The 34th Starz Denver Film Festival honored a cadre of up and coming filmmakers and must-see films. After wrapping up the 12-day gala of films, parties, and shenanigans, Starz and The Denver Film Society announced their 2011 award winners.
Starz People's Choice Awards
Based on audience ballots following screenings, 2011 favorites included Alrick Brown's "Kinyarwanda," which took the Narrative Feature Award. It is an intensely woven film that unravels six stories about the Rwandan genocide.
The documentary award went to Melissa Fitzgerald's "Staging Hope: Acts of Peace in Northern Uganda." Best known for her role on "The West Wing," Fitzgerald founded a drama workshop for at-risk kids in Los Angeles. The documentary shows the ups and downs of taking the program to Uganda.
The People's Choice award for Short Film went to Argentinean filmmaker Juan Pablo Zaramella for his short work "Luminaris." Zaramella, a renowned animator, has been raking in recognition at festivals worldwide; this exploration of light is testament to why.
Krzysztof Kieslowski Award
The juried award for best feature film was unanimously given to Runar Runarsson for his Icelandic film "Volcano." The jury called it "…a haunting portrait of life in its final act, and the tragedy and triumph of one man's redemptive journey" with "unexpected turns that reflect the true unpredictability of life, love, and loss. Anchored by an astounding performance by veteran actor Theodore Juliusson with masterful direction by first time feature director Runarsson." The jury raved the movie was "an unforgettable character rarely seen in cinema."
Maysles Brothers Award
Named for the trailblazing duo of documentary filmmakers, the 2011 juried documentary award went to Anthony Baxter's real-estate romp "You've Been Trumped." Baxter shows Scottish locals as they go up against Goliath tycoon Donald Trump. Baxter made quite a presence at the festival, visiting with Occupy Denver protesters.
New Directors and Student Awards
Up and comer Sophia Takal was given the New Directors Award for her eerily neo-surrealist film "Green." Joshua Brunsting of The Criterion Cast called it, "a kin to something like a mumblecore film shot by Lars Von Tier." A Special Jury Prize was also awarded to the feature "The Dish & The Spoon," a colorfully emotional film from Alison Bagnall ("Buffalo '66"). Bagnall cast Olly Alexander and Greta Gerwig, who improvised many scenes in the film.
The 2011 Spike Lee Student Filmmaker Award was given to Huay Bing Law for his short film "Benny." The jury stated "it successfully created a delicate poignancy as not so much a coming-of-age story, but more of a self-examination of life's shortcomings." The newly formed Liberty Global International Student Short Award was given to Ariel Kleiman for her tense depth charge of a short "Deeper Than Yesterday," about life on a Russian submarine.
Best Animated Short
Denver Film Festival Honors
Several awards honor career achievements, and 2011's recipients provided a star-studded red carpet. Actress Judy Greer was given the John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award. Adepero Oduye was given the Rising Star Award for her performance in "Pariah." Veteran actor James Cromwell was given the Mayor's Career Achievement Award, appearing in two films that screened to acclaim at the festival, "The Artist" and "A Year in Mooring." The Excellence in Acting Award went to the prolific Alan Cumming.
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