Best Foreign Film entries previewed at AFI FEST 2006; AFI FEST Winners Announced

(Photo: THE HISTORY BOYS (Opening on November 21 in theatres) cast members Samuel Barnett, Richard Griffiths, and Dominic Cooper showed up at the AFI FEST 2006 U.S. Premiere screening of their movie. This film version of the Tony Award-winning play, directed by Nicholas Hytner, is about a British teacher confronting a class of precocious undergraduates.)

Text and Photo by Oliver Carnay

AFI FEST 2006 presented by Audi ended last Sunday at the Cinerama Dome with the screening of the Closing Night film “Curse of the Golden Dragon,” China’s official entry to the Oscars® Best Foreign Film, starring Gong Li and Chow Yun Fat.

The successful ten-day festival boasted 147 films from 45 countries, with everything from International Feature and Documentary Competitions to Latin Cinema to American Directions, African Voices, Dark Horizons, Asian fusion, educational, shorts, and including some of the foreign films that will vie for the top five for Best Foreign Film at the upcoming Oscars®.

Every year, I am mostly overwhelmed to see at least a few film entries competing for the Best Foreign Film for the upcoming Oscars®. Among these films screened at the recently concluded AFI FEST 2006 which I’ve enjoyed were, ‘White Palms’ (Hungary), based on a gymnast’s true story, traumatized by an abusive trainer (the actor is currently in Vegas with Cirque d’Soleil); ‘Pan’s Labyrinth,’ (from Mexico) is an adult horror-fairy tale from Director Guillermo del Toro – it opens December 29 in regular theatres; ‘The Banquet’ (Hongkong), a reminiscent of ‘Hero’ and ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ fame starring Zhang Ziyi;

‘Falkenberg Farewell’ (Sweden), is a coming-of-age story about friendship and memories; ‘Volver’ (Spain), stars Penelope Cruz, directed by Pedro Almadovar is the story of three mothers in different generations; and ‘Days of Glory’ (Algeria), is a story about sacrifice, bravery and patriotism during World War II. I’ve also seen, of course, Philippines’ ‘The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros’ and based on these films, so far, the last two greatly rise above the rest. Hopefully they would get noticed by the Academy voting members if they have a chance to see them.

Here is the winners list from the recent AFI FEST 2006 presented by Audi which ran from November 1-12:

Grand Jury Award for International Feature: GRBAVICA (Special Mention: THE ART OF CRYING); Aquafina Pure Vision Award - Grand Jury Award for International Documentary: BUDDHA'S LOST CHILDREN (Special Mention: BACK HOME); Grand Jury Award for International Short: DISAPPEARING (Special Mention: SILENCE IS GOLDEN); Audience Award - Feature: VITUS; Audience Award - Documentary: BLINDSIGHT and SCREAMERS (Tie); Audience Award - Short: FAIR TRADE; GRBAVICA wins Grand Jury Prize for International Feature Competition.

THE ART OF CRYING receives a special mention. BUDDHA'S LOST CHILDREN received the Aquafina Pure Vision Award International Documentary Grand Jury Prize of a $10,000 unrestricted grant for the film's director, Mark Verkerk. The shorts Jury Prize went to DISAPPEARING. The filmmaker receives a $10,000 camera package from Dalsa Digital Cinema. Short SILENCE IS GOLDEN received a special mention. The Audience Award for Feature Film went to VITUS, and BLINDSIGHT and SCREAMERS tied for Audience Award for Documentary. FAIR TRADE garnered the Audience Award for Short. For more about AFI FEST 2006 presented by Audi, please go to More pics from this festival at Photo Gallery.