L.A. Film Festival: 'Familiar Ground' and 'Wish Me Away' take home top jury prizes
"Familiar Ground," a deadpan Canadian comedy about an unhappy brother and sister whose fates seem to be known by a mysterious man from the near future, won the jury's Narrative Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival, organizers announced Sunday, while the Documentary Award went to "Wish Me Away," about country singer Chely Wright's experience coming out as a lesbian. Each award carries a $15,000 prize funded by Film Independent.
Amber Sealey, Kent Osborne, Amanda Street and Gabriel Diamond were honored with the prize for best performance in the narrative competition for their roles in "How to Cheat," directed by Sealey. The four will share a $5,000 prize.
"Attack the Block," about a group of kids from inner-city London who fight off an alien invasion, took home the audience award for best narrative feature, while "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest," won the audience prize for best documentary feature. Another documentary, "Senna," about Brazilian Formula One racer Ayrton Senna, received the audience award for best international feature.
For the first time, $5,000 prizes were awarded in the juried short film categories. Iranian Saba Riazi won the award for best narrative short for "The Wind Is Blowing on My Street," about an adolescent girl in Tehran who gets locked out of her house without a head scarf. Best documentary short went to Susan Koenen’s "I Am a Girl!" while Mikey Please’s "The Eagleman Stag" won the award for best animated short film.
Audiences gave Joe Rosen's "Blind Date" their award for best short, and "Can't Shake This Feeling" took home the audience prize for best music video.
The jurors for the narrative feature competition were director Lynn Shelton ("Humpday," "My Effortless Brilliance"), Giant Robot founder Eric Nakamura and screenwriter Daniel Waters ("Heathers," "Batman Returns"). The documentary feature jury was composed of director Jeff Malmberg ("Marwencol"), Michael Lumpkin, executive director of the International Documentary Assn. and Slake magazine co-editor Laurie Ochoa. The shorts jury was made up of casting director Margery Simkin, film critic Alonso Duralde and actress Lisa Gay Hamilton.
In awarding writer-director Stéphane Lafleur the prize for "Familiar Ground," the jury said: “An entire tree sticking out of a fireplace … a beaten-up snowman … an operatically dancing inflatable blue dude … the anything but familiar images of 'Familiar Ground' won’t soon be forgotten.”
"Wish Me Away" directors Beverly Kopf and Bobbie Birleffi were praised for their film's "honesty, humor and potential to change minds and even save lives."
The festival, which began June 16, concludes Sunday evening with a screening of "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark." The L.A. Times is a presenting sponsor of the festival.
-- Julie Makinen
Photo: A scene from "Familiar Ground." Credit: Courtesy L.A. Film Festival