Seattle has ‘Whale’ of a fest

'Rider' takes pic, director kudos; 'Oasis' wins for thesps

SEATTLE — The 29th annual Seattle Intl. Film Festival wrapped Sunday with a breakfast awards gala at the Space Needle.

With 220 pics unspooled over 25 days, the global hit “Whale Rider” walked off with the Golden Space Needle awards for best film and for director Niki Caro. Closest runners-up in both vox-populi categories, out of a record 70,000 ballots, were China’s “Together” and its helmer, Chen Kaige, and Lee Chang-dong’s “Oasis.”

The latter, a South Korean pic, yielded the top thesping awards to Seol Kyung-gu and Moon So-ri. Closest competitors were Adrien Brody, for “Dummy,” and “Whale Rider’s” Keisha Castle-Hughes.

Top docu was a tie between Kim Shelton’s “A Great Wonder” and the Irish-Venezuelan co-prod “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” from helmers Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain. Best short was Jonathan LeMonde’s U.S.-made “Misdemeanor.” Women in Cinema prize went to Ireland’s Aisling Walsh for her multinational “Song for a Raggy Boy.”

Separate juries were responsible for the New Directors Showcase Award — which went to Mikhail Brashinsky’s “Black Ice,” an experimental helming bow from Russia — and the New American Cinema Award, given to Allan Mindel’s “Milwaukee, Minnesota.”

The Asian Tradewinds Award went to “PTU,” the latest from Hong Kong’s Johnnie To, with honorable mention to “Sayew,” a clever Thai pic about porn, politics and sexual identity.

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