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Darrel Manson

AFIFest 2015

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FISH & CAT, JAUJA, THE IRON MINISTRY, and TU DORS NICOLE were all favourites of mine from VIFF this year. FISH & CAT is particularly good, and I'm glad to see AFI's blurb preserves the film's surprises.


I don't particularly like STATIONS OF THE CROSS but it is worth a look, and very much inside A&F's wheelhouse.

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Here's my tentative plan of attack:


Friday: First I have some roundtable interviews with Marian Cotillard and the Dardenne Brothers for 2 Days, 1 Night. Then I'll go to either August Winds or The Iron Ministry, to be followed by  or Black Coal, Thin Ice
Saturday: The Midnight Swim, Jauja, and The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga
Sunday: '71, Stations of the Cross, Mr. Turner
Monday: Wild Tales, Happy Valley, Fish & Cat
Tuesday: May Allah Bless France, Merchants of Doubt, Villa Touma
Wednesday: Clouds of Sils Maria, one of {Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere, Tu Dors Nichole, Timbuktu (leaning strongly toward TDN)}, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
Thursday: Still Alice, Mommy

Edited by Darrel Manson

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The New Auteurs section highlights first and second-time feature film directors from around the world. This year's New Auteurs jury featured Alonso Duralde (The Wrap), Tim Grierson (Screen International), Eric Kohn (IndieWire) and Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood).

New Auteurs Critics' Award
SELF MADE (BOREG). DIR Shira Geffen. Israel.
Jury Comment: "Surreal, poignant and oddly funny, Israeli Shira Geffen's debut feature SELF MADE takes the familiar identity swap trope and miraculously gives it a reboot. Her exploration of feminine identity along the Israeli-Palestinian border manages to combine two wildly different narratives with brilliant fluidity. SELF MADE is rich with universal truths about the eternal quest for contentment in a difficult world."

VIZIO Visionary Special Jury Award:
Presented in recognition of the extraordinary visual storytelling in their film.
THE TRIBE (PLEMYA). DIR Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy. Ukraine.
Jury Comment: "The VIZIO Visionary Special Jury Award is given to a filmmaker whose singular focus and ambition guides a project to greatness, showing us a world we never knew existed. For his uncompromisingly stark portrait of a school for the deaf, utilizing no dialogue or subtitles but still telling a story full of dramatic twists and extraordinary long takes, we are pleased to give the VIZIO prize to Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, the director/writer of THE TRIBE."

In addition to the Grand Jury prize winners there are two features that the jury felt were worthy of special recognition. 

Special Jury Mention for Screenwriting
GÜEROS. SCR Alonso Ruizpalacios, Gibran Portela. Mexico.
Jury Comment: "We are giving a special screenplay citation to rookie director Alonso Ruizpalacios and co-writer Gibran Portela for GÜEROS which follows three students' quest to find an elusive folk star-- and shares a vibrant slice of Mexico's rich and turbulent culture."

Special Jury Mention for Cinematography
VIOLET. CIN Nicolas Karakatsanis. Netherlands, Belgium.
Jury Comment: "For his collection of powerful images, presented through a variety of camera sources, and for his long, graceful takes that underscore the powerful silences of the film's haunting storytelling, we wanted to present a special citation to Nicolas Karakatsanis."


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes AFI FEST Grand Jury Award winners in the Live Action and Animated Shorts categories as qualifiers for the annual Academy Awards® Short Film category. The Shorts jury featured Kahlil Joseph (filmmaker), Sara Murphy (producer), Mike Ott (filmmaker), Matthew Takata (Sundance Institute) and Brian Udovich (producer).

Grand Jury Award for Live Action Short
Jury Comment: "We felt this film effectively challenged notions of both genre and normalcy. It creates a non-traditional and bold look into an American subculture, using striking composition and invasive imagery. It's at the same time haunting, inviting, confrontational and beguiling."

Grand Jury Award for Animated Short
YEARBOOK. DIR Bernardo Britto.
Jury Comment: "This is the perfect example of how animation can be the only suitable medium. We were most taken by the incredibly beautiful, lyrical writing that was magnified by an animated execution so simple so as not to distract from the voice, but carefully accompany it."

In addition to the grand jury prizewinners there are four jury mentions that were worthy of recognition.

Special Jury Mention for Collection
Jury Comment: "This is an inspired collection of micro-shorts that point to an incredible singular vision that we want to recognize and encourage. Each story is succinct, simple, daring, and individually impacting. Collectively the three gravitate towards a more singular voice-one that is both brave and irreverent."

Special Jury Mention for Breakthrough Filmmaker
Joe Callander for GARY HAS AN AIDS SCARE
Jury Comment: "A disturbing and intimate look into the life of an American family. This filmmaker is not afraid to approach a complicated and delicate subject with both fearless exposure and an empathetic touch."

Special Jury Mention for Vision
Kevin Jerome Everson for SOUND THAT
Jury Comment: "An afternoon with Cleveland Water Department workers contrasts the institutional with the personal in this unadorned, yet densely layered film."

Special Jury Mention for Outstanding Achievement in Direction
Morgan Knibbe for SHIPWRECK
Jury Comment "This is beautiful, ethereal look at a real-life tragedy. It's a purely poetic approach to something that is both thematically difficult and emotionally evoking. A uniquely poetic film that captures the ways our political discourse on immigration too often ignores the urgency of human life."


World Cinema Audience Award: RED ARMY. DIR Gabe Polsky. USA, Russia.

New Auteurs Audience Award: GÜEROS. DIR Alonso Ruizpalacios. Mexico.

American Independents Audience Award: 10,000 KM. DIR Carlos Marques-Marcet. Spain, USA.

Breakthrough Audience Award (award accompanied by a $5,000 cash prize): THE MIDNIGHT SWIM. DIR Sarah Adina Smith. USA.

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Don't suppose you caught either THE TRIBE or RED ARMY?  I have a chance to see both or either in the next few days, and my non-enthusiasm for them has been checked a little by these awards, though I'd like a little of that personal human recommendation magic.

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Russ, I haven't seen either, but when I mentioned wanting to see THE TRIBE at TIFF, the Cannes veterans I was with all talked me out of it. Jordan Cronk's tweet from AFI summarizes everything they said: "Bracing, sure, but can't help but feel that I'll never be as impressed with this as it is of itself." My understanding is that it's provocative in the worst sense of the word. RED ARMY is apparently a serviceable doc, but by most accounts you'd probably do as well staying home and watching a 30 for 30 doc on Netflix.

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Thanks, guys.  Darren, I had pretty much exactly the same thought about RED ARMY, namely, that it won't lose anything when I click on it on Netflix in six months.  What it has going for it is that it's the front-end feature before A SPELL TO WARD OFF THE DARKNESS.  And there's something about the mere description of THE TRIBE that makes me nauseous.

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Yeah, it's really great.  So, screening was probably half-full.  Nice turnout, particularly on a cold night.  But the couple who sat in front of me left halfway or so through the death metal scene, which seemed to me like a really illogical and senseless thing to do.  You've already sat through a lot of wordless long takes, and you know the film's run time and when it would be over (Yeah, guy, I couldn't help but notice you dramatically checking your Indiglo watch.)  And then the guy, when leaving, did a little dance move to the metal to make sure we all knew how cool he was.

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