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49th Chicago Film Festival Announces Award Winners

CHICAGO, IL (October 18, 2013) - Michael Kutza, Founder and Artistic Director, Mimi Plauché, Programming Director, and Programmers Penny Bartlett and Alex Kopecky proudly announce the winners of the 49th Chicago International Film Festival Competitions.

The awards were presented on Friday October 18th at a ceremony held at the W Chicago-City Center Hotel (172 W. Adams St.) Filmmakers, celebrities and dignitaries from around the world were on hand to receive the awards including: German actress Nadeshda Brennicke (Banklady), Mexican director Diego Quemada-Díez (La Jaula de Oro), and Polish director Matiej Pieprzyca (Life Feels Good). Others, like legendary Polish director Andrzej Wajda (Walesa Man of Hope), accepted them through a pre-recorded video message from their home countries. The Gold Hugo for Best Film, the Festival’s highest honor, went to Hiner Saleem’s My Sweet Pepper Land.

International Feature Film Competition

Representing a wide variety of styles and genres, these works compete for the Festival’s highest honor, the Gold Hugo, a symbol of discovery.

The Gold Hugo for Best Film goes to My Sweet Pepper Land (Iraq/France/Germany), a refreshing film that uses different genres in an original way to deal with important issues. Director: Hiner Saleem

The Silver Hugo Special Jury Prize is awarded to The Verdict (Belgium), for the rigor of its presentation of a courtroom drama rarely seen in European cinema. Director: Jan Verheyen

The Silver Hugo for Best Director goes to Jerome Bonnell for Just a Sigh (France) for the sensitive manner with which the director revisits the tropes of the "amour fou" genre aided and abetted by a great actress.

The Silver Hugo for Best Actor goes to Robert Wieckiewicz in Walesa: Man of Hope (Poland). With the extraordinary direction of the great master Andrzej Wajda, Wieckiewicz achieves a complete symbiosis between an actor and his interpretation of a world personality of great impact. Director: Andrzej Wajda

 

The Silver Hugo for Best Actress goes to Nadeshda Brennicke in Banklady (Germany), for a captivating performance that transformed a working class girl into a daring, intriguing bank robber. Director: Christian Alvart

The Silver Hugo for Best Cinematography goes to Jallo Faber of Pioneer (Norway) for a film that gave us a thrilling, sweeping cinematic scope. Director: Erik Skjoldbjærg

A Special Mention goes to actress Piroska Molnár in The Notebook (Hungary/Germany/Austria/France) for the subtle way she performed a monstrous character with great humanity. Director: János Szász.

Another Special Mention goes to A Long and Happy Life (Russia), a brave movie about standing up to authority at a time of transformation in European society. Director: Boris Khlebnikov

The International Feature Film Competition Jury includes Sarah Bouyain (France), Burghart Klaussner (Germany), Lúcia Murat (Brazil), Donald K. Ranvaud (Italy/Great Britain) and Robert Teitel (USA).

The International Feature Film Competition is sponsored by American Airlines.

New Directors Competition

This selection of first and second feature films receiving their U.S. premiere in Chicago celebrates the spirit of discovery and innovation upon which the Festival was founded.

The Gold Hugo goes to for La Jaula De Oro (Mexico), the story of three young teenagers on the perilous journey from Guatemala to the illusory promise of North America's golden cage. Against the overwhelming spaces and lethal perils which they must encounter, Diego Quemada-Díez subtly and affectionately tracks the personal relationships of these universal victims. This is a film of genuine mastery. Director: Diego Quemada-Díez

The Silver Hugo goes to for Life Feels Good (Poland), which fearlessly portrays a young victim of cerebral palsy, and all the frustrations of a keen intelligence incapable of communication with the outside world. Its triumph is to remain affirmative and uplifting, without recourse to contrived happy endings. It is, above all, remarkable for the performances of Dawid Ogrodnik and Kamil Tkacz, capturing the two ages of the central character,. Director: Matiej Pieprzyca

The New Directors Competition Jury includes Jonathan Howell (USA), David Robinson (Great Britain) and Ryan Werner (USA).

The New Directors Competition is sponsored by Columbia College Chicago.

Docufest Competition

This selection of international documentaries competing for the Gold Hugo go beyond the headlines in telling those true stories that surprise, entertain and challenge us.

The Gold Hugo goes to Trucker and The Fox (Iran), a documentary that manages to be extremely funny, while still treating its subject with respect and subtly finding a wider resonance in the story of a man trying to make a film about two donkeys in love. Director: Arash Lahooti

A Special Mention goes to Mothers (China), a film that explores a major social issue from the ground level, without resorting to didacticism or oversimplifying the actions and motivations of its subjects. Director: Xu Huijing

 

The Docufest Competition Jury includes Hakim Belabbes (USA/Morocco), Lee Hirsch (USA) and Justine Nagan (USA).

