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AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Fest Metes Out Awards

Serious issues and documentaries go together like Washington, D.C., and its nonfiction scrum, AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival. But this year's fest, which showed about 100 films from 54 countries (June 21 to 27, 2010) at the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Md., gave top awards to stories with a lighter, more intimate touch.

This despite the fact that Silverdocs -- and its five-day International Documentary Conference -- offered up plenty of fodder to "enhance our understanding of the world." With more goo putrefying the Gulf of Mexico each day than the average news consumer can fathom, perhaps jurors and fest-goers sought to buoy their spirits with more manageable, personal narratives than the sobering themes of war, politics and globalization featured on much of the Festival line-up.

Voters among the estimated 25,000 attendees, including more than 1,000 filmmakers, entertainment executives and media professionals, selected Men Who Swim for the feature Audience Award. Dylan Williams' film chronicles a British expat in Sweden who joins a men's synchronized swimming team to cope with his mid-life crisis, ultimately competing in the unofficial All Male World Championship in Milan.

A nostalgic look at the waning of phone booths in Ireland is the topic of the Audience Award-winning short, Bye Bye Now, from Aideen O'Sullivan and Ross Whitaker.

At the Festival awards ceremony, I Love You, Mommy/Wo Ai Ni Mommy took the Sterling Award for Best U.S. Feature. The documentary tracks a Jewish couple's adoption of an 8-year-old Chinese girl, and her new life in Long Island. Director Stephanie Wang-Breal will receive $5,000 in cash.

Joonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen's Steam of Life won Special Jury Mention. (Together with Men Who Swim, it'd yield a mean double feature of males in water therapy.) Set in the saunas of Finland, Steam of Life lays bare the protagonist's mid-life crisis and the men with whom he swaps hopes and disappointments.

This year’s Sterling Award for Best World Feature went to The Woman with the 5 Elephants. Directed by Vadim Jendreyko, it portrays 85-year-old Svetlana Geier and her Russian-to-German translation of Dostoyevsky’s five great novels, which are dubbed "the five elephants." The prize carries $5,000 cash pot.

The Sterling Award for Best Short Film was awarded to Alan Martin's This Chair Is Not Me, about the director's technology-enabled refusal to let the cerebral palsy that confines him to a wheelchair confine other aspects of his life.

Marwencol  bagged the Cinematic Vision Award. Jeff Malmberg's film trains its lens on Mark Hogancamp, who builds a mini World War II-era village and Nazi-themed narrative as art therapy after sustaining amnesia and physical injuries. Malmberg will enjoy $5,000 of in-kind services from Alpha Cine, a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera worth another $5,000 and a Sunday Best Barbie® to spice up the toy town.

Garnering Special Jury Mentions were The Kids Grow Up and My Perestroika. In the former, filmmaker Doug Block takes an emotional journey through his daughter's departure for college and his home's transformation into an empty nest. In the latter film, Robin Hessman captures the pangs and aspirations of the last generation of Soviet children to be raised behind the Iron Curtain.

Other Special Jury Mentions honored two shorts, Iris Olsson's Between Dreams, retelling the nocturnal crossing of Siberia by a 100 strangers on a train, and Vance Malone's The Poodle Trainer, which tracks a Russian poodle trainer who has devoted her life to training her 20 brightly festooned poodles.

Budrus snagged the Witness Award, given in honor of Joey R. B. Lozano. The film by Julia Bacha offers a portrait of Palestinian activist Ayed Morrar, an ordinary villager who advocates peaceful transformation. The award carries in-kind marketing support and tickets to the annual Witness Gala hosted by Peter Gabriel.

The Writers Guild of America sister organizations on both coasts garlanded Yael Hersonski with the WGA Documentary Screenplay Award for A Film Unfinished. Hersonski's documentary explores the previously unseen footage from a lost reel of an unfinished Nazi propaganda film about the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw 1942. The award includes a cash prize of $1,000 and a one-year complimentary membership in the WGAW Nonfiction Writers Caucus or WGAE Nonfiction Writers Committee Membership.

