Joseph Henry wins "Best Cinematography" at the Staten Island Film Festival

Monday, June 25, 2007

"We are really here tonight to celebrate the filmmakers, these talented people who have entertained us with a very high quality of work."

Credits roll on Island's 2nd annual film event and awards bestowed honor talent behind each flick

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A gala awards ceremony. A luxurious evening boat ride aboard the Staten Island Ferry. A spectacular sunset fireworks display in New York Harbor with Lady Liberty as the backdrop.

With a touch of elegance andd romance, the curtain last night came down on the second annual Staten Island Film Festival. The exhilarating five-day event unspooled 114 films in nine venues throughout the borough.

Last night, however, was all about the filmmakers. "We are really here tonight to celebrate the filmmakers, these talented people who have entertained us with a very high quality of work," said Richard Diamond Jr., an honorary event co-chair, during the ceremony held last night at the St. George Ferry Terminal. Top honors went to "The Poet" -- based on a dramatic World War II romance -- which won three awards including Best International Film, Best Director, and Best Overall Film. The movie, produced by Eltingville's Jules Nasso, stars Kim Coates, Lara Daans, Daryl Hannah and Roy Scheider.

Actor D.B. Sweeney won Best Comedic Performance for his directorial debut, "Two Tickets to Paradise." Former "24" actor Louis Lombardi's directorial debut, "Doughboys," won the Audience Choice Award, selling more than 500 tickets for it's Saturday showing. "We need five 'Doughboys' next year," said Cesar Claro, executive director of the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation, which organized the festival. "We need five films that will sell out their venues because to me that's a significant achievement." The festival is building a following as more than 7,000 people attended this year's screenings. "Attendance figures shattered last year's numbers," said Diamond. "That's a 50 percent increase over last year. The strong attendance clearly demonstrates how important the arts are to this community."

In addition, more than 2,000 people turned out last night for "Everyone's Hero," the last film directed by the late Christopher Reeve. The humbled honorees spoke with the passion and emotion normally on display at the Academy Awards. "This is my first film, It's so special to me to win an award like this. This is mindblowing," said Cara Maria O'Shea who won the Best New Filmmaker. For Sweeney, making his film was about facing the reality of the Hollywood industry. "I love being an actor and the reality is there are not many people writing great scripts and sending them to me.... and I just felt like if I wanted to do a great role I would have to create it." "People showed up and supported our movie I can't tell you how great that is to me," said Lombardi.

He added the combination of Restaurant Week -- where a total of 60 Island restaurants, worked in conjunction with the festival to support the movies, showed a spirit one was unlikely to find in his hometown of Los Angeles.

Lombardi noted he dined at Angelina's Ristorante in Annadale and the stuffed veal, clams and fresh mozzarella made him feel as if "I was in my mother's house." Two thumbs up also went to Claro, Festival Director Jeannine Marotta and the various community leaders, sponsors, and other contributors whose efforts made the ambitious event a reality. Visitors ended the high-brow evening with an hour-long Ferry cruise that included white wine and desserts -- courtesy of Bario's Catering -- topped off by a spectacular fireworks display.

Opined Mary Bullock, 61 of St. George: "I take the boat every morning at 7:30 a.m. -- and it's a lot more fun when you have champagne and fireworks."

And the winners are ...

Best Narrative Feature: "Divergence"

Best International Feature: "The Poet"

Best Animated Short: "Walk"

Best International Short: "Death's Requiem"

Best Staten Local: "Whose Children Are These?"

Best Performing Arts and Entertainment: "We Also Dance"

Best Documentary Short: "The Messenger"

Best New Filmmaker: "Aesop's Diner"

Best Comedic Short: "The Day of the Grackle"

Best Cinematography: "Joseph Henry"

Best Historical Documentary Short: "The Guide Still Standing"

Best Dramatic Short: "Saint of the Zuiderzee"

Best Documentary Feature: "Millions"

Best Science Fiction: "The Evaluation"

Best Short Film: "The Day of the Grackle"

Best Comedic Feature: "Two Tickets To Paradise"

Audience Choice Award: "Doughboys"

Best Director: "The Poet"

Best Overall Film: "The Poet"