The Docufest Competition is sponsored by the John and Jacolyn Bucksbaum Family Foundation.

After Dark Competition

This competitive program of scary movies from around the world takes audiences on a journey to the darkest corners of the human soul.

For Best After Dark film, the jury awards a film which embodies all of the qualities that make a great midnight movie " a film that is subversive, disturbing, inappropriately funny and funnily inappropriate. Superbly cast and intelligently written, this game of cat and mouse kept the jury squirming in their seats and loving every minute of it. The Gold Hugo for Best After Dark film goes to Cheap Thrills (USA). Director: E. L. Katz

The After Dark Competition Jury includes Alison Cuddy (USA), Douglas McLaren (USA) and Greg Newman (USA).

The After Dark Competition is sponsored by DePaul University School of Cinema and Interactive Media.

Short Film Competition: Live Action

The Gold Hugo for Best Short Film  goes to Misterio (Spain), awarded for an exemplary portrayal of the human condition, as told through the monotony of domesticity, the power of belief and hope, and the expressivity gleaned from inevitable breakdown of communication. Seamlessly blending exquisite elements of cinematography, sound design, story arc and performance to culminate in a paragon of tonal unison, Misterio powerfully and gracefully achieves this feat with seemingly effortless refinement.  The jury wishes to recognize director Chema Garcia Ibarra for his brave style and cinematic achievement creating a film that successfully navigates middle-aged women, societal hierarchy, religion, science-fiction, and techno music with tender and grounding humanity. Director: Chema García Ibarra

The Silver Hugo for Live Action Short is awarded to Needle (USA). The jury was impressed by the way this student production from Chicago’s School of the Art Institute captures the point-of-view of a teenage girl, and shows how her broken home affects the adolescent rite of passage of getting pierced ears. Writer-director Anahita Ghazvinizadeh is unusually sensitive to how the world looks through the eyes of a young person, and finds both the poetry and tension of the everyday, especially in a boldly extended final shot that blends fiction and documentary, and had us all wincing. Director: Anahita Ghazvinizadeh

The Silver Hugo for Best Student Short is awarded to Aftermath (USA). Set in a post-apocalyptic future, the film winning Best Student Short impressed the jury not only with its strong acting, special effects, and writing, but with its pacing, use of silence, and well-developed, touching portrayal of a relationship between two brothers. Director: Jeremy Robbins

The Gold Plaque for Narrative/Live Action Short goes to Butter Lamp (France), awarded for its sensitivity, charm and originality, as well as for its ability to imbed poignancy within an innovative narrative structure. Effectively capturing a portrait of a society with both nuanced wit and sincere reverence adhered to cultural and material values, Butter Lamp is a rare film that delights us with context augmented by exceptional cinematic technique. Director: Hu Wei

The Silver Plaque for Narrative/Live Action Short goes to Rhino Full Throttle (Germany). This visionary mix of live-action and stop-motion animation delighted the jury with the way its co-creators Erik Schmitt and Stephan Müller distill the pervasive loneliness of urban living into a series of perfect, clever little images, which get the mindset of their hero across with the directness of a cartoon. But even more than that, we appreciated the warmth and humanity of this film, and its ability to affirm the value of human connection. Director: Erik Schmitt

 

A Special Mention goes to Whale Valley (Denmark/Iceland) for its impressive use of special effects, its intimate portrayal of the relationship between two young brothers, and its ability to provoke a physical reaction within its audience. Director: Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson

The Live Action Short Film Competition Jury includes Noel Murray (USA), Kris Swanberg (USA) and Beckie Stocchetti (USA).

Short Film Competition: Documentary

The Silver Hugo is awarded to Dream Girl (Switzerland). With deliberate editing and assured camerawork, Oliver Schwartz creates a surprisingly empathetic yet unnerving portrait of a man's relationship with a most unusual partner. The film embodies a constructed reality, evoking a sense of tension between genuine self-disclosure and a rehearsed, controlled distance. Expertly balanced and formally accomplished, Dreamgirl succeeds in exploring themes of loneliness, intimacy and fantasy in provocative ways from the perspective of a character who would usually be mocked or maligned, allowing a viewer careful access to an intensely personal world. Director: Oliver Schwarz

 The Special Jury Award goes to The Village (Brazil) for its complex direction and stunning cinematography, by Francisco Alemào Ribeiro, that captures the heart of a troubled community within seemingly idyllic surroundings. The film creates a poignant emotional representation of a group of people who were otherwise fated to disappear unknown. Director: Liliana Sulzbach

The Documentary Short Film Competition Jury includes Clayton Brown (USA), Tim Horsburgh (USA) and Nadav Kurtz (USA/Israel).

