HIFF 2014 Golden Starfish Awards Announced: ‘Gett’ and ‘The Special Need’ Named Best Features

Congratulations to our diverse group of winners! The following awards were announced at the 2014 Golden Starfish Awards Ceremony on October 13:

Golden Starfish & Audience Awards | Zelda Penzel | Nussbaum | Rabinowitz | Barendrecht | TangerineNext Exposure | Conflict and Resolution | Sloan Foundation

Golden Starfish Awards

Our Golden Starfish Awards honor emerging directors from around the world in narrative feature, documentary feature, and short film competition sections. Juried by world-class filmmakers and industry professionals, these competitions represent the important, provocative premieres by cinema’s next wave of master filmmakers.

> > Click to view the films in contention in 2014.

Golden Starfish Award for Best Narrative Feature


The Golden Starfish Award for Best Narrative Feature Film rewards an emerging director with a film production package of in-kind goods and services, with a total value of over $145,000. We’re thrilled to highlight this year’s exciting and eclectic group of fresh talents. Sponsored by The Wall Street Journal

Winner: Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
This final piece of the trilogy by Israeli siblings Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz explores the unfolding of a marriage under the jurisdiction of a rabbinical court. Under this law, Jewish marriage may only end if the husband presents a “gett”, a divorce document, to his wife. Calling attention to a male-dominated and sometimes decade-long process, and set entirely in the courtroom, this brilliantly written and acted film reveals the slow dissolution of a marriage between Vivane (Ronit Elkabetz) and Elisha (Simon Abkarian). Balancing the seriousness of what’s at stake with an often-humorous tone, GETT offers a deeply moving take on an otherwise painful procedure.

Tickets to Encore Screening

The Narrative Jury awarded a special jury prize for Outstanding Performance by an actress in a film to Ronit Elkabetz in Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem. The jury also gave a Most Promising Performance By A Newcomer to Jacob Lofland in Little Accidents and Evocative Cinematography to Arnaud Potier for Breathe.

Golden Starfish Award for Best Documentary Feature


The Golden Starfish Award for Best Documentary Feature Film is selected from this year’s five award contenders by the documentary feature jury; the winner receives a $3,000 cash prize. Sponsored by A&E Indie Films.

Winner: The Special Need
Love is hard. It’s rarely forgiving and often more trouble than it’s worth. Think of how difficult it would be if you couldn’t read any signs from a perspective partner. Enea is looking for love in Italy—physical love, that is. But for someone who suffers from autism, this is anything but easy. So Enea and his two best friends, Carlo and Alex, set out on a journey through Europe and eventually find a lot more than they were looking for. It’s often said personal and difficult tasks are labors of love; well, this story couldn’t be more accurate.

Tickets to Encore Screening

The documentary jury awarded a special prize to Tamara Erde for her achievement in Visionary Filmmaking for This is My Land. The jury has also awarded a Special Mention For Artistic Merit to Pavol Pekarčík, Ivan Ostrochovský and Peter Kerekes for their film Velvet Terrorists

Golden Starfish Award for Best Short Narrative Film


Featuring brave, innovative and remarkable stories, the Golden Starfish Award for Best Narrative Short Film honors new talent in the field. The winner will receive a $500 cash prize and qualify for consideration at the Academy Awards for Best Live Action/Animated Short Film.

Winner: Tzniut
A Hasidic woman in Brooklyn discovers she has an STD. Although limited by her social standing in a deeply Orthodox community, she seeks the origin of her illness.

The short film Once Upon a Tree was given an award for Artistic Merit for director Marleen van de Werf.

Golden Starfish Award for Best Short Documentary Film


Our inaugural Golden Starfish Award for Best Documentary Short Film highlights some of the year’s most interesting opinions and viewpoints and is sure to capture your imagination. The winner will receive a $500 cash prize.

Winner: The Queen
Memi is 11 years old, and she is going to be Queen of the Carnival. It’s a dazzling honor, but you have to suffer to be beautiful.


