NYU Freshman Wins Tribeca's Best U.S. Narrative Feature Award
This image released by the Tribeca Film Festival shows Wendell Pierce in a scene from "Burning Cane." The film by filmmaker Phillip Youmans won the top award at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday. The film also took awards for best cinematography and best actor for Pierce. (Phillip Youmans/Tribeca Film Festival via AP)
"Burning Cane" makes Phillip Youmans the youngest recipient ever and the 1st African American director to take the top honor
  • NEW YORK (AP)
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Phillip Youmans was just 17 and finishing high school when he completed his lyrical debut feature film, Burning Cane. Now, his movie has won the top award at the 18th Tribeca Film Festival.

Burning Cane won three awards at Tribeca on Thursday, including best U.S. narrative feature. The film also took awards for best cinematography and best actor for Wendell Pierce (The Wire) who stars as a Louisiana preacher drunkenly grieving the loss of his wife.

Youmans, a New Orleans native, is currently a freshman at New York University. With the award, he wins a prize of $20,000. At the age of 19, he is the youngest filmmaker to ever compete at the Tribeca Film Festival, let alone win its top award. He is also the first African American director to win the award.

Set in rural Southern Louisiana, Burning Cane was inspired by Youmans’ upbringing in the Baptist church. He helped raise money for the film through crowd-sourcing, and eventually landed Benh Zeitlin, the director of Beasts of the Southern Wild, as an executive producer.

The jury that chose the best-narrative feature award hailed Youmans, who also wrote his film’s script, as “a voice that is searingly original.”

“We loved this filmmaker’s vision and we love this filmmaker’s inevitable brilliant future,” said the jury.

Tribeca also awarded best documentary to Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin’s Scheme Birds, about a Scottish girl’s coming of age, and best international film to Bora Kim’s House of Hummingbird, a South Korean drama about an eighth-grader in 1994 Seoul. Like Burning Cane, both are feature-length directing debuts.

“This year’s winners signal a bright future ahead for independent film,” Festival director Cara Cusumano said in a statement.

Other top honors
Rania Attieh won the Nora Ephron Award and a $25,000 prize for Initials S.G. (Iniciales S.G.). The award, created seven years ago, honors excellence in storytelling by a female writer or director embodying the spirit and boldness of the late filmmaker.

Tribeca honored innovation in storytelling with its Storyscapes Award, which went to The Key, created by Celine Tricart.

The winners of the Audience Awards, which are determined by audience votes throughout the Festival via the Festival app, will be announced on May 4. The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival runs through May 5.

The winners, awards, and comments from the juries who selected the recipients are as follows:

U.S. NARRATIVE COMPETITION CATEGORIES
--The jurors for the 2019 U.S. Narrative Competition were Lucy Alibar, Jonathan Ames, Cory Hardrict, Dana Harris, and Jenny Lumet.

Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature – Burning Cane, directed by Phillip Youmans. The winner receives $20,000, sponsored by AT&T, and the art award “Bloom” by Fred Tomaselli. The award was given by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal on behalf of the jury. Jury comment: “The Founders Award goes to a voice that is searingly original. One of the jurors compared this filmmaker’s unique voice to a latter day Faulkner, Welty, Williams. We loved this filmmaker’s vision and we love this filmmaker’s inevitable brilliant future. We are honored to present this award to Phillip Youmans for Burning Cane.”

Best Actress in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Haley Bennett in Swallow. Jury comment: “For a sensitive, engaging performance the best actress award goes to Haley Bennett for Swallow.”

Jury special mention: “For her always surprising and deeply engaging work in Stray Dolls, Geetanjali Thapi.

Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Wendell Pierce in Burning Cane.
Jury comment: “For his portrayal of a troubled, passionate Preacher the best actor award goes to Wendell Pierce in Burning Cane.”

Best Cinematography in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Phillip Youmans for Burning Cane. Jury comment: “The cinematography was bold and swung for the fences, the award goes to Phillip Youmans for Burning Cane.”

Special Jury mention: “For work that took us to the icy coasts and sweltering kitchens of rural Maine, Todd Banhazl for Blow the Man Down.”

Best Screenplay in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy for Blow the Man Down.  The winner receives $2,500. Jury comment: “For a stylized, thrilling story of secrets, Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy for Blow the Man Down.”

Special jury mention: “To a story of a woman finding her biological family and her logical family on the highway, Ani Simon-Kennedy for The Short History of the Long Road.”
 

INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE COMPETITION CATEGORIES
--The jurors for the 2019 International Narrative Competition were Gbenga Akinnagbe, Angela Bassett, Baltasar Kormákur, Rebecca Miller, and Steve Zaillian.

Best International Narrative Feature – House of Hummingbird (Beol-sae) (South Korea, USA) directed and written by Bora Kim. The winner receives $20,000 and the art award “Easter” by Eddie Kang. Jury comment: “In this beautiful film, a seemingly un-exceptional girl is truly seen by another human being for the first time. Through that random connection, her perspective of herself, and hence her life, is transformed. The award for Best International Narrative Feature goes to Bora Kim for House of Hummingbird.   

