With major studio premieres scattered throughout its programming, AFI Fest has become more of an Oscar-campaign launching pad than a sprawling movie smorgasbord. Luckily, that”s where the festival”s own awards come in handy, rewarding narrative and documentary films without the built-in anticipation factor that keeps eyes glued to the screening schedule. With a bump from AFI, this year”s winners are already among 2015″s most prestigious offerings.
AFI Fest announced that its Grand Jury Awards were presented to “Self Made (Boreg),” which received the New Auteurs Critics' Award, and to “The Tribe (Plemya),” which received the VIZIO Visionary Special Jury Award. “Self Made” is director Shira Geffen”s follow-up to her praised 2007 debut “Jellyfish.” The story of two woman – one Israeli, the other Palestinian – living on opposite sides military checkpoint who find themselves entangled with each other”s existence, the film was up for the 2014 Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes. Director Miroslav Slaboshpitsky won that award this year with “The Tribe,” a film told entirely through sign language. Drafthouse Films picked up Slaboshpitsky”s drama for release in 2015.
Additional Audience Awards went to Gabe Polsky”s Russian hockey documentary “Red Army” (World Cinema Audience Award), Alonso Ruizpalacios” Mexican road movie “Güeros” (New Auteurs Audience Award), Carlos Marques-Marcet”s “10,000 KM,” a look at lond-distrance dating in the technology age (American Independents Audience Award), and Sarah Adina Smith”s mystery-drama “The Midnight Swim” (Breakthrough Audience Award).
The awards round out with nods to exceptional short films. Scott Cummings”s “Buffalo Juggalos” took home the Live Action Short Award, while Bernardo Britoo”s “Yearbook” received the Animated Short Award.
The complete AFI FEST 2014 program included 120 films (75 features, 45 shorts), representing 39 countries. Check out all of our AFI Fest coverage here, including first reactions to “Selma,” “American Sniper,” “The Gambler,” and “A Most Violent Year.”