Short Film Competition: Animation

The Silver Hugo for Best Animated Short Film goes to Yellow Fever (Kenya/UK). Poignant anecdotes about race, self-esteem and identity are woven together with a light touch in a collage of stop-motion, found imagery, and computer animation. Ng'endo Mukki brings a complex issue to life in a strong, poetic voice. Director: Ng’endo Mukii

The Special Jury Prize is awarded to Marilyn Myller (UK), an eye-poppingly beautiful film, with a winning combination of visual elegance, formal experimentation and technical prowess. The film's narrative presents a light-hearted portrait of the creative life of an artist, and the sometimes backwards-seeming logic of contemporary art. Director: Michael Please

The Gold Plaque for Best Student Animated Short goes to Tap to Retry (Israel). Papercraft stop-motion with an attention span formed in the age of videogames: non-sequiturs and absurdity are the order of business in this cleverly designed hand-made riff on a low-poly 3D look. Director: Neta Cohen.

 

The Gold Plaque for Best Experimental Animated Short is awarded to Unicorn Blood (Spain). This film is surreal and dark, with bafflingly weird narrative turns. Alternating between cute, sexy, grotesque and epic, Unicorn Blood is completely unpredictable, mildly disturbing and strangely alluring. Director: Alberto Vázquez

A Special Mention goes to Collectors (Switzerland), a fun, funky cartoon that reveals itself to be an oblique parody on the contemporary compulsion for acquiring possessions. It manages to never lose its goofy charm while taking the viewer on a slapstick ride to an absurd logical conclusion. Director: Marcel Hobi

The Animation Short Film Competition Jury includes KJ Mathieson (USA), Leah Shore (USA) and Alexander Stewart (USA).

The Short Film Competition is sponsored by Paul and Ellen Gignilliat.

INTERCOM Competition

One of the longest-running international competitions of its kind, INTERCOM honors a wide range of corporate-sponsored, educational and branded films.

The Gold Hugo goes to Bengar Films for Wake Up Time, a short promotional video for the Our Neighbourhood Community Grant program that truly lives up to the competition's standards of cinematic achievement.

The INTERCOM Competition jury coordinators were: Bohus Blahut (USA) and Lee Ferdinand (USA).

 

Chicago Award

The Chicago Award, presented to a Chicago or Illinois artist for the best feature or short film, goes to Girl With Child, directed by Maria Abraham, a remarkably original and inventive filmmaking debut from an immensely talented and promising young filmmaker. Simple, minimal, though nonetheless poignant, this short film represents an auspicious start to what promises to be an exciting filmmaking career for the gifted Ms. Abraham.

The Chicago Award jury includes Adam Kempenaar (USA), Rebecca Lyon (USA) and Melissa Thornley (USA).

The Founder’s Award

The 49th Chicago International Film Festival presented A Thousand Times Good Night (Norway) directed by Erik Poppe and featuring actress Juliette Binoche’s most stirring and memorable performance to date with The Founder’s Award. The Founder’s Award is given to that one film across all categories that capture the spirit of the Chicago International Film Festival for its unique and innovative approach to the art of the moving image.

Special Awards

The 49th Chicago International Film Festival honored writer, director and producer George Tillman Jr. with a Career Achievement Award during the Festival’s 17th Annual Black Perspectives Tribute on October 11.

The Festival presented icon Bruce Dern, winner of the Award for Best Actor at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, with a Career Achievement Award during the gala presentation of his latest film, Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne.

FESTIVAL SPONSORS

Led by Presenting Partner Columbia College Chicago, the 49th Chicago International Film Festival's sponsors include: Official Airline - American Airlines; Headquarters Hotel - JW Marriott Chicago; Official Vehicle - Mercedes-Benz; Producing Partners: AMC Theaters, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Major Partners: Illinois Office of Tourism and Intersites; Supporting Partners: DePaul University School of Cinema and Interactive Media, Stella Artois, Effen Vodka, WBBM Newsradio 780 and 105.9FM, Cultivate Studios; Participating Partners: State Farm, AARP, Tres Generaciones®, Comcast, Allstate, Spotlight Cinema Networks, Casale del Giglio, Second City Computers, Shutterbox Entertainment, Gibson’s Restaurant Group, RL Restaurant, Creative Technology and Lavazza Espression.

 

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ABOUT CINEMA/CHICAGO
Cinema/Chicago is a not-for-profit cultural and educational organization dedicated to encouraging better understanding between cultures and to making a positive contribution to the art form of the moving image. The Chicago International Film Festival is part of the year-round programs presented by Cinema/Chicago, which also include the International Screenings Program (May-September), the Chicago International Television Competition (April), CineYouth Festival (May), Intercom Competition (October) and year-round Education Outreach and Member Screenings Program.

For images go to http://www.chicagofilmfestival.com/press/