About 100 people gathered at the stately Caledonian Hilton Hotel at noon yesterday for a brunch and the announcement of winners of the 59th Edinburgh International Film Festival, concluding the 12-day event here in the Scottish capital. EIFF artistic director Shane Danielsen emceed the short ceremony, joking that the festival had spent all of its money, so he would be the host. U.K./South African production "Tsotsi" by Gavin Hood was the afternoon's biggest winner, collecting both the festival's "Standard Life Audience Award" and the "Michael Powell Award for Best New British Feature Film."
Shot on location in a poverty-stricken township outside Johannesburg, South Africa, "Tsotsi" - meaning "Thug" - opens with a man (Tsotsi) violently shooting a woman outside her home. In his panicky getaway, the gangster inadvertently leaves with the woman's baby in the car, which eventually leads to his long road to redemption. "Tsotsi" will next be seen in the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival in September. Jurors for the Michael Powell Award, inaugurated in 1993 after the British filmmaker, and sponsored by the U.K. Film Council, also gave special mention to first-time director Josh Appignanesi for "Song of Songs," which had its world debut at the festival.
Director Mike Mills won the "Guardian New Directors Award" for "Thumbsucker," a U.K. premiere at EIFF. Starring Lou Pucci, Tilda Swinton, Keanu Reeves, Vince Vaughn and Vincent D'Onofrio, the film centers on 17-year-old Justin Cobb who still sucks his thumb until his orthodontist (Reeves) tries to transform his life with Ritalin, with only mixed results.
In other awards, writer/director John Williams' "Hibernation" won the "Kodak UK Film Council Award for Best British Short Film." Swedish production Ruben Ostlund's "Autobiographical Scene Number 6882" received the European Film Academy Short Film 2005 -- Prix UIP nod. Launched in 1998 as part of the annual European Film Awards, twelve European festivals each present the prize to a new European filmmaker. Each winner then go to the European Film Awards as nominations for the European Film Academy Short Film -- Prix UIP, which is presented at the ceremony in December, including a 10,000 cash prize.
Also honored Sunday were Elizabeth Hobbs' "The True Story of Sawney Beane," taking the "McLaren Award for New British Animation," and Simon Hynd's "Arts The Catalyst" won the "Saltire Society Award for Short Scottish Documentary."
The Edinburgh International Film Festival opened on August 17th, and closed Saturday night August 28th with the U.K. premiere of Nick Love's gangster drama, "The Business."