RiverRun’s 2016 Winners & Awards

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by Camel City Dispatch

By Staff

North Carolina – The 2016 RiverRun International Film Festival has come to an end and they have  announced the Audience and Jury Awards for the festival. The 18th annual Festival ran April 7-17 and presented 166 films, representing 44 countries.

“The films showcased at our Festival this year reflected diverse stories from around the world, important social issues, immense talent from both emerging and established directors and a host of passionate projects that are jewels of the independent filmmaking community. With more than 1,500 submissions this year, our Programming team had many hard choices to make to complete the program and the juries really responded to the films we chose and said it was difficult to make their final decisions,” said Mary Dossinger, RiverRun Program Manager and Interim Co-Director.


my love affair with the brain
my love affair with the brain

The Audience Award “Best of Fest” was presented to: MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE BRAIN: THE LIFE AND SCIENCE OF DR. MARIAN DIAMOND / USA (Directors: Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg) – Enrichment and plasticity–capabilities we now take for granted–were the scientific battleground where Dr. Marian Diamond changed forever our paradigm for understanding the brain. She is a beloved professor, worthy role model for women in science, and all round brain-whisperer.

The Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature was presented to OLMO & THE SEAGULL (Directors: Petra Costa and Lea Glob) – While rehearsing for Chekhov’s play The Seagull, Olivia and her partner Serge begin to sense that the lines between their lives and their stage roles are swiftly disappearing. Olmo & the Seagull is a journey through the labyrinth of an actress’s mind during the course of her pregnancy.

The Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature was presented to TOWER / USA (Director: Keith Maitland) ­– On August 1st, 1966, a sniper opened fire at the University of Texas, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes. Combining archival footage with rotoscopic animation, this film shares the untold story of a day when the worst in one man brought out the best in so many others.

The Altered States Audience Award for Best Indie was presented to FIRST GIRL I LOVED / USA (Director: Kerem Sanga) ­– Seventeen year-old Anne has fallen for Sasha, the most popular girl at her LA public high school. But when Anne confides in her best friend Clifton, who has always harbored a secret crush, he does his best to get in the way.


the fits
the fits

The Best Narrative Feature Award was presented to: THE FITS / USA (Director: Anna Rose Holmer) — While training at the gym, eleven year-old tomboy Toni becomes entranced with a dance troupe holding its annual tryouts. As she struggles to fit in, she finds herself caught up in danger as the group begins to suffer from fainting spells and other mysterious fits of delirium.

The Peter Brunette Award for Best Director was presented to: Radu Muntean, ONE FLOOR BELOW/ Romania / France / Sweden / Germany

Best Actress was presented to: Royalty Hightower, THE FITS / USA (Director: Anna Rose Holmer)

Best Ensemble was presented to: Jackson Martin, Nick Serino and Reece Moffett of SLEEPING GIANT / USA (Director: Andrew Cividino)

Best Screenplay was presented to: ONE FLOOR BELOW / Romania / France / Sweden / Germany (Screenwriters Alexandra Baciu, Radu Muntean, Razvan Radulescu) – After being the sole unfortunate witness of a domestic quarrel that ends up in a homicide, Patrascu finds himself at odds with two very close neighbors: one is the bizarre murderer, the other is his own conscience.

Jury statement: “We’re honored to have had the privilege to be at this year’s RiverRun Film Festival. The ensemble performance by Jackson Martin, Nick Serino, and Reece Moffett, the latter two who had never acted before, is the soul of this work and we’re thrilled to be able to give a Best Ensemble prize to all three for SLEEPING GIANT. Radu Muntean’s ONE FLOOR BELOW was awarded Best Screenplay and Best Direction for its deft screenplay and construction of this complex, layered, and compelling narrative. Last, but surely not least, Anna Rose Holmer’s THE FITS is an audacious debut from a promising American talent with a beautifully subtle performance by its young lead Royalty Hightower.”