Silverdocs Artistic Director Sky Sitney had whittled the Festival program from 2,162 submissions, yielding six world, one international, three North American, five US and 10 east coast premieres, in addition to six retrospective films and an outdoor screening. In a written statement, she thanked the jurors, who included:

Sterling U.S. Feature Jury: Steve Bognar, Filmmaker (A Lion in the House); Michael Palmieri, Filmmaker (October Country); Jenna Rosher, Filmmaker (Junior) and Cinematographer (Jesus Camp)

Sterling World Feature Jury: Simon Kilmurry, Executive Director, American Documentary | POV; Havana Marking, Filmmaker (Afghan Star); Andrea Meditch, Executive Producer (Man on Wire, Grizzly Man)

Sterling Short Film Jury: Ben Fowlie, Founding Director, Camden International Film Festival; Elena Fortes, Director, Ambulante Documentary Film Festival; Aron Gaudet, Filmmaker (The Way We Get By).

For the whole kit and caboodle, see


AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival
June 21 to 27, 2010
AFI-Silver Theater and Cultural Center
8633 Colesville Road

Silver Spring, MD 20910

Stonewall Remembered in Fest & Films

Pink triangle. Rainbow flag. Metallic blue 1969 Cadillac Coupe deVille. All enduring symbols of gay pride. All sights to behold at the annual New York City Pride festivities this week, June 23 to June 27, 2010.

The caddy's claim to fame was during the Stonewall Rebellion in the year of its making. Over 40 years later, it still represents the culmination of the gay rights movement. 

The uprising began on a hot Friday night on June 27, 1969. New York City police were conducting a routine raid of the Stonewall Inn, a Christopher Street hangout for gays. For whatever reason, that night, the gays pushed back. 

As the police attempted to arrest Stonewall patrons, a spontaneous burst of outrage came over the crowd and they began throwing beer bottles, bricks and random objects at the cops. The police responded by beating whoever they could get their hands on. 

During the scuffle, for unknown reasons, two officers dressed in civilian clothes got in the Cadillac convertible that was parked in front of the Stonewall Inn and drove it to the old Sixth Precinct station.

Days later the owner recovered the car at the impound without a single scratch. The car subsequently became recognized in the village as the Stonewall Car.

Protests lasted for days after the Stonewall raid and the infamous rebellion sparked the gay-rights movement, with the first pride march in 1970 on its anniversary. The Stonewall Car, now owned by the Stonewall Veterans Association, has been along for the ride ever since and still leads the pride march in New York City every year. 

This year the route was shortened and began at noon. at 36th Street, where it marched down Fifth Avenue to 9th Street before crossing over to Christopher Street and ending at the Stonewall Inn.

Pridefest, the annual street fair, took place on Hudson Street between Abingdon Square and W. 14th Street from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Performances headlining the StageFest this year were

  • the female rock group Antigone Rising
  • transgender singer Nikki Exotika
  • singer-songwriter Barry Brandon
  • spoken word artist London Bridgez
  • country trio Ménage à Twang
  • drag act Switch n' Play, and
  • a cappella group The Red States. 

On Saturday, June 26, the Stonewall Veterans Association held its annual reunion and conference. Honored guests included the first principal of New York's Harvey Milk Gay High School, Bill Salzman; legendary Greenwich Village club entertainer Jackie Barrett; and world champion middleweight boxer Emile Griffith. Guest speakers include Representatives Anthony Weiner, Yvette Clarke and Charles Rangel; Commissioner Henry Stern; Surrogate Judge Nora Anderson; and PRIDE Democrats Chairman Marlon Hunter. Vets who were there at the Stonewall Inn on that fateful night were also present -- including the car.

