By Indiewire | Indiewire March 18, 2004 at 2:00AM
Cinequest Awards Brazilian "Man" its Maverick Spirit Award; Touts Online Project
by Brian Brooks
The Cinequest Film Festival closed last weekend, awarding Brazilian film "O Homen Que Copiava" (The Man Who Copied) its Maverick Spirit award, capping a 12-day event in San Jose, Calif., that included 168 films from 22 countries. The top competition prize winner, directed by Jorge Furtado, follows the story of a 20-year-old high-school drop out who finds himself counterfeiting money as a means to get a girl's attention, only to be drawn further into the criminal underworld.
In other prizes, Cinequest presented its best feature documentary prize to Celesta Davis' "Awful Normal." The film, which had its world premiere at the festival, focuses on the director and her sister's experience with child molestation in the late-1970s. Growing up, the two were surrounded by a "normal" loving family, but were abused by a social acquaintance of the family that never went challenged by their parents. Twenty-five years later, Davis confronts the man on-camera about what had happened.
Tennyson Bardwell's "Dorian Blues" received the audience choice award, feature. The film is the story of Dorian Lagatos, a self-described "stereotypical gay" who is surrounded by his football jock brother and arch-conservative macho father. "It really affected the audience," said Cinequest director of publicity Jens Michael Hussey in a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday. "It's a quiet film by a first-time director that really hit home." In addition to the audience prize, Bardwell received the fest's Emerging Maverick prize, the top award in a category honoring directors whose "vision reveals exceptional talent to watch for in the future."
The festival closed with a full-house screening of Terry L. Benedict's "The Conscientious Objector," which won the audience choice award, documentary as well as "best feature DXD," also a prize in the "emerging directors" category. "Objector" is the story of Desmond T. Doss, who despite his steadfast moral and religious beliefs against killing, worked to serve the U.S. during World War II, becoming a hero and even earning a Congressional Medal of Honor.
"I was really overwhelmed by the experience at Cinequest," said Benedict in an event release. "It was a great honor to be the closing night film and I was excited by the tremendous audience response, and the fact that the festival added an extra screening to accommodate an overflow crowd." Also receiving honors was Doss himself, who was presented the Maverick Spirit Award by the festival. California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also received a Maverick Spirit Award.
Touting Cinequest's technical prowess this year, Hussey praised Cinequest Online's usefulness for filmmakers trying to gain exposure for their work and its high quality of delivery. "It was the talk of the festival, and the digital journalists were blown away by what they had seen," said Hussey. "This is a whole new way to distribute and market films. If you're a filmmaker here, and want someone in Australia to see it, you can get DVD quality."
Hussey continued to say Cinequest currently has "many other things in development" with its online offerings that the group will reveal in the coming months. He added, "We're making it our goal to become the number one discovery festival in the country. We doubled the number of feature premieres this year, [and] we're really being aggressive in charging ahead." Cinequest took place in the northern Californian city adjacent to the Silicon Valley from March 3-14.