Ten Films Chosen to Compete for First Gotham Awards Best Film Prize, Leigh and Talbot Also Honored
by Eugene Hernandez
Nominees in the best feature and best documentary categories have been announced for the 2004 Gotham Awards, to be held in New York on December 1st. In the best feature category, the nominees are Richard Linklater's "Before Sunset," Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," David O. Russell's "I ♥ Huckabees," Shane Carruth's "Primer," and Alexander Payne's "Sideways." While in the doc category, the nominees are Jonathan Demme's "The Agronomist," Ross McElwee's "Bright Leaves," Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," Jessica Yu's "In the Realms of the Unreal," and Jonathan Caouette's "Tarnation."
Organizers also announced another pair of special prizes, honoring filmmaker Mike Leigh with the Filmmaker Award for Lifetime Achievement, and selecting New Yorker Films' Dan Talbot to receive the Industry Lifetime Achievement prize.
This year marks the first time that the Gothams will host a competition for best film of the year, with organizers noting that the decision is in keeping with their moving the event from September to December.
"We believe that filmmaking that is more firmly in the grasp of filmmakers, and not made by committee, is the type of work that IFP/New York should celebrate," said Michelle Byrd, Executive Director of IFP/New York, in a statement. "Our approach was simple - take all filmmaker-driven works whether they are 'truly indie' independent, studio specialty division 'independent' or studio-based passion projects from writer/directors - and consider them relative to each other. It made for an interesting conversation with our selection team of critics and programmers who are used to this approach from crafting their own annual Top 10 lists."
The winners will be chosen by the jury of critics and programmers assembled by the IFP/New York, and announced at the Gotham Awards, set to tale place on December 1st and broadcast live on IFC.
Mike Leigh, selected for the lifetime achievement award, is currently enjoying success with his latest release, "Vera Drake," a Fine Line Features release. Previous recipients of lifetime achievement awards at the Gothams include Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep and Martin Scorsese.
"It is a particularly unique opportunity for us to pay a debt of gratitude to Leigh's tremendous influence on the numerous American independent filmmakers whom he has inspired with his thoughtful and inclusive process of working with actors through the rehearsal process and the development of their characters," said Michelle Byrd in a statement. "'Vera Drake' is a masterpiece and it's a moving testament by a veteran filmmaker at the peak of his career."
Founder of New Yorker Films and the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, Dan Talbot, recipient of the industry achievement prize, is a longtime champion of foreign and independent cinema. He opened the New Yorker Theater in 1960 and launched New Yorker Films in 1965. He sold the theater in 1973, later opening the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in 1981.
"Dan Talbot is the closest thing to a great institution in New York City that the independent film community can claim as its own," said Sony Pictures Classics' Michael Barker in a statement, "He energized film exhibition in New York City with The New Yorker Theater in the 60's, the cinema Studio and the Metro in the 70's and 80's, and now the Lincoln Plaza from the 80's and continuing today."
Continuing Barker said, "In doing so, Dan has also been key to the revitalization of the Upper West Side of Manhattan over the last 40 years. As a distributor, he has released films by some of the world's most important and respected directors. When we try to define the best in independent film, the starting place is Dan Talbot."