Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Spirit Awards, announced the jury and audience award winners for the 2012 Festival.
“Every single filmmaker in this year’s Festival deserves kudos for their artistry and compelling stories. Our juries had such gems to choose from in each competition and the winners truly represent what we hold dear—diversity and uniqueness of vision,” said Festival Director Stephanie Allain.
The awards include Jury Awards in Narrative and Documentary competitions and Audience Awards in those and other categories. Audience Awards are based on ballots handed out to those at each screening, rating the film from one to four.
The Jury Award for Best Narrative film was given to Pocas Pascoal for All Is Well, the story of two Angolan sisters who must fend for themselves in Lisbon. In bestowing the Narrative Award on Poca Pascoal, the Jury stated: “All Is Well, a Lisbon-set exploration of the immigrant experience and, especially, of the bond between siblings, is a work of striking visual eloquence and emotional honesty. As sisters navigating a new country, together and separately, Cheila Lima and Ciomara Morais deliver performances of searing intimacy. Filmmaker Pocas Pascoal has transformed her personal story of exile from Angola into a deeply affecting drama, whose cinematic power is particularly impressive in the work of a first-time feature director.”
Thursday Till Sunday received Honorable Mention in the narrative category. The Chilean film showed a family in crisis as they travel on what may be their last vacation as a family. In bestowing an Honorable Mention on Dominga Sotomayor, the Jury stated: “Thursday Till Sunday masterfully uses landscape to convey interpersonal dynamics with keen sensitivity and insight. Unease and awakening are indelibly entwined in the film’s deceptively simple family road trip, creating a nuanced and elegiac coming-of-age story. The debut feature of Chilean writer-director Dominga Sotomayor is evidence of an exciting new talent.”
Top film in the Documentary Competition was awarded to Everardo Gon for Drought, a portrait of a ranch community in Mexico that struggles in a land where water is quite obviously a matter of life and death. In bestowing the Documentary Award upon Everardo González, the Jury stated: “The jury found Drought to be a film of extraordinary caliber—epic in scope, keen and intimate in its observational perspective, beautifully filmed and edited with a sparse and affecting soundscape. Through this powerful film, the story of a remote Mexican community grappling with a growing drought becomes a universal parable and an alarming harbinger.”
The Audience Award for narrative film went to Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin. The film is a visual delight and offers a somewhat philosophical and esoteric view of life. The film opens this coming Wednesday.
The Audience Award for documentary was won by Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives, directed by Sara Lamm and Mary Wigmore. Ina May Gaskin and the courageous midwives of the Farm commune inspired the modern midwifery movement. This beguiling documentary tells their empowering story with depth, intelligence, and wit.
The Audience Award for Best International Feature was awarded to Searching for Sugar Man, directed by Malik Bendjelloul. A 1970s musician’s work is finally appreciated. Part detective story, part celebration of music, and part meditation of success and failure.
I cannot fault the jury or the festival audiences for their picks. All certainly are deserving of the honors they received. My overall impression of the festival was that the docs were much stronger than the narrative films—both in competition and in the other sections of the festival. Drought certainly was a film that worked on various levels, which probably was part of the jury’s decision. Other docs that I think are worth mentioning are two films from the free community screenings: The Invisible War, about military sexual assaults, and G-Dog, about Homeboy Industries that operates just a few miles from the festival venue. There were also two docs about 1970s musicians from Detroit (neither was typical Motown music) whose music never quite caught on at the time, but now are being discovered anew: A Band Called Death and Searching for Sugar Man. Another very strong doc was Reportero, about a journalist reporting on corruption and drugs in Baja California. A doc that will soon be in theaters and well worth seeing is The Queen of Versailles that gives us a new look into the lives of the rich (and now not as rich as it seemed).
The jury’s picks, All Is Well and Thursday Till Sunday, were probably the strongest in the narrative competition. Although, I found The Compass Is Carried by the Dead Man an interesting existential meditation on life and death—and maybe hell.
I’ll have more to say about some of the films as they come up to theatrical or TV viewings.