Mike Flanagan’s “Absentia” received the jury prize over the weekend for best narrative feature at the Sonoma International Film Festival, while Fraser Clarke Heston’s “The Search for Michael Rockefeller took the festival’s “Outstanding Investigative Documentary” prize, capping he 14th annual event, which took place April 6 – 10 in the Northern California wine region.
In other prizes, documentary, “Darwin” won SIFF’s “Festival Favorite” prize in the audience category, while Nick Stagliano’s “Good Day For It” took favorite feature. Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s “Miss Representation” won the audience nod for documentary and “The Bridge” by Philipp Wolter won the prize in the shorts category.
Commented festival director Kevin McNeely in a statement: “What started out as a film festival that hosted great parties has grown into a festival where the films equal our wine country hospitality.” Director of Programming Cevin Cathell added, “We are incredibly proud of the caliber of films we screened this year. The entire event, including our Tribute and Lifetime Achievement Award to Susan Sarandon, has been well received by filmmakers, film-lovers and the community. This year has really raised the bar.”
The 2011 Sonoma fest screened 90 films including 28 feature length documentaries, 8 short docs, 17 feature films, 2 World Premiere music videos, 11 animated shorts and 24 narrative shorts.
The full list of 2011 Sonoma International Film Festival winners with credits and descriptions provided by the festival:
This year’s Festival attendees selected Darwin (USA) a documentary produced by Nick Brandestini, Sandra Ruch and Taylor Segrest, as the Festival Favorite. Additional screenings were added to accommodate the film-goers who waited to see this film about an isolated community at the end of a weathered road in Death Valley, CA.
Good Day For It (USA), a first screening by director Nick Stagliano starring Hal Holbrook and Robert Patrick, won Favorite Feature. A thriller with the right balance of intensity, tenderness and occasional humor, this film has nuanced performances from a veteran cast.
The Audience Favorite Documentary was Miss Representation (USA) by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. An exploration of women’s under-representation in positions of power, Newsom’s film challenges the limited and often disparaging portrayal of women in the media.
The Bridge (USA), Audience Favorite Short, was directed by Philipp Wolter. Finding your way home means knowing what is missing.
Best Narrative Features
The jury selected “Absentia” (USA), the festival’s first Horror Film from “Oculus” director, Mike Flanagan, as Best Narrative Feature. This film tells the story of a woman and her sister who link a mysterious tunnel to a series of disappearances.
Best Very Independent Feature was “Falling Overnight” (USA) directed by Conrad Jackson, starring Parker Croft; a touching film about a young man who falls in love the night before he starts treatment for a brain tumor.
“Anita” (Argentina) won Best International Feature. The festival’s first film from Argentina is about a young woman with Down’s Syndrome who gets lost in the streets of Buenos Aires. This touching film shows us that the people we think we have to give to, give much more in return.
Outstanding Investigative Documentary went to “The Search for Michael Rockefeller” (USA) directed by Fraser Clarke Heston. An investigative look at the disappearance of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller’s 23 year-old son in 1961.
Jazz legend Vince Guaraldi is the subject of the Best Documentary Feature by Andrew Thomas and Toby Gleason, “Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi” (USA). The film is a musical journey through the brief life and times of the celebrated composer who pioneered the crossover of jazz and pop music.
Special Jury Awards
Special Jury Award: Short Film was given to “Sexting” (USA), directed by Neil LaBute and starring Julia Stiles.
Perfect Effort (USA) won the Special Jury Award: “Sports Film.” A long-awaited release about the De La Salle Football teams 12 year winning streak. Directed by Stephen Lilly.
Short Film Awards
Best Animated Short: “The Necessities of Life” (USA), Gerald Guthrie.
Best Comedic Short: “Dungeon Master” (USA), Rider Strong and Shiloh Strong.
Best Music Video: “No One Knows Where the Bullet Goes” (USA), Howard Egger-Bovet
Best Foreign Short: “Vento” (Brazil), Marcio Salem.
Best Documentary Short: “Saab Story” (USA), Max Joseph.
Best Documentary Short Honorable Mention: “En El Salon De Las Promesas” (USA), Mike Abela.
Best Dramatic Short: “Touch” (USA), Jen McGowan.