Best Film of the Festival
STOLEN- DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | Australia 2009
Run time: 1 hr. 18 min. | Directors: Violeta Ayala & Daniel Fallshaw
Australian-based filmmakers Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw originally set out to make a documentary about an under-reported land dispute in Northern Africa. Once they started shooting, however, they gradually stumbled on a story about modern slavery that has become hugely controversial.
In 2007, Ayala and Fallshaw were drawn to the cause of the Polisario Liberation Front, which represents the Sahrawi people (meaning “people of the Sahara”), who have long struggled for control of the Western Sahara against the competing interests of Morocco and other factions. The two spent several weeks in a refugee camp controlled by the Polisario. Inside the camps, a complex hierarchy exists between the white Arabs and blacks, all of whom consider themselves Sahrawi. The filmmakers focused on a black woman in her thirties named Fetim Sellami, who is reunited with her mother through a United Nations programme. Sellami has a noticeably servile relationship with an older white woman named Deido. Upon further questioning, the filmmakers recorded persuasive testimony that a form of slavery continues to be practiced. The existence of modern slavery has been detailed in books like Kevin Bales's Disposable People, but rarely has it been covered on film as intimately as in Stolen.
The Polisario staunchly maintains that it forbids slavery. When Ayala and Fallshaw raised the topic in the camps, they soon found themselves unwelcome. Fearing that their tapes would be seized, the filmmakers buried them in the desert and fled. Stolen turns into a tale of suspense and political intrigue as the filmmakers struggle to recover their tapes. Placing themselves in the story, Ayala and Fallshaw document their own moral quandaries. They include a statement by Sellami maintaining that she's not a slave, contradicting what others say. The filmmakers don't purport to have all the answers, but they do raise important questions. You can expect a heated discussion after each screening.
"Pacy, exciting and hugely engrossing" Variety
"Riveting stuff" The Toronto Star
"Stolen is a dramatic and complex exploration of modern slavery, not to mention a fascinating study of the perils of documentary filmmaking" The Globe and Mail
"You really have to see it to believe it. It’s like a spy story." ABC Movie Time
Feature Film Award
NARRATIVE FEATURE | USA 2010
Run time: 1 hr. 37 min. | Director: Martha Stephens
Set among the Eastern Kentucky Coalfields, Passenger Pigeons quietly interweaves four separate story lines over the course of a weekend as the town copes with the death of a local miner. When his brother dies in a mining accident, Moses drives cross country in his beat up Dodge Dart to bury him. He spends his weekend aimlessly wandering around the town he tried to forget, while reconnecting with his sister-in-law and young nephew. Buck and Nolan, two suits from the coal company, arrive in town to oversee the mine inspections. On the eve of his retirement, Buck trains his replacement, Nolan, on the ins and the outs of the coal business. After a mix up with the motel reservations, the odd couple finds themselves out of their element, camping in the woods.
With the mines shut down and the effects looming over, two young lovers, Elva and Jesse, go on a 'vacation' a few counties away. Trying to forget the endless tragedy that comes with working in the mines, Jesse seeks escapism while Elva can only think of the dangerous possibilities if Jesse returns to work. When a mountain top removal protest gets canceled, a young activist from Washington D.C. takes it upon herself to spread the message around town. Finding her attempts to explain the dangers of surface mining to be a lost cause, Robin is surprised when a retired miner takes an interest in what she has to say.
Short Film Award
Being the Diablo
DOCUMENTARY SHORT | USA 2010
Run time: 1 hour 1 min.
Director: Rod Murphy
Crippled with bipolar disorder, Mickey Mahaffey, a Baptist preacher, abandons his family and faith to search for mental and physical healing and for the strength and honesty needed to repair the wounds left behind in the wake of his childhood. During 12 years of long distance walking, sleeping outside in the wilderness and on the streets among the homeless, Mahaffey thinks he’s found a way to cope with what ails him--living a simple life in direct contact with nature.
An epic walk from North Carolina brings him to Mexico and thus begins an intimate, decade-long relationship with the indigenous Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's Copper Canyons. This rarely documented Native American tribe has lived in the remote canyons for centuries, isolated and largely uninfluenced by the world around them. Mahaffey's genuine interest in their culture resonated with the Tarahumara and he was, in turn, welcomed into their community and invited to participate in their rituals -- a cultural bridge rarely crossed by outsiders.
Mickey’s daughter Stephanie has spent most of her life defending and justifying her father's choices. His quest for a deeper, yet simpler, spiritual life was constantly at odds with what Stephanie's family and friends expected from a father. But Mickey’s search for himself could not be derailed by what people thought of him. His path went from being a preacher to living homeless, to being committed to a mental institution, to finally dancing with Tarahumara Indians at the bottom of a remote canyon in Mexico's Sierra Madre.
