HIFF 2015: Awards

Congratulations to this year’s talented filmmakers! HIFF was proud to announce this year’s jury selections at our annual HIFF Awards Ceremony on Monday, October 12, and we are honored to celebrate all the winners’ fresh voices and vital work.

The following awards were announced at the 2015 HIFF Awards Ceremony on October 12:
HIFF Competition & Audience Awards | Brizzolara Family | Zelda PenzelNext Exposure | Rabinowitz | TangerineStudent Films

HIFF Competition Awards

Our Competitions 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 2015.

HIFF Award for Best Narrative Feature

WSJ-logo-read-ambitiously 150

Rams 650The HIFF 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 $125,000, and a cash prize of $3,000. We’re thrilled to highlight this year’s exciting and eclectic group of fresh talents. Sponsored by The Wall Street Journal

Winner: RAMS
Director: Grímur Hákonarson

Brothers Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) live side-by-side but have not spoken in forty years. Stubborn and competitive, they only communicate via handwritten notes delivered by their loyal sheepdog Somi. When a deadly virus threatens their prize-winning sheep and livelihood, they are forced to come together to save their unique family breed, and themselves, from extinction. Winner of the Un Certain Regard Award in Cannes, RAMS (Iceland’s submission for the Oscars®) details the hardships of daily farm work in remote Iceland with humanism and humor. Stunningly combining otherworldly landscapes and powerful performances, director Grímur Hákonarson expertly builds this gentle comedy to reveal a deeper and emotionally moving tale.

Honorable Mention for Narrative Feature
, directed by Ciro Guerra

HIFF Award for Best Documentary Feature

ID_Logo 75Missing People 650The HIFF Award for Best Documentary Feature Film is selected from this year’s five award contenders by the documentary feature jury; the winner receives a film production package of in-kind goods and services, with a total value of over $80,000, and a cash prize of $3,000. Sponsored by Investigation Discovery (ID) Films.

Director: David Shapiro

Fifteen years after his debut film KEEP THE RIVER ON THE RIGHT, director David Shapiro returns to HIFF with MISSING PEOPLE. The documentary follows Martina Batan, the director of a prominent New York art gallery as she investigates her young brother’s long unsolved murder. At the same time, she obsessively researches and collects the work of New Orleans artist Roy Ferdinand whose paintings are known for their violent and graphic content depicting African American culture in pre-Katrina New Orleans. Martina’s journey is driven by both a hunger for closure and an inexplicable fascination with Ferdinand as an artist and as a loved one to a family she wedges herself into.

Honorable Mention for Documentary Feature
, directed by Ilinca Calugareanu

HIFF Award for Best Short Narrative Film

Over-650The Narrative Short film winner will take home a cash prize of $500 and qualify for Academy Award® consideration. HIFF is proud of the many short film winners from past festivals that have gone onto successful careers and that have won Oscars. Recent shorts from the last few editions include the Oscar-winning films FEAST and THE PHONE CALL as well as the Oscar nominated films THE BIGGER PICTURE; BUTTER LAMP; GET A HORSE; PAPERMAN; ASAD; and HEAD OVER HEALS.

Winner: OVER
Director: Jörn Threlfall
Is this a murder, a hit-and-run, or just a big mystery? A crime scene told in reverse, OVER is a captivating puzzle with an unexpected outcome.

Honorable Mention for Narrative Short Film
, directed by Eva Riley

HIFF Award for Best Short Documentary Film

Last-Day-of-Freedom-650The Documentary Short film winner will take home a cash prize of $500. HIFF is proud of the many short film winners from past festivals that have gone onto successful careers and that have won Oscars. Four shorts from recent editions were nominated for Academy Awards® in the short documentary category, including MONDAYS AT RACINE; OPEN HEART; KINGS POINT; and Lucy Walker’s THE TSUNAMI AND THE CHERRY BLOSSOM, which made its US Premiere at HIFF.

Directors: Dee Hibbert-Jones, Nomi Talisman

When Bill Babbitt realizes his brother Manny has committed a crime, he agonizes over his decision — should he call the police? A richly animated personal narrative, LAST DAY OF FREEDOM tells the story of Bill’s decision to stand by his brother in the face of war, crime and capital punishment.


Josh Charles recently completed his Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated run as Will Gardner on the CBS series The Good Wife. This summer he was seen in the Netflix comedy series Wet Hot American Summer and Masters Of Sex on Showtime. Other TV credits include Sports Night, In Treatment, and Inside Amy Schumer. This fall, he can be seen in Peter Sollett’s FREEHELD, and in I SMILE BACK opposite Sarah Silverman. Upcoming films include Joseph Cedar’s OPPENHEIMER STRATEGIES, Glen Ficarra and John Requa’s FUN HOUSE starring Tina Fey, and BORDER CROSSING for director Bette Gordon.