Patrick-HarrisonPatrick Harrison has been the Director, New York Programs and Membership, for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 2001, responsible for the creation and implementation of all Academy programs on the East Coast including the Monday Nights with Oscar® film series, the annual Student Academy Awards®, Academy Tributes, educational outreach, and the annual Oscar® Night New York celebrations. Previously, Harrison served as Manager of Awards and Special Events for Miramax Films, working on all awards campaigns for the distributor including Il Postino, The English Patient, Good Will Hunting, and Shakespeare In Love.

Ingrid-SischyIngrid Sischy has been a Contributing Editor for Vanity Fair U.S. since 1997. She is also the International Editor of Vanity Fair France, -Italy, -Spain, and -Germany. She was the Editor in Chief of Interview (1989-2008), the Editor in Chief of Artforum (1979-88), and a staff writer for The New Yorker (1988-97) as well as the magazine’s photography critic, and fashion critic. She has received numerous awards and citations, including the Fashion Media Award’s “Scoop of the Year” and the Deadline Club Award in Arts Reporting.

Bruce-WeberPhotographer/filmmaker Bruce Weber first rose to prominence in the early 80s on the success of images that combined classical styling with underpinnings of desire, mood, and sexuality. He has constructed central public images for fashion houses like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Versace, and Abercrombie and Fitch. He has directed seven short and feature films, published more than 37 books, and has held more than 63 exhibitions worldwide. His films Broken Noses and Let’s Get Lost won Best Documentary awards from the International Documentary Association. Let’s Get Lost (1988) was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Feature Documentary.


Lilly-HartleyLilly Hartley is the founder of Candescent Films, a company that supports social issue documentaries. Hartley formed Candescent to combine her passion for film and desire to make a positive difference in the world. She won a Goya Award (Spain) for Sons Of The Clouds, starring Javier Bardem, and also produced Likeness, starring Elle Fanning. Hartley was a co-executive producer of The Queen Of Versailles, an executive producer of Gael Garcia Bernal’s Who Is Dayani Cristal?, and an executive producer of the upcoming HBO film Private Violence.

Stephen-WhittyStephen Whitty is the current chair of the New York Film Critics Circle. The award-winning film critic for The Star-Ledger and nj.com, his reviews and articles have also appeared in the Plain Dealer, the Times-Picayune, the Oregonian, Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, and other publications. He has also lectured at Rutgers and Kean University, appeared on CNN, MSNBC, WOR and other outlets, and had a short film on HBO.

David-RattrayDavid Rattray is the editor of The East Hampton Star, which has been continually published on Main Street in East Hampton since 1885. He is the fifth member of his family over three generations to run the weekly newspaper. Before returning to The Star in 1998, he worked for the Lennon Documentary Group and David Grubin Productions in New York City. His credits as associate producer include Tabloid Truth: The Michael Jackson Story for Frontline and The Hurricane of ’38 and Chicago 1968 for the American Experience. He lives in Amagansett.

Audience Awards

Through Festival-wide balloting, HIFF audiences will select their favorite films in three categories:

♦ Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature
♦ Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature
♦ Audience Award for Best Short Film

Audience Award-winning films from past years have a strong track record with The Oscars®. 2013 was the fourth year in a row that the Festival’s Audience Award-winning film (Philomena) was nominated for Best Picture, with two such films (The Artist and The King’s Speech) eventually taking home the honors. Overall, films in our last 6 editions have received 150 total Oscar nominations.

Audience Awards for HIFF 2014 will be announced after the Festival ends. 

Zelda Penzel “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” Award:
Dedicated to those who suffer in silence.

Presented to a film that raises public awareness about the moral and ethical treatment and the rights of animals, as well as environmental protection; a film that inspires compassion and compels social change. The award, which is accompanied by a cash prize of $1,000, is given by Zelda Penzel, long time educator, advocate for animal rights, and a volunteer at HIFF since its inception.

The 2014 Zelda Penzel “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” Award is awarded to Virunga, directed by Orlando Von EinsiedelVirunga will also screen in the Films of Conflict & Resolution program. 

