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EIFF Awards 2009

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Today, the award winners of the 63rd Edinburgh International Film Festival were announced in a public ceremony at the Filmhouse Cinema, by artistic directors Hannah McGill and Diane Henderson, alongside patrons Sir Sean Connery and Seamus McGarvey.

MoonThe big prize, the Michael Powell Award (Best New British Feature Film) was inaugurated in 1993, and is supported by the UK Film Council. It was adjudicated this year by an international jury comprising Joe Wright (director of Atonement), Claudia Puig (film critic), Sacha Horler (actress in My Year Without Sex), Janet Street-Porter (journalist, author) and finally, Frank Langella (most recently starring in Frost/Nixon). Edifyingly, they deigned to select Duncan Jones’s majestic first feature, Moon. The jury citation went as follows: “We award MOON for its singular vision and remarkably assured direction as well as for the inspired manner in which it transcends genre. The central performance by Sam Rockwell embodies the film’s emotional complexity and compelling philosophical perspective”.

Fish TankThe same jury determines the Award for Best Performance in a British Feature Film, now in its third year. Another wise decision, as it has gone to Katie Jarvis for her starring role in Fish Tank. She commented: “This has been an amazing year for me in more ways than one. I was lucky enough to spend my 18th birthday in Edinburgh last week, where FISH TANK was shown, and this is such a great 18th present! It is a real honour to receive this award, both for myself and the film. I would like to thank Andrea for the opportunity and for believing in me“.

Easier With PracticeA second jury presided over the inaugural Best International Feature Award, including Alan Cumming, Lee Marshall and Kerry Fox. In a predictable turn, given Cumming’s nod at the BBC 5 Live broadcast at Edinburgh, this prize went to Easier With Practice, by Kyle Patrick Alvarez. The jury citation read: “EASIER WITH PRACTICE is an astonishingly assured writing and directing debut, distinguished by a gift for original storytelling, a striking visual aesthetic, and a series of powerfully revealing and truthful performances“. I’m pretty disappointed that I missed this much-lauded phone-sex road-movie.

Sin NombreSupporting innovative and ambitious first-time directors, the Skillset New Directors Award was won by Cary Joji Fukunaga for Sin Nombre. Some positive words from Skillset’s Director of Film, Neil Peplow: “I am delighted that Skillset has been able to once again support the New Directors’ Award at EIFF.  SIN NOMBRE is a work of staggering achievement.  It is a highly ambitious and accomplished film, let alone as a first feature.  Cary has shown himself a future talent to reckon with, and completely deserves this award.  I hope it goes some way to helping him get his next features produced and distributed, and I look forward to seeing his career flourish.”

Hannah McGillHannah McGill, EIFF Artistic Director, pleased by how the festival has gone (down in large part to her very hard work) and in particular, notes how it’s moving in the direction of a discovery festival where bright careers start to flourish and names begin to be recognised. She had this to say: “I’m delighted by these results and I thank our juries for their hard work and their presence in Edinburgh, which helped to make this year’s Festival so exciting.  It says a lot about EIFF and its mission as a discovery festival that Duncan Jones, Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Tomm Moore and Cary Joji Fukunaga are all first-time feature directors.  We have had a fantastic year and I’m thrilled that all of our prizewinners have been part of it, as well as, of course, all the other filmmakers who’ve attended and given us the privilege of screening their work.  I hope their success here helps them go forward in their careers, and I hope we’ll see them all back in Edinburgh in the future with further work.

In a packed (yet often lackluster) crowd of documentary features at this year’s festival, Best Documentary went to Boris Ryzhy by Aliona Van der Horst, “a visually stunning, imaginative, sensitive and ultimately revealing portrait of both an individual psyche and a national predicament.”

The Standard Life Audience Award, a democratic fixture of the festival in which the crowds get to cast their vote, selected The Secret of Kells (an unusual and quite interesting, but hardly seismic, animated feature about the Celtic tale of an illuminated script from early Irish and Scottish Christian history) out of a large range of finer fare. Perhaps this feature drew a slightly younger and less critical crowd.

The Rotten Tomatoes Critical Consensus Award went to Lynn Shelton’s Humpday, which has received quite a bit of coverage in the papers this week. A cinematic celebration of her native Seattle’s liberal sexual politics and mores, this subversion of contemporary bromance sees two drunken buddies deciding to go “beyond gay” and enter an amateur porn festival together.

To wrap things up, Best British Short Film was After Tomorrow, by Emma Sullivan; Best International Short was Princess Margaret Bld. by Kazik Radwanski; the Scottish Short Documentary Award went to Johanna Wagner’s Peter in Radioland; while the McLaren Award for New British Animation was taken by Photograph of Jesus by Laurie Hill.

John Woodward, CEO of the UK Film Council, who provided a lot of the funding behind these awards, pimped his organisation as follows: “The UK Film Council’s support of the EIFF underlines our deep commitment to celebrating and nurturing film talent. Winning the Michael Powell Award confirms Duncan Jones as an emerging British director with a very bright future. And I’m delighted for Emma Sullivan, awarded the short film prize for AFTER TOMORROW, and newcomer Katie Jarvis, winner of the best performance prize for FISH TANK, both of whose films were funded through the Film Council’s New Cinema Fund.” Aww, isn’t that nice.


63rd Edinburgh International Film Festival, 17-28 June 2009, UK


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