Dan Guando
 is the US head of Acquisitions, Production, and Development at The Weinstein Company, where he has worked for the last eleven years. During his time at TWC, Dan has overseen the acquisition and release of dozens of films, including THE IMITATION GAME, THE ARTIST, CAROL, FRUITVALE STATION, PHILOMENA, THE GRANDMASTER, SNOWPIERCER, BLUE VALENTINE, BULLY, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY and BEGIN AGAIN, and the upcoming ABOUT RAY, SING STREET, THE FOUNDER and GOLD.

Michael H. Weber
 is a screenwriter and producer of various studio and independent films. With Scott Neustadter he adapted THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, PAPER TOWNS and THE SPECTACULAR NOW. Weber also co-wrote (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. The film was nominated for “Best Feature–Comedy” at the Golden Globe Awards and earned him an Independent Spirit Award. Currently Weber and Neustadter are adapting Tom Bissell’s nonfiction work THE DISASTER ARTIST and Kent Haruf’s final novel OUR SOULS AT NIGHT. Born in NYC, Weber graduated The Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.


Marshall Fine
is chairman of the New York Film Critics this year for the fourth time. He is film/TV critic for Star magazine and for his website, Hollywood & Fine. He has written three biographies, including Bloody Sam: The Life and Films of Sam Peckinpah (1991); and Accidental Genius: How John Cassavetes Invented the American Independent Film (2006). He is critic-in-residence at The Picture House in Pelham, NY, where he programs its sold-out film club. His feature-length documentary about film critic Rex Reed, DO YOU SLEEP IN THE NUDE? played at HIFF in 2007. He is finishing a documentary about comedian Robert Klein.


Bobby Flay shares his knowledge and enthusiasm for food through his cookbooks and TV programs; his thirteenth cookbook is Brunch at Bobby’s. Since debuting on Food Network in 1994, Bobby has continuously hosted programs that bring cooking tips and information on American regional fare to a national audience. Grillin’ & Chillin’ premiered in 1996, followed by Hot Off the Grill and Boy Meets Grill. Bobby currently stars in Beat Bobby Flay, his Emmy Award-winning Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction, Food Network Star, the recently concluded All-Star Academy (which he won) and Iron Chef America on Food Network, as well as Brunch @ Bobby’s, seen on both Food Network and sister network Cooking Channel, in addition to seasonal and holiday specials. Bobby works tirelessly to challenge the way Americans view and taste food–making it bold, zesty and always fun.

Sarah-Lash-headshotSarah Lash is a consultant with Condé Nast Entertainment. Previously, she served as SVP of Sales and Acquisitions for ATO Pictures, where she executive produced TERRI, negotiated deals for all acquisitions, and oversaw ancillary sales. In 2009, she produced IFP’s No Borders co-production market. Prior to that, she was head of domestic sales for Cinetic Media; titles included ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED and TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE. Prior to joining Cinetic, Sarah was an agent at ICM, and before that, she spent six years at IFC, most recently as the VP of Acquisitions and Co-Productions, working on titles such as Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN and TOUCHING THE VOID. Lash joined IFC from Lionsgate, where she served as Director of Acquisitions.

Audience Awards

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

Room-650Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature: ROOM
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Adapted from the bestselling novel, ROOM follows Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his Ma (Brie Larson), who live in a small, locked room. Having never left Room, Jack believes that only the things in Room are real and that everything he sees on TV is make-believe. After his fifth birthday, Ma reveals the secret that has kept them confined to the room all these years. A harrowing journey of discovery ensues, and Jack has to come to terms with the fact that there’s more to the world. A profoundly emotional exploration of the bond between mother and son, ROOM demonstrates the unstoppable force with which these bonds prevail even in the darkest circumstances.
Where-to-Invade-Next-650Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature: Where to Invade Next

Director: Michael Moore
In an unexpected twist, Michael Moore’s latest project, WHERE TO INVADE NEXT, does not refer to American imperialism, but rather to Moore himself. Armed with a camera and a flag, the Oscar®-winning documentarian “invades” a slew of European countries in an attempt to learn more about their successful practices and programs. From Norwegian prisons to female-run Icelandic banks, to Italian employee benefits, Moore travels around the world with the intention of bringing these progressive philosophies back to the States. A surprising departure, WHERE TO INVADE NEXT is a refreshingly optimistic look at the possibilities for the future.

All-American-Family-650Audience Award for Best Short Film: All-American Family

Director: Andrew Jenks
The all-deaf football team in Pleasanton, California, is the heart of this tight-knit community.


