On Sunday, the 38th Denver Film Festival came to a close, after screening over 250 films from 39 countries (17 from Colorado alone) for over 55,000 film-goers. And every film in the festival (excluding Red Carpet presentations) was eligible for the prestigious Starz People’s Choice Award voted on by the DFF audience, with a select few handed additional awards after debate by jurors made up of the film industry's finest. This year the festival decided to let viewers in on the presentation fun and held the inaugural Denver Film Festival Awards Brunch at the eclectic Curtis Hotel, where the 2015 accolades were announced.
"Beginning with our opening-night presentation of Anomalisa to closing with Coming Through the Rye, with so many unforgettable stories in between, the 38th Denver Film Festival certainly swept away audiences and welcomed filmmakers from around the world to share their impressive work," said Denver Film Society festival director Britta Erickson. "In one of our most successful festivals to date, it is a true honor to officially recognize the outstanding filmmaking this year's award recipients have demonstrated." And the winners are...
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STARZ PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARDS
Best Narrative Feature went to Brooklyn, directed by John Crowley (UK) and starring Saoirse Ronan as an Irish immigrant living in 1950s Brooklyn who must choose between her homeland and her new American world, when tragedy calls her back. Brooklyn opens this Friday, November 20, at Landmark's Esquire Theater.
Best Documentary Feature went to The Champions, directed by Darcy Dennett (USA). The film puts an intense focus on five of the pit bulls, trained in deadly fighting, that were rescued from the Michael Vick dog-fighting ring and rehabilitated and placed in new homes.
Best Short Film went to The House Is Innocent, directed by Nicholas Coles (USA)
Best Music Video went to Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats for S.O.B., directed by Colorado's Greg Barnes.
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The Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary Film went to Hitchcock/Truffaut, directed by Kent Jones (USA), which opens in Denver at a TBD Landmark theater on December 11.
"One of the Maysles Brothers' special gifts as filmmakers was that they allowed their stories to unfold in front of them with open minds and eyes, with a genuine love for their subjects and an empathy and compassion which gave all of their work beauty and authenticity," the jurors said. "When watching the films in this year's competition, we were looking for filmmaking which demonstrated a similar openness: a willingness to let a story be told in a manner that illuminates the human condition, yet executed with sure-handed direction in a visually compelling fashion. One film — one that on its face is simply about a book — created an enthralling tale about passion for both a subject (film and filmmaking) and friendship, one that grew out of eight days of elevated conversation about art, film and the creative process.
"In Hitchcock/Truffaut, director Kent Jones uses archival footage, still photography, film clips and contemporary interviews to weave a beautiful portrait of two artists connected by the deepest talent and humanity — and humor! It is a cinematic manifestation of the interviews between François Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock which achieves what Truffaut set out to do as a journalist — to remind everyone what a master of cinema Hitchcock truly was. The documentary is a deft and captivating piece of filmmaking that transcends the world of the cinephile and reveals two fascinating people who by the end feel like old friends."
The jury was comprised of Davis Coombe, Academy Award-winning editor; producer Laura Heberton; and Colin Stanfield, festival producer, New York Film Festival at Film Society of Lincoln Center,
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The Krzysztof Kieslowski Award for Best Feature Film went to Rams, directed by Grímur Hákonarson (Iceland). Said the jury: "For its evocative filming of landscapes, for placing us in the midst of a way of life coming to a devastating end, and for making a film that moves us from pure hate to pure love, we award the 2015 Kieslowski award to Rams."
A Special Jury Prize went to Lamb, directed by Yared Zaleke (France). "For its heartfelt, beautifully observed, visually ravishing and emotionally acute exploration of a young boy's coming of age in a rural Ethiopian village, we award a Special Jury Prize to director Yared Zaleke's Lamb," said the jury.
The Special Ensemble Acting Jury Award went to The Measure of a Man (France). The jury stated: "For its pitch-perfect naturalism, its ability to find beauty in the otherwise mundane, and for its consistently arresting performances, we award a special Ensemble Acting Prize to The Measure of a Man."
This jury comprised Helen Estabrook, Academy Award-nominated producer; Robb Moss, documentary filmmaker and chair of Harvard University Department of Visual and Environmental Studies; and Gary Ungar, producer/manager
Trey Edward Shults
The American Independent Narrative Award went to Krisha, directed by Trey Edward Shults (USA). "A fraught suburban Thanksgiving is hardly new territory for cinema, but Krisha takes the concept to wildly dynamic and unusual places," the jury said. "Director Trey Edward Shults has created a fully formed, formally experimental portrait of authentic family dynamics that feels intimate and lived in. We're so pleased to present the American Independent Narrative Award to Krisha."
A Special Jury Prize — Filmmaker to Watch — went to Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia for their surreal film H. The jury stated: "Because days later we still can't stop thinking about the audacious storytelling and bold vision of the transfixing H. and can't wait to see what Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia do next."
This jury was made up of Lindsey Bahr, journalist and critic at the Associated Press; Kerry Bishé, actress; Stephanie Wilcox, director of Development and Production for Rumble Films
The Liberty Global International Student Short Award went to Disintegration, directed by Álvaro Martín (Spain). The jury stated: "This was a difficult decision, as every film in this category was unique and impressive, but the standout winner was Disintegration. Playing as a remarkable portrait of childhood while delving into topical social issues, Álvaro Martín created magic that is enjoyable and heartbreaking at the same time. We appreciate the risk he took in creating this film and look forward to see what he makes next."
A Special Jury Prize for Outstanding Directing went to The Fantastic Love of Beeboy and Flowergirl, directed by Clemens Roth (Germany). "From striking visuals to creative storytelling, Clemens Roth masterfully created a compelling world that beautifully mixed fantasy and reality in The Fantastic Love of Beeboy and Flowergirl," said the jury.
The Spike Lee Student Filmmaker Award went to Oasis, directed by Sara Lafleur-Vetter (USA). Said the jury: "Oasis is an informative and gripping documentary that takes a closer look at the health-care system that left behind those who can't take care of themselves and one doctor who continues to fight on their behalf. We hope director Sara Lafleur-Vetter continues to bring awareness to this community through the power of film."
This jury included Jenny Bloom, Senior Film Publicist at Prodigy PR; Johnny Simmons, Actor; Randi Kleiner, CEO of SeriesFest.
Feature Screenplay Award went to Memory, by John Benge, while Short Screenplay Award went to Symposium, by Tom Grady. The screenplay awards were presented by University of Colorado Denver's Film & Television Program, College of Arts and Media.
2015 Rising Star Award Recipient Alex Wolff with Rising Star Alumni Zoë Bell (2012) and Kerry Bishé (2010).
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Throughout the Denver Film Festival, the following awards were presented:
- John Cassavetes Award: John Turturro
- Maria & Tommaso Maglione Italian Filmmaker Award: Nanni Moretti (Mia Madre, Italy)
- Reel Social Club Indie Spirit Award: Benjamin Dickinson (Creative Control, USA)
- Rising Star Award presented by Rise Above Colorado: Alex Wolff (Coming Through the Rye, USA)
- Stan Brakhage Vision Award: Nathaniel Dorsky
- True Grit Award: Joseph Wartnerchaney (Decay, USA)