Atlanta Fest Awards Top Prize to Benjamin Coccio's Teen Drama "Zero Day"

by Wendy Mitchell

Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock's "A Certain Kind of Death," which shared the jury doc prize in Atlanta. Image courtesy of the filmmakers.

The 27th-annual Atlanta Film Festival wrapped its nine-day event on Saturday, with Benjamin Coccio's "Zero Day," about two violent teenagers, capturing the grand jury prize. Laura Lipson's "Standing on My Sister's Shoulders," about unsung female civil rights leaders, won the audience award, sponsored by Absolut. In the docs category, the jury award was split for Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock's "A Certain Kind of Death," about people who die without next of kin, and Liz Garbus' "Girlhood," examining the juvenile justice system.

Rounding out the features awards, Joe Maggio's "Milk and Honey," about a disintegrating Manhattan marriage, won best screenplay, while cop drama "Evenhand" helmer Joseph Pierson won for best director. The features jury was Mixed Greens' doc programmer Selina Lewis Davidson, Samuel Goldwyn Company manager of acquisitions Peter Goldwyn, Wellspring head of acquisitions Marie Therese Guirgis, and Negativland's Mark Hosler.

From the shorts program, winners were Sam Chen's "Eternal Gaze" (best animated short), Michael Bates' "The Projectionist" (best experimental short), Amanda Rudman's "Shadowman" (best narrative short), Yon Motskin's "The Cutman" (best student short), and Stefan Nadelman's "Terminal Bar" (grand jury prize for best short). Jurors for shorts were TUBE and Artspot owner Chris Downs, director and cinematographer Sylvia Jackson, and screenwriter, filmmaker, and director Dr. Evan Lieberman.

The festival's $100,000 Southeastern Media Award went to the forthcoming narrative feature "Good Intentions," to be produced by Richard Sampson, directed by John Hill, and written by Tony Stephenson. The "perfect pitch" finalists were James Ponsoldt for "Beyond Ila," Robert J. Lee and Martin Kelley for "Immigration Tango," and Stephanie Quinn and Tami D'Addio's "Spell This."