Amazonas Film Fest 2012: Awards Wrap Up, Wild Jungle Style

Editor, Festivals; Los Angeles, California (@RylandAldrich)
Amazonas Film Fest 2012: Awards Wrap Up, Wild Jungle Style

The 9th Annual Amazonas Film Festival wrapped up in style last weekend with an explosion of color and music in Brazil's Amazon capital of Manaus. Teams of dancers flooded the stage of the historic Teatro Amazonas as pounding drums and blazing synthesizers took turns battling for big time bragging rights based on their horned ox avatars. Don't ask me to explain the symbolism between the ox dance battle, but rest assured, it was just the kind of wild pageantry that someone would come to expect after an awesome week of films and fun in the Amazon.

Twitch had the pleasure of attending the 9th Annual Amazonas Film Festival in Manaus, Brazil this past week. What follows are some photos (click for larger) and thoughts from the trip, followed by some words about the films and a list of the winners. For more on the feature film lineup from the fest, check out our preview feature.

Closing Night Festivities
Blue Ox Team FTW!!

Taking place every year from November 3 to 9, the Amazonas Film Fest is more of a cultural exchange effort than it is a film festival in the sense most of us are used to. Though Manaus is a city of two million people, it's extremely isolated in the middle of the Amazon, only slightly closer to Rio di Janeiro than it is to Miami. Though the city was once the thriving capital of the rubber trade, it crashed into ruin in the early part of the 20th century when the rubber industry moved overseas, large parts of the city being taken over by jungle. Through aggressive economic policies in the later part of the 20th century, the city has been rebuilt into the thriving metropolis it is today. The outstretch of these policies are generous portions of the state budget being devoted to arts and culture. The Amazonas Film Festival is just one of twelve monthly festivals from dance to jazz to opera that take place in the state. While only nine years in, the film festival is already showing benefits. This year's Amazonas Shorts program was a rich selection of films shot by locals, the first generation of filmmakers in the region.

The Teatro Amazonas
Closing Night Crowd in the Teatro

The festival itself takes place at the gorgeous Teatro Amazonas. Built in the waning years of the 19th century, the Teatro was made famous in Werner Herzog's 1982 film Fitzcarraldo. While the seats leave some comfort to be desired, there is no doubt that it's a remarkable place to watch a movie. One funny element of Amazonas is that since it's free to attend, the upper levels fill up with school kids who buzz with chatter like a bee hive, creating an interesting, if not somewhat distracting atmosphere. It's wonderful, however, to see the kids as they lean over the railings, trying to get a glimpse of their beloved television celebrities below.

"The Meeting of the Waters" where the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões become the Amazon
Amazon Jungle Waterfalls

While the nights of films at the Teatro are special, it's the excursions into the Amazon that made for my most rewarding experiences. If anyone ever invites you to the Amazonas Film Festival... GO! Boat trips to the"Meeting fo the Waters" (where the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões rivers combine to form the Amazon in dramatic color clashing fashion) and up river into a jungle village provide a glimpse of how people both travel (the river is the highway) and live in the region. Some excursions, like our trip to a nature reserve for a sloth christening, are truly once in a lifetime experiences. Others, such as our hike to a magical Amazon waterfall-fed swimming hole, will go down as some of the coolest experiences in my life.

Magical Amazon Swimming Hole
View Out To the Massive River From an Amazon Village

The program of the festival was a diverse lineup of both Brazilian and international fare. Craig Zobel's Compliance was the lone American film. Quite the controversial film when it premiered at Sundance and was later released successfully by Magnolia, the film played very effectively to the culturally motivated audience. It's hard to know how well the kids buzzing in the bee hive above responded, but the clatter did calm down notably as the film hit its stride midway through.

There is no doubt that that crowd was very enthusiastic about Manaus native Sergio Andrade's Jonathas' Forest. While the odd "tale of two halves" structure of the story left me dissatisfied, feature films produced entirely in Amazonas are a real rarity and the film deserves credit for pulling of an exceptional feat.

Both Danish Sundance fave Teddy Bear by Mads Matthiesen and Brazilian Marcelo Gomes's (Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures) latest, Once Upon A Time Was I, Veronica received much praise from the festival audience and the judges.

A final note of praise for two of the short films featured in the Brazilian Shorts competition. Francisco "Kiko" Meirelles's (son of Fernando) The Chicken That Defied The System is a hilarious critique of our industrial livestock system, while Amir Admoni and Fabito Rychter's Linear is a wonderful animated piece about society's little people. Both should be sought out.

Craig Zobel Introduces Compliance While Linear Writer Fabito Rychter Looks On
The crew of Jonathas' Forest Takes the Stage

What follows are the prizes given out at the 9th Annual Amazonas Film Festival:

Amazonas Scriptwriting Contest: Strip Solidão

Amazonas Shorts - Docs

Audience Award - 'Retratos de Manaus' by Sergio Cobelo Cobelo & Yure César
Best Cinematography - Yure César for 'Chão Molhado'
Best Script - Sergio Cobelo & Amaru Cobelo for 'Retratos de Manaus'
Best Director - Everton Macedo, for 'Chão Molhado'
Best Film - 'Chão Molhado', by Everton Macedo

Amazonas Shorts - Fiction

Audience Award - 'Uma Doce Dama' by Leonardo José Mancini
Best Cinematography - Ricardo Araújo de Albuquerque & Leonardo Mancini for 'A última do Tambor'
Best Script - Gabriela Amaral Almeida for 'A Mão Que Afaga'
Best Actress - Beatriz Beraldo, for 'ET SET ERA'
Best Actor - Breno Castelo, for 'A Última do Tambor'
Best Director - Rafael Ramos dos Santos, for ' A última balada'
Best Film - 'ET SET ERA' by Emerson Medina & Rod Castro

Shorts Brazil

Audience Award - 'A galinha que burlou o sistema' by Quico Meirelles (São Paulo)
Special Jury Award - ' A Cidade' by Liliana Sulzbach (Rio Grande do Sul)
Best Cinematography - André Brandão for ' Monumento' (São Paulo)
Best Script - Gabriela Amaral Almeida for 'A mão que afaga' (São Paulo)
Best Actor - Rafael Souza Ribeiro for 'A Dama do Estácio' (Rio de Janeiro)
Best Actress - Luciana Paz, for 'A mão que afaga' (São Paulo)
Best Director - Nara Normande, for 'Dia Estrelado' (Pernambuco)
Best Film - 'Linear' by Amir Admoni (São Paulo)

International Feature Film Competition

Audience Award - 'Teddy Bear', by Mads Matthiesen (Denmark)
Best Script - Paul Laverty for 'The Angels' Share' (UK)
Best Cinematography - Adam Stone for 'Compliance' (USA)
Best Actress - Hermila Guedes, for 'Era uma vez eu, Verônica' (Brazil)
Best Actor - Begê Muniz, for 'A Floresta de Jonathas' (Brazil)
Best Director - Mads Matthiesen, for 'Teddy Bear' (Denmark)
Best Film - 'Era uma vez eu, Verônica', by Marcelo Gomes (Brazil)

Thanks to all who made the fest such a great experience!

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