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San Fran festival ends on high note

'La Vie en Rose' closes event

The S.F. Intl. Film Festival wrapped its historic 50th edition Thursday night with good cause for celebration thanks to record numbers posted in nearly all departments.

Number of programs (325), patrons (an estimated 84,000) and sold-out shows (105, up 52% from prior year and up 144% from 2005) were all the largest in fest’s history. Also hitting a new high was the money raised on May 3’s Film Society Awards Night, attended by George Lucas, Spike Lee, Ron Howard, Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, Jim Brown, John Lasseter and Mayor Gavin Newsom. Funds raised on the night added up to nearly $600,000.

Closing night film “La Vie en rose” was followed by awards including the Skyy Prize, which gives $10,000 to an emerging director — this time Mexico’s Francisco Vargas for “The Violin,” which the jury called “a perfect balance of political content and aesthetic appeal worthy of wide distribution.”

Fipresci Prize to a first-time filmmaker went to Jeanne Waltz for French drama “Pas douce” (“A Parting Shot”). Inaugural Chris Holter Humor in Film Award, named in honor of the late S.F. teacher and filmmaker, was bestowed by audience ballot on Pavel Giroud’s Spain-Cuba-Venezuela co-prod “The Silly Age,” a stormy-pubescence tale set in pre-Castro Havana.

“The Violin” also won the general audience award for narrative feature, while Mary Olive Smith’s “A Walk to Beautiful” was named docu feature.

Golden Gate Award winners celebrating at the Cowell Theater Wednesday included Shahar Cohen and Halil Efrat’s Israeli “Souvenirs” (documentary feature) and Robert Arnold’s “The Key of G” (Bay Area docu feature).

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