Friday, May 16, 2008

Sean McCourt on the SFIFF Golden Gate Awards Ceremony

It's impossible to attend everything at a large film festival like the San Francisco International Film Festival that ended last week, and which can have as many as six ticketed screenings and events running at the same time -- that doesn't include the more informal gatherings that crop up all the time in the hubbub of the Frisco Bay film community's biggest celebration of the year. Read this for a little perspective on the valiant struggle to see just about every film in the program.

So I'm very thankful that Sean McCourt has been another set of eyes and ears for Hell on Frisco Bay at the SFIFF, contributing articles like this one and the following article on the Golden Gate Awards ceremony in which most of the festival prize-winners were announced. Here's Sean:

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The winners of the 51st San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Awards were announced last Wednesday night at a ceremony that exemplified the independent attitude and outlook of San Francisco, with the actual announcements and formalities of the evening taking up a very short amount of time—no more than about 25 minutes—while the rest of the night was dedicated to socializing and enjoying the complimentary food and drinks. Imagine that taking place on Oscar night.

Guests arrived at the California Culinary Academy's Careme Room starting at 7 PM, and were greeted by a four-lamp rotating spotlight parked out front, marking the location and lending the affair a bit of that glamorous Hollywood premiere feeling —- though it was still a little too light outside at that point for the full effect to be seen in the sky overhead.

Once inside the high-ceilinged room, filmmakers, festival staff, media and film buffs mingled to the sounds of a live jazz trio while sampling some of the tasty foods that Academy students had whipped up for the occasion. Alcohol was flowing quite liberally as well, thanks to sponsoring brands Grey Goose vodka and Stella Artois beer—and based on the volume of excited chatter filling the room when SFFS Executive Director Graham Leggat stepped up to the podium to speak, it was clear that everybody was fairly relaxed and enjoying themselves.

After getting the crowd to settle down a bit, Leggat went through the expected motions of thanking everybody involved with the festival, and other such customs before reading through the list of winners for various categories not on the top of the bill for the evening. For the last few awards, however, there was the traditional naming of the nominees, then the announcement of who had actually won.

The winners were:

New Directors Award: Vasermil, Mushon Salmona

FIPRESCI Prize: Ballast, Lance Hammer

Chris Holter Humor in Film Award: Time to Die, Dorota Kedzierzawska

Documentary Feature: Up the Yangtze, Yung Chang (pictured above)

Bay Area Documentary Feature: Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans, Dawn Logsdon

As Lolis Eric Elie, co-director of Faubourg Tremé, accepted the award, he told the cheering audience, "Winning this award is a statement that our message is being heard, even as far away here in San Francisco."

Aside from the awards, the other announcement that was made during the night’s festivities was that starting in June the San Francisco Film Society will start programming and showing films on one screen at the Sundance Kabuki Theater in San Francisco, keeping Bay Area film aficionados supplied with quality cinema throughout the year.

--Sean McCourt

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