On Friday night, admist the celebration of a handful of legendary careers — including some pre-recorded accolades for costume designer Bernie Pollack via Robert Redford and Harrison Ford — a group of young filmmakers received acclaim (and a financial boost) from the Dallas International Film Festival. Winning for best narrative feature was Kristina Nikolova, a Bulgarian filmmaker currently studying at New York University. FrontRow’s Bradford Pearson said of Nikolova’s Faith, Love and Whiskey, it “ makes you cherish youth, but also reel at its violence and foolhardiness.” Taking home honors for best documentary was Tchoupitoulas. Both films won $10,000 checks.
The University of Texas at Arlington’s Ya’ke Smith won the Texas competition for Wolf, and Dirty Energy, a documentary about the lingering impact of the BP oil spill on the Gulf Coast, won the Environmental Visions Competition. The excruciating, but necessary film, The Invisable War, won the first Silver Heart Award at the Dallas IFF for its investigation into the rape in the United States military.
If there was a sweetheart story of the festival it was young filmmaker Justin Tipping, who recently earned his MFA at the AFI Institute. Tipping’s thesis film, Nani, won best student short and the audience award for short film.
Here’s the full release will the winners and honorees.
Image: From Justin Tipping’s Nani
WOLF receives the $30,000 camera rental Grand Jury Prize for the Panavision Texas Competition
DIRTY ENERGY receives the $10,000 Grand Jury Prize for the Whole Foods Environmental Visions Competition
THE INVISIBLE WAR receives the $10,000 Embrey Family Foundation Silver Heart Award
AARON BURR, PART 2, NANI and A MORNING STROLL are named winners for Best Short Film, Student Short and the REEL FX Animated Short
Audience Awards go to MY WAY for Narrative Feature, FIRST POSITION for Documentary and NANI for Short Film
DALLAS, TX, APRIL 21, 2012 – The Dallas International Film Festival presented by Boardwalk Auto Group Volkswagen Dealers announced its 2012 award winners at its annual gala, The Dallas Film Society Honors presented by the Arthur E. Benjamin Foundation and supported by the Trinity Diversified Film Fund Advisors. In an evening where independent film and filmmakers were celebrated for their incredible work, award winners were thrilled with cash prizes and grants that totaled over $70,000.
Two kaleidoscopic films with distinct visual flair walked away with the top honors in the Narrative & Documentary Feature competitions: Kristina Nikolova’s Bulgarian film FAITH, LOVE & WHISKEY won the narrative category and Bill and Turner Ross’s TCHOUPITOULAS for documentary. The Narrative competition jury also gave a Special Mention for Breakout Performance to Michael Rainey Jr. for LUV and a Special Mention for Acting for Kim Kold in TEDDY BEAR.
The strong lineup in this year’s Texas Competition meant the jury had a difficult decision to make, but Ya’ke Smith’s much-talked-about directorial debut WOLF was awarded the $30,000 camera package courtesy of PANAVISION. The jury also gave a Special Mention to David Zellner’s KID-THING.
Two years to the day since Deepwater Horizon exploded and oil poured into the Gulf, Bryan D. Hopkins accepted the Environmental Visions Grand Jury Prize for his documentary DIRTY ENERGY, a personal look into the trials of the citizens directly affected by this disaster. With only $200 in his bank account and on food stamps, Hopkins travelled to Louisiana to highlight these ongoing personal struggles that have since been forgotten in the mainstream news cycle.
For the second year running, Lauren Embrey presented the $10,000 Silver Heart Award courtesy of the Embrey Family Foundation. Inspired by the film’s courage and the need to necessitate change, Kirby Dick’s THE INVISIBLE WAR won the award as it most represented a filmmaker’s dedication to fighting injustices and creating social change for the improvement of humanity.
Dana O’Keefe’s AARON BURR, PART 2 won the Grand Jury Prize in the Shorts Competition. A Special Mention went to Brent Hoff’s THE LOVE COMPETITION and a Special Mention for Unique Storytelling in the Student Shorts went to Afarin Eghbal’s GRANDMOTHERS. The Grand Jury Prize winner of the Student Shorts was Justin Tipping’s NANI, which also walked away with the overall Audience Award for Best Short. REEL FX presented the award for Best Animated Short to Grant Orchard’s A MORNING STROLL.
In the year that the International Spotlight focused on South Korea, it seemed especially fitting that the Audience Award for Best Narrative went to Kang Je-kyu’s epic MY WAY. Closer to home, Bess Kargman’s family-friendly FIRST POSITION won the Audience Award for Best Documentary.
The winners of the Grand Jury Prizes for all the competitions will each receive Movie Magic Budgeting and Scheduling software bundles from Entertainment Partners.