RiverRun’s 2016 Narrative Features jurors included: Gabriele Caroti, director of the BAMcinematek, the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s repertory film program; filmmaker Sam Fleischner (Stand Clear of Closing Doors, Wah Do Dem); film programmer and writer Aliza Ma; University of North Carolina School of the Arts producing student Andrea Goocher.

Previous winners of RiverRun’s Best Narrative Feature Jury Award include: Memories on Stone (2015), Ida (2014), In the House (2013), Found Memories (2012), Bal (2011), Katalin Varg” (2010), Three Monkeys (2009), The Edge of Heaven (2008), For the Living and the Dead (2007), A Wonderful Night in Split (2006), and Innocent Voices (2005).


Best Documentary Feature: SALERO / Bolivia / USA (Director: Mike Plunkett) — When the future arrives to Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, one of the most secluded places on the planet, the destiny of this ancient salt flat is unearthed and one young salt gatherer becomes the last link between the old world and the new.

Jury statement: “For its astonishing visuals, narrative acuity and ability to showcase characters that go against the grain, the Jury selects for Best Documentary Feature, SALERO.

Best Director — Documentary Feature was presented to: Mike Plunkett for SALERO / Bolivia / USA

Jury statement: “For its design, its precision and its extraordinary focus, as well as the unforgettable individuals it introduces world audiences to, the Jury selects as Best Director Mike Plunket for SALERO.”

Humanitarian Award: JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES: PEACEKEEPERS / USA / Pakistan / Bangladesh (Directors: Geeta Gandbhir and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy) — Three Bangladeshi police officers in a predominantly Muslim, all-female unit are sent to post-earthquake Haiti as UN Peacekeepers for one year. The mission challenges these women and shatters commonly held stereotypes.

Jury statement: “For taking viewers on a journey with subjects too often ignored, this profound look at a group of remarkable women defies stereotypes and inspires deep, conflicting feelings. The Jury presents the Human Rights award to JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES: PEACEKEEPERS.”

Special Jury Prize: “For illuminating the Art & Legacy of Documentary Filmmaking”: CAMERAPERSON / USA (Director: Kirsten Johnson) – Assembling footage she shot over the course of 25 years, documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson searches to reconcile the thorny questions of permission, power, creative ambition, and human obligation that come with filming the lives of others.

Jury statement: “With its glimpse behind a technical curtain this film manages to both provoke our expectations of documentary form and enlighten audiences about the nature of its craft. The Special Jury prize for Illuminating the Art and Legacy of Documentary Filmmaking goes to Cameraperson.”

RiverRun’s 2016 Documentary Features Competition jurors included: film critic Jason Gorber, Eliza Licht, VP of content strategy at POV; Greg Rhem, director of documentary programming at Home Box Office; and Wake Forest University graduate documentary film student Bryan Campbell.

Previous winners of RiverRun’s Best Documentary Feature Jury Award include: The Chinese Mayor (2015), The Case Against 8 (2014), I Am Breathing (2013), The Boy Who Was a King (2012), Armadillo (2011), Last Train Home (2010), Unmistaken Child (2009), Up the Yangtze (2008), Manufactured Landscapes (2007), Taimagura Grandma (2006) and Parallel Lines (2005).


Best Documentary Short was presented to: THE 100 YEARS SHOW / USA (Director: Alison Klayman) — Carmen Herrera is one of the oldest working artists today. She was a pioneering abstract painter in the ’40s and ’50s, but only recently found the recognition that eluded her for most of her career, as she approaches her 100th birthday.

Jury statement: “We selected ‘The 100 Years Show,’ a film that slowly revealed the remarkable unknown story of one of the most important artists of our time. We love how the filmmaker captured this artist, her work, and her incredible commitment to it.”

Special Jury Prize for Artistic Achievement: JOURNEY TO THE SEA / USA (Director: Josh Gibson) – An elderly woman floats down a river of elusive memories and fragmented artifacts of cinema history, straining to recall the places that she has been in this elegant work of experimental nonfiction.

Jury statement: “The jury also wanted to give special recognition to Journey to the Sea, which captured all of our imaginations.”

