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June 22, 1998 2:00 AM
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"Human Race" Doc Wins Two Awards, "Unmade Beds" Nabs Dramatic Jury Prize -- A Report from the 1998 F

"Human Race" Doc Wins Two Awards, "Unmade Beds" Nabs
Dramatic Jury Prize -- A Report from the 1998 Florida Film Festival

by Eugene Hernandez




Recalling the magical memories of the circus and likening them to the
excitement generated by the 1998 Florida Film Festival, Executive Director
Melanie Gasper welcomed attendees to Saturday night's awards ceremony at
Universal Studios Florida. The circus analogy has been an important one
over the past ten days in Central Florida, as it has framed the 7th
annual event. In a soundstage festooned with circus-style decorations
(not to mention stilt-walking clowns and a pair of trapeze artists), the
festival presented its audience, jury, and acting achievement prizes.


"The Human Race" won the festival's documentary Audience Award and was
also given a Special Jury Prize for Compassion and Vision. The film,
directed by Bobby Houston, tracks a group of HIV positive sailors racing
from Southern California to Hawaii. indieWIRE has learned that the
movie has been acquired by HBO for airing on the cable network. The
festival's Grand Jury Prize was awarded to "The Farm", Jonathan Stack
and Liz Garbus' Sundance-award winning film about a maximum security
prison in Louisiana. The film recently opened at New York City's Film
Forum. Meanwhile, the jury prize for best short film was presented to
Jay Rosenblatt's "Human Remains", also an award winner at Sundance. The
awards were presented by documentary jurors Debra Zimmerman, Executive
Director of Women Make Movies, FILMMAKER Magazine's Mike Jones, and
Aldon James from the National Arts Club.


On the dramatic side, writer-director Nicholas Barker's "Unmade Beds"
was awarded the Grand Jury Prize. indieWIRE has learned that the film,
described as a doc-style "pseudo narrative" about being single in New
York, will debut in Manhattan on August 7th. The film will open at the
Screening Room, a venue booked by former Angelika Film Center scheduler
Jeff Jacobs. Following a run in NYC, the film may be expanded to other
screens nationwide; Jacobs books numerous art screens domestically.
"Unmade Beds" first screened at the 1997 Telluride Film Festival
followed by showings in Venice and Toronto. It won the Grand Prize at
the Stockholm Film Festival and also screened last week at the Nantucket
Film Festival. The festival's dramatic audience award went to Paul
Wagner's "Windhorse", a film that was shot in Tibet using local
non-actors, while Derek Cianfrance's "Brother Tied", which premiered at
Sundance, was awarded a Special Jury Award for Bold Original Expression.
"Every Dog Has Its Day", a film by Marc Chiat, was awarded the
festival's first Cinematography Award. The dramatic jury featured LAIFF
programmer Thomas Ethan Harris, October Film's Lori Bandazian, and
former agent and studio executive, producer Jerry Tokofsky ("Glengarry
Glen Ross
").


In the short film categories, the jury chose "Waiting for Woody" by
Grant Heslov, and audiences recognized Pixar's 1998 Oscar-winner "Geri's
Game
", directed by Jan Pinkava. A Special Jury Award for Live Action
Short was presented to Corky Quakenbush for "One Hand, Left", and a
Special Jury Award for Animated Short was given to Eileen O'Meara for
"That Strange Person." Actor Seymour Cassel, Polygram's Suzanne Leroy,
and PR vet Dale Olson served on the Short Film jury. The Student Award,
chosen by jurors Charlie Krestul, David Frazier, and Paul Sirmons, was
presented to the University of Central Florida's Ryan Sullivan for his
film, "Hobby Lane Matinee."


The 1998 Festival selected three actors for special achievement awards.
Actor Cliff Robertson ("Charly", "Three Days of the Condor") accepted his
prize thanking the festival and reflecting on his career in the
industry. Earlier in the day, Robertson attended a special 30th
anniversary festival screening of "Charly" and participated in a Q & A
session to discuss the movie. Robertson is planning on writing and
directing an independently-produced sequel to the film for which he won
a Best Actor Oscar. Actor Scott Wilson ("In the Heat of the Night", "In
Cold Blood
") also received a special acting achievement award, as did
indie actor/director Steve Buscemi ("Trees Lounge", "Reservoir Dogs").
Actor Seymour Cassel ("The Late Blues", "Minnie and Moskowitz")
introduced Buscemi whom he co-starred with in the 1992 Sundance Grand
Jury Prize winner "In The Soup", directed by Alexandre Rockwell. His
voice trembling with emotion following the introduction, Buscemi
recalled being inspired by the work of John Cassavetes and singled out
memories of watching Cassel grow up on camera in Cassavetes' landmark
independent films.


Conceived by programming committee member and former festival marketer
Mike Monello, the Florida Film Festival's circus theme was initially
conceived as a celebration of the sideshow. In New York City almost two
years ago for the IFFM, Monello wandered down the street from the
Angelika Film Center and stumbled into a sideshow at the annual San
Gennaro festival. A year later, following a IFFM-timed trip to Coney
Island, Monello was again struck by a sideshow, this time focusing on
the unique banners promoting it. Determined to include a similar motif
at the 1998 Festival, Monello tracked down aging sideshow artist Johnny
Meah in nearby Riverview and convinced to paint a banner for the fest.
Aside from making the festival more accessible to attendees, Monello
believes that the sideshow concept perfectly underscores a broader
theme. "The big top is Hollywood", he explained saying that the main
circus would always get all the attention, but conceding, "When the
circus left town, people were still talking about the sideshow."


[For more coverage, including reviews, check out THE UNOFFICIAL
CYBERCAST OF THE FLORIDA FILM FESTIVAL
, produced by Orlando's
Community Webzine, "The Slant."]

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