On Monday, June 28, the Stonewall Anniversary Screening and NewFilmmakers remember the Stonewall Riots with a reception and a special screening program.


Reception to follow the screening

David Gerson's ULTRA VIOLET FOR SIXTEEN MINUTES (2009, 18 Minutes, Video)
A sixteen-minute portrait of Ultra Violet -- Salvador Dali's mistress in the 60s, Andy Warhol's Factory superstar in the 70s, and a born-again Mormon.


Mattias Thernström Florin's THE SHOES (2009, 5 Minutes, Video)
A boy has been bullied and is left alone in the school gymnasium without shoes on his feet. This film is about conscience and reconciliation, following such an event.

Barbara Distinti's A COMING OUT HOMECOMING (2010, 5 Minutes, Video)
A woman brings her girlfriend home to meet the parents.

Erik Gernand's NON-LOVE-SONG (2009, 8 Minutes, 16MM)
On the last day of summer before heading off to college, two 18-year old best friends attempt to connect as adults and for the first time in their lives share a real moment.


Suzanne Hillinger's
THE FAUX REAL (2010, 20 Minutes, Video)
Three brazen women put on wigs, false eyelashes and sequins to challenge definitions of drag, gender, and what it means to come of age as a woman without feeling like one.

Paul Haber's LOVE IS DEAF (2010, 19 Minutes, Video) Boy meets girl. Girl sings horribly. Boy doesn't care. "Love Is Deaf" is the romantic tale of a man so in love he just can't hear what the rest of the world hears. Featuring a New York cast (including Joe Forbrich, a series regular on Law & Order), the film was shot guerrilla-style around the city -- on the subways, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Katz's Deli (essentially everywhere they weren't allowed to shoot).


Lola RocknRolla's I WAS A TRANNIE WEREWOLF (2009, 10 Minutes, Video)
A woman struggles with body hair untill she is finally possessed by it and becomes a werewolf.

Joseph Sullivan's DEAD SERIOUS (2005, 80 Minutes, Video)
A master vampire with his bloodsucking slaves and a right-wing militia leader with his armed fanatics take the patrons of a gay bar hostage, setting the stage for a night of gore and gunplay and the weirdest live broadcast in television history.

Anthology Film Archives
32 2nd Avenue at 2nd Street
New York City, NY

Visionfest Marks its 10th Anniversary

For the 10th year, Visionfest: The Other Festival peered into its crystal ball with the aim of "bringing you tomorrow's visionaries today" through its American indie showcase, held June 23 to 27, 2010 at Tribeca Cinemas (corner of Varick and Laight streets in New York City). 

To celebrate its first decade, Visionfest opened its 45-film slate with the East Coast premiere of Ron Farrar Brown's family drama, Consent. The film explores how a brother and sister cope with the suicide of their older sister.

Screening prior to Consent were two short films, Arturo Cubacub's Stretch and Molly Allis' Seahorse, and to cap off Opening Night, the 1970s band Disco Unlimited rocked a disco-themed bash at the Tribeca Lounge, abutting Tribeca Cinemas.

Tonight VFX closes with the New York premiere of Christina, a historical drama by writer-director Larry Brand (Halloween Resurrection). Starring Nicki Aycox (TNT's Dark Blue), Jordan Belfi (HBO's Entourage), and Stephen Lang (Avatar, Public Enemies), the film is inspired by the true story of a young German woman whose plans to depart WWII-ravaged Berlin for America with her G.I. fiancé are foiled by a police inspector out to expose her dark secret and keep her tethered to her past. Christina was shot with the Red One digital camera.

Screening alongside this multiple award winner is a short film by Florida State University student Stephen Bell, The Quartering Act. Like Christina, the film is set in the Second World War era.

Christina joins four other narrative features making their New York premieres and vying for this year’s Independent Vision Awards.

