SEATTLE NEEDLES EPIC

Norwegian Marius Hoist took home the juried New Directors’ Showcase for “Cross My Heart and Hope to Die” and the Danish four-hour epic “The Kingdom” won the Golden Space Needle best picture award, voted by the audience, as the Seattle Intl. Film Festival wrapped up June 11.

Bryan Singer received best director for his neo-noir pic “The Usual Suspects,” which Gramercy is releasing this August.

Actor Kevin Spacey was singled out for his work in two pictures, “Swimming With Sharks” and “The Usual Suspects.” Nicole Kidman won the female perf award for her turn in Gus Van Sant’s dark comedy “To Die For.”

For the fourth year in a row, attendance topped 100,000 at the 25-day event, the longest fest in the country. There 174 features from more than 40 countries shown.

This year saw the launch of a three-day Filmmakers’ Forum, which consisted of a series of panels dealing with screenwriting, directing, distribution and even film criticism (see story, this page).

American first-time director Nancy Mackler picked up a special jury prize for the British pic “Sister My Sister,” a dramatization of the story that inspired Jean Genet’s play “The Maids.”

A new jury prize, the American Independent Award, honored Todd Haynes for his second feature, “Safe,” starring Julianne Moore.

Not surprisingly, Terry Zwigoffs “Crumb,” which won the Sundance Fest Award, grabbed best documentary. German Veit Helmer was honored with the best short award for “Surprise.”

“Seattle is aimed squarely at filmgoers rather than film industry or press,” director Darryl Macdonald said. “Perhaps that is why distributors, producers and sales agents pay so much attention to what goes on here – they get a clear, unjaded picture of a film’s audience potential.”

Greeted with thunderous applause and a standing ovation, director John Schlesinger introduced the closing night selection, his eccentric comedy “Cold Comfort Farm.” Made for TV, this British-flavored film has no American distributor yet.

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