First Test Trek to the Volcano Eruption SiteWinner: Virunga
The breathtaking Virunga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site in eastern Congo, is under attack from many sides. With its rich bio-diversity, Virunga is home to the last mountain gorillas and holds a wealth of natural resources. From sweeping vistas to pixelated images of secret meetings, Orlando von Einsiedel fashions together a thrilling first feature documentary, introducing us to the brave people protecting the park: a Belgian conservationist leading the army of park rangers; an ex-child soldier and a young French journalist who covertly film local politicians and international businessmen; and a ranger who has become a surrogate parent to orphaned gorillas.

The Jeremy Nussbaum Prize for Provocative Fiction

Recognizes uncompromising stories that have an undercurrent of politics or philosophy; these are edgy films that demand intellectual engagement. The award is accompanied by a cash prize of $5,000.

Note: The winner will be announced at a later date.

Victor Rabinowitz & Joanne Grant Award for Social Justice

Given to a film that most exemplifies the values of peace, equality, global justice, and civil liberties. The award, which is accompanied by a cash prize of $1,500, is named in honor of two people who spent their entire lives fighting for those values.
Sponsor: Louis M. Rabinowitz Foundation

First Test Trek to the Volcano Eruption SiteWinner: Virunga
The breathtaking Virunga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site in eastern Congo, is under attack from many sides. With its rich bio-diversity, Virunga is home to the last mountain gorillas and holds a wealth of natural resources. From sweeping vistas to pixelated images of secret meetings, Orlando von Einsiedel fashions together a thrilling first feature documentary, introducing us to the brave people protecting the park: a Belgian conservationist leading the army of park rangers; an ex-child soldier and a young French journalist who covertly film local politicians and international businessmen; and a ranger who has become a surrogate parent to orphaned gorillas.

The Wouter Barendrecht Pioneering Vision Award

Honors an emerging feature filmmaker who is a creative risk taker and is fearlessly dedicated to their craft. The prize, which is accompanied by a cash award of $1,000, is given in memory of a great innovator in the film industry, Wouter Barendrecht.

Duke-of-Burgundy-650Winner: The Duke of Burgundy, directed by Peter Strickland
Much like the rare caterpillar-butterfly of its title, Peter Strickland shifts The Duke of Burgundy from a classic melodrama into a perverse, lesbian, sadomasochistic experience, and all done with an artist’s eye for mood and detail. Both the gothic scenery and haunting score envelop the senses and manipulate the viewer into a feeling of frenzy. Elevated by powerful and sensual performances by the two female leads, Strickland’s strange film achieves a unique beauty and profundity that rests between David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. and Luis Buñuel’s Belle De Jour.

Tangerine Entertainment Juice Fund Award

Tangerine 150Honors a female narrative feature director with a cash prize of $1,000 and five hours of industry consulting. Tangerine Entertainment is a production company and community builder for films by women directors.

Little-Accidents-650Winner: Little Accidents
A haunting portrait of unintended consequences, Little Accidents follows a small town in the wake of a mining disaster that leaves 10 dead and the delicate social fabric of a community in tatters. Its disparate residents become bound to one another through shared grief and a series of shocking revelations: Diana, the chief executive’s wife with a missing son; Amos, the lone survivor of the tragedy; and Owen, a local boy left fatherless. A stunning work by first-time feature filmmaker Sara Colangelo, it features a stellar cast, including Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, and Chloë Sevigny. Colangelo’s Little Accidents was a project in the 2013 HIFF Screenwriters’ Lab.

Suffolk County Film Commission Next Exposure Grant

Suffolk County 100

One $6,000 Suffolk County Next Exposure Grant will be awarded to a film in the Views From Long Island section. This program supports the completion of high quality, original director-driven low budget independent films from both emerging and established filmmakers who have completed 50% of principal photography within Suffolk County.

