Monday, June 12, 2006


BiFF annouces winners

The 9th Annual Brooklyn International Film Festival ended its 10-day run at the Brooklyn Museum with a low-key awards ceremony on Sunday night. The festival screened 120 films - 15 features and 21 documentaries, the rest shorts, animated and experimental films - selected from 2,036 entries received from 88 countries. "The festival cares about independent films," BiFF executive director Marco Ursino said before announcing the awards. "The festival cares about Brooklyn and its ethnic communities."

Each of the films I saw were of the highest quality - I rated them at least 4 stars (out of 5) as an audience voter. Except for late starts and a persistent hum in the sound system, the festival ran smoothly, and was friendly to films buffs and press alike.

BiFF's big winner was the festival's opening film - Libero De Rienzo's Blood: Death Does Not Exist. It received both the Best of Festival and Best Feature awards. "It took 8 years of work to make this movie," De Rienzo explained. "Everyday and every night - Christmas and birthdays. We did what we wanted in order to seek the truth in a country [Italy] where cinema is dying." Blood's story of incest ends farcically in a church.

Julio Soto's Radiophobia - about Chernobyl - was selected Best Documentary. Joel Palombo won the Best New Director award for Milk and Opium; the film's 12-year-old star Swaroop Khan tied for Best Actor. Khan's vivid portrayal of a Southern Indian musician who travels to New Delhi in search of work is truly touching.

Eyal Haifon's What a Wonderful Place, which follows the lives of several Ukrainian prostitutes and their Israeli pimps, received the Best Screenplay award. This multi-layered film surprises from beginning to end.

Audience awards were given to Billy Kent's The Oh in Ohio (Feature), and Joseph Mathew and Dan DeVivo's Crossing Arizona (Doc). Mohamed Al-Daradji's Ahlaam (Feature) and Aruna Matelis' Before Flying Back to Earth received Spirit awards.

For the complete list of winners, go to the BiFF website.

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