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Chicago International Film Festival Winners

The winners are here for the 2009 45th Chicago International Film Festival. It only seems like there are too many to count.

There were 145 films from 45 countries this year. Competitions were held in the International Feature Film, New Directors, Documentary and Short Film categories, along with a special Chicago Award for a local filmmaker. The Festival’s highest honor is the Gold Hugo, named after the mythological God of Discovery.

Award Winners:

International Feature Film Competition

Gold Hugo for Best Film to MISSISSIPPI DAMNED (US) for its powerful and uncompromising portrait of the compounding frailties and difficulties of a struggling black community.

Silver Hugo for Special Jury Award to FISH TANK (UK) for its aesthetic boldness in taking us into a grim public-housing environment and showing us the transcendent spirit of a young girl that struggles to overcome the adult lies that engulf her.

Silver Hugo for Best Director to Marco Bellocchio (VINCERE, Italy) for taking us into the privileged details of a love story so well drawn that we cannot renege on what we have felt between the two main characters.

Silver Hugo for Best Actress to Giovanna Mezzogiorno of VINCERE (Italy) for her astonishing understanding of love, its depth and its degradation.

Silver Hugo for Best Actor to Filippo Timi of VINCERE (Italy) for bringing such a commanding virility to a young Mussolini that we are both entranced and repelled by his climb to power and evil.

Gold Plaque for Best Supporting Actress to Jossie Harris Thacker in MISSISSIPPI DAMNED (US) for her character’s multiple and believable life changes that give us insight into the tragedy that jealousy, alcohol, and neglect can lead to.

Gold Plaque for Best Supporting Actor to Michael Fassbender in FISH TANK (UK) for his stunning charismatic presence that infuses life into this sad family momentarily and then absconds in shameful weakness.

Gold Plaque for Best Screenplay to Tina Mabry of MISSISSIPPI DAMNED (USA) for it's well observed unfolding character depictions in a Mississippi community that keep us both fascinated and horrified by the events that life brings.

Gold Plaque for Best Cinematography to Daniele Ciprì (VINCERE, Italy) who has taken the human face, given its images breath in every sense, and allowed us into each second of this film’s dramatic contortions.

Gold Plaque for Best Art Direction to HIPSTERS (Russia) for its infectiously colorful and imaginative sets and its stimulating counterbalancing of a modern generation set against Soviet darkness.

Silver Plaque to BACKYARD (Mexico) for its exposé of the horrible crimes of violence against women in Juarez.

The International Feature Film Competition Jury includes jury president Jacqueline Bisset (UK), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Iran), Duane Byrge (US), Pablo Cruz (Mexico), and Bruce Sheridan (New Zealand).

New Directors Competition

Gold Hugo to GIGANTE (Uruguay), a humorous and poignant story of people striving to connect in a contemporary world of isolation and loneliness. The film and its charm center on the admirably conceived central figure of the gentle, vulnerable and lovelorn giant.

Silver Hugo to MADE IN CHINA (USA), an exemplary demonstration of guerrilla film-making, shot at speed but conceived and assembled with wit, charm, coherence and a distinctively wry view of 21st century entrepreneurism.

Gold Plaque to PARTNERS (Switzerland/France). PARTNERS treats its brutal theme of the young trapped into commercial vice and violence without forfeiting affection for the victims or belief in their fundamental yearning for love and escape. We particularly admired the film’s skillful structure and excellent ensemble performances.

The New Directors Competition Jury includes Charin Alvarez (USA),Chiara Arroyo Cella (Spain), Leonardo Garcia Tsao (Mexico),and David Robinson (UK).

Docufest Competition

Gold Hugo to COOKING HISTORY (Austria/Slovakia/Czech Republic) for its originality and humor, and for presenting a view of war from an unexpected angle, so as to shock, entertain, and educate.

Silver Hugo to RACING DREAMS (USA) for revealing in an unsparing yet sympathetic way the inner life of young people aspiring to break into professional sports.

