Paul Wellman

The 24th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced the winners of the 2009 festival competition at a press conference and Sunday morning brunch at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, hosted by KTYD Radio’s Julie Ramos.

The festival, which ran from January 22 through February 1, was a huge success. By the look of the theaters you’d never know the economy was in the fight of its life as audiences packed the theaters for the last 11 days, proving once again the power of the art of film.

Prior to the closing night film, the Santa Barbara Independent Audience Award will be announced and the winners of the Sotheby’s International Realty 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking and Screenwriting Competition will be shown. The 10-minute films which were shot during 10 days of the festival by high school and college students will be screened and judged today at 1 p.m. at the Lobero Theatre.

The winning films are as follows:

The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema, given to a unique independent feature that has been made outside mainstream Hollywood, went to Poppy Shakespeare, directed by Benjamin Ross, and starring Naomie Harris and Anna Maxwell Martin. A cross between Catch 22 and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the film tells the story of two patients who strike up an unlikely, moving, funny, and tragic friendship in a psychiatric hospital. This winner received a camera package worth $60,000

The Best International Film Award went to A Woman in Berlin (Eine Frau in Berlin) , directed by Max F¤rberbck. The film is based on the true story of a woman trying to survive the invasion of Berlin by Soviet troops during the last days of World War II.

The Nueva Vision Award for the best Spanish-language film was awarded to Amar a Morir, directed by Fernando Lebrija and starring Jose Mar-a de Tavira, Martina Garc-a, Alberto Estrella, and Ra°l Mendez. The young heir to a vast Mexico City banking empire runs away from the cold, corrupt, racist, money-driven, super-elite, super-rich, classist world into which he was born, takes a wrong turn down a wrong road, and finds himself stranded in a poor, remote beach community where he experiences love at first sight with an exotically beautiful local girl-which places him, and her, in grave danger at the hands of a ruthless drug lord.

Best Eastern Bloc Cinema Award went to Germany’s Tulpan, directed by Sergei Dvortsevoy, the tale of a young man who can’t achieve a long-cherished dream of tending his own flock of sheep without first acquiring a wife.

Best Documentary Film Award went to Yes Madam, Sir, directed by Megan Doneman. The film’s subject, Kiran Bedi, is arguably India’s most controversial daughter, both revered by her supporters and reviled as a publicity seeker by her critics. But no matter what people may think of her, there is no disputing her professional achievements. The winner received a Tunnel Post Production package valued at $100,000, and a one-year IDA membership.

Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film Under 30 Minutes went to Love You More, directed by Sam Taylor-Wood. Produced by the late Anthony Minghella, the film stars Harry Treadaway and Andrea Riseborough as two teenagers drawn together by the Buzzcocks’ single “Love You More” in the summer of 1978.

Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animation Short Film went to This Way Up, directed by Adam Foulkes and Alan Smith. The competition was stiff in this category: laying the dead to rest has never been so much trouble. This Way Up was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short.

The Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award, sponsored by The Fund for Santa Barbara, is for a documentary film that addresses social justice issues. This year’s winner is Yes Madam, Sir. gaining a $2,500 prize.

The festival closes tonight with the World Premiere of The Lightbulb, directed by Jeff Balsmeyer. Starring Dallas Roberts, Jeremy Renner, and Ayelet Zurer, this is a true and timely rags-to-riches story of two friends – a small-time inventor and a sharky salesman – who hit rock bottom before coming up with a gizmo that becomes a worldwide phenomenon.

The Jury for the 2009 SBIFF included: Dave Stein, Jury Chair; actor/comedian Gary Anthony Williams, (director of the new L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival) on the Shorts Jury; Academy Award-nominated actor James Cromwell (W.) and actor Anthony Zerbe (The Matrix) on the International Jury and Eastern European Bloc; Academy Award-nominated director Gil Kenan (Monster House) and producer Leslie Caveny (Penelope and Everybody Loves Raymond) judged Independent Features; producer Lauren Moews (Cabin Fever) and Eddie Schmidt (president, International Documentary Assoc.) served on the Documentary Jury; and actors Efren Ramirez (Napoleon Dynamite) and Rodrigo Santoro (Che, Love, Actually) juried the Latino CineMedia films.


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