Presented by TXU Energy’s Michael Grasso, cash grants for the TXU Energy “Light Up the Red Carpet” Student Film Contest were handed out to students from both high schools and colleges. Abelardo Gonzalez’s film NO BLACKOUT won the $7,500 award for Vidal M. Trevino Magnet School, Christian Vasquez’s A SPARK took the $5,000 prize for Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and Carolina Trevino’s THE ENERGY POLICE won the $2,500 award for The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), Houston. For colleges, the prize money was split between the winners and their schools. Dillon White and North Lake College will share the $7,500 award for ZAP!, Edgar Cortes of The Art Institute of Dallas will share the $5,000 award for DOMI CILE, and Wojciech Stypko of the University of North Texas will share the $2,500 award for MAN POWER.
The film awards were interspersed through the evening with touching tributes to men and women in the film industry who have each made a significant contribution to modern cinema. The Texas Avery Animation Award presented by REEL FX was given to the animator Glen Keane who is known for creating the hero and/or heroine in the much-loved animated classics (ALADDIN, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST). Presenting Sponsor Arthur E. Benjamin highlighted the tireless work that film industry veteran Eric Pleskow has undertaken in his career as CEO of both United Artists and Orion Pictures. The 2012 Dallas Film Society Honors represented a very personal connection with Benjamin as his beloved Uncle, the late Robert S. Benjamin, worked for Pleskow for many years. To be asked to present the Lifetime Achievement Tribute to Pleskow was a huge honor for Benjamin.
“I feel the Dallas Film Society Honors this year is a true example of The Circle of Life,” said Arthur E. Benjamin. “My Uncle Bob loved working for Eric Pleskow, so for me to be here tonight and have the opportunity to publicly congratulate him is a real honor.”
On receiving the Dallas Shining Star Award, Academy Award Nominee Gabourey Sidibe (PRECIOUS) expressed how special it was to be in a room with students who are practicing their art and how in awe she is of their bravery to do what they love. Academy Award winner, Ronald L. Schwary then presented Bernie Pollack, a legend in costume design, with a Dallas Star Award complete with two very personal tributes from Robert Redford and Harrison Ford, recorded especially for Pollack’s recognition in Dallas. In receiving the award, Pollack quipped “I look at this speech as a costume designer, I want to keep it long enough to cover the subject but short enough to keep it interesting!”
Academy Award Winner Laura Linney (YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, THE TRUMAN SHOW, THE SAVAGES) accepted her Dallas Star Award with grace and humility and commented on the positive effect film festivals can have on people’s lives. The guests were touched by the deep respect Linney and Sidibe, her co-star in “The Big C”, showed each other throughout the evening.
“This year’s Dallas Film Society Honors paid tribute to both the indie filmmaker and the film industry veteran,” said James Faust, artistic director of the Dallas Film Society. “From Ya’ke Smith with his directorial debut to Eric Pleskow who has scores of films under his belt, from acknowledging Gabourey Sidibe’s rising star to Laura Linney’s expansive career, we want to applaud the new visionaries alongside those who have the breadth of experience that most can only dream about. This Honors event is our way of giving back to those who have impacted and continue to impact the face of cinema. I am exceptionally proud of the winners this year.”
Narrative Feature: FAITH, LOVE AND WHISKEY
Dir: Kristina Nikolova
Special Mention, Breakout Performance: LUV, Michael Rainey Jr.
Special Mention, Acting: TEDDY BEAR, Kim Kold
Documentary Feature: TCHOUPITOULAS
Dirs: Bill Ross, Turner Ross
PANAVISION Texas Filmmaker Award: WOLF
Dir: Ya’Ke Smith
Special Mention: KID-THING
Dir: David Zellner
Silver Heart Award: THE INVISIBLE WAR
Dir: Kirby Dick
Environmental Visons Grand Jury Prize: DIRTY ENERGY
Dir: Bryan D. Hopkins
Grand Jury Prize Short: AARON BURR, PART 2
Dir: Dana O’Keefe
Special Mention Short: THE LOVE COMPETITION
Dir: Brent Hoff
Grand Jury Prize for Student Short: NANI
Dir: Justin Tipping
Special Mention Student Short, Unique Storytelling: GRANDMOTHERS
Dir: Afarin Eghbal
Grand Jury Prize, Animated Short: A MORNING STROLL
Dir: Grant Orchard
NARRATIVE: MY WAY
DIR: Kang Je Kyu
Cast: Jang Dong-gun, Joe Odagiri, Fan Bing-bing, Kim In-kwon, Do Ji-han, Han Seung-hyun
DOCUMENTARY: FIRST POSITION
DIR: Bess Kargman
DIR: Justin Tipping
TXU ENERGY “Light Up the Red Carpet” VIDEO CONTEST WINNERS FOR HIGH SCHOOLS:
$7,500 prize winner – NO BLACKOUT
DIR: Abelardo Gonzalez
$5,000 prize winner – A SPARK
DIR: Christian Vasquez
$2,500 prize winner – THE ENERGY POLICE
DIR: Carolina Trevino
TXU ENERGY “Light Up the Red Carpet” VIDEO CONTEST WINNERS FOR COLLEGES:
$7,500 prize winner – ZAP!
