (IN LESS THAN 60 SECONDS) and BIG GIRL.
A PAINFUL GLIMPSE INTO MY WRITING PROCESS (IN LESS THAN 60 SECONDS), directed by Chel White. The film title says it all.

BIG GIRL, directed by Renuka Jeyapalan, is a bittersweet battle of wills between nine-year-old Josephine and her mother's new boyfriend.

SDFF29 continued its tradition of highlighting the highest level of cinematic achievement with three juried awards: THE EMERGING FILMMAKER AWARD, THE MAYSLES BROTHERS AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY, and THE KRZYSZTOF KIESLOWSKI AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE FILM. The winners were chosen by a panel of jurors including critics, industry, and media professionals.

EMERGING FILMMAKER AWARD
Established in 2004, the Emerging Filmmaker Award is presented to a first or second-time director without U.S. distribution. This juried award is presented to the director and film that best displays technical proficiency, originality, artistic excellence and visual awareness while maintaining a consistent directorial vision.

WINNER: THE LAST ROMANTIC, directed by Adam Nee and Aaron Nee
Calvin Wizzig (Adam Nee) moves to New York with aspirations of becoming a renowned poet. Considering that his entire body of work consists of two short poems buried in the pages of a small notepad, his chances are slim. Running parallel to Calvin’s delusions of glory-to-come are his fantasies about a girl he meets oh-so-briefly on the subway. Obsession with finding her becomes an addiction in itself, and, along with his poetry fantasies, threatens to undermine some of his real opportunities for wish fulfillment. The Last Romantic is a gorgeously shot, eccentric little film about self-delusion leading to self- realization.

Jurors for the Emerging Filmmaker Award were Joe Revitte, Dia Sokol and John Vanco.

THE MAYSLES BROTHERS AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY
In the early 1960s, two brothers started a revolution in documentary filmmaking. Albert and his late brother David pioneered the method called direct cinema. Hand-held cameras and lightweight sound equipment made possible an immediacy and spontaneity that led to an entirely new way of making films uniquely suited to non-fiction subjects.

The Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary is presented to a filmmaker who best represents the truth and purity of documentary filmmaking as established by the Maysles Brothers.

WINNER: KURT COBAIN ABOUT A SON directed by AJ Schnack
Based on the audio taped conversations between Kurt Cobain and music writer Michael Azerrard in 1992 and 1993, Kurt Cobain About a Son is not your typical music documentary. No celebrity interviews or concert footage. What it is is an extraordinary portrait, almost an autobiographical one, of one of rock's most important talents. In the tapes we hear a musician who is candid about the whirlwind of fame, the influences of his family, friends and band mates, his struggles with depression and drugs and his musical aspirations. The interviews, paired with vivid images and rare photographs, create a multi- dimensional portrait of the legend.

Jurors for The Maysles Brothers Award were Christie George, Mark Rabbinowitz, and Mark Brian Smith.

KRZYSZTOF KIESLOWSKI AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE FILM
The Starz Denver Film Festival, in its early years, gained a reputation within the international film community for showcasing, on a regular basis, new Eastern European films. Krzysztof Kieslowski appeared in 1989 for a major tribute and was a guest again in 1994. The director died in 1996 at the age of 55. The Krzysztof Kieslowski Award for Best Foreign Feature was established the next year under the auspices of the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland and in collaboration with the widow of the late director.

WINNER: BEAUTY IN TROUBLE directed by Jan Hrebejk
The beautiful young mother Marcela (Ana Geislerova) left her husband for the worse. Then she meets Evzen (Josef Abrham), a man with a traumatic childhood. Initially abandoned by his parents and left to grow up in communist Czechoslovakia, Evzen only joins them in the free world a decade later. After this experience, he never commits to anyone, and now, in his best years, he has retired, bought land in Italy and begun cultivating olives and wine in Tuscany. Evzen offers Marcela a new lease on life. And thus, she finds herself faced with a great internal dilemma, fighting the same battle as the “beauty in trouble” of Robert Graves’ poem.

Screen International’s Mike Goodridge chaired the jury. Other jurors were: John Anderson, film critic and co-author of I Wake Up Screening, filmmaker Jeremy Podeswa, and James M. Wall, senior contributing editor of The Christian Century in Chicago.

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