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Private Fipresci winner at San Francisco

FIPRESCI Prize: PRIVATE (Saverio Costanzo, Italy, 2004)
Jury Statement – Marcelo Janot, Henry Sheehan and Zlatko Vidackovic
We found that PRIVATE combined creative ingenuity and passion in ways that would be unusual for a seasoned director, never mind for someone making a debut feature. Saverio Costanzo has created a dramatic situation that could easily have lent itself to sloganeering: A self-confident and educated Palestinian family suddenly finds its house occupied by an Israeli army platoon. The young filmmaker evades oversimplification through a shooting style that virtually embodies the notion of crisis and a thrashing human response to it. Equally, he is exquisitely fair to his characters, paying homage to both their individuality and their cultural-national identification. PRIVATE’s intensity and suspense suggest a world not just in constant conflict, but ever on the verge of catastrophe. Yet through his art, Costanzo keeps faith with the human capacity for growth and perseverance.

Golden Gate Award for Bay Area Documentary Feature: THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN (Taggert Siegel, USA/Mexico, 2005)
Jury Statement – Susan Gerhard, Sam Green and Marian Masone
Many of us might have been aware of the plight of the family farm over the past few decades, but few of us have met a family farmer like John Peterson, who has turned agriculture into a kind of performance art. What most impressed us about Siegel’s THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN was its gentle approach toward hot-button topics, as Farmer John brings the sixties to rural Illinois, loses most of his land to the bank, and finds himself the victim of rumors of Satanic-cult activities. Siegel made good use of the Peterson family’s film archives and oral histories to offset the film’s many dramas with the daily pleasures and pains of farm life then and now. While John Peterson’s approach toward his “family” farm – playing host to artists and outsiders, and eventually, farming organically – separate him from his neighbors (and purportedly upset their cows!) it’s John Peterson’s willingness to reconnect with them, and the outside world’s willingness to connect with “Farmer John,” that makes this story unique. Conflict is essential to documentary films, and resolutions as satisfying and hopeful as the one we see in THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN are rare.

Golden Gate Award for Documentary Feature: CZECH DREAM (Vít Klusák, Filip Remunda, Czech Republic, 2004)
Jury Statement – Susan Gerhard, Sam Green and Marian Masone
Two Czechoslovakian artists had a dream, and it wasn’t home ownership, 2.5 children, and membership in the EU; it was to find out what would happen if they invited their countrymen to the opening of a giant new “hypermarket” in Prague that didn’t actually exist. In the documentary subgenre known as the “stunt film,” Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda’s CZECH DREAM’s humor, audacity, and intelligence stand out. Not only did the filmmakers pull off a prank that played on the political aspirations of their nation, they demonstrated wit and insight as watched themselves invent, test-market, and deliver the hoax to a too-trusting public. The stunt is as hilarious as it is edifying on propaganda and the political process -- and the fact that these conceptual art pranksters stayed around to wipe the proverbial tomatoes off their faces and display the well-spring of Czechoslovakian anger to the globe is a testament to the power of imagination in an homogenizing world.

Jury Statement – Richard Beggs, Daniel Handler and Pierre Menahem
When one walks into a theater where a first film is being shown, there is a single question one asks as the lights dim: Will this movie be lousy? Thankfully, our answer at this festival is a relieved and resounding "No." We saw many things over the past few days - dancers and hockey players, mothers and terrorists, children and artists, horses and shoes and composers and soldiers and a goose drinking water from a saucer. But nothing we saw was lousy. We were astonished at the diverse energy and energetic diversity of the films in question. We didn't want to choose, but we had to. And while we'd like to acknowledge THE FOREST FOR THE TREES and DUCK SEASON, there's one film we saw that is so innovatively hilarious, philosophically moving and so delightful to sit in front of that its distance from lousy is immeasurable. The prize goes to Miranda July and ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW.

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