Woodstock Film Festival 2008 Wrap-Up

The list of major award winners at the 2008 Woodstock Film Festival reads like a greatest hits from H2N’s inaugural year. First off, a hearty congratulations goes out to Sean Baker, Darren Dean, and the entire Prince of Broadway team for capturing the Best Feature Narrative prize. After winning the first two North American festivals they have attended, they’ve already managed to recoup their film’s entire budget. Not too shabby. I attended the sold-out screening on Saturday afternoon, and my expectations were confirmed. This film is a universal crowd-pleaser.

Standing in line, I was a tad skeptical, as about ninety percent of the audience appeared to be white and over sixty. But there’s an inherent sweetness to this potentially difficult subject matter that makes POB feel more like a humane, hopeful, and invigorating spin on a traditional Hollywood formula. Read Michael Lerman’s review on this very site following the film’s big win at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June. I wish more distributors had been in attendance for Saturday’s screening to see how well this film plays to a crowd that might superficially appear to be the wrong demographic. There is no wrong demographic for Prince of Broadway.

On the documentary side of the awards table, Jeremiah Zagar’s In a Dream took home Best Feature Documentary as well as Best Editing of a Feature Documentary (Keiko Deguchi and Jeremiah Zagar). Read Mike Ryan’s review, which was posted back in March when the film premiered at South by Southwest. Sadly, I still haven’t seen In a Dream, having missed it at Rooftop Films this summer and again this past weekend. But it is at the top of my list and I promise to see it the next time the opportunity presents itself!

In the short film category, I was thrilled to learn earlier in the day that Benh Zeitlin and Court 13’s Glory at Sea had won the Best Short Narrative award. In case you had forgotten, I really, really, really, really, really love this movie. To me, it’s more than a movie. It’s a transcendent act of low-budget filmmaking with a deeply spiritual purpose. Read my review here if you haven’t already.

I tend to skip awards shows, and I planned to do the same on Saturday night. Even when I’m not a nominee, I find them to be grating at worst and boring at best (when I’m a nominee, they make me feel even more uncomfortable). But an hour before the awards show, I received a call from producer Dan Janvey, who said that he had spoken to Benh and they wanted me to accept the award on their behalf. Because we were talking about Glory at Sea, I said sure. Of course, when I walked into the large room filled with a long list of notable names and faces, I wondered why I had accepted their offer. But I sucked it up and hopped on stage when their name was announced, and hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself—or them—too badly.

Everyone seemed to agree that the awards show was surprisingly painless. I would even go so far as to call it pleasant. With the exception of one head-scratcher of an introduction, everyone seemed to be on the same down-to-earth page. James Schamus and Ang Lee were a great one-two punch, Haskell Wexler spoke thoughtfully, and Kevin Smith didn’t disappoint. I can just about guarantee that if I’m in the NYC area next October, I will be in Woodstock for the festival’s tenth anniversary, and I might even attend the awards ceremony again. Crazy!

Here are the rest of the winners, taken from a press release:

The Diane Seligman Award for Best Student Short Film went to Sikumi (On the Ice), directed by Andrew Okpeaha Maclean.

The Diane Seligman Award for Best Short Documentary went to Pickin’ and Trimmin’, directed by Matt Morris.

The Maverick Award for Best Animated Film went to Berni’s Doll, directed by Yann J (Jouette).

The Haskell Wexler Award for Best Cinematography went to At the Edge of the World, directed by Dan Stone and shot by Daniel Fernandez, Tim Gorski, Simeon Houtman, James Joyner, Jonathan Kane, Mathieu Mauvernay, and John “Rip” Odebralski.

The James Lyons Award for Best Editing of a Feature Narrative went to Were the World Mine (Jennifer Lilly).

The Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to cinematographer Haskell Wexler, by writer/director/actor John Sayles, producer Maggie Renzi, and actor David Strathairn (award previously announced).

The Honorary Maverick Award was presented to director/screenwriter/actor/editor/comic book writer, Kevin Smith, by producer John Sloss (award previously announced).

The Honorary Trailblazer Award was presented to James Shamus, CEO of Focus Features and award-winning writer/producer, by director Ang Lee and actor Melissa Leo (award previously announced).

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