DIR: Dillon White
$5,000 prize winner – DOMI CILE
DIR: Edgar Cortes
$2,500 prize winner – MAN POWER
DIR: Wojciech Stypko
2012 DIFF JURY MEMBERS:
NARRATIVE FEATURE JURY includes:
Clay Jeter – Director: JESS + MOSS (Winner of the 2011 DIFF Target Filmmaker Award)
Rose Kuo – Executive Director, Film Society of Lincoln Film Center
Mike Ott – Director: LITTLEROCK (Winner of 2010 AFI FEST, Audience Award)
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE JURY includes:
Anne Buford - Director: ELEVATE (Winner of the 2011 DIFF Target Filmmaker Award)
Bill Guentzler – Artistic Director of the Cleveland International Film Festival
Cameron Yates – Director: THE CANAL STREET MADAM
PANAVISION TEXAS COMPETITION JURY includes:
Berndt Mader – Director: FIVE TIME CHAMPION (Winner of the MPS TEXAS FILMMAKER AWARD, 2011)
Don Stokes – President/Owner of Post Asylum, Inc.
Kim Voynar – Writer for Movie City News
ENVIRONMENTAL VISIONS COMPETITION JURY includes:
Jennifer Ellington – Whole Foods Market
Keith Maitland – Emmy-nominated documentary, THE EYES OF ME broadcast on PBS’ INDEPENDENT LENS.
Troy Stuckey – Professor at the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences at SMU
SHORT COMPETITION JURY includes:
David Hale Smith – Dallas area Literary Agent, Director of InkWell Management, LLC.
Aaron Marshall – Director: ZOMBIE GIRL: THE MOVIE (Winner of the Spirit Award at the 2009 Slamdance Film Festival.
Rosie Wong – Senior Manager of the Sundance Industry Office for the Sundance Film Festival.
STUDENT COMPETITION JURY includes:
Johnny Ma – Director: THE ROBBERY (Winner of the 2011 Student Shorts Grand Jury Prize)
James M. Johnston – Director: KNIFE, Awarded Creative Producing Fellowship at Sundance Film Institute 2011.
ANIMATION COMPETITION JURY includes:
REEL FX Entertainment – Funded in 1993, Reel FX is an award-winning creative studio where accomplished artists and preeminent technology converge to produce extraordinary creative solutions. Their services include visual effects, animation, design and creative editorial.
SILVER HEART JURY includes:
Embrey Family Foundation – The Foundation was established in 2004 for the purpose of supporting programs that advance human rights, healthy communities, the environment, education and creativity.
The sixth annual Dallas International Film Festival kicked off on April 12, 2012 in the historic Majestic Theatre in downtown Dallas with a tribute to Cinemark USA’s Lee Roy and Tandy Mitchell followed by Josh Radnor’s crowd pleaser LIBERAL ARTS.
Highlights of the Festival included the strong, diverse line up of films programmed by artistic director James Faust and senior programmer Sarah Harris that saw many of the films at rush line within hours of the Festival opening. Filmmakers remarked how well the new Festival Village worked at Mockingbird Station – the hub of the 2012 Festival and home to the Faulkner Design Festival Lounge, the Prekindle Box Office, the nightly red carpets and only a few steps away – the host hotel, the Hotel Palomar Dallas.
Educational programs shone brightly with over 400 high school students taking part in High School Day on April 13 throughout the Dallas Arts District. Despite the cool inclement weather, Family Day proved a lot of fun for 1,500 people at NorthPark Center and costume designer Bernie Pollack thrilled theatre and cinema students at SMU with his dedicated Master Class.
Directorial debuts from X-MEN and GOLDENEYE star Famke Janssen (BRINGING UP BOBBY), DIFF alum Ryan O’Nan (THE BROOKLYN BROTHERS BEAT THE BEST) and Lisa Immordino Vreeland (DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL) had packed audiences in delight. THE OTHER DREAM TEAM, featuring the Dallas Mavericks’ Donnie Nelson, was an instant hit with the home crowd. DIFF enjoyed its first ever filmmaker baby on the red carpet as QWERTY duo Bill Sebastian and Dana Pupkin proudly showed off their three-month-old to the waiting press. The South Korean Spotlight proved a wonderful success with Kang Je-kyu’s MY WAY and the world premiere of LET ME OUT with the filmmakers from South Korea in attendance.
DIFF’s closing weekend will feature ‘Conversations with’ Dallas Star Award Honorees Laura Linney and Bernie Pollack as well as Special Honoree Eric Pleskow, and Dallas Shining Star Award recipient Gabourey Sidibe and Texas Avery Animation Award honoree Glen Keane will hold post-screening Q&A sessions with audience members. Encore presentations of Filmmaker Award winners and previously sold-out screenings will also take place on April 21-22. The 25th Anniversary Screening of ROBOCOP, with Peter Weller and many other cast and crew in attendance, is the Closing Night centerpiece screening on April 21.
Overall, the 2012 Dallas International Film Festival showcased 83 features and 99 shorts for a total of 182 films from 27 countries.