Newport Honors "Maria Full of Grace" and "Checkpoint"
by Brian Brooks
Joshua Marston's "Maria Full of Grace" took the best film prize over the weekend at the Newport International Film Festival, capping a seven-day event in the historic Rhode Island city (June 8-14). The film, which debuted in January at the Sundance Film Festival, focuses on the plight of a young Colombian woman desperate to better her economic circumstances and escape her dead end factory job but instead is plunged into the underworld of drug smuggling. The film's star, Catalina Sandino Moreno, also received the festival's best actress award.
Israeli-produced doc "Checkpoint" by Yoav Shamir won best documentary. The film is set in the many contentious border areas separating the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza from the Palestinians. Jury prizes were given to Hilary Clarke's "Bad Behavior," about a family that turns to a behavior specialist for help with their seven-year-old daughter, as well as Nina Davenport's "Parallel Lines." Davenport's film takes place over a six-week period in which she traveled across the U.S. to document reactions to 9/11. Best short went to Jeremy Saulnier's "Crabwalk," with jury prizes going to Taika Waititi's "Two Cars, One Night" (which also won the Clairborne Pell award for original vision) and Martin Bell's "Twins."
Anja Baron's film "Last of the First" won the festival's audience award for documentary. The film takes a look at the earliest pioneers of jazz focusing on the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band. The audience award in the feature category went to John Schultz's "When Zachary Beaver Came to Town." The festival describes the film as about "one boy in a small Texas town proves you can change the world... one friend at a time."
Director Sascha Paladino's look at banjo player Bela Fleck and double bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer in "Obstinato: Making Music for Two" won the audience award for best short.
In other prizes, Carlos Saldanha's "Gone Nutty" won best animated short award, while "Dive" by Sirin Eide took best live action short. The student jury award, meanwhile, went to Mark Milgard's "Dandelion."