The Harlem International Film Festival 2020 Announces Filmmaker Awards

The Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) announced the award-winning films and filmmakers for this year’s virtual edition.

Edouard Joubeaud’s HAINGOSOA was named Best Narrative Feature, with George King’s THUMBS UP FOR MOTHER UNIVERSE: STORIES FROM THE LIFE OF LONNIE HOLLEY taking the award for Best Documentary Feature. Maryna Er Gorbach and Mehmet Bahadir Er’s OMAR AND US was cited as Best World Film (Narrative) and Cam Cowan’s OPEKA took the prize for Best World Documentary.

Harlem International Film Festival Program Director Nasri Zacharia said, “Our 15th edition introduced people throughout the state of New York to the unique hybrid of global cinema and local films that we have built a reputation celebrating for a decade and a half now. Harlem has long been a center, magnet, and inspiration for the arts, and while we look forward to returning to the theater next year, we enjoyed opening up all of our films, especially these award winners – virtually to the whole of New York state.”

The 2020 Harlem International Film Festival included; Jury Chairman James McDaniel (Actor, Orange is the New Black, NYPD Blue); Narrative Jurors Corey Glover (lead singer, Grammy-winning Living Colour); Richard Peña (Professor of Film Studies at Columbia University, former director, New York Film Festival); and Lisa Thomas (Executive Producer, Adult Swim’s Teenage Euthanasia); Documentary Jurors Claire Aguilar (Former Director of Programming and Policy, International Documentary Association); Phil Bertelsen (Series Producer and Director, Netflix’s Who Killed Malcolm X); and Mariposa María Teresa Fernández (Poet, African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song). Jurors for the Mira Nair Award included; Assia Lakhlif (Hi alumna, Producer, DAUGHTER); Emi Katayama (Director, WIND RIDERS); Marishka Phillips (Director/Writer/ Producer, I Am Charlie); and Al Thompson (Actor, WHEELS, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS).


Regarding the Best Narrative Film Award winner, HAINGOSOA, juror Richard Peña, described the film as “A real discovery: not only a beautiful look at the sights and sounds of Madagascar, but a powerful look at a woman not merely confronting her problems, but managing to overcome them. Full of unpredictable and beautiful moments.”

King’s Thumbs Up for Mother Universe: The Lonnie Holley Story elicited effusive praise from Jury Chairman James McDaniel, who stated, “When we think of the masters of visual art, we are hardwired to think Picasso, Warhol or Pollock. Perhaps justifiably so, but how many mediums were these artists accomplished in? One? Two? Possibly three? The fascinating thing about Lonnie Holley, is that his mediums know no boundaries. Wood, stone, paint, found objects, metal, and music. And yet we refer to this artist as naive, outsider and folksy. This film depicts an artist in the truest sense…free of self-promotion and ego. He is the art, and it is him. Combine that with an origin story that begins with Mr. Holley being sold for a cheap bottle of whiskey as a child; the story takes on Horatio Algerian proportions. The filmmaker too indulges in artist flourishes through the use of shadow puppets and storyboards to elucidate Mr. Halley’s journey, which makes for a fascinating and inspirational documentary.”

Additional film and filmmaker awards went to; Bahati Best’s THE PATTERSON: ANOTHER BRONX TALE, which won the Audience Award; Charlie Buhler’s BEFORE THE FIRE, which won Best Production; Haonan Wang’s BUBBLE (Best Experimental Film); Farnoosh Abedi’s MALAKOUT (Best Animation); Petra Richterova and Jennifer Galvin ON MY MIND (Best Music Video), Elizabeth Charles’ BEFORE WE WRAP (Best Webisode); and Chuck Cummings’ RECONSTRUCT: FIVE CONFEDERATES AND A TENNIS PLAYER (Best Virtual Reality).

Leading the individual awards, Lanie Zipoy won The Mira Nair Award for Rising Female Filmmaker for her work on THE SUBJECT, and Charles Mudede won Best Narrative Director for THIN SKIN, while Karen Akins won Best Documentary Director for EL SUSTO. Acting awards were received by Ruby Ruiz (Best Actress) for ISKA, and Khalid Ahmed (Best Actor) for WAITING.

The Harlem International Film Festival’s commitment to putting the work of local filmmakers on a pedestal continued with a lineup that yielded wins for; Sarah Pirozek’s #LIKE (New York Vision Award); Washington Kirk’s FREDERICK DOUGLASS BOULEVARD AKA FOOD & DRINK BOULEVARD AKA F.D.B. (Harlem Spotlight Award); and Jessica Colquhoun’s SUNDAYS AT THE TRIPLE NICKEL (Uptown Award).

Awards for Short Films went to; Dikega Hadnot‘s LITTLE BROTHER for Best Short Film – Narrative; Yolonda Johnson-Young’s FINDING ELIJAH for Best Short Film – Documentary; Stelios Koupetoria’s W for Best Short Short; and Partho Gupte’s SHINE & SHADE for Best Youth Short Film.

Hi screenwriting competition winners included; Charles Murray’s “The Ambassador of Love” winning Best Feature Screenplay and Rajan Gill’s “Channel Bibi” winning Best Short Screenplay.

Celebrating the art of cinema in the home of the Harlem Renaissance, The Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) inspires and entertains by honoring dynamic films by anyone about anything under the sun. Conceived from the belief that we all have unique experiences and perspectives to share, the Festival actively seeks and exhibits fresh work. Hi is committed to exemplifying the eminence that Harlem represents and is dedicated to bringing attention to the finest filmmakers from Harlem to Hong Kong and back again.

Photo credit: Lonnie Holly source.

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