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"Mad Hot Ballroom" Selected for Gotham Prize; Undistributed Film Nominees Unveiled

By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire November 12, 2005 at 5:01AM

"Mad Hot Ballroom" will be honored with a special Celebrate New York prize at the 15th Annual Gotham Awards, according to the Independent Feature Project, which also unveiled nominees for the first "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You" Award. Marilyn Agrelo and Amy Sewell's film debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival this year where Paramount Classics acquired it; it also screened before Slamdance at the IFP Market. The film is the story of New York City public school students competing in a citywide ballroom dance contest.
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"Mad Hot Ballroom" will be honored with a special Celebrate New York prize at the 15th Annual Gotham Awards, according to the Independent Feature Project, which also unveiled nominees for the first "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You" Award. Marilyn Agrelo and Amy Sewell's film debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival this year where Paramount Classics acquired it; it also screened before Slamdance at the IFP Market. The film is the story of New York City public school students competing in a citywide ballroom dance contest.


"We are delighted to recognize Marilyn and Amy as part of this year's ceremony," said IFP Executive Director Michelle Byrd, in a statement. "'Mad Hot Ballroom' made its first industry outing at the IFP Market in 2004 and to have its triumphant return as part of the Gothams underscores the ability of truly independent films to connect with a diversity of audiences." Last year the prize was awarded to Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."


Nominated for the Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You prize, selected this year by the editors of the IFP's Filmmaker Magazine, are a group of films that did not get theatrical distribution this year. Nominees include: Natalia Almada's "Al Otro Lado" (To The Other Side), Caveh Zahedi's "I Am A Sex Addict," Don Bernier's "In A Nutshell: A Portrait of Elizabeth Tashjian," Robinson Devor's "Police Beat," and David Zeiger's "Sir! No Sir!"


"For the past eleven years, 'Filmmaker' has prided itself on discovering new films and filmmakers and championing them within the pages of our magazine," said Editor Scott Macaulay, in a statement. "Now, we're pleased to have created with the IFP this new Gotham Award to throw an even brighter spotlight on five great independent features that any film lover needs to see."


Nominations for the Gotham's inaugural best undistributed prize were solicited from programmers at film festivals from the first half of this year, explained Michelle Byrd, responding to a question by email Friday. Programmers from 18 - 20 festivals were invited to recommend the top two films that screened at their fest. The request created a list of some 30 - 35 titles that were narrowed down to create the final list of nominees.


Among the other honorees at this year's Gothams will be actor Matt Dillon and a list of nominees that were recently announced.


Additional information about the nominees for "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You" (as provided by IFP):


Al Otro Lado (To the Other Side) is Natalia Almada's documentary about an aspiring corrido composer from the drug capital of Mexico who faces two choices to better his life: to traffic drugs or to cross the border illegally into the United States. The film received its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. It will be broadcast on POV in late 2006.


I Am a Sex Addict is an autobiographical re-enactment of director Caveh Zahedi's struggle with sex addition. The film received its world premiere at the 2005 Rotterdam Film Festival.


In a Nutshell: A Portrait Of Elizabeth Tashjian is Don Bernier's documentary about the goings-on of the Nut Museum and its curator, Elizabeth Yegsa Tashjian (aka, The Nut Lady). The film received its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2005.


Police Beat is Robinson Devor's unconventional crime film about an African immigrant turned Seattle bike cop who is preoccupied by his turbulent love life as he investigates a series of bizarre crimes (taken from actual Seattle police reports). The film premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. The film will be broadcast on the Sundance Channel in 2006.


Sir! No Sir! is former Vietnam Veteran David Zeiger's documentary chronicling the real front lines of dissension toward the War. The film premiered at the 2005 Los Angeles Film Festival.

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