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Hollywood Awards Ceremony kicks off Oscar season

The 9th Annual Hollywood Film Festival's "Hollywood Awards(r)" ceremony, honoring independent filmmakers and established Hollywood professionals, was held last night before a standing-room-only audience of over 1,200 Hollywood Film Festival attendees at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. Special honors went to Lions Gate Films Releasing President Tom Ortenberg, film preservation leader Librarian of Congress Dr. James Billington, actress Diane Keaton, actor Joaquin Phoenix, actress Charlize Theron, actor Matthew Broderick, actress Susan Sarandon, director Sam Mendes, producers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, actress Rachel McAdams, director Paul Haggis, cinematographer Pawel Edelman, editor Walter Murch, composer Harry Gregson-Williams, senior visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, costume designer Colleen Atwood, production designer Grant Major, special make-up effects supervisor Gregory Nicotero, casting director Avy Kaufman, and for ensemble acting the cast of "Crash."

The festival also announced the winner of the "Hollywood Movie of the Year Award" -- George Lucas's "STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH" -- which was chosen by the public voting online at the Yahoo! Movies and Entertainment Tonight websites. The nominees for the "Hollywood Movie of the Year Award" were: "Batman Begins," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Cinderella Man," "The Constant Gardener," "Crash," "Hustle and Flow," "Sin City," "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," "War of the Worlds" and "Wedding Crashers."

The Hollywood Film Festival presented the "Hollywood World Award" to "MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS" by Stephen Frears. A comedy/drama from the UK, distributed by Miramax and starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, "Mrs. Henderson Presents" is about a wealthy widow (Judi Dench) who buys a rundown London theater, refurbishes and reopens it with the help of a crusty old fellow (Bob Hoskins), and eventually has a theater that is well known for its nude revues.

This year's winners of the festival's film competition were announced Sunday night at the "Hollywood Discovery Awards(r)" Awards Presentation Ceremony at Arclight Cinemas. This year's winners are: "THE CHEF" ("KOCKEN") by Mats Arehn as Best Feature Film, "BEAUTIFUL MUSIC" by Richard Trank as Best Documentary, "SVETLANA'S JOURNEY" by Michael Cory Davis as Best Short Subject, and "THE MANTIS PARABLE" by Josh Staub as Best Animated Short Subject. "THE CHEF," from Sweden/South Africa, is about what transpires when 18-year-old Martin signs on as assistant chef on a merchant vessel bound for Cape Town and encounters the head chef, Peter Stein, who rules the kitchen and controls everything with his invisible and brutal regime. "BEAUTIFUL MUSIC," from the United States, is a documentary about an abandoned blind and severely autistic Palestinian girl who was taught by an American-born pianist living on the outskirts of Jerusalem for 18 years, and her ability to perform and create music. "SVETLANA'S JOURNEY," from Bulgaria, is a gruesome look into the life of a 13-year-old girl sold into prostitution by her parents and how she did the unthinkable to release herself from the dark forces in her life. "THE MANTIS PARABLE," from the United States, is a charming animated tale of a humble caterpillar trapped in a bug collector's jar and in need of a helping hand.

Festival Founder and Executive Director Carlos de Abreu said, "There is no more appropriate place than the Hollywood Film Festival to honor the illustrious talents of all these magnificent artists who have created some of the most memorable characters and truly unforgettable films."

The Hollywood Film Festival was founded in 1997 by Carlos de Abreu and Janice Pennington, "New York Times" best-selling authors and producers. Regarding the conclusion of the 9th annual festival, Mr. de Abreu said, "We are delighted by the response we have received from Hollywood and the independent filmmaking community during the course of this past week. Our screenings were packed, we had over 25,000 attendees, and last night's gala awards ceremony was truly an extraordinary 'Hollywood' moment."

Celebrities and Hollywood notables who attended the seven-day festival included Colin Brown - Editor-in-Chief of "Screen International," Ron Patterson - CEO and President of John Robert Powers, John Culton - Chairman of, and Michael Ruggiero
- Vice-President of Programming of Starz, as well as Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock, Cameron Crowe, Geena Davis, Jodie Foster, Colin Hanks, Goldie Hawn, Terrence Howard, Kathleen Kennedy, James Mangold, Rob Marshall, Dermot Mulroney, Keanu Reeves, Jeremy Renner, Peter Sarsgaard, Mena Suvari, Quentin Tarantino, Kerry Washington and Jerry Zucker to name a few. The gala awards presentation Monday evening was hosted by Mary Hart of "Entertainment Tonight," and attendees were treated to the music of Leonard Neil.

The festival had its Opening Night Premiere on October 18 with the Gala Premiere of Warner Bros.' "KISS KISS, BANG BANG" by Shane Black, starring Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan. The festival closed with the Gala World Premiere of Disney's "MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO" by Hayao Miyazaki, starring the voices of Dakota Fanning and Elle Fanning, on October 23.

The festival also presented five Centerpiece Premieres and a Special
Screening: Lions Gate Films' "FIERCE PEOPLE" by Griffin Dunne, starring Diane Lane, Anton Yelchin and Donaldson Sutherland; the special screening of Warner Bros. and Participant Productions' "NORTH COUNTRY" by Niki Caro, starring Charlize Theron; the Starz documentary "BULLETS OVER HOLLYWOOD" by Elaina Archer, featuring James Caan, Talia Shire and Chazz Palminteri; "A GOOD WOMAN" by Mike Barker, starring Helen Hunt and Scarlett Johansson; "champion." a documentary by Joe Eckardt, featuring Danny Trejo, Dennis Hopper, Robert Rodriguez and Val Kilmer; and "THE SISTERS," by Arthur Allan Seidelman, starring Maria Bello, Eric McCormack, Erika Christensen, Chris O'Donnell, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Tony Goldwyn.

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