After a week of screenings, the votes were tallied to determine the winners for Best Feature Film, Best Documentary, Best Short Film, while audiences voted for their favorite in categories of features, documentaries and shorts. Competition winners were announced at an afternoon cocktail reception at the host hotel, The Delray Marriott. The Audience Choice Awards will be announced at the closing night after-party for at Deck 84.
The Award for Best Feature Film went to The First Grader, from the UK, directed by Justin Chadwick and starring Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge and Sam Feuer. The film, which was a real crowd-pleaser at the Telluride Film Festival, is the true story of an 84 year-old Kenyan villager and ex-Mau Mau freedom fighter who fights for his right to go to school for the first time to get the education he could never afford. Producer Richard Harding was on hand to accept the award.
The Award for Best Documentary Feature went to The Rescuers, directed by Michael King and produced by Joyce Mandell, The film traces the journey of Stephanie Nyombayire, a young Rwandan anti-genocide activist who teams up with Sir Martin Gilbert, the renowned Holocaust historian, to travel across 15 countries and three continents interviewing survivors and descendants of the diplomats who rescued tens of thousands of Jews from the unspeakable horrors of the Nazi death camps. While Nyombayire embarks upon this quest in an effort to uncover potential solutions for the ongoing genocide in Darfur and elsewhere, what emerges from their journey is more a testament to the ways in which the inherent good in the human spirit can trump institutional evil no matter what the circumstance. King and Mandell were on hand to accept the award.
The Award for Best Short Film went to Bedfellows, directed by Pierre Stefanos. Told in the style of an old children's fairy tale but set against the modern-day backdrop of New York City, the film follows the adventure of 20-something Bobby as he returns to the gay bar where he got his heart broken for the first time. Upon meeting and spending the night with an attractive stranger named Jonathan, Bobby dreams about what a lifetime relationship with him could be like. The dream takes us on a thirty-year journey of ups-and-downs in life and love. But what will happen when Bobby wakes up to reality in the morning? Director Stefanos was on hand to accept award.
Winners of the Best Feature and Best Documentary also received a copy of Showbiz Budgeting and Scheduling software.
The PBIFF Audience Choice Award for Best Feature went to Fully Loaded (World Premiere), written and directed by Shira Piven and starring Paula Killen, Lisa Orkin, Dweezil Zappa, Jake La Botz and David Koechner. Lisa and Paula, two unique single women are out for an LA "night out" when Paula's sexy hook-up with a total stranger turns confrontational. This "van-centric" film offers a rare opportunity to eavesdrop on their conversation and find out how women really feel about men, relationships and themselves. The conversation is current, the sound track is killer and the women are real.
The Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary went to 100 Voices: A Journey Home, directed by Matthew Asner (son of Ed Asner) and Danny Gold. A musical documentary that uniquely tells the history of Jewish culture in Poland. It highlights the current resurgence of Jewish culture through the personal reflections and musical selections of a group of cantors and acclaimed composer Charles Fox ("Killing Me Softly", "I Got A Name" and many more) who made an important historical mission to the birthplace of Cantorial music. The documentary will give generations the opportunity to learn about and re-embrace the Jewish culture that produced one of the most artistic and educated societies that once flourished in Europe. Above all, the film celebrates the resilience and the power of Jewish life, while telling the story of two peoples who shared intertwined cultures.
The Audience Choice Award for Best Short film went to Hard to Come By (World Premiere), directed by Dale Peterson. Alex McCollister always thought he would go first. But a year after he took early retirement, Alex lost his wife of 32 years to cancer. He never contemplated the devastating pain or loneliness of losing the most important person in his life. The pain of his loss and the pain of a new medical condition were almost too much to bear. 'Can't you just cut the damn thing out?' he asks his doctor. But the Doc and a young woman named Patricia had other things in store for him. And what seemed like a hopeless dead end became, for Alex McCollister, the beginning of a new life.