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All the Buzz on Film Festival Awards, Celebrity Tributes and the Film Awards Season.

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Palm Beach Film Festival Honors Cinema Greats

Margaret O'Brien in the 1940s

Sunday, April 22-------The cultural, business and political elite of Palm Beach County were in black tie and evening gowns last evening, as the Palm Beach International Film Festival held its annual Awards Gala, honoring an intriguing cross-section of filmmakers, actors and a true film legend. Held at the swanky Boca Raton Resort and Club, the evening was a celebration of the Festival, the celebrity honorees, and a fundraiser for the Festival's commitment to supporting student and local filmmakers through scholarships and film education programs at local area schools.

The ceremonies were hosted by the dashing Tristan Rogers, an Australian actor who is one of daytime soap's hearthrobs on the long-running series GENERAL HOSPITAL. Rogers brought a smooth and elegant style to the proceedings. The first honoree, receving the Festival's Shooting Star Award, to honor an up-and-coming talent,  was Q’Orianka Kilcher, a young actress who made her professional film debut last year as the Indian princess Pocahontas in director Terrence Malick's acclaimed film THE NEW WORLD (playing opposite screen hunk Colin Farrell). Just fourteen years old when she was cast, the young actress, now 17, has evolved into an experienced activist and producer, using her visibility to illuminate the environmental and human rights disaster in Peru .  She is currently producing and starring in various projects, including a documentary that explores the contamination of water sources in the Peruvian Amazon. She has served as a United Nations goodwill ambassador. "My job is to make young people aware of human and environmental issues", Kilcher announced as she accepted her award.

The evening's next honoree is a true Hollywood film legend. Margaret O'Brien, who was MGM's biggest child star of the 1940s, has been re-discovered by a new generation of fans, who have recognized the depths of her acting talents at an incredibly young age. O'Brien made her film debut in 1941 at the ripe old age of four years old, but it was the following year, when she was cast as a London blitz refugee in JOURNEY FOR MARGARET, that made her an instant star. Throughout the 1940’s, O'Brien gave a series of unforgettable performances in such films as MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS), THE CANTERVILLE GHOST, OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES, THE SECRET GARDEN and the all-star LITTLE WOMEN. She was one of a handful of child stars to win a special Academy Award as outstanding child actress in 1944. Although she retired in 1960, she has remained active in television and on the stage. O'Brien was warmly cheered by the capacity crowd and was modest in her acceptance speech. "I have been able to visit so many different countries and cultures over the years", she declared. "The film business is an extraordinary thing that opens doors and allows you to meet so many extraordinary people. I have been so lucky."

The Festival's commitment to international cinema was evidenced by the next honoree. Receiving the World Visionary Award,  South African producer Anant Singh has produced more than 50 films since 1983 and is highly recognized as South Africa ’s pre-eminent film booster. He received South Africa ’s first Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Picture in 2005 as well as receiving the Peabody Award and an Emmy Nomintion in 2006 in the “Outstanding Made For Television Movie” category.  He is also the only South African member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and was appointed by President Thabo Mbeki to the Creative Collective, the body responsible for the organization of South Africa ’s Ten Years Of Freedom Celebrations in 2004.  He is responsible for many of the greatest anti-apartheid films made in South Africa , including SARAFINA, CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY and RED DUST. Four of his recent films will be screened at the Festival in a special Tribute to South African Cinema on Monday evening.

The awards tribute climaxed with the presentation of the Career Achievement Award to legendary film actor Malcolm McDowell. The silver-haired McDowell, a veteran of more than 100 films, made his screen debut in his native England as a troubled schoolboy in director Lindsay Anderson's IF (1969). McDowell worked with Anderson again in the cult classic O LUCKY MAN (1972), calling Anderson "the one genius I have ever met and a mentor to my entire career as an actor". McDowell shot to international stardom as the violent thug who is rehabiliated through a controversial "thought control" technique in Stanley Kubrick's celebrated A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. His film career has never stopped since. His latest film THE LIST is making its World Premiere at the Festival this evening. Recently McDowell has captivated a new generation of fans through his recurring roles in the hit television series ENTOURAGE and HEROES.

McDowell gave a wonderfully improvised acceptance speech, recalling his early days in the creative maelstrom of the London theater world, as well as his first auditions with director Lindsay Anderson. He gave a riotously funny account of his first sex scene in the film, a literal blow-by-blow of his awkwardness and libido in one of the first nude scenes in a British film. McDowell exhibited his trademark intelligence and off-kilter sense of humor that have been part of his screen persona in a career that is now entering its fourth decade.

Sandy Mandelberger, Awards Watch Editor 

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All the Buzz on Film Festival Awards, Celebrity Tributes and the Film Awards Season.


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