Wednesday, May 9


SFIFF Golden Gate Award Winners

I didn't attend the ceremony myself, but I've just been made aware of the winners of the winners of the Golden Gate Awards for the 50th SF International Film Festival. I've seen a few of them.

The Golden Gate Awards (GGAs) are a tradition that go back to the first edition of the SFIFF in 1957, when Shirley Temple Black presented the best picture award to Pather Panchali. Satjajit Ray won for his directing of the film, and Heinz Ruhmann (The Captain from Köpenick) and Dolores Dorn-Heft (Uncle Vanya) for acting. At some point along the way it became an award focusing on non-fiction, television and short-form works. Reading this fascinating interview with Brian Gordon, who organized the GGAs from the late 1980s through the 1990s, one gets the impression that it was once one of the most highly-regarded awards around in documentary filmmaking circles. These days it seems that Sundance and Oscar have brighter feathers available to adorn a lucky and talented documentary or short-form filmmaker's cap, but I suspect there will be a little more attention garnered on these GGA winners than in recent years, given the added cachet of the festival's 50-year milestone:

Documentary Feature: Souvenirs, Shahar Cohen and Halil Efrat (Israel, 2006)
Bay Area Documentary Feature: the Key of G, Robert Arnold (USA, 2006)
Documentary Short: Sari’s Mother, James Longley (USA, 2006)
Bay Area Documentary Short: Outsider: The Life and Art of Judith Scott, Betsy Bayha (USA, 2006)
Narrative Short: The Tube With a Hat, Radu Jude (Romania, 2006)
Bay Area Non-Documentary Short: Muse of Cinema, Kerry Laitala (USA, 2006)
Animated Short: Never Like the First Time!, Jonas Odell (Sweden, 2006)
New Visions: Dear Bill Gates, Sarah J. Christman (USA, 2006)
Work for Kids and Families: The Fan and the Flower, Bill Plympton (USA, 2006)
Youth Work: Focus, Edward Elliott (USA, 2006)

I regret that I didn't see any of the eligible documentary features this year. The one I heard the most positive buzz on was Audience of One, but I have a feeling I'll get another shot sometime, maybe at a place like the Roxie or the Red Vic (speaking of that theatre, its May calendar is up and includes the Frisco return of Inland Empire May 11-13). I did see nearly all the eligible documentary shorts though, and if I was rooting for the Days and the Hours for its simple poetry or the Fighting Cholitas for its irresistible subjects, I won't argue with awarding the fourth and probably most emotionally devastating piece made by James Longley as part of his Iraq in Fragments project. Though Outsider: The Life and Art of Judith Scott apparently played at the last Mill Valley Film Festival as well, I didn't see it then either, and it was the only GGA-eligible short doc I missed this year.

The Tube With a Hat, made by Radu Jude, the assistant director of the Death of Mr. Lazarescu deservedly added the narrative short GGA to its list of festival prizes. It's hard to compare with Lazarescu, but the other films in its category were a pretty lackluster bunch. In the animated short category, I think the stylish and (when not rather disturbing) funny devirginization film Never Like the First Time! was a good choice, though I personally liked the menacing whimsy of Tyger even better. It uses an effective anthropomorphic metaphor (courtesy William Blake) to illustrate fear and powerlessness felt in São Paolo, Brazil, but unlike Manda Bala its brief running time prevents the metaphor from beating you over the head over and over. Since its technique relied more on puppetry than proper animation I can understand why it might not have won the award. The Fan and the Flower is the only film in the Works For Kids And Families category I've seen, but I liked it, even if it's a little odd to see Bill Plympton doing poignant.

I didn't see any of the Youth Works, but I might try to catch their final screening tomorrow at 1PM at the Kabuki. The shorts program I most regretted missing was Bliss and Ignorance, which contained most of the films in the GGA New Visions category, including Kerry Laitala's Muse of Cinema. However, the fact that the other prizewinner Dear Bill Gates had been on a program I did see, but that I wasn't particularly blown away by it, makes me wonder if my tastes in experimental film are out of whack with the jury, or perhaps the New Visions curating team? I found Dear Bill Gates to be an interesting but none-too-revolutionary personal essay augmented by images of web-surfing and clips found through the Prelinger Archive, and I liked the other two New Visions films I did get to see (Watercolor at Night Montage No. 7 and especially Harrachov) better.

The GGAs for television work had as usual been previously announced; only the winners (including the German thriller Rage by Züli Aladag) screened at the festival. The SKYY Prize for best first feature went to the Violin by Mexico's Francisco Vargas. The FIPRESCI Prize went to Pas Douce by France's Jeanne Waltz. The SFIFF's newest competitive award, the Chris Holter Award for Humor in Film, went to Pavel Giroud's Cuban coming-of-age tale the Silly Age. I didn't see any of these myself, unfortunately, and as far as I know only the Violin has been picked up for distribution, by Film Movement. The audience awards will presumably be announced by the festival tomorrow evening.


Uh, thanks?
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