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Philadelphia closes with record attendance figures



The 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival ended its 14-day celebration of cinema by posting an attendance record of 61,000, beating last year’s record of 57,500. Of the 293 screenings the Festival held from April 8-21, 70 screenings sold out, and 16 films drew an audience of over 600.

At its Closing Night on April 21, the Festival announced its Jury Prizes and Audience Awards. Leading the list of winners were the feature films ANATOMY OF HELL, UNKNOWN SOLDIER (tie for Jury Prize for Best Feature Film) and BAADASSSSS! (Audience Award for Best Feature), and the documentaries PROTEUS (Jury Prize) and THE CORPORATION (Audience Award).

The Festival was produced by the Philadelphia Film Society under the leadership of Artistic Director Raymond Murray, Managing Director Thom Cardwell and Operations Manager Claire Brown Kohler. “With the increase in attendance, sponsorships and media coverage this year, the Film Festival is clearly becoming a major event on Philadelphia’s annual calendar,” said Mr. Murray, “which has been our goal all along. I’m really gratified at everyone’s support of the festival and its films this year.”

THE FIGURES: This year’s Festival drew 61,000 film lovers, an increase of 4,500 from 2003. More significantly, the number and percentage of sell-out screenings increased dramatically over previous years, with 70 sell-outs out of 293 screenings, or nearly 25% of all shows. Since 2001, the percentage of sell-outs has only ranged between 15-17%.

Sixteen films had total audiences of over 600. The top film was Robert Hall’s LIGHTNING BUG, which drew over 900 people at three screenings – the largest attendance of a single film in the festival’s history. The film was one of three world premieres the Festival gave in 2004.

Documentaries proved especially popular this year. Of the next seven highest-attended films (with totals over 700), five were non-fiction: SUPER SIZE ME (880), THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL (823), CONTROL ROOM (807), BRIGHT LEAVES (726) and BREAKFAST WITH HUNTER (711). The remaining 700+ films were from the Festival’s genre focus “Danger After Dark”: A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (769) and AZUMI (707).

AWARDS: For the fourth year, the Philadelphia Film Festival held a juried competition. The winners were:
•Best Feature Film (tie) –
ANATOMY OF HELL (France): Catherine Breillat, director;
UNKNOWN SOLDIER (US): Ferenc Toth, director;

•Best Documentary: PROTEUS (US): David Lebrun, director;
•Best Director: Ulrike Koch, for ASSHAK: TALES FROM THE SAHARA (Niger, Switzerland, Germany, The Netherlands);
•Best Animated Short Film: LOVE TRICYCLE (Australia): Andrew Goode, director.

After every screening, ballots were given to audience members to determine the Audience Awards, which were:
•Best Feature Film: BAADASSSSS! (US): Mario Van Peebles, director;
•Best Documentary: THE CORPORATION (Canada): Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, directors;
•Best Danger After Dark Film: AZUMI (Japan): Ryuhei Kitamura, director.

Other films not previously mentioned that had especially high audience ratings were THE AGRONOMIST, BUDDY, VALENTIN, HOME OF THE BRAVE, I’M NOT SCARED, METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER, THE MAN WHO COPIED, MARTINS’ PASSION and IN JUSTICE, all with a score of 4.5 or better out of 5.0. All ballot results are posted on the Festival’s Web site –

A long-standing component of the Festival is the Philadelphia CityPaper Festival of Independents, a showcase for regional filmmakers. On April 18, “FestIndies” announced its award winners:
• Best Feature – THE OTHER AMERICA: Eugene Martin, director;
• Best Documentary – LA PROMESA/THE VOW: Cheryl Hess, director;
• Best Animation – “INHUMAN CREATION STATION”: David Deneen, director;
• Best Experimental -- WILEY JACK-A-NAPES, DODGES, PARRIES UNMITIGATED EVIL: Anthony Mastanduno, director;
• Best Narrative – ROBOT BOY: Ted Passon, director;
• NFL Films Technical Achievement Award – THE OTHER AMERICA: Eugene Martin, director;
NFL Films will give Mr. Martin $2,500 in technical services and support for his next project.

Earlier in the Festival, Greater Philadelphia Filmmakers, a program of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, announced the winners of the 2004 “Set in Philadelphia” Screenwriting Competition (SIP):
• Grand Prize: Bernie DeLeo for QUEENS FOR A DAY -- A bunch of blue-collar workers get "Queer Eyed" into drag queens to win the annual Mummers Day Fancy Brigade competition;
• Regional Award: Jessica Parenti for INFLUENZA -- A woman grieving for her deceased daughter is haunted by the ghost of a child mistakenly buried alive during an early 20th century flu epidemic;
• Irene I. Parisi Award: Jeremiah Zagar for PAPER GIANTS -- Orphaned at the age of fifteen, Saul Cohen is thrust into an adolescence of prostitution;
• Runner-up: Kent Murray for LIVES LED.

GUESTS: Nearly 150 filmmakers, actors, media and industry leaders attended the Festival, led by its two honorees: actress Mary-Louise Parker (Artistic Achievement Award), who introduced her new film THE BEST THIEF IN THE WORLD; and horror director Tobe Hooper (TLA Phantasmagoria Award), who introduced his new film THE TOOLBOX MURDERS.

Among the other headlining guests were:
• Mario and Melvin Van Peebles of BAADASSSSS!, Mario’s depiction of the struggle Melvin faced in creating his seminal film, SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAADASSSSS SONG.
• Actors Stuart Townsend, Dina Merrill and Bo Hopkins, and director Damian Nieman, from the Opening Night screening of SHADE;
• Actors Bret Harrison, Hal Sparks, Ashley Laurence and Shannon Eubanks, and director Robert Hall, attending the world premiere of LIGHTNING BUG;
• Actors Michael Legge and Allen Leech, and director David Gleeson, attending the North American premiere of COWBOYS & ANGELS;
• Animator Bill Plympton (HAIR HIGH) and documentarians Ulrike Koch (ASSHAK: TALES FROM THE SAHARA) and Jehane Noujaim (CONTROL ROOM).

SPONSORS: Presenting Sponsors were TLA Entertainment Group -- TLA Video Stores,, TLA Releasing; Pennsylvania Film Office; The City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce; Bridge: cinema de lux; the Hilton Inn at Penn. Premier Sponsors were University of Pennsylvania, Metro Newspapers, GlaxoSmithKline, Amtrak, Future Brands -- The Dalmore Scotch Whiskey, Knob Creek Bourbon, El Tesoro Tequila, Vox Vodka. Official Sponsors were Philadelphia CityPaper, University of the Arts, Greater Philadelphia Film Office, University City District, Fox 29, Y-100,, International House, Center City District. the St. James–Washington Square.


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