Belgian crime thriller takes top honours at Victoria Film Festival

An explosive Belgian crime thriller about the consequences of a brutish cattle farmer’s involvement with Flemish mobsters who peddle illegal growth hormones took top honours at the Victoria Film Festival awards presentation Sunday night.

Rundskop (Bullhead), Michael R. Roskam’s Oscar-nominee for best foreign-language film, was named best feature at the end- of-festival bash hosted by Spinnakers for 200 bleary-eyed fans, volunteers and filmmakers at the trendy Vic West brewpub.

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Cloudburst, Thom Fitzgerald’s bittersweet comedy starring Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as an elderly lesbian couple who drive from Maine to Nova Scotia to get legally married, was voted best Canadian feature by the festival’s jury.

The best documentary award went to Amy Sultan, Roland Legiardi-Laura, Deborah Shaffer and Edwin Martinez for To Be Heard, their inspiring portrait of underprivileged South Bronx high school students empowered by a radical poetry program.

The audience favourite feature — determined by results from post-screening ballots marked by filmgoers — went to The Girls in The Band, Judy Chaikin’s revealing documentary about the trials and triumphs of female jazz musicians.

Filmgoers awarded the Metropol audience favourite short prize to Jeremy Lutter for Joanna Makes A Friend, the Victoria native’s stylized charmer about a lonely young H.P. Lovecraft fan who literally makes herself a friend — a homemade robot.

“I’m completely and utterly ecstatic,” said Lutter, whose film, written by fellow University of Victoria writing grad Ben Rollo, also picked up the best short award at the Whistler Film Festival.

“It feels even better to win in Victoria because it’s an audience choice award, whereas in Whistler it was chosen by a panel of judges. We really tried to make a film that appeals so I guess we’ve succeeded.”

Neal Sopata took the Cineplex Entertainment Best Short Animation prize for Strange Fruit, his animated meditation on racism in the Old South that features music by Billie Holiday.

The 18th annual Victoria Festival showcased nearly 150 features, documentaries and shorts from around the world during its 10-day run that wrapped Sunday.

Guests included legendary Hollywood filmmaker John Landis (The Blues Brothers), Oscar-nominated actress Linda Blair (The Exorcist) and several filmmakers. Among those in attendance were Max McGuire (Foreveland), Carl Bessai (Sisters & Brothers), Deborah Shaffer (To Be Heard), Michael Peterson (Lloyd the Conquerer) and Casey Walker (A Little Bit Zombie.)

The 19th Victoria Film Festival is scheduled to take place Feb. 1-10, 2013.

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