Gold Plaque in Direction to SOUNDTRACK FOR A REVOLUTION (USA) for its inventive combination of historical footage, interviews, and musical performance.

The Documentary Jury includes John Russell Taylor (UK), Matt Irvine (USA), Alison Cuddy (USA).

Short Film Competition The Gold Hugo for Best Short Film goes to THE HISTORY OF AVIATION (Hungary) for successfully weaving stunning cinematography, excellent performances, beautiful costumes and tantalizing sets with an unconventional story structure to illustrate a failure in aviation history.

The Silver Hugo Grand Jury Prize for Short Film goes to GOOD ADVICE (Sweden). This film, about a ten-year old who creates audio messages for his yet-to-be-born sibling, is perfectly succinct –never missing an opportunity to engage, relate or humor in a way that moves the story toward its unexpected payoff.

The Silver Hugo for Best Animated Short Film goes to SKHIZEIN (France). The jury admires the filmmaker's ingenuous use of animation to tell the story of a man literally beside himself. This is a highly original film with extraordinary art direction that is beautifully and technically accomplished.

The Gold Plaque for Best Experimental Short Film goes to PHOTOGRAPH OF JESUS (UK) which depicts interesting and, at times, bizarre requests for photographs from the Hulton Archive/Getty Images. Director and Animator Laurie Hill did an excellent job in illustrating and bringing to life these request with the usage of animation, excellent production design, and engaging sound design.

The Gold Plaque for Best Student Short Film goes to CHERRY ON THE CAKE (UK), for its striking story line, moving metaphors, and indelible imagery.

The Gold Plaque for Best Essay Short Film goes to THE ILLUSION (Cuba). Using candid voiceover and a diaristic shooting style, The Illusion conveys a young woman's tumult in leaving her native Cuba for the first time to visit her estranged father in London.

A Special Mention for Best Ensemble Performances goes to SHORT TERM 12 (USA), which successfully rises above the conventions of the troubled teen and mental illness film sub-genres through it's affecting and detailed performances

A Special Mention for Animated Short Film goes to ATTACHED TO YOU (Sweden). Acknowledged for its stunning claymation, superb attention to detail, and compelling story line, this film takes viewers on a stirring allegorical journey of the most unique, yet most common bond that exists - the bond between a mother and her child.

The Short Film Jury includes Jacinta Banks, John Bleeden, Gabe Clinger, and Armando Ibanez

Chicago Award Competition The Chicago Award goes to WET. A well-crafted poetic film, WET is a beautiful metaphor for isolation and loneliness. It is thought-provoking, quizzical, and original.

A Special Mention goes to GIRLS ON THE WALL, an emotionally powerful piece speaking to art as a way to heal.

A Special Mention goes to AN EVENING WITH EMERY LONG. Performances are pitch-perfect. It is a meticulously crafted, character-driven slice of life.

The Chicago Award Jury Includes Kathleen Ermitage, Betsy Steinberg, and Mike McNamara

Tribute Awards

MARTIN LANDAU receives a Lifetime Achievement Award. For his cinematic brilliance and striking screen presence the Chicago International Film Festival is proud to honor Martin Landau with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

UMA THURMAN receives a Career Achievement Award. Displaying an ability to continually deliver exceptional performances, Uma Thurman has become an icon in American cinema.

WILLEM DAFOE receives a Career Achievement Award. Willem Dafoe has mesmerized audiences with his provocative performances. The Chicago International Film festival is proud to honor him with its Career Achievement Award.

Patrice Chéreau receives a Career Achievement Award. Drawing from cinema, live theater, and opera, Patrice Chéreau has distinguished himself as a world-class director.

Lee Daniels receives an Artistic Achievement Award. With each successive film, Lee Daniels solidifies himself as one of the most successful filmmakers in the industry.

Gabourey Sidibe receives a Breakthrough Performance Award. The Chicago International Film Festival is proud to honor Gabourey Sidibe for her emerging talent anticipating her future success and contributions to the film world.

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