AFI Fest 2009 announces New Lights Competition winners
AFI Fest 2009 presented by Audi announced the winners of its inaugural AFI Fest New Lights Competition on Thursday. The award was given jointly to Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank" and Javier Rebollo's "Woman Without Piano," with a special jury mention given to Scandar Copti's and Yaron Shani's "Ajami" (pictured). The competition was created to honor groundbreaking features by first- and second-time directors from around the world.
"Fish Tank," the second feature from British filmmaker Arnold, has already netted several major festival prizes, including a shared Grand Jury Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival, for its gritty story of a feisty 15-year-old British girl who finds solace from her home life, which is in shambles. "Woman Without Piano" has also seen its share of honors, including the Best Director Silver Seashell from the 2009 San Sebastian International Film Festival. The gentle, fantasy-tinged comedy-drama concerns a Madrid housewife (Carmen Machi from Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces) who escapes the boredom of her day-to-day existence through nighttime excursions.
"Ajami," from Palestinian filmmaker Copti and Israeli director Shani, concerns a series of violent events that mushroom between Jews, Christians and Muslims (all played by nonprofessionals) in a multicultural neighborhood of Jaffa in Israel. It too has won a brace of awards ranging from the Camera d'Or at Cannes to the Sutherland First Feature Award at the London Film Festival, as well as five Ophirs (the Israeli equivalent of the Academy Awards). It is also the official Israeli selection for this year's foreign film Oscar.
The New Lights Competition winners were announced at AFI Fest's reception at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which took place immediately after the closing-night gala screening of Tom Ford's "A Single Man." The awards were presented by Golden Globe winner Angela Bassett, who chaired the competition jury. Other jurors included actress/director Julie Delpy, journalist Bill Krohn and filmmaker Yonfan. The award for "Fish Tank" was accepted by cast member Michael Fassbinder.
-- Paul Gaita
Photo: Scene from "Ajami." Credit: Inosan Productions / Twenty Twenty Filmproduktion GmbH
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