HIFF 2016: Awards

Congratulations to this year’s talented filmmakers! HIFF announced this year’s jury selections at our annual HIFF Awards Ceremony on October 10, and we are honored to celebrate all our filmmakers’ fresh voices and vital work.

HIFF Competition AwardsAudience AwardsFilms of Conflict & ResolutionCompassion, Justice & Animal RightsViews From Long IslandRabinowitz AwardTangerine EntertainmentStudent Film Awards

HIFF Competition Awards

Our Competition 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 2016.

HIFF Award for Best Narrative Feature

WSJ-logo-read-ambitiously 150The 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

glory-650Winner: GLORY

Directed by: Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov
A poor railway worker’s world is turned upside down when he finds a huge pile of cash abandoned on the tracks in Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov’s absorbing tragicomedy GLORY. He decides to do the honorable thing and turn it over the police, but a careless government propaganda team eager to capitalize on the story sends his life spinning out of control. Set against the backdrop of contemporary Bulgarian society, where corruption and bureaucracy are givens, GLORY is a mysterious journey of one man’s race against time to expose the truth and regain his dignity.

HIFF Award for Best Documentary Feature

ID_Logo 75The 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 $30,000, and a cash prize of $3,000. Sponsored by Investigation Discovery (ID) Films.

eagle-huntress-650-newWinner: THE EAGLE HUNTRESS

Directed by: Otto Bell
THE EAGLE HUNTRESS follows 13-year-old Aisholpan, as she trains to become the first female eagle hunter in twelve generations of her Kazakh family, rising to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries. With the support of her family, she trains diligently to prepare for an annual competition, the first step on her quest to gain acceptance. Executive produced by Morgan Spurlock and Daisy Ridley (who also narrates the film). THE EAGLE HUNTRESS captures Aisholpan’s breathtaking journey to break down gender barriers and achieve her dream. Set against the breathtaking expanse of the Mongolian steppe, the film features some of the most awe-inspiring cinematography ever captured in a documentary.

HIFF Award for Best Short Narrative Film

The 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.

silence-650Winner: THE SILENCE | Il Silenzio

Directed by: Ali Asgari, Farnoosh Samadi
Fatma accompanies her mother to translate a doctor’s appointment, but finds she is unable to say anything at all.

HIFF Award for Best Short Documentary Film

The 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.

irregulars-650Winner: IRREGULARS

Directed by: Fabio Palmieri
With a mannequin factory serving as backdrop, one migrant recounts his odyssey across the Mediterranean in heartbreaking detail.

Narrative Jury

julie-goldstein-300Julie Goldstein is currently President of Production at Endgame Entertainment. Her credits for the company include: THE DISCOVERY, FREEHELD, LOOPER and SIDE EFFECTS. Read more.

david-edelstein-300David Edelstein has been chief film critic of New York magazine since 2006. He is also the film critic of NPR’s Fresh Air and a regular commentator for CBS Sunday Morning. Read more.

john-krokidas-300John Krokidas made his feature directorial debut with KILL YOUR DARLINGS (HIFF opener 2013), starring Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan, which he also co-wrote. Read more.

Documentary Jury

alexis-alexanian-300Producer Alexis Alexanian is currently President of Production at Locomotive, a film, television and financing company that recently executive produced Rebecca Miller’s MAGGIE’S PLAN (SPC). Read more.

mariska-hargitay-300Emmy® and Golden Globe® Award winner Mariska Hargitay stars as Olivia Benson on Wolf Films/Universal Television’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; she also recently became a producer on the show and has directed several episodes. Read more.

jason-janego-300Jason Janego was Co-Founder and Co-President of RADiUS, the boutique film label of The Weinstein Company, responsible for distributing such groundbreaking films as SNOWPIERCER, IT FOLLOWS and BACHELORETTE, and back-to-back Oscar®-winning documentaries 20 FEET FROM STARDOM and CITIZENFOUR. Read more.

Audience Awards

Through Festival-wide balloting, HIFF2016 audiences selected their favorite films in three categories.

la-la-land-650Best Narrative Feature: LA LA LAND

Directed by Damien Chazelle
Written and directed by Academy Award® nominee Damien Chazelle (WHIPLASH, HIFF 2014), LA LA LAND tells the story of Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern-day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams. A throwback to the retro look and feel of classic Hollywood musicals, LA LA LAND is a delightful romance filled with magic and whimsy.

i-am-not-your-negro-650Best Documentary Feature: I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO

Directed by Raoul Peck
In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent detailing a new book he was preparing to write, discussing the influential lives and subsequent assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. Baldwin wrote only 30 pages before he died, but the unfinished material bears the collective trauma and the personal one (he was a close friend of the three). Raoul Peck’s I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO is crafted entirely around Baldwin’s manuscript. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the film skillfully weaves in archival footage of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements as well as archival footage of Baldwin himself. Anchored by three towering figures of African-American history, more than 30 years after the writing of the manuscript, the racial struggle feels acutely relevant today.

white-helmets-650Best Short Film: THE WHITE HELMETS

Directed by Orlando von Einsiedel
Having chosen to remain in the war-torn city of Aleppo, the volunteer rescue group the White Helmets heroically risk their lives to aid their neighbors.

