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SXSW: ‘The Arbalest,’ ‘Tower’ Win Top Film Prizes

AUSTIN, Texas — “The Arbalest,” Adam Pinney’s droll, puzzle-like tale of unrequited obsession starring Mike Brune as a famed 1970s toy inventor, won the grand jury prize for narrative features at the SXSW Film Festival on Tuesday.

The narrative jury, consisting of Lindsey Bahr, Richard Brody and Alonso Duralde, also handed acting awards to Andre Royo, who plays a wily ex-con in Josh Locy’s “Hunter Gatherer,” and to Lily Rabe, who stars as a high-school English teacher in Julia Hart’s “Miss Stevens.”

In the documentary competition, the grand jury prize went to Keith Maitland’s “Tower,” which uses interviews, archival footage and rotoscopic animation to reconstruct the sniper shootings that rocked the U. of Texas at Austin campus on Aug. 1, 1966. “Tower” also received the Louis Black “Lone Star” Award, given annually to a Texas-produced film, from a separate jury.

“It is the professional privilege of my life to spend my last four years in the company of some of the most brave and resilient people on this planet,” Maitland said, accepting the grand jury prize.

Documentary competition jurors David Edelstein, Jen Yamato and Stephanie Zacharek presented a special recognition for portrait documentary to “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America,” Matt Ornstein’s film about the eponymous musician and his controversial hobby of meeting and befriending KKK members.

“In an age when so much of our political dialogue is so coarse and so cynical … Daryl is endlessly optimistic and endlessly empathetic,” said producer Noah Ornstein.

A special jury recognition for cinematography was given to d.p. Lee Daniel for “The Seer,” Laura Dunn’s look at the endangerment of agrarian life as seen from the perspective of the poet-activist Wendell Berry.

The Gamechanger Award, presented to a female filmmaker, went to Sophie Goodhart for “My Blind Brother,” her love-triangle comedy starring Adam Scott, Nick Kroll and Jenny Slate. The Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship was given to Eileen Meyer, who edited the 2015 Gore Vidal-William F. Buckley documentary “Best of Enemies.”

The Tuesday night awards ceremony was hosted in lively fashion by director-comedian Mike Birbiglia, whose film “Don’t Think Twice” was warmly received in its world premiere in the festival’s Headliners section.

“It’s important to remember that art is not a competition,” Birbiglia said, kicking off the show. “But if it were, tonight we would be celebrating the winners.”

The 23rd annual SXSW Film Festival unspooled more than 140 feature films, including 89 world premieres, 12 North American premieres and eight U.S. premieres. Audience awards will be announced on Saturday.

The full list of winners:


Grand jury winner: “The Arbalest” (Adam Pinney)

Special jury recognition for best actor: Andre Royo, “Hunter Gatherer”

Special jury recognition for best actress: Lily Rabe, “Miss Stevens”


Grand jury winner: “Tower” (Keith Maitland)

Special jury recognition for portrait documentary: “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America” (Matt Ornstein)

Special jury recognition for cinematography: Lee Daniel, “The Seer”


Winner: “How Was Your Day?” (Damien O’Donnell)

Special jury recognition for acting: Jim Cummings, “Thunder Road”

Special jury recognition for writing: Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, “Greener Grass”


Winner: “These C–ksucking Tears” (Dan Taberski)

Special jury recognition: Terri Timely, “Dollhouse”


Winner: “Manoman” (Simon Cartwright)

Special jury recognition: “Don’t Tell Mom” (Sawako Kabuki)


Winner: “Glove” (Alexa Lim Haas, Bernardo Britto)

Special jury recognition: “Pombo Loves You” (Steve Warne)


Winner: “Sober,” Childish Gambino (Hiro Murai)


Winner: “The Send-Off” (Ivete Lucas, Patrick Bresnan)

Special jury recognition for acting: Lindsay Pulsipher, “1985”


Winner: “Lady of Paint Creek” (Alexia Salingaros)

Special jury recognition: “The Archer Hadley Story” (Ben Root, Alex Trevino)


Winner: “Miss Me: The Artful Vandal” (MissMe)

Special jury recognition: “Night Stalker” (New Media)

Special jury recognition: “Eat My S–t” (Octavio Terol)


Winner: “Sunstone” (Aimee Duchamp)


Gamechanger Award: “My Blind Brother” (Sophie Goodhart)

Louis Black “Lone Star” Award: “Tower” (Keith Maitland)

Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship: Eileen Meyer

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