Iranian, U.S. films win top Tribeca festival awards

Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:40pm EDT
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An Iranian film about college friends reuniting for a weekend by the Caspian Sea and a U.S. documentary about teenage go-kart racers won the top prizes at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday.

Asghar Farhadi's "About Elly (Darbareye Elly)" won the Best Narrative Feature and Marshall Curry's "Racing Dreams" took out the Best Documentary Feature. The directors, who have previously shown films at Tribeca, were each awarded $25,000.

The world narrative competition judges -- producer Richard Fischoff, filmmaker Todd Haynes, and actors Bradley Cooper, Meg Ryan and Uma Thurman -- described "About Elly" as a "seamless piece of ensemble filmmaking."

"The universality of the characters and themes, and the directors riveting grasp of this story make 'About Elly' a film that collapses barriers and deepens our understanding of the world we share," they said.

The judges in the world documentary competition were filmmakers Liz Garbus, Morgan Spurlock, author and academic Henry Louis Gates, Jr., actress Whoopi Goldberg, and NBC News anchor Brian Williams.

"Is it nature or nurture? Is it the car or the driver? While those eternal questions will live on, we reacted with unanimous, unquestioned affection for 'Racing Dreams', and found it a completely compelling, entertaining film of incredible quality," the judges said.

Norwegian director Rune Denstad Langlo was named Best New Narrative Filmmaker for "North (Nord)", which tells the tale of a depressed 30-year-old ski lift operator who sets off to reclaim the life he lost after a sporting accident.


<p>Director Asghar Farhadi attends a news conference to promote the film "About Elly" of the 59th Berlinale film festival in Berlin, February 7, 2009. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele</p>