By Film Threat Staff | June 24, 2008

SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival announced its distinguished award winners, culminating the weeklong Festival activities that included screening 108 films representing 63 countries, free outdoor screenings and live performances, and a five-day concurrent International Documentary Conference attended by over 650 filmmakers, film and television executives and media professionals exploring the documentary in action, and has a particular emphasis on youth, education and next generation media artists. Winning filmmakers received over $70,000 in combined cash and in-kind prizes.

This year’s SILVERDOCS Sterling Award for a US Feature goes to THE GARDEN directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy which documents a 14-acre oasis rising out of the ashes of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The director will receive $10,000 cash and $5,000 in film stock from Kodak.

The Sterling Feature Jury noted that “For tenacity in storytelling in the face of injustice, and the filmmaker’s singular vision in bringing a gripping, dramatic, and important story to the public eye. The Garden has raw emotion, visceral energy, and nail-biting twists and turns. It unravels a complex and layered tale of the destruction of America’s largest urban farm that must not be forgotten.”

Honorable Mention went to TROUBLE THE WATER by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. The film weaves together first person footage with their own into an evocative dialogue that reveals a powerful, heart-wrenching, infuriating and ultimately inspiring Katrina survival story.

This year’s inaugural SILVERDOCS Sterling Award for a World Feature goes to THE ENGLISH SURGEON directed by Geoffrey Smith, which tells the story of British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, who performs surgery in the Ukraine with the crudest tools. The director will receive $10,000 cash and $5,000 in film stock from Kodak.

The Jury noted: “We are awarding the Sterling Jury Prize to the most poignant and inspiring film we saw – a film that profiles two human beings who dare to step outside the system to do something extraordinary, and becomes a delicate, deep, and respectful exploration of life, death friendship and hope.”

Honorable mention went to THE RED RACE directed by Chao Gan, which chronicles Chinese passion for gymnastics against the backdrop of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

The SILVERDOCS Sterling Award for a Short Film was given to WHAT WOULD THE DROP KNOW ABOUT THAT?, directed by Jan Zabeil, which examines foreign-born custodial workers at The Reichstag in Germany, who guide us through a stunning contemplation of the significance—or insignificance—of one person among institutions and nation-states. The filmmaker will receive $5,000 cash.

Special Jury mention went GROUND FLOOR RIGHT, directed by Marlene Schiott Rasmussen, which provides a peek into the life of Fang, a bird hoarder in a cramped apartment.

For its cinematic vision, the Jury also provided a special mention to ONE DAY directed by Ditte Haarlov Johnsen, a complex story about a West African woman working as a prostitute in Denmark.

The SILVERDOCS Music Documentary Award presented by Gibson Guitars went to THROW DOWN YOUR HEART directed by Sascha Paladino. The film chronicles Banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck’s enthralling journey through Africa to uncover the roots of the Banjo, an instrument now regarded as quintessentially American. Gibson Guitars will present a Gibson Les Paul Standard to the winner valued at $3,700.

The SILVERDOCS Cinematic Vision Award went to THE ORDER OF MYTHS directed by Margaret Brown. The film explores the oldest and still segregated Mardi Gras in the U.S. The filmmaker will receive $2,500 cash.

The SILVERDOCS WITNESS Award in honor of Joey R. B. Lozano was given to PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL by Gina Reticker, an exposition of the thousands of Liberian women who peacefully ended the civil war that claimed over 250,000 lives through non-violent protests and organizational acumen. The award is given to the strongest documentary about human rights violations or social justice issues. The filmmaker will receive $5,000 cash.

The American Film Market/SILVERDOCS Award for a film that shows exceptional market promise went to KASSIM THE DREAM by Kief Davidson, which chronicles the career of Kassim Ouma, a former Ugandan child soldier who defected to the U.S. and became a world champion boxer. The filmmaker will be presented passes to the American Film Market this fall, airfare, five nights hotel and pre-arranged meetings with potential partners ($5,000 value).

The Award Winner for the Animal Content in Entertainment (ACE) Grant went to THE ELEPHANT IN THE LIVING ROOM by Michael Webber. The feature-length documentary spotlights an extraordinary police officer whose work in handling dangerous encounters with wild animals in America’s suburbs illustrates the problems of the exotic animal trade and owning dangerous wild animals as pets. The director received a $25,000 grant.

The Writers Guild of America, West and the Writers Guild of America, East have named writer-director Anna Broinowski as the winner of the first-ever WGA Documentary Screenplay Award for her film FORBIDDEN LIE$, which investigates accusations that Forbidden Love author Norma Khouri fabricated her biographical tale of a Muslim friend who was murdered for dating a Christian. The award carries with it a prize of $2,500 and the winner will be granted one-year free membership in the WGAW or WGAE Nonfiction Writers Caucus.

The SILVERDOCS Audience Award for a Feature was given to HERB & DOROTHY directed by Megumi Sasaki. The film chronicles the life and art collection of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, whose shared passion and discipline on a postman and librarian’s salary redefined what it means to be a patron of the arts, culminating in the donation of the multi-million dollar collection to the National Gallery of Art.

The SILVERDOCS Audience Award for a short went to THE TAILOR by Oscar Perez, which follows a Pakistani tailor in Barcelona, where the customer is always wrong. Each Audience Award winner will receive $4,000 in services from Alpha Cine.

Sky Sitney, Director of Programming said, “We were honored to be entrusted with the world premiere of THE GARDEN, and thrilled to launch it with the esteemed Sterling US Grand Jury Prize. The film represents the very best the documentary form has to offer; a beautifully crafted film that takes us on a complicated and surprising journey, and that gives a voice to the voiceless.”

Patricia Finneran, Festival Director, said, “By expanding our awards to include a world feature competition we signals our recognition and deepening appreciation of global culture. How appropriate that the first sterling world feature goes to The English Surgeon, a deeply personal film about a commitment to global health care.”

“Our greatest goal in joining with AFI to produce SILVERDOCS was to celebrate and honor the creativity of independent filmmakers and the documentary art form. With these awards, we are honoring those filmmakers from around the world whose vision and storytelling truly excel,” said Carrie Passmore, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Social Responsibility.

The SILVERDOCS award winners were chosen by an eminent Festival jury including:

Sterling US Feature Jury: Sandi Dubowski, Filmmaker and writer (TREMBLING BEFORE G-D); Ramona Diaz, Filmmaker (IMELDA, SPIRITS RISING); Mila Aung-Thiwn, Filmmaker and Producer (CHAIRMAN GEORGE)

Sterling World Feature Jury: Steve James, Filmmaker (HOOP DREAMS, STEVIE); Almudena Carracedo, Filmmaker (MADE IN LA, WELCOME, A DOCU-JOURNEY OF IMPRESSIONS); Igor Blazevic, Director, One World, International Human Rights Documentary Festival and co-director of ten documentaries for Czech Television.

Sterling Short Film Jury: Ryan Harrington, Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund; Sarah Price, Filmmaker (SUMMERCAMP, THE YES MEN); AJ Schnack, Filmmaker and Writer (KURT COBAIN ABOUT A SON)

Best Music Documentary Jury: Felix Contreras, reporter and producer, NPR’s Arts Information Unit; Susan C. Lewis, producer, Big Pita Lil Pita Production and oversees creative development with partners Alicia Keys and Jeff Robinson; Paul D Miller, conceptual artist, writer, and musician. Miller is best known as his “constructed persona,” DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid.

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