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Director troika set for bigger things

Eason, Gorlin, Reut up for special award

The Turning Leaf Coastal Reserve Someone to Watch Award, one of three $20,000 grants doled out at the Spirit Awards, is the oldest coin prize at the indie kudofest.

In its ninth year, the award’s mandate is to “recognize a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition.”

This year’s three nominees are Eric Eason (“Manito”), Eitan Gorlin (“Holy Land”) and Przemyslaw Reut (“Paradox Lake”).

Digital drama

“I made ‘Manito’ as a response to other (digital video) films that weren’t taking advantage of the medium,” says 37-year-old writer-director Eason. “A lot of DV films are just about actors acting in a room, and I wanted to tell the biggest, most ambitious story that the format would allow.”

Inspired by the Dogma 95 filmmakers and the Italian neorealists of the 1950s, “Manito” is a gritty, intense family drama set in New York’s Dominican-American community. Shot and edited for just $24,000 (Eason and his producers later secured finishing funds), the film premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded a special jury prize for ensemble performance.

“Manito” has won nine awards on the fest circuit, including the Open Palm at IFP/New York’s Gotham Awards, and is due for release in June.

The New York native parlayed the film’s success into a management deal with the Firm, which is helping Eason set up his next film, “Journey to the End of the Night,” a dark crime drama set in South America.

‘Holy’ mission

Gorlin was well on his to way becoming a rabbi when he decided to leave the Zionist yeshiva he was attending in Israel and pursue a secular education at home in the U.S.

Born and raised in Washington, Gorlin attended Penn University and then spent five years wandering through Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It was on his travels that Gorlin first got the idea for “The Holy Land,” a coming-of-age story about a young Orthodox Jew who falls in love with a Russian immigrant prostitute.

Pic won the Grand Jury Prize at Slamdance last year and the American film kudo at the Avignon/New York Film Festival in April.

“The movie addresses issues that are very important politically,” says the 33-year-old filmmaker. “In a sense, I think I’m showing America where America’s heading.”

Upstart distributor Cavu Pictures plans to release the film in June.

Genre-proof

“I have no idea how I’d describe the genre of my movie,” says Przemyslaw “Shemie” Reut of his debut feature, “Paradox Lake.” “It’s shot like a documentary, but the sequence of events are purely invented. All the distributors have loved it, but they have no idea how to sell it.”

Pic, which premiered in competition at Sundance 2002 and went on win prizes at the New Horizons (Poland); Athens, Greece; Milan, Italy; Nashville, Tenn.; Los Angeles film festivals, blends documentary, fiction and animation techniques to tell the story of a counselor at a camp for autistic children.

Born and raised in Poland, the 34-year-old Reut studied journalism at Warsaw University before moving to New York to study film at the School of Visual Arts. After a stint working as an assistant at Good Machine, Reut started a musicvideo company, producing work for hip-hop stars like Eve, DMX and Mos Def before embarking on “Paradox Lake.”