LAFF 2010: ‘A Family’ and ‘Make Believe’ take top awards


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The Los Angeles Film Festival on Saturday handed Danish domestic drama ‘A Family,’ directed by Pernille Fischer Christensen, its narrative award, and teen-magician documentary ‘Make Believe,’ directed by J. Clay Tweel, the documentary award.

As actress Gena Rowlands took the podium in the upscale environs of the Chaya Downtown restaurant to announce the event’s final winners, the assembled audience, mostly filmmakers from the competition and assorted guests, rose to their feet for a standing ovation. Christensen was not in attendance but sent a short message, read by Rowlands, that concluded, ‘Have you given your family a hug today?’ In accepting his award, Tweel sputtered, ‘I have no idea what to say; I did not even think about this happening,’ before turning the microphone over to his producer Steven Klein.


Both awards come with cash prizes of $50,000. At the close of the awards brunch, festival director Rebecca Yeldham announced that although in previous years the cash prize had been underwritten by a corporate sponsor, this year the money came straight from the coffers of the festival’s organizer, Film Independent.

A few other prizes were announced at the ceremony, including best ensemble performance in the narrative competition to Sabrina Lloyd, James Urbaniak, Lynn Cohen, Harry Chase, Nate Smith and Kamel Boutros for their work in Adam Reid’s ‘Hello Lonesome.’ The short film awards went to Pablo Larcuen’s ‘My Invisible Friend’ for best narrative short film, Tomasz Wolski for ‘The Lucky Ones’ for best documentary short film and Beomsik Shimbe Shim’s ‘Wonder Hospital’ for best animated short film.

Audience awards were announced Sunday before the closing-night, world-premiere screening of the animated film ‘Despicable Me.’ The British comedy ‘Four Lions,’ directed by Chris Morris, won the prize for narrative feature, while Mark Landsman’s ‘Thunder Soul,’ about a 1970s Houston high school jazz band and its recent reunion, won the documentary award.

“Presumed Guilty,” a documentary looking at Mexico’s justice system, won the prize for international feature; Roberto Hernández and Geoffrey Smith directed. James Blagden’s “Dock Ellis & the LSD No-No” won for best short film, while “This Too Shall Pass,” directed by James Frost, OK Go and Syyn Labs, won for best music video.

There had been much speculation before the festival, which is sponsored by The Times, about how the move this year to venues downtown from the event’s more recent home in Westwood would affect attendance.

‘All we know is it’s up,’ said Yeldham after the ceremony, ‘and it’s up considerably from last year in terms of the numbers and also the attendance. It’s going to take a few weeks before we tabulate everything.’


Asked if she felt the move had altered the makeup of those attending the festival, Yeldham said, ‘It felt different.’

‘It certainly felt more diverse,’ she continued, ‘and it certainly felt a little bit younger.’

This year also marked the first as artistic director for David Ansen, longtime film critic for Newsweek.

‘I’m very happy with the awards,’ Ansen said of the juries’ decisions this year. ‘I sat in on the end of the deliberations, and I know how hard they struggled and how long it took them to come to a winner. I mean, it’s a sign of a good festival when they have a hard time.’

-- Mark Olsen