Monday, July 16, 2018
  • Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016
"Lion," "The Eagle Huntress" Take People's Choice Narrative Feature, Documentary Honors At Denver Film Fest
Dev Patel (l) and Rooney Mara in "Lion" (photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company)
  • --

The Garth Davis-directed Lion won the People’s Choice Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Denver Film Society’s 39th annual Denver Film Festival which ran from Nov. 2-13. Earning distinction as the top Documentary Feature was The Eagle Huntress directed by Otto Bell.

On the juried awards front, The Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary Film was bestowed upon Do Not Resist, directed by Craig Atkinson, and The Krzysztof Kieślowski Award for Best Feature Film went to The Last Family directed by Jan P. Matuszynski.

Winning the fest’s American Independent Narrative Award was the Joshua Locy-directed Hunter Gatherer.

The 39th Denver Film Festival featured more than 250 films representing 50 countries, and attracted over 55,000 filmgoers during the annual 12-day celebration, culminating at the Denver Film Festival Awards Brunch at The Curtis Hotel. The 40th Denver Film Festival will take place November 1 – 12, culminating a year-long celebration of the organization’s 40-year history.
In addition to the awards, the Denver Film Society announced the Music on Film-Film on Music Documentary Fund and the Sheila K. O’Brien Cinematic Achievement Award for UK and Ireland. The Music On Film-Film On Music Documentary Fund (MOFFOM) is a grant program of the Denver Film Society created in thanks to the generous support of John Caulkins. The MOFFOM Grant Program will launch in spring of 2017 and will support production expenses for documentary filmmakers specifically for music licensing, scoring, and composition. The Denver Film Society will award up to $25,000 anually in grant support. Submissions will open in Spring of 2017.
“I believe music is an often overlooked but always crucial element in making a quality film,” said Caulkins. “I am happy to support the Denver Film Society and help documentary filmmakers defray the costs of adding music to their films, so their complete vision can come to life on screen.”
The Sheila K. O’Brien Cinematic Achievement Award for UK and Ireland will recognize the achievements and talents of one film or person from the UK or Ireland with an honor each year at the Denver Film Festival beginning at the 40th annual fest.
Here’s a rundown of winners:
Narrative Feature

Winner: Lion directed by Garth Davis (Australia)
Documentary Feature
Winner: The Eagle Huntress directed by Otto Bell (United Kingdom)
Short Film
Winner: The Chop directed by Lewis Rose (United Kingdom)
Music Video
Winner: The Avalanches - Subways directed by Mrzyk & Moriceau (France)
The Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary Film

