I was lucky enough to get to spend the past few days at the Sarasota Film Festival, which was a kick-ass mix of an ambitious and wide-ranging film line-up from programmers Tom Hall and Holly Herrick, lavish, gown-and-tux-and-shrimp cocktail parties, and downtime on the beach. I was on the jury for the Narrative Feature Competition, along with John Kochman of Unifrance and Ligiah Villalobos, writer/producer of “La Misma Luna.” After some solid deliberation, we ended up giving the prize to Lee Isaac Chung’s very fine “Munyurangabo,” which follows a pair of boys, one an orphan and the other estranged from his family, as they travel from Kigali on a journey to avenge the former’s parents. Shot in Rwanda with nonprofessional local actors, the film certainly has nods to African cinema, but I think that Holly made a good point in describing it as having more in common with American indie film. “Munyurangabo” premiered at Cannes and also won the narrative grand jury prize at the 2007 AFI Fest, but hasn’t managed to secure distribution. I’m guessing it’ll continue to make the fest rounds, and it’s well worth seeking out.
The narrative line-up was very international I was also happy to get a chance to see “California Dreamin'” and “The Edge of Heaven,” and to run into plenty of filmmakers from SXSW, many of whom had films in the Independent Visions competition. The other prizes:
The 2008 Best Documentary Feature Competition Award sponsored by Sky Sotheby’s was presented to “Stranded: I Have Come From A Plane That Crashed On The Mountains” by Gonzalo Arijon.
A Special Documentary Jury Prize was presented by the Documentary Feature jury to “To See If I’m Smiling” by Tamar Yarom.
The 2008 Independent Visions Competition Award, sponsored by Heineken, was presented to “The Pleasure of Being Robbed” by Joshua Safdie.
An Independent Visions Special Jury Prize for Cinematography was presented Âto “Medicine For Melancholy” by Barry Jenkins, Cinematography by James Laxton.
Sponsored by Bombay Sapphire, special recognition goes to winners of our Audience Favorite Awards for Best Narrative Feature, Best Documentary, Excellence in World Cinema, and Best Short Film. Each category carries a $1,000 cash prize presented to the filmmaker.
Bombay Sapphire Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature to “Fugitive Pieces” by Jeremy Podeswa.
Bombay Sapphire Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature was presented to “Of All The Things” by Jody Lambert.
Bombay Sapphire Audience Award for Best in World Cinema was presented to “Christmas Story” (Finland) by Juha Wuolijoki.
Bombay Sapphire Audience Award for Best Short Film was presented to “La Corona” by Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega.
[Photo: “Munyurangabo,” Almond Tree Films, 2007]