Best Actress in an International Narrative Feature Film – Ji-hu Park in House of Hummingbird (Beol-sae) (South Korea, USA). Jury comment: “For a subtle performance of enormous range and complexity, the award for Best Actress in an International Narrative Feature goes to Ji-hu Park in House of Hummingbird. 

Best Actor in an International Narrative Feature Film – Ali Atay in Noah Land. Jury comment: “For an emotionally powerful and truthful portrayal of a conflicted and self-destructive man struggling to make sense of his life, the award for Best Actor in an International Narrative Feature goes to Ali Atay in Noah Land.”  

Best Cinematography in an International Narrative Feature Film – Cinematography by Kang Gook-hyun for House of Hummingbird (Beol-sae) (South Korea, USA) directed by Bora Kim. Jury comment: “For empathetic, patient, yet specific and assured cinematography which allows us to embark on a young girl’s journey as she comes to terms with who she truly is, the award for Best Cinematography in an international narrative feature goes to Gook-hyun Kang for House of Hummingbird.”  

Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature Film – Noah Land (Nuh Tepesi) written by Cenk Ertürk (Germany, Turkey, USA). The winner receives $2,500. Jury comment: “For its perceptive and nuanced storytelling of an estranged father and son struggling to understand the past, each other and themselves, the award for Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature goes to Cenk Ertürk for Noah Land.  

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION CATEGORIES
--The jurors for the 2019 Documentary Competition were Drake Doremus, Robert Greene, Julie Goldman, Andrew LaVallee, and Cheryl McDonough.

Best Documentary Feature – Scheme Birds (Scotland, Sweden) directed and written by Ellen Fiske, Ellinor Hallin. The winner receives $20,000, and the art award “Oil Lotus Woman” by Shepard Fairey. Jury Comment: “For its poetic, haunting depiction of compelling characters living on the edge. Every element of the film, from editing to cinematography to point of view, is superb. The filmmakers convey their voice in a unique and present-tense way. We’re proud to present the award for best documentary feature to Scheme Birds.”

Best Cinematography in a Documentary Film – Cinematography by Yang Sun, Shuang Liang for Our Time Machine (China) directed by Yang Sun, S. Leo Chiang. The winner receives $2,500. Jury comment: “For its insightful visual style that captures loss and uses both intimate and grand spaces to maximum effect. The images elevated a universal story to the realm of dream and metaphor. The award for best cinematography goes to Our Time Machine.

Best Editing in a Documentary Film – Editing by Jennifer Tiexiera for 17 Blocks (USA) directed by Davy Rothbart.  The winner receives $2,500. Jury comment: “The award for best editing goes to a film for its profound treatment of vast amounts of honest, often raw footage. The film is structured in a way that renders some of the most affecting moments with great subtlety. Viewers are transformed over the course of the film, a testament to the choices made in its making. The award for best editing goes to 17 Blocks.”

Special Jury mention: “This brave film uses editing to reveal narrative layers that weren’t immediately apparent, challenging and surprising viewers along the way. The special jury mention goes to Rewind.”
  

BEST NEW NARRATIVE DIRECTOR COMPETITION
--The jurors for the 2019 Best New Narrative Director Competition were Stephen Kay, Bill Keith, Justin Long, Piper Perabo, and Mélita Toscan du Plantier.

Best New Narrative Director – The Gasoline Thieves (Huachicolero) (Mexico, Spain, UK, USA) directed by Edgar Nito. The winner receives $10,000, and the art award “Love Trap” by Walter Robinson. Jury comment: “A coming of age story, social commentary, and at some points a revenge tale, this new director juggles each genre with equal sensitivity and truth. The film is impressively shot, with the messy and complicated inner workings of the characters’ situations reflected in the emotional camera work that has a blazing intensity. Like the movie’s central character, this movie is defined more by its heart than its swagger. We present the Best New Narrative Director award to Edgar Nito for The Gasoline Thieves. We can’t wait to see more from Edgar.”

 
BEST NEW DOCUMENTARY DIRECTOR COMPETITION
--The jurors for the 2019 Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award were David Cross, Orlando von Einsiedel, and Kathrine Narducci.

Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award – Scheme Birds (Scotland, Sweden) directed by Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin. The winner receives $10,000 sponsored by CNN Films, and the art award “Indigo Rocket Over Tribeca” by Stephen Hannock. Jury comment: “For a film that tells a deeply compelling story, but realised with cinematic vision and invited us intimately into the lives of the film’s characters. This film is a remarkable achievement, made even more so because it’s from first time feature directors. The winners for the Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director are Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin for Scheme Birds.”

THE NORA EPHRON AWARD
--The jurors for the 2019 Nora Ephron Award, presented by CHANEL, were Debra Messing, Chloë Sevigny, and DeWanda Wise.

