The 24th Denver International Film Festival closed with the presentation of the Mayor’s Lifetime Achievement Award to director, actor, and film historian, Peter Bogdanovich. The Honorable Wellington E. Webb made the presentation to Bogdanovich before an enthusiastic standing room only Closing Night audience. The award presentation followed a screening of “The Cat’s Meow,” the Bogdanovich-helmed, Lions Gate Release starring Kirsten Dunst, Edward Herrmann and Eddie Izzard. After the presentation of the award, Bogdanovich regaled the audience with anecdotes and impressions of several Hollywood legends during an interview from stage conducted by Robert Denerstein, film critic of the Rocky Mountain News.
The festival’s annual John Cassavetes Award was presented to director Richard Linklater who appeared with an unprecedented two new films, Fox Searchlight’s Waking Life and Lions Gate’s Tape. Ray Carney, a Cassavetes scholar and author of “Cassavetes on Cassavetes,” presented the award and conducted a lively interview with Linklater from stage.
The annual Starz Encore People’s Choice Awards were announced at the top of the evening. Voted on by Festival attendees, the popular audience awards are handed out in two categories: best new feature-length documentary and best new feature-length fiction film.
Stacy Peralta’s Dogtown and Z-Boys was the winner in the documentary category. Narrated by Sean Penn, Dogtown pays homage to a group of surfers turned skateboarders that would become a national phenomenon. Peralta, himself a member of the 70s Z-boys, took home the Best Director award in the documentary category at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year along with the Audience Award.
In the feature-length fiction category, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie added another award to an ever-increasing list of accolades. This utterly charming French comic fantasy tells the story of a young waitress who sets out to bring happiness into the lives of those in her town. To be released by Miramax Films, Amelie is a delightful lesson that life is short and we can all use some “improvements.”
The first runner-up in the documentary category was John C.P. Goheen’s world premiere “Lady Warriors,” a stirring documentary that tells the story of the seven Navajo and Hopi teenage girls who have become four-time winners of the Arizona State cross-country championship. The second runner-up was Mickey Lemle’s “Ram Dass: Fierce Grace,” which picks up on the biography of the legendary Ram Dass as he recovers from a stroke.
The first runner-up in the fiction category was Australian Robert Connolly’s first feature, “The Bank.” With clever plot twists and superb performances, “The Bank” puts a not-so-human face on corporate globalization on the way to its Capra-esque ending. The second runner-up was Denis Rabaglia’s AZZURO, which was given its North American Premiere at the Festival. It had previously won the Swiss Film Prize 2001 for Best Fiction Film.
The festival’s only juried prize – the Krzysztof Kieslowski Award for Best European Film – went to Robert Glinski’s “Hi, Tereska,” a disturbingly realistic drama about the alienation and disaffection of a young Polish girl. DIFF showcased more than 150 programs over 11 days and attracted 27,000 audience members and over 70 participating filmmakers, directors, actors and actresses.
In 2002, the Denver International Film Festival will celebrate its 25th anniversary, scheduled for October 10-20.
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