Denver Film Festival Announces Winners From Its 39th Celebration

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Last weekend, the Denver Film Festival wrapped its 39th year after twelve days of screenings featuring more than 250 films from fifty-plus countries and 55,000 film-goers in attendance. Now that the last bits of popcorn have been swept up, the Denver Film Society, which produces the DFF every year, has announced the winners of its audience and juried awards.

Every year, DFF audiences at every screening get to determine the winner of the Starz People’s Choice Awards. This year, the Best Narrative Feature award went to Gareth Evans’s Lion, an adoption drama starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman that will be released later this year. Best Documentary Feature went to The Eagle Huntress, directed by Otto Bell; Best Short Film went to Lewis Rose’s The Chop; and Best Music Video went to the Avalanches for their music video for “Subway,” directed by France’s Mrzyk & Moriceau.

Other juries, made up of the industry's best, get to vet more specific awards. Continue reading for more festival winners.
The Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary Film

Winner: Do Not Resist, directed by Craig Atkinson

The jury stated: "For a daring and deeply visceral portrait of the ongoing militarization of law enforcement in the U.S. that is captured in an honest and technically stunning fashion. Do Not Resist is an important, urgent film that every American should see.”

Honorable Mention: Off the Rails, directed by Adam Irving

The jury stated: “In a competition with six unique, accomplished works that embody documentary filmmaking at its most effective, the Jury would like to give an honorable mention to Off the Rails for its compassionate depiction of a fascinating New York story and figure that, like Darius McCollum himself, is both humorous and heartbreaking.”

The Krzysztof Kieslowski Award for Best Feature Film

Winner: The Last Family, directed by Jan P. Matuszynski (Poland)

The jury stated: "For its epic and intimate portrayal of the life of surrealist Polish painter Zdzislaw Beksinski, the award for Best Feature Film goes to The Last Family. Jan P. Matuszynski's voyeuristic, powerful storytelling brings us into the apartment and the world of the Beksinskis over thirty tumultuous years, revealing the emotional highs and lows of this idiosyncratic yet relatable family."

Special Jury Prize for Best Actress

"The jury would also like to recognize the unforgettable performance by Hayley Squires in I, Daniel Blake. Her portrayal of a struggling single mother is deeply moving with a profound sense of realism."

Special Honorable Mention: "For its striking visuals, daring symbolism and unique approach we’d like to give a special mention to Joao Pedro Rodrigues’ The Ornithologist."

The American Independent Narrative Award

Winner: Hunter Gatherer, directed by Joshua Locy (USA)

The jury stated: "The six distinct titles selected for the American Independent Narrative section are strong, hopeful indicators of the current state of indies in the U.S., representing the diverse voices and startlingly beautiful aesthetics of the some of best from the contemporary filmmaking landscape. For its singular authorial voice and unique vision, sense of humor and sheer charm, the Award for Best American Independent Narrative goes to Joshua Locy’s Hunter Gatherer. This consistently surprising feature debut from art director-turned-filmmaker Locy is one of overwhelming humanity, with unexpected characterizations deftly realized by Andre Royo, George Sample III and the rest of the film's nuanced supporting cast. Drifting seamlessly between subtle magical realism and tough reality, Hunter Gatherer is highlighted by sublime cinematography and a poignant, pitch-perfect score from American composer Keegan DeWitt."

Honorable Mention: Free in Deed

"The jury would like to give an Honorable Mention to Free in Deed for its powerful storytelling, patient filmmaking, incredible ensemble performances, and complete confidence of vision from filmmaker Jake Mahaffy."

The Liberty Global International Student Short Award

Winner: Submarine, directed by Mounia Akl (Lebanon)

The jury stated: “We were struck by the use of sparse, magical realism to explore the idea of home in the film Submarine. A garbage crisis provides the backdrop of disaster for a strong woman protagonist to resist evacuation of her contaminated town. The film is constructed with dreamy and disorienting editing strategies, heightening a sense of the mythical. Yet the fable in this film jars us outside of the frame, as you begin to recall catastrophes from this world, heavy with overtones of environmental and refugee catastrophes.”

The Spike Lee Student Filmmaker Award

Winner: Girls and Boys, directed by Tomasz Gubernat (USA)

The jury stated: "The cinematography and editing function like a microscope as we observe the tightly framed details and gestures of these coming of age students learning a traditional Polish dance featuring rigidly coded gender roles. This seemingly innocuous class allows us to meditate on larger questions of tradition and the passage of time that is revealed to us through the space of a quotidian after-school dance class."
Best Short Animated Film

Winner: The Noise of Licking, directed by Nadja Andrasev (Hungary)

"The jury was charmed by this quirky, mystifying and hypnotic animation. A woman and her flora environment merge into a symbiotic relationship of licks and caresses. Everyday sounds are transformed into a musical landscape. We all agreed that this was a genuinely bizarre tale where the world we know is re-created as a sensual sanctuary that can only exist in the imaginary."

Feature Screenplay Award

Winner: The Silence, written by Thomas Thonson

Presented by: University of Colorado Denver's Film & Television Program, College of Arts and Media

Short Screenplay Award

Winner: Evelyn X Evelyn, written by Eric Pumphrey

Presented by: University of Colorado Denver's Film & Television Program, College of Arts and Media

True Grit Award

Winner: Reengineering Sam, directed by Brian Malone

Presented by: Denver Film Academy comprised of alumni of the DFS Board of Trustees.

These awards were in addition to the Denver Film Festival’s awards to individual talents and guests invited to the festivities, which include:

Excellence in Acting Award: Emma Stone
Reel Social Club Indie Spirit Award: Alex Karpovsky (Folk Hero and Funny Guy, USA)
Rising Star Award: Hayden Szeto (The Edge of Seventeen, USA)
Stan Brakhage Vision Award: Saul Levine
Rare Pearl Award: Lost in Paris
Tribute Award: Dominque Abel and Fiona Gordon
George Hickenlooper Honorary Award: Demian Bechir (Un Cuento De Circo & A Love Song, USA)

The DFS also announced that it would award filmmakers with two new grants starting next year: the Music on Film-Film on Music Documentary Fund and the Sheila K. O’Brien Cinematic Achievement Award for UK & Ireland.

The Music On Film-Film On Music Documentary Fund (MOFFOM) is a grant program that DFS created with financial support from John Caulkins (Ellie's son and a benefactor of the arts). The MOFFOM Grant Program will launch in spring of 2017 and will support production expenses for documentary filmmakers specifically for music licensing, scoring and composition. The Denver Film Society will award up to $25,000 annually and will start taking submissions in spring of 2017.

“I believe music is an often overlooked but always crucial element in making a quality film,” Caulkins says. “I am happy to support the Denver Film Society and help documentary filmmakers defray the costs of adding music to their films, so their complete vision can come to life on screen.”

The Sheila K. O’Brien Cinematic Achievement Award for U.K. & Ireland will recognize the achievements and talents of a film or person from the U.K. or Ireland, and starting next year will honor the winner at the Denver Film Festival.

The Denver Film Festival will return next year to celebrate its fortieth anniversary from November 1 to 12. Get in the know ahead of all the anniversary celebrations at denverfilm.org.

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