Gabriel-2-650Winner: Gabriel
Longing for stability in the throes of mental illness, Gabriel (Rory Culkin) will stop at nothing until he proposes to his high school girlfriend—nevermind the fact that they haven’t seen each other in years. Abrasive and irrational, Gabriel nonetheless evokes empathy as he winds his way through New York City and Long Island on his quest, in large thanks to Rory Culkin’s commanding performance. A sure-footed portrait of a young man on the edge, Lou Howe’s debut feature examines our fixation with the nuclear household, and whether or not it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

The Brizzolara Family Foundation Award for a Film of Conflict & Resolution

For the past 14 years, the Films of Conflict & Resolution program has presented films that focus on the realities of war and human conflict around the world, and inspire discussion about the possibilities for resolution. Prior to the Festival, one film from this program will be recognized as the Brizzolara Family Foundation Award winner, and will receive a $5,000 cash prize. There will be a special program designed around the issues presented in the honored film.

We have shown many films in this section that have gone on to significant acclaim, including The Square (Oscar nominee); War Witch (Oscar nominee); The Fog of War (Oscar winner); Nowhere in Africa (Oscar Winner, U.S. Premiere); No Man’s Land (Oscar winner); Rabbit a la Berlin (Oscar nominee), BullyRising From Ashes (World Premiere); Chronicle of a Disappearance; City of Life and Death (U.S. Premiere); Sisters in Law; and many more.

React to Film 100In addition, REACT to FILM (RtF) will provide the winning film with an exclusive screening in their popular “Public Screening Series” in Fall 2014 at a high-profile cultural organization. The winning film will also have the opportunity to be featured across RtF’s College Action Network, comprised of over 40 campuses nationwide.  RtF is an educational nonprofit focused on exposing students to critical social issues through documentary film.

The winner of the 2014 Brizzolara Family Foundation Award for a Film of Conflict & Resolution is E-Team, directed by Ross Kauffman and Katy Chevigny.


Winner: E-Team
The film profiles members of the Emergency Team (E-Team) of a respected international human rights organization, who are the first people on the scene when there is suspicion of human rights abuses. Award-winning filmmakers Kauffman and Chevigny take us behind the scenes and on the ground with these very different, yet fearlessly committed individuals as they balance their personal and family life with their intense work life in the field.

After the screening of E-Team on Sunday, October 12, co-director Ross Kauffman and special guests in the fields of human rights and journalism discussed the work of the E-Team and how it contrasts and compares to the work of investigative journalists.

Panelists included:
♦ Ross Kauffman, Co-director and Director of Photography of E-TEAM
♦ Carroll Bogert, Deputy Executive Director for External Relations, Human Rights Watch
♦ Fredrik Carlström, REACT to FILM
♦ Rukmini Callimachi, Foreign Correspondent, The New York Times.
♦ Louis Bickford (moderator), Global Human Rights Program Officer, Ford Foundation

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Award


The culmination of the outstanding partnership between the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and HIFF, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize in Science and Technology is a cash prize awarded to a feature-length film that explores science and technology themes in fresh, innovative ways and depicts scientists, engineers, inventors, or mathematicians in a realistic and compelling fashion. The winner receives a $25,000 cash prize.

The winner of the 2014 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize is The Imitation Game, directed by Morten Tyldum and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.


Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a monumental performance as British mathematician Alan Turing in Morten Tyldum’s stirring historical drama. Told via flashback, The Imitation Game tracks the young, brilliant, and socially awkward Turing in the early days of World War II as he applies for a top-secret position tasked with decoding the “unbreakable” Nazi cipher machine called Enigma, used to encrypt all military radio transmissions. His work was famously labeled by Winston Churchill as “the greatest single contribution to victory,” but after the war he suffered great personal and professional turmoil as he dealt with his homosexuality in a time when it was illegal. The Weinstein Company will release the film on November 21, 2014.

The October 11 Festival screening of The Imitation Game was followed by a panel discussion about the use of cryptography and computer science in a historical context, as well as Turing’s impact in the field. The panel included Janna Levin, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College and Columbia University, and Dan Guido, co-founder and CEO of Trail of Bits, an information security firm, and the Hacker in Residence at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering.