‘Memories on Stone’ & ‘The Chinese Mayor’ Win Top Jury Awards

Shorts ‘Cailleach’ & ‘Bear Story’ Become Academy Eligible

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina – The RiverRun International Film Festival today announced the Audience and Jury Awards for the 2015 Festival. The 17th annual Festival ran April 16-26 and presented 165 films, representing 35 countries.

“Films showcased at our Festival this year reflected diverse stories from around the world, immense talent from directors, many trained in Winston-Salem, and a host of passionate projects that are jewels of the independent filmmaking community,” said Andrew Rodgers, RiverRun Executive Director.


The Audience Award “Best of Fest” was presented to: THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION / USA (Director: Stanley Nelson) — Whether they were right or wrong, the Black Panther Party and its leadership remain powerful and enduring figures in our popular imagination even today. Stanley Nelson’s film weaves together voices from varied perspectives who lived this story– police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters, and detractors, those who remained loyal to the party and those who left it.

The Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature was presented to: ANYWHERE ELSE / Israel / Germany (Director: Ester Amrami) — Noa, an Israeli grad student working on her thesis in Berlin about untranslatable words, returns home to find her family less than enamored with her life choices and struggles to define her connections to both place and family.

The Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature was presented to: 3 ½ MINUTES / USA (Director: Marc Silver) — This gripping documentary dissects the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, the aftermath of this systemic tragedy and contradictions within the American criminal justice system.

The Altered States Audience Award for Best Indie was presented to: PROUD CITIZEN / USA (Director: Thomas Southerland) — After winning second place in a play writing contest, a Bulgarian woman travels to small town Kentucky for the premiere of her play. Expecting southern hospitality, she instead finds an America full of dichotomy in this funny, heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking meditation on the comfort (and discomfort) of strangers.


The Best Narrative Feature Award was presented to: MEMORIES ON STONE / Iraq / Germany (Director: Shawkat Amin Korki) — Kurdish childhood friends Hussein and Alan naively resolve to produce a film about the genocide of Kurdish people in Iraq, specifically the Anfal campaign of 1988. They learn that in order to will the film into existence they must put everything on the line–even their own lives.

The Peter Brunette Award for Best Director was presented to: Naomi Kawase, STILL THE WATER / Japan / Spain / France

Best Actor was presented to:

Hussein Hassan MEMORIES ON STONE / Iraq / Germany (Director: Shawkat Amin Korki)

Best Actress was presented to:

Julieta Diaz, REFUGIADO / Argentina / France / Colombia / Poland (Director: Diego Lerman)

Best Cinematography Narrative Feature was presented to:

Yutaka Yamazuki, STILL THE WATER / Japan / Spain / France (Director: Naomi Kawase

Best Screenplay was presented to:

THE SECOND MOTHER / Brazil (Director: Anna Muylaert)

Special Jury Prize for Editing:
Ebrahim Saeedi, MEMORIES ON STONE / Iraq / Germany (Director: Shawkat Amin Korki)

Honorable Mention for Cinematography:
Sara Mishara, FELIX AND MEIRA / Canada (Director: Maxime Giroux)

Honorable Mention for Actress:
Hadas Yaron, FELIX AND MEIRA / Canada (Director: Maxime Giroux)

Honorable Mention for Actor:
James ‘Primo’ Grant, FIVE STAR / USA (Director: Keith Miller)

RiverRun’s 2015 Narrative Features jurors included: award-winning filmmaker and editor Nicolas Chaudeurge (“Fish Tank,” “Red Road,” “Wuthering Heights”), award-winning film critic Godfrey Cheshire, award-winning independent film producer and distributor Karen Chien, Austin Film Society programmer Lars Nilsen, and University of North Carolina School of the Arts student Christene Hurley.

Previous winners of RiverRun’s Best Narrative Feature Jury Award include: “Ida” (2014), “In the House” (2013), “Found Memories” (2012), “Bal” (2011), “Katalin Varga” (2010), “Three Monkeys” (2009), “The Edge of Heaven” (2008), “For the Living and the Dead” (2007), “A Wonderful Night in Split” (2006), and “Innocent Voices” (2005).


Best Documentary Feature : THE CHINESE MAYOR / China (Director: Hao Zhou) — Controversial Chinese politician Geng Yanbo demolished 140,000 households and relocated half a million people in order to restore ancient relic walls for the sake of the region’s tourism industry. The film investigates one mayor’s mission to save his city and uncovers the secret workings of China’s Communist Party.

Jury statement: “We chose “The Chinese Mayor” as Best Documentary Feature for its incredible level of access, the ambiguity of its story arc, the complexity of Mayor Geng, and its ability to give the audience an inside look at a culture we might not be familiar with.”

Best Director — Documentary Feature was presented to: Joshua Oppenheimer for THE LOOK OF SILENCE / Denmark / Finland / Indonesia / Norway / UK — Through Joshua Oppenheimer’s work filming perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers the identities of the men who killed their son. The youngest brother is determined to break the spell of silence, and so confronts the men responsible for his brother’s murder–something unimaginable in a country where killers remain in power.

Jury statement: “We recognize this film for his bold clarity of vision and unflinching commitment to the material. “The Look of Silence” is a remarkable film that bears Oppenheimer’s unmistakable stamp with every choice he makes as a filmmaker.”

