AFI festival honors film with Sterling Award

Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s “The Garden” won the Sterling Award for U.S. feature at SilverDocs, the documentary film fest held by the American Film Institute and Discovery Channel in Silver Spring, Md.

“The Garden,” Kennedy’s second feature-length docu after 2002′s “OT: Our Town,” examines the 14-acre urban garden and predominantly Mexican-American community that sprung up in south Los Angeles in the wake of the 1992 riots.

“The English Surgeon,” Australian helmer Geoffrey Smith’s portrait of a British neurosurgeon working with rudimentary tools in the Ukraine, stitched up the fest’s inaugural Sterling Award for world feature.

Audience award was given to Megumi Sasaki’s “Herb and Dorothy,” about Gotham art-collecting couple Herbert and Dorothy Vogel.

Honorable mentions for Yank and international features went, respectively, to Tia Lessin and Carl Deal’s Hurricane Katrina chronicle “Trouble the Water” (which won the grand jury prize at Sundance) and Chao Gan’s “The Red Race,” about the intense pressures faced by young Chinese gymnasts training for this summer’s Olympic Games.

Sascha Paladino’s “Throw Down Your Heart,” about the African roots of the banjo, topped the music docu competish.

Margaret Brown’s “The Order of Myths,” an examination of contempo segregation through the prism of Mardi Gras, received a prize for cinematic vision, while “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” about how thousands of women peacefully ended Liberia’s second civil war, won the fest’s Witness Award.

Kief Davidson’s “Kassim the Dream,” a profile of Ugandan child soldier-turned-champion U.S. boxer Kassim Ouma, won the American Film Market/SilverDocs award for exceptional market promise.

Fest awarded more than $70,000 in cash and in-kind prizes to its winning filmmakers.

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