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Newfest announces winners

NewFest: New York's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Film Festival, concluded its expansive 10 day program with the announcement of winners of its NewFest 2005 Filmmaker Awards at a closing ceremony on Sunday evening, June 12. The Awards, announced by Festival Director Basil Tsiokos, followed the New York premiere screening of Closing Night Film SUMMER STORM by German director Marco Kreuzpaintner.

The Showtime Vanguard Award, which celebrates visionary achievement, was awarded to GOOD BOYS, an Israeli film by director Yair Hochner, which had its US premiere at the Festival. Inspired by Gus Van Sant’s MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, the film follows the story of two Tel Aviv rent boys who find unexpected comfort in each other. The jury praised the film’s challenging yet sympathetic illumination of topics that often stay behind closed doors, such as child abandonment and prostitution, and for the tender and truthful relationship between the two main characters.

The Best US Narrative Feature Prize, sponsored by US distributor New Line Cinema/Fine Line Features, was given to director Kyle Schickner for his film STRANGE FRUIT. The film follows the story of a gay Manhattan attorney who goes back to his small Southern town to investigate the hate crime killing of a gay black man and uncovers a culture of homophobia and entrenched racism. STRANGE FRUIT was lauded by the jury for its rich, layered exploration of race, class, and sexuality in the contemporary South and for the remarkable performances of its cast.

The Best US Screenplay Award, sponsored by The Writers Guild of America, East, was awarded to Jenni Olson for her meditative film THE JOY OF LIFE, a look at love, loss and desire set in the butch lesbian community in San Francisco. Olson, who was on hand to receive her award, said that she was “very grateful (and frankly shocked) at this recognition of my work” and thanked the jury for “validating my conviction that the most interesting stories are about people not getting what they want."

The US Narrative Feature Jury was comprised of Brian Clark (indieWIRE), Liza Johnson (filmmaker, programmer-MIX NYC), and Rob Williams (Wellspring Media).

The Best Documentary Feature Award, sponsored by Avis, was presented to LITTLE MAN by Nicole Conn. This emotional film documents the life and death struggle of the director’s premature baby and the upheaval it brings to her relationship with her partner. The Documentary Feature Jury included producers’ rep Lynda Hansen, Mark Kashden (New Video/Docurama), and Milton Tabbott (IFP).

The Best Foreign Narrative Feature prize was awarded to A YEAR WITHOUT LOVE from Argentina. The film follows the story of an HIV positive writer in Buenos Aires who becomes involved in the underground leather and sado-masochism scene as a way of filling the emotional void in his life. The jury praised director Anahi Berneri’s courage and originality in portraying a world of love and sex without compromise or exploitation. The film is to be released later this year by US distributor Strand Releasing.

The Foreign Narrative Feature Jury was comprised of Armando Guareno (director, LaCinemaFe), Shannon Kelley (Sundance Film Festival programmer) and Andrew Murphy (Atlantic Film Festival programmer).

The Audience Award for Best Feature, sponsored by The New York Times, was won by LEFT LANE, a documentary road movie following the live concert tour of lesbian poet and activist Alix Olson, directed by Samantha Farinella. The film had its world premiere at the Festival.

The final award of the evening, the Vito Russo Award, is given in honor of film historian and gay activist Vito Russo. The Award, sponsored by The Data Lounge, provides production funds to a New York-based film project, drawn from nominations made by an independent selection committee.

This year's Vito Russo Award was presented to director Jonathan Caouette for his upcoming UNTITLED MONTAGE PROJECT, a hallucinatory examination of stardom and movie aesthetics that remixes three films from the 1970s, all starring the same iconic actress, to create a completely different story. Caouette emerged on the international scene last year with his acclaimed directorial debut TARNATION.

Sandy Mandelberger
Industry Editor


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