Top feature awarded to 'Forgotten Kingdom'

ASHLAND — The Ashland Independent Film Festival's Rogue Award for outstanding work was presented Sunday night to two-time Oscar-nominated director Lucy Walker for her film "The Crash Reel." The film is an inspirational account of champion snowboarder Kevin Pearce's fight to recover from a massive brain injury he suffered while training for the 2010 Olympics.

The AIFF announced the juried and audience awards at a gala awards celebration at the Old Ashland Armory Sunday night, with 12 awards presented to attending filmmakers honoring work screened at the 12th annual festival.

The Rogue Creamery Audience Award for Best Documentary was awarded to "Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings," a profile of the famed ukelele player. "The Forgotten Kingdom," Andrew Mudge's film about a young African man trying to honor his father's dying wish, won the John C. Schweiger Audience Award for Best Feature.

" 'Forgotten Kingdom' was a world premiere," AIFF Executive Director Anne Ashby Pierotti said, "so we're excited about that."

"Slomo," a portrait of a successful doctor who gave up his career for extreme rollerblading, received the Sypko Andreae Volunteer Spirit Audience Award for Best Short Film: Documentary. "The Other Side," a film in which a young Israeli boy's dreams may hold out a hope of peace, took home the Audience Award for Best Short Film: Narrative.

The Audience Family Choice Award for a kid-friendly family film went to "Floyd the Android," a short about a minimum-wage robot that goofs around on the job.

"It's always fascinating to see what the audience comes up with," Ashby Pierotti said. "It's a reflection of the community. It's very cool they chose the Shimabukuro film. He'll be here at Britt in September."

"The Retrieval," a civil war story directed by AIFF alumni Chris Eska ("August Evening," 2008), won the festival's jury award for Best Narrative Feature film.

"God Loves Uganda," a film about the influence of Christian missionaries in that African nation, directed by Academy Award-winning AIFF alumni Roger Ross Williams ("Music By Prudence," 2010) took home the Best Feature Length Documentary juried award.

"Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes," the tale of a young woman whose life is changed by a new neighbor, won the jury prize for Best Acting Ensemble and the Gerald Hirschfeld A.S.C. Award for Best Cinematography. Hirschfeld was the 2007 A.S.C President's Award Honoree and director of photography for his work on films such as "Young Frankenstein" and "My Favorite Year."

"Bite of the Tail," a terse account of a search for answers, won the Best Animated Short. Best Short Documentary went to "Flo," the saga of an older artist who uses her disability to get what she wants.

The juried award for Best Short Film went to "The River," a film about a young woman needing a swim. A special jury mention in the Short Film category went to "Karaoke!" the story of a young man trying to avoid bad news.

The winning films will have encore presentations today at the Varsity Theatre. Tickets are available from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the box office at the Varsity Theatre.

Pierotti said attendance was about the same as last year, with a preliminary estimate of about 18,000 tickets sold.

The festival had a few new wrinkles this year. Some films were presented at the Ashland Street Cinemas for the first time.

"I think it went pretty well," Ashby Pierotti said. "The comments were good. The parking is easy."

Another innovation was a chance for people to tell their family's immigration stories as part of a program on interactive content that featured two films from the "Immigrant Nation" film series.

Filmgoers could write their stories in journals or on the Immigrant Nation Facebook page, and an illustrator named Anthony Weeks drew cartoons based on the stories. They are on display today at Houston's Custom Framing on Main Street in Ashland.

AIFF tickets no longer are available online but can be purchased today at the box office. For more information, visit

Bill Varble writes about arts and entertainment for the Mail Tribune. He can be reached at

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