Winner: Do Not Resist directed by Craig Atkinson
The jury stated: “For a daring and deeply visceral portrait of the ongoing militarization of law enforcement in the U.S. that is captured in an honest and technically stunning fashion. Do Not Resist is an important, urgent film that every American should see.”
Honorable Mention: Off the Rails directed by Adam Irving
The jury stated: “In a competition with six unique, accomplished works that embody documentary filmmaking at its most effective, the Jury would like to give an honorable mention to Off the Rails for its compassionate depiction of a fascinating New York story and figure that like Darius McCollum himself, is both humorous and heartbreaking.”
The jury was comprised of: Kaily Smith Westbrook, actor and co-founder of SeriesFest, Kevin Polowy, Yahoo Movies senior writer, editor and correspondent, and Chike Okonkwo a stage, television, and film actor and recent star of Birth of a Nation.
The Krzysztof Kieślowski Award for Best Feature Film
Winner: The Last Family directed by Jan P. Matuszynski (Poland)
The jury stated: For its epic and intimate portrayal of the life of surrealist Polish painter Zdzislaw Beksinski, the award for Best Feature Film goes to The Last Family. Jan P. Matuszynski voyeuristic, powerful storytelling brings us into the apartment and the world of the Beksinskis over 30 tumultuous years, revealing the emotional highs and lows of this idiosyncratic yet relatable family.
Special Jury Prize: Best Actress
The jury would also like to recognize the unforgettable performance by Hayley Squires in I, Daniel Blake. Her portrayal of a struggling single mother is deeply moving with a profound sense of realism.
Special Honorable Mention:
For its striking visuals, daring symbolism and unique approach we’d like to give a special mention to Joao Pedro RodriguesThe Ornithologist.
The jury was comprised of: Adam Kersh head of publicity and co-founder of the PR and marketing firm Brigade, Patrick Hackett director, producer and board president of the CFVA, and Ula Sniegowska the Artistic Director of the American Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland.
The American Independent Narrative Award
Winner: Hunter Gatherer directed by Joshua Locy (USA)
For its singular authorial voice and unique vision, sense of humor and sheer charm, the Award for Best American Independent Narrative goes to Joshua Locy’s Hunter Gatherer. This consistently surprising feature debut from art director-turned-filmmaker Locy is one of overwhelming humanity, with unexpected characterizations deftly realized by Andre Royo, George Sample III and the rest of the film’s nuanced supporting cast. Drifting seamlessly between subtle magical realism and tough reality, Hunter Gatherer is highlighted by sublime cinematography and a poignant, pitch-perfect score from American composer Keegan DeWitt. 
Honorable Mention in the American Independent Narrative Section
The jury would like to give an Honorable Mention to Free in Deed for its powerful storytelling, patient filmmaking, incredible ensemble performances, and complete confidence of vision from filmmaker Jake Mahaffy.  
The jury was comprised of: Jasmine McGlade, film writer, director and producer, Jefferson Moneo Canadian writer and director, and graduate of Columbia’s MFA Film program, and KJ Relth of the UCLA Film and Television Archive’s programming department.
The Liberty Global International Student Short Award
Winner: Submarine directed by Mounia Akl (Lebanon)
The jury stated: “We were struck by the use of sparse, magical realism to explore the idea of home in the film Submarine. A garbage crisis provides the backdrop of disaster for a strong, woman protagonist to resist evacuation of her contaminated town. The film is constructed with dreamy and disorienting editing strategies, heightening a sense of the mythical.  Yet, the fable in this film jars us outside of the frame, as you begin to recall catastrophes from this world, heavy with overtones of environmental and refugee catastrophes.”

The Spike Lee Student Filmmaker Award 
Winner: Girls and Boys directed by Tomasz Gubernat (USA)
The jury stated: The cinematography and editing function like a microscope, as we observe the tightly framed details and gestures of these coming of age students learning a traditional Polish dance featuring rigidly coded gender roles. This seemingly innocuous class allows us to meditate on larger questions of tradition and the passage of time that is revealed to us through the space of a quotidian after school dance class through the space of a quotidian after school dance class."
Best Short Animated Film
Winner: The Noise of Licking directed by Nadja Andrasev (Hungary)
The jury was charmed by this quirky, mystifying and hypnotic animation. A woman and her flora environment merge into a symbiotic relationship of licks and caresses.  Everyday sounds are transformed into a musical landscape.  We all agreed that this was a genuinely bizarre tale where the world we know is recreated as a sensual sanctuary that can only exists in the imaginary.
The jury for all three shorts categories was comprised of: Diana Reichenbach, multi-media artist and Professor of Animation at Savannah College of Art and Design, Chris Robinson, the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival, and Kelly Sears and Denver based animator and filmmaker, and Assistant Professor of Film Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Feature Screenplay Award
Winner: The Silence written by Thomas Thonson
Presented by: University of Colorado Denver’s Film & Television Program, College of Arts and Media
Short Screenplay Award
Winner: Evelyn X Evelyn written by  Eric Pumphrey
Presented by: University of Colorado Denver’s Film & Television Program, College of Arts and Media
True Grit Award
Winner: Reengineering Sam directed by Brian Malone
Presented by: Denver Film Academy comprised of alumni of the DFS Board of Trustees.
Denver Film Festival Awards
As previously announced, awards presented on behalf of the Denver Film Festival were:
Excellence in Acting Award: Emma Stone
Reel Social Club Indie Spirit Award: Alex Karpovsky (Folk Hero and Funny Guy, USA)
Rising Star Award: Hayden Szeto (The Edge of Seventeen, USA)
Stan Brakhage Vision Award: Saul Levine
Rare Pearl Award: Lost In Paris 
Tribute Award: Dominque Abel and Fiona Gordon
George Hickenlooper Honorary Award: Demian Bechir (Un Cuento De Circo & A Love Song, USA)