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‘Fame High’ wins David Ponce Award among more than 60 documentar
‘Fame High’ wins David Ponce Award among more than 60 documentaries
By BARBARA CHRISTIAN
RUSSELL – Winner of the David Ponce Award for best entry in the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival this year went to “Fame High,” the story of young performers as they chase their dreams through one grueling year at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.
The challenges and struggles of the students studying music, dance and drama was an appropriate pick because it reflects the hopes, passions and dreams of those who make films.
Announcement of Popcorn Award winners in 11 award categories were Friday during a luncheon at the Club at Hillbrook with event sponsor Dewey Forward of the Popcorn Shop and Ivan Schwarz, director of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, serving as masters of ceremonies.
“Fame High,” a 97-minute film entered in the feature documentary category, was directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy.
Mary Ann Ponce, whose late son was a rising filmmaker and inspiration for the award, spoke to the filmmakers in the room when she said, “You are the reason we are here today ... because of your courage, and this is what we saw in our son. You put your dreams out there for us to see, and that is the definition of courage.”
Mrs. Ponce recalled how, during the making of her son’s film, there was a scene during which the cameraman said, “Can you see me? Can you see me?” as he asks for direction. That moment resonated with her, she told the filmmakers.
“You give voice to your stories,” she said, “and the festival, community and the Chagrin Valley are telling you that, ‘Yes, we see you.’”
Second in prominence is the award for Best Cinematography, presented to director Deborah Dickson for her documentary “The Lost Bird Project.” Presenter John Hellman, who with Ellen Ilkanic sponsored the award, told the audience that it’s the visual art in filmmaking – cinematography – that tells the story.
The film focuses on sculptor Todd McGrain, who draws his inspiration from five birds driven to extinction and which he memorializes in sculpture “to remind us,” Mr. Hellman concluded.
Other Popcorn Award winners:
Social Awareness – “Beating Justice: the Martin Lee Anderson Story,” directed by Andy Opel, is an expose of the system responsible for the death of a 14-year-old boy in a Florida boot camp. The honorable-mention award went to director Chris Schueler for “Domenici,” which describes the life and work of former U.S. Sen. Pete V. Dominici, who attended the festival and was at the award lunch.
Short Film – “Future Learn-ing” looks at the future of technology on students’ lives. Eli Akira Kaufman is director. Honorable mention went to “The Missing Note,” directed by Wes Carrasquil-lo, who witnesses a call to arms to return art and music to school curriculum.
Student Film – “Sebastian,” directed by Katie Valovcin and Dan Duran, is the story of a blind teenager who uses “echolocation” to overcome challenges of identity and disability.
Environmental Film – “Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives: the Environmental Impact of War” was directed by Alice and Lincoln Day, who focus on environmental damage of war, which they term “the silent casualty.”
Feature Documentary – “Fast Talk,” director Debra Tolchinsky, looks at college debaters who speak at unintelligible speeds to make more arguments per minute than their competitors. Ms. Tolchinsky accepted her award by and quipped, “I talk really slowly.”
Honorable mention went to “Service: When Women Come Marching Home,” directed by former Clevelander Marcia Rock and Pamela Lee Stotter. Ms. Rock accepted the award and said, “It is an important story of our women vets, who come home with a lot of issues to deal with.”
Human Spirit – “Fambul Tok” is directed by Sara Terry, who observes victims and perpetrators of Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war and how they came together in an unprecedented program of tradition-based truth telling and forgiveness.
Honorable mention was awarded to “Rise and Dream,” directed by Judy-Anne Goldman, who documents teenagers who live in poverty in the Philippines and their once-in-a-lifetime concert making music on traditional instruments they learned.
International Film – “Ameer Got His Gun” is directed by Naomi Levari. Ameer is exempt from service in the Israel military because he is a Muslim Arab, but he believes that, by volunteering, he can gain equality and belong to the state in which he lives.
Ohio Documentary – “The Restorers: They Were All Volunteers,” director Adam White, tells the story of the Word War II Doolittle Tokyo Raiders’ 68th annual reunion in Dayton during which 17 B-25 bomber crews gathered to honor them.
Honorable mention was awarded to “Lower 9: A Story of Home,” directed by Ohioan Matthew Hashiguchi and Elaine McMillion, who focus on four determined residents of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward and their lives six years after Hurricane Katrina.
Emerging filmmaker – “Love and Other Anxieties” is directed by Lyda Kuth, who investigates the reasons people marry and questions that haunt them decades into the relationship.
Ms. Kuth accepted the award and told the audience, “This is such a surprise in that, as a mid-life filmmaker, I would be called an emerging filmmaker, and that is such a compliment.”
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