AIFF Dishes Out Its First Awards--Mostly to Folks Without Films Entered in Competition
Pause a beat which, coupled with the tone of the curt answer, indicates the veteran character actor does not always have positive encounters with strangers in restrooms.
"Yes," Paul Sorvino quickly blurts out, his eyes fixed on the automatic faucet and soap dispenser he is heading toward.
"Your daughter," I inform him, "got me verklempt."
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Pause another beat which, coupled with the confused look on Sorvino's face, indicates he doesn't quite understand why a guy he does not know is bringing up one of his two girls, especially near the gents stalls of UltraStar Cinemas at GardenWalk in Anaheim.
"Whaa-" Sorvino starts to ask before catching himself, which indicates he now realizes his inquisitor must have also been inside the same movie theater he had on this Saturday afternoon, the one that showed Like Dandelion Dust, which starred and was introduced to the small Anaheim International Film Festival (AIFF) crowd by his eldest child, Mira Sorvino.
"She's a great actress, isn't she?" Sorvino says as he dries his hands and gives the briefest of glances.
"She was awesome in that," I say of Like Dandelion Dust. "It's a really good film."
I then left him at the paper towel rack as I made my exit.
Here's the kicker: I wasn't kissing ass. Mira Sorvino and Barry Pepper, as a poor couple in a onetime abusive household, give bravura, gut-wrenching performances in the tiny indie picture about their legal tug-of-war with the wealthy couple (Cole Hauser and Kate Levering) who adopted the first couple's 7-year-old son (Maxwell Perry Cotton, amazing). Credit must also go to director Jon Gunn, screenwriters Stephen J. Rivele and Michael Chance and novelist Karen Kingsbury, who wrote the source material and co-produced.
As Paul Sorvino said a couple hours after our restroom encounter, this time from the podium of the AIFF awards gala in Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, the storytellers managed to make the audience feel sympathy toward and cry with both couples.
It's an amazing achievement, and whether they were speaking to the sell-out black-tie crowd in the Sequoia Ballroom or the audience at UltraStar that was small even after seat fillers filed in, the Sorvino father and daughter, producer Kevin Downes and executive producer Geoff Ludlow urged people to tell family, friends and anyone else to find Like Dandelion Dust.
"It not Avatar," the lead actress said as she received from the AIFF its first Spotlight Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Like Dandelion Dust. "It has no special effects or big machine behind it."
It doesn't even have the lead Today Show crew behind it:
Despite all this, Downes predicted the award Mira Sorvino picked up in Anaheim is only the first of many she will be in line to win in the coming movie awards season for Like Dandelion Dust. How she was honored in the hotel next to theme parks is unusual. The AIFF announced Sorvino would be singled out for the role on Thursday afternoon--a day after the festival had started. At the same time, the Like Dandelion Dust screening was announced, and the late notice likely contributed to the ultra-low, UltraStar turnout.
The whole idea that an Academy Award-winning actress and her small film would be foisted upon a film festival and awards program already in progress makes one imagine the schmoozing, arm-twisting and backroom deals long associated with Hollywood talent reps. Whatever. In this instance, however it happened, it was a deserved honor. If it helps get more eyeballs on the film, all the better.
Only four films--out of more than 120 features and shorts screening through Sunday--were singled out. Different two-person juries selected the winners in short and feature-length films. So, what follows is the complete list of festival award winners.
(Tie) Colony and 18
God of Love
The Lost Thing
Colony is an American documentary by Carter Gunn and Ross McDonnell about Colony Collapse Disorder, which has emptied beehives across the country. Jang Kun-jae's Eighteen, from Korea, is sort of a Romeo & Juliet story involving two teens in love and disapproving parents. (I previewed God of Love and The Lost Thing in "It's About Time." )
That was it for festival entries: no director, acting nor audience-choice awards. And the winners were announced almost as an after-thought, at the end of a long program that had already honored industry types and local philanthropists, before capping things off with a drizzly, VIP look at the "World of Colors" light/water/fire show in Paradise Pier at California Adventure.
Besides Sorvino, AIFF honors went to:
- Anaheim White House restaurateur Bruno Serato for his humanitarianism in feeding pasta nightly to 150 homeless children in Anaheim. He said 200 pounds of pasta and 220 checks have poured in since a story about his charity, which his Italian mother demanded he undertake, was aired on The CBS Evening News;
- Newport Beach philanthropists Lawrence and Kristina Dodge, the namesakes of Chapman University's film school, for lifetime achievement. The star of a short film on the Dodges was their young daughter, Lorenz Dodge;
- British director Jonathan Lynn, whose hilarious Wild Target opened the festival, for film, stage and theater accomplishment. He was introduced by his longtime friend, actor Robbie Coltrane of the Harry Potter films. Contrane said Lynn "is at his best when he is at his most grumpy."
- Actor Hector Elizondo for lifetime contribution to acting via film, stage and television. "The republic has to be saved and education is the No. 1 priority, nothing else," he told the crowd. "If we had had a more educated populace, it would have known the difference between a demagogue and a statesman, and we wouldn't be in the mess we're in."
Classical/electric cellist Tina Guo and former Hiroshima singer Kimaya Seward with some dancers entertained the crowd, as did emcee Michael Corbett of TV's Extra infotainment program.
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