RiverRun’s 2016 Documentary Shorts jurors included: film editor Kate Amend, filmmaker David Fenster (Pincus, Lineaus Lorette), film critic and editor Michael Koresky (Metrograph, Reverse Shot, Criterion Collection), and Wake Forest University graduate documentary film student Monica Berra.

Best Narrative Short was presented to: CAT / France (Director: Philippe Lasry) — Emma has just discovered what the word “feeling” means. She has to learn how to represent it with other students with disabilities like her, aided by her patient teacher Elizabeth.

Best Student Narrative Short: FOR OFELIA / USA / Phillipines (Director: Christopher de las Alas) —
A rebellious young Filipino boy struggles against his mother’s obsession with dressing up her sons as girls so that he may gain acceptance from the community and the affection of the prettiest girl in school.

RiverRun’s 2016 Narrative Shorts jurors included: filmmaker Tommy Oliver (1982), filmmaker Martha Stephens (Land Ho, Pilgrim Song, Passenger Pigeons), film editor and professor Michael Miller, and University of North Carolina School of the Arts filmmaking student Santiago Marcos.

Best Animated Short was presented to: EDMOND / UK (Director: Nina Gantz) — Edmond’s impulse to love and be close to others is strong…maybe too strong. As he stands alone by a lake he goes on a journey backwards through his life, searching for the origin of his desires.

Honorable Mentions were presented to: WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT COSMOS / Russia (Director: Konstantin Bronzit); THE ORCHESTRA / Australia (Director: Mikey Hill); PERFECT HOUSEGUEST / USA (Directors: Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter)

Jury statement: “We felt that several films in this year’s Animated Shorts program merited honorable mention: For its delicately crafted character performance: THE ORCHESTRA by Mikey Hill; for its tiny perfection of story and character: PERFECT HOUSEGUEST by Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter; For its charming and loving look at friendship and shared dreams: WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT COSMOS by Konstantin Bronzit.

But there was one film that we unanimously felt was deserving. We selected our winner for its inventive visual language and well-considered marriage of material and technique, combined with a narrative structure that is at once considered and surprising. Over the course of nine precise minutes, the viewer is taken on a bittersweet journey through the protagonist’s darkly humorous history of attempting and failing to connect with objects of his affection and desire as he prepares what’s next. The award for Best Animated Short goes to EDMOND by Nina Gantz.

RiverRun’s 2016 Animated Shorts jurors included: animator Alan Foreman, animator Jessica Milazzo, and teacher and animator Jesse Strauss.


In an effort to further promote the development of new filmmaking talent, RiverRun partnered with universities around the state to present the third annual Pitch Fest competition. Pre-selected student filmmakers from The Documentary Film Program at Wake Forest University, Elon University, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and the University of North Carolina Wilmington pitched their documentary shorts projects to a panel of industry experts, received advice on how to proceed, and vied for prizes and industry recognition. First Place winner received a $500 prize and the Runner Up received a $250 prize to assist in the production and completion of their films. Pitch Fest is sponsored by Hanesbrands.

First Place: “Daddy” (Co-directors: John Gallen and Alex Faoro of The Documentary Film Program at Wake Forest University) — Daddy tells the story of Curtis Malone, a benevolent youth basketball coach who used his work with children as a front for an international drug conspiracy. The film challenges audiences to decide whether Curtis was a calculating criminal using kids to traffic drugs or a caring mentor supporting underprivileged children by any means necessary. Ultimately, it raises the question whether we as people are equal to our wrongdoings, or rather the sum of our actions.

Runner Up: “Rebuilding“ (Co-directors: Amory Parks, Lauren Duncan and Jacky Shacknow of Elon University) — Rebuilding explores the challenges formerly incarcerated women face through the lives of two women – one who has recently been released and one who has become an advocate in the years since her release. Along with readjusting to society, they deal with the obstacles and stigmas of being formerly incarcerated, finding that society must adjust to them as well. While they seek their redemption, they also use their newfound perspective to help others seeking their own.

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