Mandoki's pic wins at Seattle fest

SEATTLE — Luis Mandoki’s “Innocent Voices” won the Golden Space Needle Award at the Seattle Film Festival as Spanish-language pics dominated this year’s fest, with a dozen titles from Argentina alone during the 25-day event.

“Innocent Voices,” based on Oscar Torres’ memoir of his war-torn childhood in Reagan-era El Salvador, drew the trophy at its namesake landmark at a Sunday-morning awards brunch.

Other big vote-getters for the fest’s top prize were Sweden’s “As It Is in Heaven” and the animated “Howl’s Moving Castle.” In the docu division, auds gave “Murderball” the Needle, closely followed by “March of the Penguins” and “After Innocence,” about kinks in the U.S. justice system. Latter also netted a local Women in Cinema award.

Gregg Araki received the director nod for his work on “Mysterious Skin” (followed by “Yes” helmer Sally Potter and “Brothers” maker Susanne Bier), with “Skin” star Joseph Gordon-Leavitt drawing the actor nod, followed by Peter Sarsgaard, who elsewhere received a fest tribute. “Yes” woman Joan Allen received actress kudos, with Maggie Cheung (“Clean”) and Glenn Close (“Heights”) just behind.

Adam Reid’s “While the Widow Is Away” received the Golden Space Needle for short.

Among juried awards, Doug Sadler’s “Swimmers” took new American film, with a special jury prize going to Doug Coffey’s quirky Naomi Watts vehicle “Ellie Parker.” A different jury honored Russia’s Ilya Khrzhanovsky with the new director prize for his enigmatic “4,” with a secondary nod going to New Zealand’s Brad McGann for “In My Father’s Den.” Another panel voted Walter Stokman’s “Based on a True Story” the docu prize, with a special nod given to Heather Rae’s “Trudell,” about Native American musician-activist John Trudell. And yet one more singled out the U.K.-made “Everything in This Country Must” for live-action short and “The Raftman’s Razor” for animated short.

The hefty fest wrapped Sunday night with the U.S. preem of Gus Van Sant’s “Last Days,” a fictionalized version of Kurt Cobain’s downfall.

Event attendance rose a modest 5% this time, after a dramatic quarterfold increase last year, the first for honcho Helen Loveridge and head programmer Carl Spence in the top positions.

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