BIFF Wraps Sixth Season, Announces Awards

Debbie Peagler in "Crime After Crime"

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – The Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF) announced the winners of the annual BIFF Juried Prize Award and the BIFF Audience Award. In the Juried Documentary category, the winner was Yoav Potash’s Crime After Crime, about the legal battle to free Debbie Peagler, a woman imprisoned for over a quarter century due to her connection to the murder of the man who abused her. Michael Rymer’s Face To Face, a drama based on the play by Australian playwright David Williamson, won in the Juried Narrative category.

Serving on the BIFF Jury were actors Jayne Atkinson, Michel Gill and Peter Riegert, producer and distribution guru Josh Braun, writer and director Courtney Hunt, screenwriter John Orloff, casting director Gretchen Rennell and production designer Kristi Zea.

The Audience Award Winner for best documentary feature was also Crime After Crime and the Audience Award Winner for best narrative feature was Berkshire native Alethea Root’s directorial debut of Part Time Fabulous, an examination of living with clinical depression. The film stars Jules Bruff, and both Root and Bruff were in attendance at the BIFF.

The winner of the Next Great Filmmaker Award was Dustin Grella, for his short film Prayers For Peace, a stop-motion animation confronting the memory of the artist’s younger brother, killed in the Iraq war. Grella was on hand to accept the award in an emotional ceremony during the opening night in Pittsfield, followed by the award-winning film, Buck, which received a standing ovation and a Q&A with director Cindy Meehl.

Highlights of the 4-day festival included the opening night screening of the documentary Page One; Inside The New York Times. The film was warmly received by a packed house at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, and was followed by a Q&A with directors Andrew Rossi and producers Kate Novack and Josh Braun.

Saturday night, the Mahaiwe was yet again filled for the Douglas Trumbull Tribute and the presentation of Terrence Malick’s new film, Tree Of Life, for which Trumbull served as a visual effects advisor. The tribute speakers were Arish Fyzee and Richard Yuricich, long-time friends and colleagues, as well as John Whalan, president of Black Ice Entertainment, Diane Pearlman, executive director of Berkshire Film and Media Commission and Eugenie Sills, founder of the Women’s Times. The BIFF also presented a special screening of White Irish Drinkers with a Q&A with stars Karen Allen and Peter Riegert immediately following.

This year, BIFF presented films at Hancock Shaker Village and held a special presentation of Letters To Elia (sponsored by the Berkshire Film and Media Commission) written and directed by Pittsfield native Kent Jones and Martin Scorsese. Jones, who was presented with a key to the city of Pittsfield by Mayor James Ruberto the day before, led a Q&A following the screening.

Screening 70 features, documentaries, and shorts, BIFF hosted two dozen filmmakers and offered free children’s programs, Berkshire filmmakers, a Human Rights Watch Film presentation and panel discussion, the BIFF annual collaboration with Jacob’s Pillow with a special presentation of the new documentary about the Pillow, Never Stand Still, and parties in the BIFF Tent at Town Hall and throughout downtown Great Barrington and Pittsfield, including a filmmaker cocktail party sponsored by the Red Lion Inn.

BIFF 2012 will be held May 31 – June 3, and submissions will open October 1, 2011.


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