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

17 years ago, HIFF Board member Kim Brizzolara founded the Films of Conflict & Resolution section. Ever since this program has been dedicated to showcasing films that deal with the complex issues and societal effects of war and violence, and the attendant human dramas, in creative ways. The 2016 Films of Conflict & Resolution (C&R) program includes four feature films and a program of short films that call on the audience to learn, react, and engage in worthy causes.

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: 2016 Brizzolara Family Foundation Award
Disturbing the Peace 650DISTURBING THE PEACE

East Coast Premiere | USA | Directed by Stephen Apkon, Andrew Young
The stirring documentary DISTURBING THE PEACE, from award-winning director Stephen Apkon and Academy Award®-nominated director Andrew Young, follows a group of Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters who bravely transition from former enemies to peace activists. Moving away from the protracted conflict that has caused nothing but disruption and tragedy in their own lives, they decide to form “Combatants for Peace,” a bi-partisan organization whose main goal is finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Their transformational journey is a testament to the courage necessary to challenge the status quo despite the resistance encountered along the way.

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), The ChampionsEmptying the Skies, and HBO’s One Nation, Under Dog. 

unlocking-the-cageUNLOCKING THE CAGE

Directors: Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker | USA
In UNLOCKING THE CAGE, acclaimed filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus follow animal rights lawyer Steven Wise in his unprecedented attempt to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans by filing the first lawsuits seeking to transform a chimpanzee from a “thing” with no rights to a “person” with legal protections. With Tommy and Kiko, former showbiz chimps now living in neglected cages, at the center of the debate, Wise makes a compelling argument that thrusts the case into the media spotlight. UNLOCKING THE CAGE is a riveting courtroom drama filled with heart and compassion in the face of overwhelming opposition.

Suffolk County Film Commission Next Exposure Grant

suffolk-county-film-logo-150The $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.

black-swell-650WINNER: BLACK SWELL

Directed by: Jake Honig
One man’s (Richard Kind) suicide attempt is interrupted by an acquaintance from the past.

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.


Winner: LOVING

From acclaimed writer/director Jeff Nichols, LOVING celebrates the real-life courage and commitment of an interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), who were arrested after eloping in 1958. With their marriage deemed unlawful, they were forced to plead guilty and move out of their home state of Virginia. After five years in exile—and with the Civil Rights movement in full swing—they decided to fight back. The unassuming yet determined couple appealed their case all the way to the Supreme Court and changed history with the landmark Loving v. Virginia decision. Featuring two riveting performances at its core: as the aptly-named Lovings, Edgerton and Negga exude a quiet certainty about their right to love each other, against all odds.

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.

wakefield-650Winner: WAKEFIELD

Directed by: Robin Swicord
When the pressures of modern family life becomes too much for lawyer Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston), he looks for an out. After being led into the garage attic by a wayward raccoon late one night, Howard decides to stay and observe his baffled and distraught loved ones from the window. Adapted from a short story by E.L. Doctorow, and featuring an astonishing performance by Bryan Cranston, WAKEFIELD is laced with despair, humor, irony and the never ending quest to figure out one’s place on earth.

Student Film Awards

student-short-films-2016-650The five films selected for the Student Short Films Showcase will each receive a $500 cash award, honoring emerging talent. 

Sidelined by a series of concussions, a retired NFL linebacker stubbornly ignores the magnitude of his injuries.

FANNY PACK | New York Premiere | USA | Uttera Singh
A young woman seeking a little independence attempts to fly across the country, much to the chagrin of her overbearing father.

FATA MORGANA | USA/China | Amelie Wen
Inspired by true events, a grieving couple is forced to examine their marriage when they journey from China to the United States for the funeral for their only child.

GUBAGUDE KO | New York Premiere | USA | Philiane Phang
In a community where homosexuality is considered to be a curable condition, a flirtatious gesture between two women can be very dangerous.

ICEBOX | East Coast Premiere | USA | Daniel Sawka
Fleeing gang violence, a young boy from Honduras finds himself in a difficult situation when he is arrested at the US border.

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