Lighthouse Int'l Film Festival Announces Its 2020 Award Winners


Beach Haven, New Jersey

Industry Event Announcements

Amir Bogen

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The 12th Lighthouse International Film Festival wrapped up on Sunday after five days of drive-in screenings on Long Beach Island NJ alongside a virtual program. The festival concluded with an online awards ceremony where eight winning films were announced in several categories.

The Festival opened on Tuesday 6/16 with the first-ever screening of The Outpost by Rod Lurie and closed on Saturday 6/20 with the screening of The Last Shift by Andrew Cohn. In between 31 new unreleased films (among them world premieres, Sundance and SXSW titles) were played on the big screen in three pop-up drive-in venues in Beach Havan, Loveladies, and Stafford Township in NJ. The virtual program contained more than 80 shorts, episodic projects, surf films, and features.

Award fo Best Narrative Feature: THE SUBJECT by Lanie Zipoy:
A successful documentarian (Jason Biggs, "American Pie") deals with the moral fallout from his last film, which caught the murder of an African American teenager on tape. Now, someone else is videotaping his every move, threatening his idyllic life.

"A timely film that explores the complex issue of race in America, greatly acted not only by Jason Biggs but the entire cast. A very compelling story well told of a very conflicted character".

Jury: Tom Mangan, Salome Mulugeta & Lizzie Shapiro

Award fo Best Feature-Length Documentary: FEELS GOOD MAN by Arthur Jones:
When indie comic character Pepe the Frog becomes an unwitting icon of hate, his creator fights to bring it back from the darkness of the far-right movement. This Sundance documentary is about an unexpected cultural rift, but also tells the personal story of an individual thrust into a maelstrom. The film is a Frankenstein-meets-Alice in Wonderland journey of an artist battling to regain control of his vandalized creation, while along the way confronting a disturbing cast of characters (including Alex Jones and Richard Spencer) who have their own peculiar attachments to Pepe.

"We were impressed by the arc of the story, the story’s relevance, high stakes, and broad appeal. What impressed us most was how the filmmaker visualized Matt Furie’s journey paralleled Pepe's journey and how their lives intersected. This of course concluded with Matt killing Pepe in order to redeem a part of himself".

Jury: Quester Hannah, Max Lewkowcz & Rebecca Stern

Award for Best Short Narrative Film: WHITE EYE by Tomer Shushan (Israel):
A man finds his stolen bicycle and it now belongs to a stranger. In his attempts to retrieve the bicycle, he struggles to remain human.

"Tomer Shushan, already awarded with SXSW Grand Jury Award, made a heartbreaking story about African refugees in Israel and how important to stay human, be compassionate, and to not follow your ego, but your heart and soul. Congratulations to Tomer and his team with another victory".

Award for Best Short - Documentary: ASHES TO ASHES by Taylor Rees & co-director Renan Ozturk:
Winfred Rembert, the only living survivor of a lynching, a Star Wars fanatic and leather artist, develops a friendship with Doctor Shirley Jackson Whitaker who is on a mission to memorialize the forgotten 4,000 African Americans lynched during the Jim Crow era. Together, their journeys of healing intertwine

"The level of the shorts is equivalent to the level of cinema documentary that you can see in feature films as well. We wanted to give the award to a film we felt is even more outstanding especially dealing with such an important topic right now in the US and in the world, but also doing so in such a sensitive and interesting way".

Award for Social Impact: ASHES TO ASHES by Taylor Rees & co-director Renan Ozturk:
"Many parts of American history are hidden from us and now, better late than never, is time to educate ourselves, to know the history, to learn from the mistakes, not to shy away from them and Ashes To Ashes shows personal stories we had no idea about. We grateful to the filmmakers of this documentary, for reminding us that movies do not only make us laugh, cry, escape to the other worlds, but educate us".

Jury: Amos Geva, Jeanne Prisyazhnaya & Ondi Timoner

Award for Best Episodic Project: LOST IN TRAPLANTA by Mathieu Rochet (France):
Awkward, misinformed but highly motivated, Larry sets out to meet the residents and the performers of the music scene of the city of Atlanta, which in just a few years has become the new global capital of Rap. Between the heavyweights of the Dirty South, illustrious unknowns and the young stars of Trap Music, he finds himself splashing around frantically in the local Hip Hop scene. Will he reach the secret island of Funk, where Big Boi and André 3000 are hiding out? Or will he drown in the murky waters of Trap Music?

Jury: Denise Grayson, Ayana Stafford-Morris & Tamar Yoffe

Jennifer Snyder Bryceland award: Why Is We Americans? by Udi Aloni & co-director Ayana Stafford-Morris:
"The 2020 prize is proudly awarded to Why is We Americans? an intimate and inspiring window into the poetic, progressive, and complex world of the renowned Baraka family and their revolutionary relationship with the city of Newark, New Jersey. An insightful and layered film that would be an important and necessary story to tell at any point in time, Why is We Americans? is even more timely and essential in today’s world".

The $3,500 special prize is given to a filmmaker whose feature-length documentary displays artistic excellence, incorporates (social) environmental themes (local, regional or global), and inspires optimism in audiences. Jury: Matthew Soraci & Paula Froehle of Chicago Media Project.

Award for Best High School Student Film: EMPTY by Vic Pater:
"By using poetic language, the narration of the film was lyrical. The animations moved beautifully along with the narration, making the piece feel dreamlike. The film’s ability to highlight mental illness through various metaphors of bugs and animals allowed for the audience to understand a different perspective and way of life".

Special Mention: CONVERGENCE by Noah Lipsitz

Jury: Nona Haller