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Tribeca 2013: 'The Rocket,' 'Kill Team' among fest's top winners

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NEW YORK -- A scripted feature about life in Laos and documentaries about U.S. war crimes and a town in the grip of a debilitating drug addiction were among the big winners at the Tribeca Film Festival's jury prizes Thursday night.

"The Rocket," the Australian Kim Mordaunt's tale of a displaced 10-year-old boy who must find a new home in the tribal mountains of Laos after his house is destroyed to make way for a dam, won best narrative feature. Sitthiphon Disamoe, a nonprofessional actor who played the lead role, was awarded the best actor prize. Mordaunt accepted it on Disamoe's behalf.

The narrative jury, which included the actress Blythe Danner and the filmmaker Paul Haggis, noted in its announcement that the film was "artfully structured and gorgeously shot ... chronicl[ing] the struggles of a displaced family while steering well clear of either sentimentality or despair." The film, making its U.S. premiere, won best first debut feature at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year.

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Best actress in the narrative section went to Veerle Baetens, who in Felix van Groeningen's Dutch-Belgian co-production "The Broken Circle Breakdown" played a free spirit felled by tragedy in a movie about a bluegrass band. Screenwriters Carl Joos and Van Groeningen also won the best screenplay competition. Baetens appeared via a video link saying she "didn't even know she was in the running for the awards."

The narrative jury handed the best director prize to Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais, for "Whitewash," a dark comedy about a struggling Canadian man starring Thomas Haden Church.

The jury awarded the best cinematography prize to Marius Matzow Gulbrandsen, for his work in "Before Snowfall," Hisham Zaman's coming-of-age tale about a Kurdish teenager who sets off for Istanbul on an honor-killing mission; the globetrotting landscape features scenes in Turkey, Iraq and Norway.

And earning a special jury mention in the narrative section was Sam Fleischner's "Stand Clear of the Closing Doors," about a boy lost on the New York City subway in the days leading up to Superstorm Sandy.

On the nonfiction side, Dan Krauss' U.S. military tale "The Kill Team" won best documentary. The film, which has received strong reviews at the festival, examines a unit's alleged war crimes against civilians in Afghanistan.

In accepting the prize, Krauss did not delve into the troubling issues of his film, instead saying simply that the prize was "one massive cherry on a really good sundae."

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Meanwhile, Sean Dunne's "Oxyana," about a West Virginia town whose inhabitants are coping with the effects of an OxyContin addiction, earned a special jury mention as well as best new documentary director for Dunne.

Tribeca organizers handed out the awards at a ceremony in a Manhattan hotel. In announcing the narrative prizes, Haggis noted that "There was blood on the floor of the jury room" as jurors debated the winners.

Audience awards will be announced this weekend at Tribeca, which wraps its 12-day run on Sunday with screenings of all the winning films.

The Internet cats movie "Lil Bub and Friendz" was named best feature film in the online festival, while "A Short Film About Guns" won the online festival's best short award. 

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