May 1, 2009 / 1:44 AM / 10 years ago

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

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.

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

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.


Irish actor Ciaran Hinds won the Best Actor award for playing a widower with children who volunteers at a literary festival in “The Eclipse”, while U.S. actress Zoe Kazan won the Best Actress award for her role as a college student struggling to control her emotions in “The Exploding Girl”.

Ian Olds won the Best New Documentary Filmmaker for “Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi”, which examines the life of an Afghani who translates and arranges interviews for foreign journalists. Naqshbandi was kidnapped and beheaded by the Taliban in 2007.

“A film about an unsavory world, and its unsavory characters, which through its superb direction, shines a light on a world unfamiliar to many Americans,” the jury commented.

In the New York competition category, the Best Narrative went to “Here and There”, directed by Serbian Darko Lungulov, starring David Thornton and his wife, singer Cyndi Lauper. It tells the tale of a jaded middle-aged New Yorker who travels to Serbia to make some quick money by marrying a woman who wants to move to the United States.

Best Documentary in the New York competition went to “Partly Private”, which explores the issue of circumcision and is directed by Danae Elon.

The eighth annual Tribeca Film Festival, founded by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff to help rejuvenate downtown Manhattan after the September 11 World Trade Center attacks, showed 85 feature films from 32 countries this year.

Editing by mark Egan and Mohammad Zargham

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