Audience Award-winning films from past years have a strong track record with The Oscars®. 2014 was the fifth year in a row that the Festival’s Audience Award-winning film (The Imitation Game) 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 7 editions have received almost 200 total Oscar nominations. 

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

Now in its 16th year at HIFF, the 2015 Films of Conflict & Resolution (C&R) program includes both feature films and shorts, all of which addresses the complex issues and societal effects of war and violence and the attendant human dramas in creative ways.

This award recognizes one of the feature films in the series with a cash prize of $5,000 from the Brizzolara Family Foundation and a panel discussion after its screening, encouraging dialogue and action.

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.

WINNER: 2015 Brizzolara Family Foundation Award
Uncondemned-650THE UNCONDEMNED

World Premiere | USA | Directed by Michele Mitchell, Nick Louvel
THE UNCONDEMNED tells the gripping and world-changing story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought to make rape a crime of war, and the Rwandan women who came forward to testify, to win justice, where there had been none. Up until this point, rape had not been considered a war crime and was committed with impunity. A courtroom thriller, and personal human drama, THE UNCONDEMNED beautifully interweaves the stories of the characters in this odyssey, leading to the trial in the International Criminal Court—and the results that changed the world of criminal justice forever.

Read about the panel that will follow the screening on 10/9.

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

Presented to a film in the Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights section 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, accompanied by a cash prize of $2,500, is given by Zelda Penzel, long time educator, advocate for animal rights, and a volunteer at HIFF since its inception.

Previous winners include Virunga (Oscar® Nominee), Emptying the Skies, and HBO’s One Nation, Under Dog. 

Champions-650-2The Champions

World Premiere | USA
Director: Darcy Dennett
THE CHAMPIONS is the powerful story of the brave individuals who rescued, rehabilitated, and adopted the pit-bulls from NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s violent dog-fighting ring. Despite tremendous pressure from animal welfare organizations to euthanize these animals, a handful of men and women stepped in to give the dogs a second chance. With her inspiring documentary, first time filmmaker Darcy Dennett proves the power of resilience and addresses a variety of important issues, including the unfair stigma surrounding this misunderstood breed, the exploitation of animals for the sake of entertainment, and the way society is too quick to forgive its star athletes.

Read about the panel that will follow the screening on 10/10.

Suffolk County Film Commission Next Exposure Grant

Suffolk County 100

The $3,000 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.

Presented by the Suffolk County Film Commission.


Director: Robert Edwards
Escaping New York City, Jude (Amber Heard) heads to the wintry, desolate Hamptons for some self-reflection and reinvention. The daughter of a famed romantic crooner, Paul Lombard (Christopher Walken), Jude has inherited not only his musical talent, but also his vice of self-destruction. When the aging Paul attempts to revitalize his career with a self-penned comeback song, Jude is pressured to take initiative to shape her life. With a supporting cast that includes Oliver Platt and Hamish Linklater, WHEN I LIVE MY LIFE OVER AGAIN is a charming examination of regret, family, and the evolution of life.

Victor Rabinowitz & Joanne Grant Award for Social Justice

Presented 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. 

Selected and sponsored by the Louis M. Rabinowitz Foundation.

Uncondemned-650Winner: THE UNCONDEMNED

Directors: Michelle Mitchell, Nick Louvel
THE UNCONDEMNED tells the gripping and world-changing story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought to make rape a crime of war, and the Rwandan women who came forward to testify, to win justice, where there had been none. Up until this point rape had not been considered a war crime and was committed with impunity. A courtroom thriller, and personal human drama, THE UNCONDEMNED beautifully interweaves the stories of the characters in this odyssey, leading to the trial in the International Criminal Court — and the results that changed the world of criminal justice forever.

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. Supported by Tangerine Entertainment, a production company and community builder for films by women directors.

Suffragette-650Winner: SUFFRAGETTE

Director: Sarah Gavron
Inspired by true events, SUFFRAGETTE movingly explores the passion and heartbreak of those who risked all they had for women’s right to vote–their jobs, their homes, their children, and even their lives. Academy Award® nominees Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter, and three-time Academy Award® winner Meryl Streep lead the cast of the powerful drama about the fight for equality in early-20th-century Britain. The stirring story centers on Maud, a working wife and mother who becomes an activist for the Suffragette cause alongside women from all walks of life. SUFFRAGETTE is directed by BAFTA Award winner Sarah Gavron and written by Emmy Award® winner Abi Morgan.

Student Film Awards

The five films selected for the Student Short Films Showcase will each receive a $500 cash award, honoring emerging talent.