November 17, 2010 — Virginia Film Festival audiences honored two University of Virginia affiliated films with awards at the record-setting 2010 festival.
The Virginia Film Festival Audience Favorite Award winner for Best Short Narrative was "Prism," made last spring by three U.Va. students: fourth-year foreign affairs major Alexandra Miller, fourth-year art history and studio art major Debra Cohen, both from the College of Arts & Sciences, and Dan Quinn, a May graduate of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
The 20-minute film is "about one cataclysmic event that refracts the lives of five sets of people and shatters the routine of everyday life," Miller said. It highlights the talents and collaboration of students from drama, cinematography, art and music. An original operatic score was composed and recorded for the movie.
"Prism" was produced by the Filmmakers Society, a U.Va. student organization, and was edited in the University's Digital Media Lab. The trio met through the Filmmakers Society and competed for two years in the festival's 72-Hour Adrenaline Film Project before deciding to embark on the larger project.
Another film, "That World is Gone: Race and Displacement in a Southern Town," produced by School of Architecture faculty member Scot French, premiered at the festival and won the Audience Favorite Award for Best Short Documentary. Directed by Hannah Brown Ayers and Lance Warren, the film, made with grant support from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, explores the nearly forgotten history of Charlottesville's largest African-American neighborhood, Vinegar Hill.
A social and cultural historian specializing in African-American and Southern history, French said the film addresses the American dream of property ownership and the devastating impact of urban renewal on African-American community life in Charlottesville.
"The demolition of Vinegar Hill in 1965 left a gaping hole in the landscape and produced a profound sense of loss that lingers to this day," French said. "The neighborhood, as a site of memory, has come to symbolize the displacement of the African-American working and business classes; the destructive impact of urban renewal/gentrification on African-American community life; and the erasure of African-American history from Charlottesville's commemorative landscape."
Josh Radnor's "happythankyoumoreplease" captured the Audience Favorite Award for Best Narrative Feature. The film, which played to a full house at the Paramount Theater as the festival's closing-night film on Nov. 7, also earned the Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Earning the Audience Favorite Award in the documentary category was Stanley Nelson's powerful documentary "Freedom Riders," which showcases the uncommon bravery of the more than 400 Americans who stood up to racial intolerance in the early 1960s by riding mass transit in the deep South, in direct defiance of the laws of the day.
Audience Favorite Awards were voted on throughout the festival through ballots handed out at each screening. The awards were sponsored by the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport as part of a partnership that seeks to expand on the festival's success by building its profile as a significant destination festival for regional and national audiences.
This year's competition was so fierce, and the margins of victory so tight, that Virginia Film Festival director Jody Kielbasa expanded his original plan for a single Programmers Award to include one for each category.
"We were thrilled, first of all, at how many of our audience members voted for these awards," Kielbasa said. "It shows a tremendous level of engagement with the festival as a whole, which was also represented in our record turnout throughout the weekend. Then on top of this, we were surprised at just how close the voting was for these audience awards, many of which were determined by mere percentage points. So, as a nod to the number of truly outstanding films and filmmakers we had at the festival this year, we decided it would be appropriate to offer Programmers Awards in each category."
The winner of the 2010 Programmers Award for Best Narrative Feature was "Kawasaki's Rose," a film by Czech filmmaker Jan Hrebejk that tells the tale of a scientist whose complicated past is on the verge of being exposed just as he is to be honored for extraordinary achievements in his field.
The Programmers Award for Best Documentary went to "Louder Than a Bomb," a powerful story from directors Greg Jacobs and John Siskel about a group of inner-city Chicago teens preparing to compete in the world's largest youth poetry slam. An inspirational tale of passion, competition, teamwork and trust, the film has been hailed throughout the festival circuit this year, capturing top documentary honors at the Chicago and Austin film festivals.
Winning the 2010 Programmers Award for Best Short Narrative was Kamal John Iskander's "Jesus Comes To Town"; and earning top honors in the Best Short Documentary category was "The Enduring Legacy of Pocahantas Island," a history of one of the oldest African-American communities in the country, made by students at Virginia State University overseen by noted actor/director Tim Reid.
The Virginia Film Festival, which smashed previous records for both attendance and box office sales by 25 percent this year, is presented by U.Va. and its College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
For information on the Virginia Film Festival, visit here.
Premiere sponsors for the 2010 Virginia Film Festival included the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Acura, AV Company, Regal Entertainment Group and the Virginia Film Office.