Tribeca announces jury awards

About Elly and Racing Dreams win top gongs.

by Amber Wilkinson

The Tribeca Film Festival announced the winners of its competition categories last night at a ceremony hosted by Gideon Yago at the Tribeca Filmmaker Lounge, sponsored by Union Square Ballroom, in New York City.

The world competition winners were chosen from 12 narrative and 12 documentary features from 17 countries. Two awards were also given to honor New York films, which were chosen from eight narrative and seven documentary features.

Asghar Farhadi's About Elly - about a weekend away that turns sour for a group of friends - was named as the winner of the $25,000 Narrative feature competition.

The jurors - Bradley Cooper, Richard Fischoff, Todd Haynes, Meg Ryan and Uma Thurman - said: "Out of a strong selection of films, the jury was unanimous in our passion for this seamless piece of ensemble filmmaking. The universality of the characters and themes, and the directors riveting grasp of this story make About Elly a film that collapses barriers and deepens our understanding of the world we share."

Racing Dreams, directed by Marshall Curry. (USA), was named best Documentary and takes home the $25,000 prize.

The jury said: "Is it nature or nurture? Is it the car or the driver? While those eternal questions will live on, we reacted with unanimous, unquestioned affection for Racing Dreams, and found it a completely compelling, entertaining film of incredible quality."

The rest of the award winners, with jury comments are listed below. The winner of The Heineken Audience Award, determined by audience ballot votes throughout the Festival, will be announced on May 2, at the Festival Wrap party.

Best New Narrative Filmmaker – Rune Denstad Langlo for North (Nord), written by Erlend Loe. (Norway). Winner receives $25,000 cash.

Jury comments: "Rune Denstad Langlo, formerly a documentary filmmaker, shows a mastery of comedic direction in North. His consummate vision, strong grasp of story and command of the language of cinema make him a standout amidst a strong pool of candidates."

Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film – Ciarán Hinds in The Eclipse, directed and written by Conor McPherson. (Ireland). Winner receives two International BusinessElite ticket vouchers for anywhere Delta travels.

Jury comments: "Ciarán Hinds’ powerful performance explores both strength and vulnerability, while propelling and deepening the films examination of masculinity and desire. The portrayal grabbed us, pulling us even deeper into this unique and original ghost story."

Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film – Zoe Kazan in The Exploding Girl, directed and written by Bradley Rust Gray. (USA). Winner receives two International BusinessElite ticket vouchers for anywhere Delta travels.

Jury comments: "Zoe shines in this understated role. Every component of this brilliantly restrained performance displays a command of her craft that stunned and moved this jury."

Special Jury Mention: Defamation (Hashmatsa), directed by Yoav Shamir. (Denmark, Austria, USA, Israel).

Jury comments: "Special jury mention to Defamation for lifting the veil – through courageous filmmaking – on a subject seldom so openly discussed."

Best New Documentary Filmmaker – Ian Olds for Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi. (USA). Winner receives $25,000 cash.

Jury comments: "A film about an unsavory world, and its unsavoury characters, which through its superb direction, shines a light on a world unfamiliar to many Americans."

New York Competition Categories:

The 2009 Best New York Narrative Competition jurors were Adrien Brody, Karen Durbin, Richard Ledes, Melissa Leo, Parker Posey, André Leon Talley and Beau Willimon.

The 2009 Best New York Documentary Competition jurors were Jon Robin Baitz, Mary Boone, Marc Ecko, Douglas Keeve and Rachael Ray.

Best New York Narrative – Here and There (Tamo i ovde), directed and written by Darko Lungulov. (Serbia, USA, Germany).

Jury comments: "Our winning film was mature, it was funny, it was subtle. It gave us not only New York, it gave us great characters, a great story, it gave us the world."

Best New York Documentary – Partly Private, directed by Danae Elon. (Canada).

Jury comments: "Our pick is a film that explores the relevance of tradition in today’s world. We are reminded that the exploration of one small subject through documentary film is capable of shedding light on a larger world. There were moments in this film that brought the whole world back to New York – they were uniquely New York moments. It explored themes of politics, culture, aestheticism, desirability, sexuality, and sensuality."

Short Film Competition Categories:

The 2009 Best Narrative Short Competition jurors were James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Mary Harron, Debra Messing and Mary Kate Olsen.

The 2009 Best Documentary and Student Short Competition jurors were Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Bobby Cannavale, Gael Greene, AJ Jacobs and Rachel Maddow.

Best Narrative Short – The North Road (La route du Nord), directed and written by Carlos Chahine. (France).

Jury comments: "We ultimately chose the winner for its poetic, truthful and unsentimental portrait of an exile’s return home to deal with his father’s death 20 years earlier. The director, Carlos Chahine, portrays the absurdities and contradictions of how we deal with grief through humor, freshness and subtlety."

Best Documentary Short – home, directed by Matthew Faust. (USA).

Jury comments: "This touching short artistically combines the aesthetic and the emotional in its portrayal of home and its memories. It tells a post-Hurricane Katrina story in a new, inventive and poignant way."

Special Jury Mention: The Last Mermaids, directed by Liz Chae. (USA, South Korea)

Jury comments: "Technically strong, this film beautifully documents a little known world and introduces audiences to a culture on the verge of extinction. The filmmaker provides a glimpse into a closed sisterhood - proud of their traditions, yet accepting the disappearance of their way of life."

Student Visionary Award – Small Change, directed and written by Anna McGrath. (Australia).

Jury comments: "The winning film, a very small yet powerful story, portrays a magical and touching drama of a young girl’s home life. The filmmaker uses minimal storytelling to achieve maximum emotional impact and we commend the terrific performances of the young actors."

Special Jury Mention: Oda a la Piña, directed and written by Laimir Fano. (Cuba).

Jury Comments: "This visually delicious film, with its stunningly rich colors, captures the cultural rhythms and unmistakable sounds of the city to artistically portray a sense of poverty in what remains of old Havana and its beauty."

The Heineken Audience Award – Winner to be chosen by the Audience and will be announced on Saturday, May 2. Winner receives $25,000 cash.

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