Special Jury Prize: WELCOME TO LEITH / USA (Co-directors: Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher Walker) — In the tiny town of Leith, North Dakota, notorious white supremacist Craig Cobb is attempting a hostile takeover. Filmed in the days leading up to Cobb’s arrest for terrorizing the townspeople, the film is an eerie document of American DIY ideals.

RiverRun’s 2015 Documentary Features Competition jurors included: non-fiction programmer Julie Anderson (WNET, HBO, “God is the Bigger Elvis,” “Realsports with Bryant Gumbel”), head programmer of American Film Institute documentary film festival, Andrea Passafiume, non-fiction filmmaker and writer A.J. Schnack (“Caucus,” “We Always Lie to Strangers,” “Convention” (RiverRun ’10), filmmaker and Arts Professor at NYU & Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill, Marco Williams, and Wake Forest University graduate documentary film student Josh Harris.

 Previous winners of RiverRun’s Best Documentary Feature Jury Award include: “The Case Against 8” (2014), “I Am Breathing” (2013), “The Boy Who Was a King” (2012), “Armadillo” (2011), “Last Train Home” (2010), “Unmistaken Child” (2009), “Up the Yangtze” (2008), “Manufactured Landscapes” (2007), “Taimagura Grandma” (2006) and “Parallel Lines” (2005). 


Best Documentary Short was presented to: CAILLEACH / UK (Director: Rosie Reed Hillman) — Morag is 86. She lives alone at the end of a track looking out to sea on her croft on the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, with her three cats and twelve sheep. Morag was born in this house and has lived here her whole life, following five generations of the family who came before her. Cailleach is a portrait of Morag and her simple and peaceful life as she contemplates her next chapter, shares her unique sense of independence and the connection she has to her wild island home. As the winner of the jury award for Best Documentary Short, ‘Cailleach’ is now eligible to be considered for a 2016 Academy Award®.

Jury statement: “Cailleach” was selected“for its reflective and cinematic portrait of an 86-year-old woman getting on with life no matter the circumstances.”

Honorable Mention to the documentary short: NOTES FROM LIBERIA / USA / Liberia (Co-Directors: Ryo Murakami and Judd Ehrlich) — Crafted from footage shot by the late Japanese cinematographer Ryo Murakami on the Firestone Tire and Rubber Plantation in Liberia, the film traces Ryo’s journey from Monrovia, where the traumas of a brutal fifteen-year civil war still simmer beneath the surface, to the remote plantation village of Harbel.

Jury statement: “For its poignant investigation of the Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia, the Short Documentary honorable mention goes to “Notes from Liberia” by Judd Ehrlich and the late Ryo Murakami.” Accepting the award is the film’s producer, Takeshi Fukunaga.

RiverRun’s 2015 Documentary Shorts jurors included: documentary film distributor Oli Harbottle, film programmer and producer Kellin Quinn, Associate producer of POV Nicole Tsien, and Wake Forest University graduate documentary film student Brian Gersten.

Best Narrative Short was presented to: THE KÁRMÁN LINE / UK / (Director: Oscar Sharp) — When a mother acquires a rare condition that sees her lift off the ground at a slow but ever increasing rate, her husband and daughter are forced to come to terms with losing her.

Jury statement: “Seamlessly transitioning between levity and pathos, we award “The Kármán Line” for its moving and original take on impending loss as seen through the eyes of an ordinary family in an extraordinary situation.”

Special Jury Prize was presented to: ÁRTÚN / Iceland / Denmark / (Director: Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson) — A small town boy in Iceland decides to travel to the big city with his friends in search of his first romantic encounter. The city holds more in store for them than they anticipated.

Best Student Short: ROTA / USA (Director: Jean-Jacques Martinod) — An abandoned warehouse becomes a surreal theater where men are challenged to risk their lives on stage to a game of chance. Jury statement: “For making us complicit in a bizarre underground world we never asked to be a part of, we award best student short to ‘Rota.’”

RiverRun’s 2015 Narrative Shorts jurors included: Penelope Bartlett, programmer of the Chicago International Film Festival and associate programmer of the Palm Springs International Film Festival; filmmaker Daniel Carbonne (“Hide Your Smiling Faces”-RiverRun ’14, “Americana”), Associate Director of Industry & Alumni Relations at Sundance Film Festival, and University of North Carolina School of the Arts student Evan Scott Russell.

Best Animated Short was presented to: BEAR STORY / Chile (Director: Gabriel Osorio Vargas) — An old bear goes out every day to a busy street corner. Through a tin marionette theater of his own making, he reveals his extraordinary life story. As the winner of the jury award for Best Animated Short, ‘Bear Story’ is now eligible to be considered for a 2016 Academy Award®.

Jury Statement: “With its mechanical tin toy aesthetic and clever take on narrative vs. reality, we and the audience enjoyed the film’s tale of a bears tragic and ultimately heroic life story.”

Best Student Animated Short: THE PRESENT / Germany (Director: Jacob Frey) — Jake spends most of his time playing video games indoors, until his mom decides to give him an unexpected present.

RiverRun’s 2015 Animated Shorts jurors included: animator Celia Bullwinkel (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Hair High,” “Little Bill,” “Wonder Pets”); animator and development coordinator at Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Joanna Leitch; and Tom Warburton, creator of Cartoon Network series Codename: kids next door,” TV movie “Operation Zero,” and production designer for MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead”).