Silver Spring, Maryland, June 27, 2010-AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival announced its distinguished award winners, culminating the weeklong festival activities that included the screening of 102 films representing 54 countries, a free outdoor screening, live performances, and a five-day concurrent International Documentary Conference. The Festival is on target to host over 25,000 attendees, including more than 1,000 filmmakers, film and television executives and media professionals exploring the documentary in action, with a particular emphasis on youth, education and next generation media artists. The Audience Award winners will be announced on Monday, June 28, 2010.
This year's Sterling Award for Best US Feature goes to WO AI NI MOMMY (I LOVE YOU, MOMMY) directed by Stephanie Wang-Breal, which documents eight-year-old Chinese Fang Sui Yong and her adoption by a Jewish couple from Long Island who name her "Faith." The film follows Faith and her parents' twist-and-turn journey over a year and a half. The director will receive $5,000 cash.
The Sterling US Feature Jury noted: "The film dives so deeply into its story that the filmmaker's hands disappear. She creates a profound connection between her characters and the story she's telling. Above all, she dares to leave us with questions to which there are no easy answers."
This year's Sterling Award for Best World Feature goes to THEWOMAN WITH THE 5 ELEPHANTS directed by Vadim Jendreyko, which chronicles eighty-five-year-old Svetlana Geier who has dedicated her life to language. Considered the greatest translator of Russian literature into German, Svetlana has just concluded her magnum opus, completing new translations of Dostoyevsky's five great novels-known as the five elephants. The director will receive $5,000 cash.
The Jury noted: "From a filmmaker at the top of his game, this film is a living Vermeer, beautifully framed, elegant and elegiac, with an artistic vision that mirrors and augments its subject. This graceful and compelling work explores how beauty and creativity can transcend the harshness of life, and the jury believes it will be as rewarding in 40 years as it is today."
Special Jury mention went to STEAM OF LIFE directed by Joonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen, whose film allows the viewer to become a fly on the wall as it listens in on men-naked men-talking to other men in the sanctuary of Finland's ubiquitous saunas.
The Jury said, "It is a privilege to be invited inside a very private space and given a fresh perspective on intimacy and masculinity. This film has humor, dignity, warmth, depth and empathy, crafted by a filmmaking team with an exciting future."
The Sterling Award for Best Short Film was given toTHIS CHAIR IS NOT ME directed by Andy Taylor Smith, which documents Alan Martin, whose cerebral palsy confines him to a wheelchair and inhibits his speech, but he refuses to limit himself. When he gains access to technology that enables him to find a voice, his life is transformed. Utilizing stunning visual vocabulary and subtle re-enactment, the film presents a cinematic experience as unique as the subject himself.
The jury noted: "The film we are honoring strikes a perfect balance of substance and style. By mimicking the subject's refusal to limit himself, the filmmaker pushes the boundaries of traditional storytelling techniques. Using an innovative visual language and complex narrative structure, it allows viewers an opportunity to experience the world through the subject's unique point of view."
A Special Jury Mention went to BETWEEN DREAMS directed by Iris Olsson which tells the story of a hundred souls lost in dreams in the dead of night as they cross a Siberian moonscape aboard a battered train. A second Special Jury Mention went to THE POODLE TRAINER directed by Vance Malone, which chronicles Irina Markova, a Russian poodle trainer who has dedicated her life to training her 20 colorfully costumed poodles.
The Jury noted: "BETWEEN DREAMS is a stunning visual passage through the dreams, harsh realities and transitory existence of strangers on a train. THE POODLE TRAINER, for a film that packs humor and tragedy into a subtle and perfectly paced 7 minutes."
The Cinematic Vision Award went to MARWENCOLdirected by Jeff Malmberg. The film captures Mark Hogancamp who suffers a savage beating with near-total amnesia and severe physical injuries. With no money for traditional therapy, he obsessively builds a miniature World War II-era village in his backyard and populates it with detailed dolls and Nazi intrigue. The filmmaker will receive $5,000 of in-kind services from Alpha Cine, a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera valued at an additional $5,000, and a Sunday Best Barbie® for Mark's "staged catfights" in Hogancamp's Bar in the town of Marwencol.
The WITNESS Award in honor of Joey R. B. Lozano was given to BUDRUS directed by Julia Bacha, which examines one Palestinian village and its unlikely hero-humble family man turned activist Ayed Morrar-who reveals the power of ordinary people to peaceably fight for extraordinary change. The award includes in-kind outreach support and tickets to the annual Witness Gala hosted by Peter Gabriel.
The Writers Guild of America, West and the Writers Guild of America, East have named Yael Hersonski as the winner of the WGA Documentary Screenplay Award for her film A FILM UNFINISHED, a story ofnever before seen footage from a lost reel of an incomplete Nazi-produced propaganda film about Warsaw's Jewish ghetto in 1942. The film captures images of manipulated and staged ghetto life mixed with stunning photographic evidence and testimony-all making for a riveting experience. The award carries with it a cash prize of $1,000 and the winner will be granted a one-year free membership in the WGAW Nonfiction Writers Caucus or WGAE Nonfiction Writers Committee Membership.
Sky Sitney, AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Artistic Director said, "We are thrilled to celebrate the best that cinema has to offer and to congratulate all of this year's award winners. We also thank our jurors who brought their passion and commitment to the difficult process of selecting winners amongst so many great films."
The award winners were chosen by an eminent Festival jury including:
Sterling US 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)