Film fest winners announced

The Sarasota Film Festival announced winners of its competitive sections Saturday at a filmmakers tribute dinner that honored thesps Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy, producer Paula Wagner, writer-director Robert Towne and helmer Robert Altman.

Narrative feature award — for which seven films were in competition — went to Kelly Reichardt’s “Old Joy,” with a special jury prize to Cristi Puiu’s “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.”

Winner of the docu feature award, also chosen from a pool of seven pics, was Peter Richardson’s “Clear Cut,” with special jury prize to Gary Tarn’s “Black Sun.”

Another eight pics competed in the Independent visions category, with Erica Dunton’s “Find Love” tapped for the award. Special prizes went to Hadjii’s “Somebodies” for screenwriting and to Cam Archer’s “Wild Tigers I Have Known” for originality.

At the Saturday dinner to receive the fest’s Florida Medal of the Arts, Altman made some pointed political comments. He took square aim at Katherine Harris, the former Florida secretary of state now running for the Senate. “If she hadn’t been here before, it seems we wouldn’t be in this war,” Altman said, referring to Harris’ role in the 2000 presidential election. Comments elicited some applause along with plenty of boos from the GOP-leaning crowd.

Fest honoree Macy got more than kudos at Sarasota. He reported drumming up about half the $8 million he needed for his upcoming project, “The Deal,” from locals. Macy has co-written the script with Steven Schachter, who will direct. Lisa Kudrow is slated to co-star, Macy said. Pic will lense in Budapest, and Macy aims to present it at next year’s fest, which unspools April 13-22.

The eighth annual fest, which ran March 31-April 9, saw an additional 44 narrative features unspool outside competition, with emphasis on contempo indie fare like Duncan Tucker’s “Transamerica.” Films also included classics such as Marcel Camus’ 1959 “Black Orpheus” and Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” and bigger commercial pics including Paul McGuigan’s “Lucky Number Slevin.”

Another 39 docus screened outside competition, including 14 as part of a retrospective on Werner Herzog, who was honored with a special World Cinema master award.

Leslie Grief’s “Funny Money” opened the fest. Closing-night film was Altman’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”

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