‘Blessed’ by Tribeca

Argentine war pic wins top prize at film fest

Helmer Tristan Bauer’s “Blessed by Fire” (“Iluminados por el fuego”), a pic about Argentine vets of the Falkland Islands/Malvinas War, and their harrowing memories of combat, took the top prize as the Tribeca Film Festival wrapped Saturday.

Perhaps reflecting the split personality of Tribeca, which screened international indies and Hollywood tentpoles alike as part of a 274-pic lineup, the fest wound down with two very different events Saturday.

One was a packed awards dinner at a bustling Chinatown dim sum parlor, the Golden Bridge; the other was an uptown preem of Warner Bros.’ disaster remake “Poseidon.”

” ‘Poseidon’ doesn’t need attention,” said pic’s star Josh Lucas, who dashed downtown to be an award presenter before heading back to the “Poseidon” after-party at Barney’s New York. “These films do.”

Other presenters during the evening included Lucy Liu, Jeffrey Wright and docu guru Ken Burns. Instead of envelopes, winners’ names were encased in giant fortune cookies.

Chinatown venue was a change of pace for the fest, which has customarily held its awards in an auditorium at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Fest exec director Peter Scarlet said the venue was chosen to reflect, in part, the fest’s mission of diversity.

Other pics taking awards on Saturday night included Deborah Scranton’s “The War Tapes,” which won docu kudos. Pic follows National Guard members who were given videocameras to shoot their experiences in Iraq.

Other docs singled out included Aliona van der Horst and Maasja Ooms’ “Voices of Bam,” as well as “Jesus Camp,” “Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple” and “Maquilopolis.”

A few awards categories at Tribeca are all about Gotham boosterism: The NY Loves Film Documentary Award went to “When I Came Home,” directed by Dan Lohaus, about an Iraq war vet who finds himself on the streets when he leaves the military. The Made in New York Narrative Feature Award went to Oren Rudavsky’s “The Treatment,” about a frustrated, confused and recently dumped Gotham schoolteacher, and starred Chris Eigeman, Ian Holm and Famke Janssen.

Many awards went to international filmmakers. Egyptian helmer Marwan Hamed took Tribeca’s new filmmaker nod for his pic “The Yacoubian Building.” And Pelin Esmer drew new documaker kudos for “The Play,” submitted from Turkey.

Thesping honors went to Eva Holubova for her perf in the Czech Republic pic “Holiday Makers” (“Ucastnici zajezdu”), and Jurgen Vogel, for German pic “The Free Will.”

Linda Hattendorf’s “The Cats of Mirikitani” was tops with fest auds. Docu centers on a homeless 80-year-old Japanese-American artist who lost family and friends to both WWII internment camps in the U.S. and the bombing of Hiroshima.

Nick Childs’ “The Shovel” took the short prize, Steve Bilich’s “Native New Yorker” the short docu nod.

Fest officials estimated that a record 445,000 people attended this year, topping the previous record of 400,000 set two years ago.

On the biz side, just two pics announced acquisitions deals at Tribeca: Nick Guthe’s “Mini’s First Time,” which went to First Independent and HBO Video, and “Backstage,” snapped up by Strand. Fest hasn’t become much of an acquisitions hotbed for top-tier distribs. Last year, the Weinstein Co. picked up “Transamerica” after Tribeca wrapped, and more pacts could close in coming weeks as buyers start to shift their attention toward Cannes.

This year’s buzz titles included Jake Kasdan’s “The TV Set,” a behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood’s process of creating pilots, starring David Duchovny.

Go to Tribecafilmfestival.org for a full list of winners.

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