The Nora Ephron Award – Rania Attieh for Initials S.G. (Iniciales S.G.) (Argentina, Lebanon, USA) directed by Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia. Rania receives $25,000, sponsored by CHANEL, and the art award “Alison the Lacemaker” by Swoon. Jury comments: “The film we chose is thrilling, distinct, and fully immersive. It was also something we’d never seen before. A true cinematic experience. We are elated to award this years’ Nora Ephron Award to Rania Attieh for Initials S.G.”

 

SHORT FILM COMPETITION CATEGORIES
--The jurors for the 2019 Narrative Short Competition and Animated sections were Maureen Dowd, Topher Grace, Rosalind Lichter, Hamish Linklater, Lily Rabe, Phoebe Robinson, and Jeff Scher.

Best Narrative Short – Maja (Denmark) directed by Marijana Jankovic. The winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, and the art award “Amy Sillman” by Amy Sillman. Jury comment: “A deftly told story of a misunderstood young immigrant girl on her first day at a new school rides a line of danger and yearning innocence, challenging our assumptions and twisting the personal into the political with a grace our moment requires.”

Special Jury Mention: “This film celebrates the humanity and ingenuity of a character from the margins of society on a propulsive, fast-pedaling quest for the best tortilla in New York, The Dishwasher directed and written by Nick Hartanto, Sam Roden.”
 

Shorts Animation Award – My Mother’s Eyes (UK) directed and written by Jenny Wright. The winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, and the art award “Balloon Dog, Magneta” by Jeff Koons. Jury comment: “For its delicate, elegantly simple, breathtakingly imaginative animation and its ability to hold the heart of anyone who has a mother — whether beating in grief or in celebration. To this indelible portrait of immeasurable love, we are thrilled to give this award to My Mother’s Eyes.

--The jurors for the 2019 Short Documentary and Student Visionary Competitions were Dr. Kevin Cahill, David Krumholtz, Kathy Najimy, Sheila Nevins, Agunda Okeyo, Aaron Rodgers, and Buster Scher.

Best Documentary Short – Learning To Skateboard In a Warzone (If You’re A Girl) (UK) directed by Carol Dysinger. The winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, and the art award “28 Millimeters, Portrait of a Generation” by JR. Jury comment: “A revelatory tale of how skateboarding can fuel the future of dignified resistance to gender oppression in war torn Afghanistan. Told through the Innocent confessions of young girls and the steadfast dedication of their headstrong female instructors, this film shines an uncompromising and ultimately uplifting light onto righting injustice.”

Special Jury Mention: “An unflinching and delicate portrait of a loving father with a haunted past who bravely decides to stand up to the powers that be in Ferguson, Missouri in St. Louis Superman.”

Student Visionary Award – Jebel Banat (Egypt) directed and written by Sharine Atif. The winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, and the art award “Chrysler Building” by Jane Dickson. Jury comment: “This tale of gendered oppression and aspirant liberation paints a searing portrait of life in the Egyptian countryside. Two inseparable young women are tested on their commitment to local mores despite their growing fear of losing themselves and each other.”

Special Jury mention: “Set in rural China, this stunningly cinematic short Pearl (Zhen Zhu) follows the strife of a small family down a path of rupture and loss.”
 

STORYSCAPES AWARD
The 2019 Storyscapes Award, which recognizes groundbreaking approaches in storytelling and technology, jurors were Lisa Osborne, Paul Smalera, and Adaora Udoji.

Storyscapes Award – The Key (USA, Iraq), created by Celine Tricart.  The winner receives $10,000, presented by AT&T. Jury comment: “This piece was the full package. Emotionally resonant, the winner demonstrates a seamless fusion of technology and narrative. The experience combines a real actor with fantastical, immersive visuals and achieves a rarity in VR storytelling with its use of metaphor to represent an ongoing, real-world crisis. Of particular note are the superbly executed virtual reality technical details, including character design, use of color, and sound design.”

TRIBECA X AWARDS
Previously awarded last week were the 2019 Tribeca X Awards, sponsored by PwC. Tribeca X recognizes excellence in storytelling at the intersection of advertising and entertainment. The jurors were Nabil Elderkin, Kim Gehrig, Jason Kreher, Kinjil Mathur, Patrick Milling-Smith, and John Osborn.

Feature
The winner of the Best Feature Film was awarded to Almost Human for The Carlsberg Foundation. Directed by Jeppe Rønde.

Short
The winner of the Best Short Film was awarded to The Face of Distracted Driving for AT&T. Directed by Errol Morris for BBDO New York.

Episodic

The winner of the Best Episodic Film was awarded to History of Memory for HP. Directed by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason for Redglass Pictures, The Garage by HP.

VR
The winner of the Best VR Film was awarded to The 100% by Stand Up to Cancer, HP and Intel. Directed by Hernan Barangan for Springbok Entertainment.

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