By Dana Harris | Indiewire February 5, 2012 at 9:30PM
Zam Salim's feature-directing debut, "Up There," took the top prize at the 2012 Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which ended today.
"Up There," which received the Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema, is a story about the deceased Martin, who's stuck in a dead-end afterlife job but dreams of ascending "up there" -- a hope that's dashed when he loses a soul and must figure out how to recover the new arrival. Salim's award included a Panavision camera package worth $60,000.
The jury included actor/comedian Dave Koechner; actor/director Brad Hall; actor/writer W. Earl Brown; actor Anthony Zerbe and his wife Arnette Zerbe; SBIFF originator Phyllis de Picciotto; director Glenn Jordan; actor Tim Matheson; online awards columnist Kris Tapley and writer/ director Perry Lang.
The Audience Choice Award, sponsored by the SB Independent, went to "Starbuck," directed by Ken Scott, about a former sperm donor who discovers he's the father of 533 children, 142 of whom have filed a class action lawsuit to determine the identity of their biological father, known only by the pseudonym Starbuck.
Best Documentary Film Award went to "Pretty Old." Directed by Walter Matteson, "Pretty Old" follows four women, ages 67 to 94, competing in the 30th year Anniversary of the Ms. Senior Sweetheart Beauty Pageant.
A special Jury Prize for Artistic Distinction was awarded to "Barrymore," directed by Erik Canuel and starring Christopher Plummer, to acknowledge Mr. Plummer's superb performance, Mr. Luce's remarkable play and Canuel's adaptation and uncanny ability to capture the play as "a completely original piece of cinematic art."
The Best International Film Award went to "Free Men," directed by Ismael Ferroukhi about an Algerian Muslim immigrant who joins the French Resistance to save Algerian Jews.
The Nueva Vision Award for the best Spanish/Latin American film was awarded to "Found Memories." Directed by Julia Murat, a young photographer finds a forgotten ghost town where only a handful of old people live and changes their lives forever.
The jury awarded an Honorable Mention to "The Rumble of the Stones" (El Rumor de las Piedras), directed by Alejandro Bellame Palacios. Venezuela’s official submission for the Academy Awards, Rumble of the Stones is a portrait of the enduring power of a mother’s love against the backdrop of the social problems of modern-day Venezuela
The Cinema Nouveau Award went to "Heat Wave" (Apres Le Sud), directed by Jean-Jacques Jauffret. Based on a true story, "Heat Wave" offers intersecting points of view where different destinies cross paths and are reunited by a tragic event.
Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film Under 30 Minutes went to "L Train," directed by Anna Musso. Executive produced by Alexander Payne, "L Train" is the story of Sunny, a teenaged African-American girl commuting through an inner city winter -- an existence that injects a negativity into her long days.
Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animation Short Film went to "The Missing Key," directed by Jonathan Nix. In a richly reimagined Venice of the early 1920s, young composer Hero Wasabi must compete against the unscrupulous Count Telefino in the prestigious Abacus Scroll musical competition.
The Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award Sponsored by The Fund for Santa Barbara for a documentary film that addresses social justice issues went to "Dirty Energy," directed by Bryan Hopkins, which tells the personal story of those directly affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and who are now struggling to rebuild their lives amidst the economic devastation and long-term health risks. The winner receives $2,500.