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New York International Independent Film and Video Festival
China Club
November 2, 2007

Written by Katharine Heller

Opposite Photo: Event Producer Renata Lorenc with Host and Film Threat Magazine Actor to Watch Russ Russo
Photo Credit: Andrew Kaen

It was a night of thrilling artistic integrity, budding young talent and questionable cocktails at this year's New York International Independent Film and Video Festival at the China Club.

The NYIIFVF was founded in 1993 by Stuart Alson, whose goal was to give unknown directors, actors and producers a chance to have their work be seen, without having to go through the red tape that other festivals such as Cannes, Tribeca and Sundance have become known for. That is not to say, however, that there is no screening process. And according to event producer Renata Lorenc, the festival has also turned into a strong venue for films and documentaries about important social issues. With over 250 features, shorts, animations and documentaries from over 60 countries, the NYIIFVF can boast to being the most diverse festival of its kind.

Kathy Di Fiore (center) Accepts Award
for Best Educational Short Film Confusion Burning
Sharon Ross ( left) Accepted Award
for Best New Director of an Educational Short Film
On Behalf of Adam Litwinski

Photo Credit Katharine Heller

One film that caught my attention was the work of humanitarian Kathy DiFiore, with whom I had the pleasure of speaking. Her docu-drama, Confusion Burning, is about the Lakota Sioux reservation in North Dakota. When it was discovered that the suicide rate was among the highest of any reservation, especially among adolescents, DiFiore went on a journey to explore what leads these teens to drug dependency, STD's and unwanted pregnancy. The film, funded in part by a grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, won the award for Best Educational Short Film.

Filmmaker Daniel Frei (second right) Accepts his Award
for Best Director of a Short Film
Daniel Frei Also Accepts the Award for
Best Actor in a Short Film on Behalf of Adrian Grenier
Photo By Andrew Kaen

Another person I spoke to was director Daniel Frei, whose film Off Hour won Best Director for a Short Film and Best Actor. Best actor Adrian Grenier (Entourage) couldn't make it, but that's okay because I actually don't really watch Entourage and I didn't want to ask him about his only film I know, the teen flick, Drive Me Crazy. Frei, however, was able to tell me about his unconventional piece, a gritty urban homage to black and white silent films.

Getting back to social issues, I was impressed with Curt Fissel's documentary, Delicious Peace Grows In A Ugandan Coffee Bean, not only because he gave me a free bag of coffee, but because of its unique subject matter. This film explores a coffee cooperative in Mbale, Uganda, which consists of farming families of Christian, Muslim and Jewish backgrounds, working together for the goal of fair wages.

The actual awards ceremony was a blast. There was musical entertainment from Jannine V. with her new song, "Spend It", and Gia 7 rocked out with "Feel For You". And of course, watching the individuals proudly receive their respective awards was refreshingly unpretentious. It's always exciting to see emerging artists getting recognized for their work and unlike the jaded stars of Hollywood, these celestial bodies were shining with genuine talent, hope and integrity. I also credit the organizers for creating a very open and fun environment. Okay, there was a red carpet and a rope, but that's just because it's the China Club.

At one point a very young buxom lady offered me a complimentary shot of a new drink made primarily of bitters. I normally don't like bitters, but much like many of the films being honored, you never know how good something is until you give it a chance. I'm glad these films were given a forum, and many turned out to be gems. The shot, not so much.





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