By Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
Following a packed 10-day marathon of film screenings, industry events, seminar panels and chic parties, the Tribeca Film Festival ended this past weekend with the announcement of the winners of the juried awards in several categories. The World Competition winners were chosen from 12 narrative and 12 documentary features from 18 countries. Two awards were also given to honor New York films, which were chosen from seven narrative and nine documentary features. Awards were also given for the best narrative, best documentary and student visionary films in the Shorts competition.
European films figured strongly in the winners’ circle. The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature was given to Let The Right One In (Lat den rätte komma in) by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson. Novelist John Ajvide Linquit adapted his best-seller to tell the beautifully touching tale of the first romance of 12-year-old Oskar and the girl next door, Eli….who also happens to be a vampire. The jury commented that the film was exceptional “for its mesmerizing exploration of loneliness and alienation through a masterful reexamination of the vampire myth.” Director Tomas Alfredson receives a cash prize of $25,000 plus the art award "Maternal Nocture: Clearing Storm” created by Stephen Hannock. The film has a North American distribution in place, with Magnet Releasing, the specialty arm of Magnolia Pictures.
Winner of the Best New Narrative Filmmaker prize is Turkish director Huseyin Karabey for the film My Marlon And Brando. The film, a co-production with The Netherlands and the UK, is a cross-cultural love story between a Turkish actress living in Istanbul and a Kurdish actor living in Iraq. The story is set on the eve of the American invasion and spins a unique take on the “Romeo And Juliet” legend with contemporary references. The jury praised the film for “its skillful blending of documentary style with a classic love story.” The film had its world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival. The director receives a cash prize of $25,000, sponsored by American Express, and the art award “Bonfire,” created by Ross Bleckner.
Best Actor honors were shared by Thomas Turgose and Piotr Jagiello, the teenage protagonists of the UK drama Somers Town, directed by Shane Meadows. Turgose plays a lad from the British Midlands who strikes up an unlikely friendship with Jagiello, who plays a Polish refugee living with his construction worker father in a working class neighborhood of London. The jury was impressed with the twin actors’ “extraordinary and exhilarating rendering of a friendship found”. The prize, sponsored by Delta Air Lines, gives each winner a business elite ticket voucher for anywhere Delta travels.
Eileen Walsh, a haunting Irish actress, won Best Actress honors for “her exquisite rendering of a lonely wife aching to be seen and heard” in director Declan Recks’ Eden. The film takes a frank look at the slow disintegration of a marriage during the week a couple celebrates their 10th anniversary. Adapted from Eugene O’Brien’s award-winning play, the film’s use of closeups and intimate editing only enhances its emotional impact. The actress receives two business elite ticket vouchers for anywhere Delta travels.
The Best New Documentary Filmmaker is Spanish director Carlos Carcas for the film Old Man Bebo. The film, which had its world premiere at the Malaga Film Festival in Spain, tells the story of Bebo Valedes, the greatest living Cuban musician who was one of the inventors of the mambo, who turns 90 this year. The joyful portrait film mixes archival footage with contemporary interviews and performance segments to offer a celebration of the man and his music. Director Carlos Carcas receives $25,000 cash, sponsored by American Express, and the art award “Maquette for Primary Compass,” created by Don Gummer.
The sole non-European filmmaker in the winners’ circle is American director Gini Reticker for her moving documentary film Pray The Devil Back To Hell. Winning the Best Documentary Feature prize for “its moving portrait of the women of Liberia, who show us how community, motherly love and perseverance can change the fate of a society.” The film, which had its world premiere at the Festival, wins for director Gini Reticker a cash award of $25,000 and the art award “Liza Minnelli,” created by Timothy White.
The Tribeca Film Festival has long demonstrated its support for local film talents. When it began, it hosted a separate “Made In New York” competition category. That has since been dropped, but the Festival still makes a point of honoring New York filmmaking talents through its New York Loves Film Award. This year’s documentary winners was Zoned In, a documentary by Daniela Zanzotto that traces the remarkable journey of a Bronx high schooler to an Ivy League university, with trenchant comments on the role of race and class in the American education system. Director Zanzotto receives a cash prize of $5000, sponsored by New York State Governor's Office for Motion Picture and Television Development, and the art award “Table Odeon,” created by Donna Ferrato.
Winner of the Best New York Feature was The Caller, directed by Richard Ledes. Acting veterans Frank Langella and Elliot Gould star, respectively, as an energy business executive, who is assisted by a private investigator in his effort to expose his corporation's corrupt practices. The jury hailed the film’s “superb use of its New York locations – from the sleek mid-town high-rises to the desolate Brooklyn Bridge piers – to create a chilling and finally stirring suspense movie; an unusual thriller whose mysterious plot finally exposes the mysteries of the heart.” The filmmakers receive a cash award of $5,000, sponsored by The City of New York Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, and the art award “Nude on Guitar” created by Ralph Gibson. Prize winning short films included Best Boy (Steph Green), Mandatory Service (Jessica Habie) and Elephant Garden (Jessica Habie).
The Cadillac Award was given to the documentary War Child, directed by C. Karim Chrobog. The American film, which had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, was voted on by Festival audiences. War Child tells the story of hip-hop artist Emmanuel Jal, a veteran of the 20-year civil war in southern Sudan. First-time filmmaker Chrobog follows Jal as he returns to Sudan for the first time in 18 years to reunite with his family, including the father who summoned him to war and then abandoned him. Now in his 20s, Jal is using his music to raise awareness about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan and the plight of child soldiers throughout the world. The director receives a cash prize of $25,000 and the art award “Peripheral Drift Illusion” created by Ryan McGinness.
The Festival, in presenting over 120 films from 40 countries around the world, gave its loyal audiences the chance to check the pulse of world cinema and to be introduced to the amazing stories of both real and fictional people from many different cultures. It is often said that New York is the center of the world (perhaps an overinflated statement) but for the past 10 days, the world was certainly on display in all its glory and complications for New York audiences to savor, absorb and learn from. Aside from all the glitz and the industry buzz, that could ultimately be the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival’s most important legacy.