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Woodstock Winners: Indie Films Honored

The Woodstock Film Festival, hailed as the most fiercely independent of regional events, wrapped its 11th edition this weekend with the Maverick Awards Ceremony that honored films and filmmakers in competition, as well as bestowing achievement awards to a diverse group of film luminaries. The sparkling event was held on Saturday evening at the historic Backstage Studio Productions Arts & Entertainment Complex in Kingston, New York. Emceed by Academy-award nominated writer/director and Woodstock resident Ron Nyswaner (PHILADELPHIA), the ceremony presenters included Jonathan Gray, Leon Gast, Heidi Ewing, Petra Epperlein, John Anderson, Amos Poe, Ryan Pierce Williams, Bill Plympton, Sabine Hoffman, Craig McKay, Molly Thompson, Ron Mann, Amy Dotson, Barbara Kopple and others.


Winning the Lee Marvin Best Feature Narrative Award, which includes a cash prize of $5000, was the US/UK feature STRANGER THINGS, co-written and directed by the team of Eleanor Burke and Ron Eyal. The film is the story of the unusual and touching bond that develops between an isolated young woman and a homeless refugee, set in a quiet seaside village in England. The film is the debut of both directors, who won accolades for their short film RUTH AND MAGGIE, and is one of only 10 films from across the US selected to participate in the 2009 IFP Narrative Filmmaker Lab, winning the development initiative’s top prize. Honorable Mention was given to 3 BACKYARDS, a suburban drama directed by Eric Mendelsohn and starring Edie Falco and Elias Koteas.


The Maverick Award for Best Feature Documentary, which includes a $1000 cash prize, was given to director Jeff Malmberg, for his moving portrait of a local Kingston man whose mental illness unleashes a powerful artistic drive in the film MARWENCOL. The film won similar top honors at this year’s South By Southwest Film Festival. Other Maverick Awards of the evening were presented to animator Anthony Sheppard for Best Animated Film for his MUSIC SCENE; ROSCOE HOLCOMB: FROM DAISY KENTUCKY, the winner of the Diane Seligman Award for Best Short Documentary; HIROSAKI PLAYERS by Jeff Sausa, the winner of the Diane Segilman Award for Best Short Narrative; and GOD OF LOVE by Luke Matheny, winner of the Diane Seligman Award for Best Student Short Film.




Woodstock audiences are known for their discriminating taste, so the winners of the Audience Awards at this Festival take on a special import. The Audience Award for Narrative Feature was won by WHITE IRISH DRINKERS, an atmospheric family drama set in 1970s Brooklyn, directed by television veteran John Gray. The runner up prize was awarded to INUK, the Greenland-based drama with Inuit actors giving the film added immediacy and truth. The Audience Award for Documentary Feature was given to GRACE PALEY: COLLECTED SHORTS, a lovely portrait of the activist poet, directed by Lilly Rivlin. The runner up prize stayed local with Hudson Valley filmmaker Jeff Malmberg and his portrait of a local eccentric in MARWENCOL.


In the technical awards, INUK, a narrative feature featuring Inuit actors from Greenland, won the Haskell Wexler Award for Best Cinematography. Editor Robert Hoffman was honored for his work in the American indie feature NORMAN, directed by Jonathan Segal, with editors Kate Amend and Tchavar Gerogiev winning Best Editing honors for the American documentary ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT by Lisa Leeman.



The audience of more than 500 filmmakers, film professionals and movie buffs also participated in career achievement tributes. Winner of the Honorary Maverick Award was Oscar-nominated director Bruce Beresford, best known for the films DRIVING MISS DAISY and TENDER MERCIES, whose latest film MAO’S LAST DANCER is proving to be an arthouse hit.

The Honorary Trailblazer Award was given to marketing and distribution guru Bob Berney, who has been responsible for the successful careers of such milestone films as MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, PAN’S LABYRINTH, LA VIE EN ROSE, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, WHALE RIDER and MONSTER.



The Honorary Excellence In Acting Award was presented to Keanu Reeves, who has made a career of working in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters (THE MATRIX) and more personal independent projects including THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE and this year’s HENRY’S CRIME, which was presented at the Festival. The Award was presented by his current co-star in the latter film, actress Vera Farmiga (UP IN THE AIR).


The 2010 Woodstock Film Festival was distinguished by an excellent program and a host of special events, music concerts, seminar panels and receptions. For more information, visit the festival website: www.woodstockfilmfestival.com


Sandy Mandelberger, Festival New York Editor

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