Brand's short film, The Jester's Bell, was featured in the first edition of VF's own filmmaking initiative, the 5x5 New York State of Mind Digital Project, in 2003. Curated by the Festival's organizing group, the Brooklyn-based Domani Vision Film Society, 5x5 offers indie filmmakers the services and tools to shoot five five-minute digital shorts over five days. This year's program, which will be screened during VF's Closing Night Awards Ceremony, taps the work of VF alumni Alexandra Roxo, Justin Sullivan and Elizabeth Van Meter.

Two other alum, Nyle Cavazos Garcia and Ari Taub, brought their creative efforts to other platforms in this year's Festival; Garcia presented a staged reading of his script, Tag, which took last year's Feature Screenwriting Competition award, and Taub's narrative feature Last letters from Monte Rosa now received its world premiere out of competition. Also among the Festival's feature narratives were Miss Ohio, from Gregory Fitzsimmons, Steve Balderson's Stuck!, and Desert Son, from James Mann and Brandon Nicholas.

Documentaries at VF10 spanned a range of subjects, from Todd Drezner’s Loving Lampposts, about autism, and Jeremy Taylor's Burma: An Indictment to Michael Webber's tell-all on exotic pets, The Elephant in the Living Room, and Tim VandeSteeg’s My Run, about a man who takes on 75 marathons in 75 days to raise awareness about single-parent families.

See the full Festival agenda at

June 23 to 27, 2010
Tribeca Cinemas
54 Varick Street
New York, NY 10013

The 3rd GI Joe Stop-Motion Film Festival Tour Ends

The GI Joe Stop-Motion Film Festival is the nation's first festival dedicated to works by stop-motion artists who use GIDiorama from GI Joe Film Fest 2010 Joe figures (12", 8" -sigma 6- and 3 ¾ sizes) as main characters or actors.) The Festival is sponsored by The Onion.

Currently the 3rd GI Joe fest has been touring the United States -- Austin, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, New York and now, back home to Denver -- with the winning films from 2009. Subsequently, winning films from 2010's Festival will travel in 2011.

The line-up for this year's fest boasts screenings of such treats as the Taiwanese film, Race of Evil, a Second World War flick with an unexpected twist; Cobra's Prom Night Crush where Cobra Commander falls madly in love; and the naughty British film Rick's Battle Shock, a Vietnam deliverance tale. 

The GI Joe Stop-Motion Film Festival award ceremony will be held October 20th, 2010 at the Alamo Drafthouse (in Austin, Texas) and will combine the excitement of world premiere short films and fan tributes with the allure of Austin's nightlife. The GI Joe Film Festival highlights both up and coming filmmakers as well as masters of the craft, and has attracted award-winning films in past years.

Under the direction of festival president Gio Toninelo, it has became one of the hottest and fastest growing stop-motion festivals in the country. And the 2010 selections haven't disappointed. The closer of this innovative festival of stop-motion shorts featuring America's last action hero will be held in Denver at the Bug Theatre (3654 Navajo Street) on June 24th at 8 pm.

In addition there is a GI Joe Stop-Motion Workshop on Sunday, June 20th, from 10 am to 4 pm at Photospace Denver (209 Kalamath Street). Equipment and class provided by ASIFA Colorado.

The workshop will offer the opportunity to develop both the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to create a piece of stop-motion animation. The course aims to stimulate students' abilities to generate an overall perspective of a project, from concept to final product. All films will be screened at the GI Joe Stop-Motion Film Festival. Pack a lunch and willingness to work in a group.

Bring G.I. Joe dolls if you want, otherwise the fest will have some on hand. Space is limited. Tuition is $65.00.

Sign up here:

The GI Joe Stop-Motion Film Festival
June, 24th, 2010
Bug Theatre Company

3654 Navajo Street
Denver, CO 80211

For a ticket to the Denver closing to go to our box office page or for more information, try:

To learn about other Fest events, call the Bug Hotline as well at:
303-477-5977 or 303-477-9984



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