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L.A. Film Festival: 'All is Well,' 'Drought' win top jury prizes

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A feature film about two sisters fleeing an African civil war and a documentary centering on a Mexican cattle-ranching community took home the top prizes at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Sunday.

"All is Well," a Portuguese-language film directed by Pocas Pascoal, was deemed the best narrative film at the festival by a jury including actress Rachael Harris, actor Robert Townsend and film critic Sheri Linden. The movie, which was awarded a $15,000 prize, follows two Angolan sisters as they run away from homeland strife and escape to Lisbon, Portugal, where they struggle to survive on the streets.

"Filmmaker Pocas Pascoal has transformed her personal story of exile from Angola into a deeply affecting drama, whose cinematic power is particularly impressive in the work of a first-time feature director," the jury said of the film in a statement.

"Drought" was named the festival's best documentary feature, and its director Everardo González will also receive $15,000. The movie, about the plight of cowboys and farmers awaiting rain on dry desert plains, was selected by a jury that included film producers Heather Rae and Karin Chien and director Mark Landsman.

The award for best performance went to Wendell Pierce, Emory Cohen, E.J. Bonilla and Aja Naomi King, the four actors who star in Joshua Sanchez's "Four." The movie, an adaptation of Christopher Shinn's play of the same name, follows a father and daughter, a teenage boy and a homeboy attempting to find emotional and sexual connections on the Fourth of July.

The audience's favorite narrative feature film at the festival was "Beasts of the Southern Wild," a mystical drama about a young girl whose dying father must teach her to be self-sufficient in the Louisiana bayou they call home. The film, which will debut in limited release Friday, has been a favorite on the festival circuit this year, winning major prizes at both Sundance and Cannes.

Moviegoers at the festival also loved "Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives," which the audience voted its top feature documentary pick. Directed by female filmmaking pair Sara Lamm and Mary Wigmore, the film follows Gaskin, one of the leaders of the midwifery movement in America that began in the 1970s.

The awards were presented by actors Jon Heder and Ari Graynor on Sunday morning during a brunch held downtown at Chaya restaurant.

The 18th annual L.A. Film Festival, sponsored by The Times, kicked off June 14 and concludes Sunday evening with the premiere of the male-stripper flick "Magic Mike," starring Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey.

The full list of festival winners:

Narrative award (for best narrative feature)
"All is Well," directed by Pocas Pascoal

Honorable mention (for best narrative feature)
"Thursday till Sunday," directed by Dominga Sotomayor

Documentary award (for best documentary feature)
"Drought," directed by Everardo González

Best performance in the narrative competition
Wendell Pierce, Emory Cohen, E.J. Bonilla and Aja Naomi King in Joshua Sanchez’s "Four"

Audience award for best narrative feature
"Beasts of the Southern Wild," directed by Benh Zeitlin

Audience award for best documentary feature
"Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives," directed by Sara Lamm and Mary Wigmore

Audience award for best international feature
"Searching for Sugar Man," directed by Malik Bendjelloul

Best narrative short film
"The Chair," directed by Grainger David

Best documentary short film
"Kudzu Vine," directed and produced by Josh Gibson

Best animated/experimental short film
"The Pub," directed by Joseph Pierce

Audience award for best short film
"Asad," directed by Bryan Buckley

Audience award for best music video
"Piranhas Club," directed by Lex Halaby

RELATED: 

CHEAT SHEET: L.A. Film Festival

Los Angeles Film Festival puts diversity on the screen

LAFF 2012: Woody Allen gives Rome (if not himself) some love

Follow Amy Kaufman on Twitter @AmyKinLA

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