Avery Crounse Award
Wid Winner & the Slipstream – NARRATIVE SHORT | USA 2010
Run time: 50 min. | Director: Alex Gaynor
Wid Winner & the Slipstream is a coming of age story of Wid Winner, an auto parts store worker whose life never lived up to his own expectations. After one particularly disenchanting day, Wid's store is robbed by a traveling scientist named Kenneth who is convinced he can build a time machine. Together, the two lonesome men embark on a cross-country road trip in search of glory, redemption and a chance to not be forgotten.
Best Screenplay- Fanny, Annie, and Danny
NARRATIVE FEATURE | USA 2010 | Run time: 1 hr. 22 min. | Director/Screenwriter: Chris Brown
Filmmaker Chris Brown has been compared to director John Cassavetes for his ability to peel back the skin of his characters in a way that feels both disturbingly intimate and deeply real. In Brown's latest, finely-crafted feature, Fanny, Annie & Danny are three troubled adult siblings brought together by their horrific mother for the Christmas holiday. Like just about everything in Brown's work, what seems commonplace on the surface becomes riveting in the details. We first meet Fanny, an obsessive-compulsive who lives in a group home and works at a candy factory about to go bankrupt. Fanny brings this secret to the Christmas dinner, where she reconnects with her self-absorbed sister Annie and their too-perfect-to-trust brother Danny. Mother Edie hosts the party with an iron fist, insisting at an ever-increasing pitch that everyone have fun. Their Vietnam vet father may act like his emotions died with his friends on the battlefield, but director Brown continually lets his audience glimpse the last few pulses of compassion the broken man has for those around him. As with a tsunami building strength silently offshore, we sense the impending climax without knowing exactly when or where it will hit--or how hard.
Best Actor- Rick Hames (Moment of Truth: The Andy Meyers Story)
NARRATIVE FEATURE | USA 2010 | Run time: 1hr 30 min. |
Director: Steven Crowley
Andy Meyers, the subject of the film, has decided he wants to end his life in front of a camera for the world to see. His depression and array of ailments from his bout with diabetes have driven him to the edge. His idol, Bud Dwyer, who also killed himself in front of cameras during a press conference, gained much notoriety for his suicide, and Andy feels this is his only chance "to be somebody". Andy recruited his counselor-turned-filmmaker to document the suicide and also his last day. Andy's last day consists of walking his dog one last time, a short visit to the ocean, a Chinese food dinner, sex with a hooker, eating a lot of candy and death. However, things take an unexpected turn when the hired crew decides they cannot witness Andy killing himself. The crew quits production, leaving the director and producer/investor in a major bind. Can they finish the film without the crew? Does Andy Meyers kill himself?
Best Animated Short Film- Kidnap
ANIMATED SHORT | USA 2009 | Run time: 4 min. | Director: Sijia Luo
A little chicken is late to school, but her excuse is too wild to believe: getting kidnapped on the way to school. Believe it or not, this chicken is a really good actress and Kung fu master! After her explanation, you have to believe that her adventure is actually true. She was kidnapped by chickens first, then gunmen, then aliens and finally Jesus saved her life and sent her to school.
Best Horror Film- The Hunt
NARRATIVE SHORT | USA 2010 | Run time: 13 min. | Director: John Holt
As Christmas approaches in the small rural Kentucky town of Fancy Farm, the townsfolk are brought together as an unknown evil terrorizes the community. Faced with the senseless slaughter of friends and family, these brave hunters take to the forest in search of the unknown. Produced by the award-winning A Goodsize Productions, this jump-a-minute romp is a thrill ride of carnage that will leave you wanting more.
Award for Innovative Filmmaking- The Outhouse
EXPERIMENTAL | USA 2008 | Run time: 5 min. | Director: Jack Truman
The story of a 60-something woman and her backyard outhouse.
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Emerging Talent Award- Steven Crowley
(Moment of Truth: The Andy Meyers Story)
NARRATIVE FEATURE | USA 2010 | Run time: 1 hr. 30 min. |
Director: Steven Crowley
Moment of Truth: The Andy Meyers Story
NARRATIVE FEATURE | USA 2010 | Run time: 1 hr. 30 min. |
Director: Steven Crowley
DOCUMENTARY SHORT | USA 2009 | Run time: 34 min. |
Director: Kathryn McCool
Setting off with a borrowed video camera Kathryn McCool begins a solo journey through the American South to meet reclusive musician Cast King and attempts to find the America she had, as a youth, re-created and photographed in her own backyard in rural New Zealand.
Comparing what she finds with what was for so long imagined, this film is an essay about a journey into a culture she thought she already knew. But was reality going to make mockery of her painstakingly conjured up South? Sand Mountain is a road movie that drives into personal territory as well as the back roads of Alabama.