Now in its tenth year, The Berkshire International Film Festival wrapped up 2015 by announcing the winners of the annual BIFF Juried Prize Award and the BIFF Audience Award. In the Juried documentary category, the winners were Romeo is Bleeding written and directed by Jason Zeldes. Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia won in the Juried narrative category for their film H. filmed in both Troy, NY and Pittsfield. The Jury prize is sponsored by GWFF USA and was presented at a brunch Sunday at allium Restaurant in Great Barrington. Serving on the BIFF Jury were actors Karen Allen, Mary Kay Place, Scott Cohen and Peter Riegert, Josh Braun of Submarine Entertainment, producer Susan Arnold, casting director Gretchen Rennell, film executive Bob Harper, production designer Kristi Zea, and New York Film Festival director Kent Jones. The Audience Award Winner for best documentary feature was a tie between Crescendo directed by Jamie Bernstein, and Above and Beyond directed by Roberta Grossman and produced by Nancy Spielberg. The Audience Award Winner for best narrative feature was the Danish film Secrets of War.
The winner of the Berkshire Bank “Next Great Filmmaker Award” was Chris King’s powerful short film Birthday about a wounded war veteran returning home to his wife and how they put their lives back together. After the ceremony, BIFF presented a sold-out screening of the Sundance hit The End of the Tour directed by James Ponsoldt and stars Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segal which was also sponsored by Berkshire Bank. Immediately following the screening, patrons were invited to a party hosted by and at the new Hotel On North with chef Brian Alberg, the Berkshire Shenanigans and DJ BFG.
Highlights of the 4-day festival included the opening night screening of the Sundance audience award-winning film Meru. The film was greatly received by a packed house at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, and the audience enjoyed a wonderful Q&A afterwards with director and producer Chai Vasarhelyi and elite climber Conrad Anker and his wife Jenni Lowe Anker. A special anniversary film in honor of the 10th anniversary was produced by Joshua Crane and The Trumbull Studios, and premiered at the opening.
Saturday evening in Great Barrington, the Mahaiwe was sold-out for the special event screening of Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict. Immediately following the screening, director Lisa Immordino Vreeland, producers Josh and Dan Braun and famed art historian Donald Kuspit were heartily greeted by the audience and they held a panel discussion on the stage of the Mahaiwe. This special evening was generously sponsored by GWFF USA and the dinner party was held at the BIFF Tent, with music by Andy Kelly jazz band and dinner was catered by Michael Ballon of Castle Street Cafe. The BIFF presented yet another sold-out presentation at the Mahaiwe on closing night of Live from New York! with producers JL Pomeroy and Tom Broecker in attendance for a Q&A.Screening 80 features, documentaries, and shorts, BIFF hosted over 40 filmmakers and offered free children’s programs, Berkshire filmmakers, and parties throughout downtown Great Barrington and Pittsfield.
Highlights of the weekend included Karen Allen’s new film Bad Hurt with Allen in attendance along with director Mark Kemble and cast members Iris Gilad and Michael Harney (Orange is the New Black); A live performance from the young musicians of Kids for Harmony in Pittsfield took place outside the Triplex immediately following the screening of Crescendo.
Famed Hollywood actor Tab Hunter was in attendance for the documentary film about his life Tab Hunter Confidential; Berkshire filmmaker Larry Burke screened his film Autumnal prior to the screening of A Small Good Thing highlighting 6 people in our community with filmmakers in attendance; The Paper Trail featuring Simon Winchester, Courtney Maum, John Patrick Shanley and Luc Sante screened with the filmmakers in attendance; and Bob and the Trees, completely filmed in the Berkshires by Sandisfield resident and director/writer Diego Ongaro, writer Courtney Maum and the entire cast of the film in attendance.
Also taking place was the fourth annual Filmmakers Summit, a two-day talent academy offered to the 2015 film selection filmmakers. Offering a diverse, multi-dimensional program of panel discussions, lectures, and special events, lead by known industry professionals, the BIFF Filmmakers Summit is designed to celebrate and support the advancement of filmmakers and recognize film as a relevant and important medium.
BIFF 2015 is being planned for June 2-5, 2016 and submissions will open October 1, 2015.