Backstage at The Utah Arts Festival 2015: ‘The Story of a Rain Night,’ ‘Wildlife,’ ’33 giri’ take top Fear No Film honors

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The Story of A Rainy Night,  directed by Mehdi Fard-Qaderi, Grand Jury Prize of Best of Show, Fear No Film 2015, Utah Arts Festival.
The Story of A Rainy Night, directed by Mehdi Fard-Qaderi, Grand Jury Prize of Best of Show, Fear No Film 2015, Utah Arts Festival.

Fifteen awards were announced today in the Fear No Film portion of the Utah Arts Festival, including a Grand Jury Prize, Utah Short Film of The Year, Fear No Filmmaker Award, three honorable mentions and the best short film in each of the seven ‘boundaries’ categories around which the film festival was organized as well as two awards in the kids’ film category.

The Grand Jury Prize for Best of Show went to The Story of a Rainy Night from Iran, directed by Mehdi Fard-Qaderi, which had its third appearance in a U.S. film festival. This film was produced by Iran’s Youth Cinema Association and its narrative is about an elderly man who is celebrating his birthday and takes a new look at the relationships among his grown children. Regrettably, many in the West are subjected to media reports that demonize Iranians and subvert portrayals as loving families that face the same emotional challenges we find ourselves coping with daily. This film fills the gap elegantly with sincere emotion and empathy.

Winning the Utah Short Film of The Year prize is Wildlife, directed by Ryan Darst. Definitely an exemplar of what enterprising independent filmmakers can achieve, the filmmakers shot and set this story of revenge in Springville, Utah, a quiet small town that, however, is marked by the undercurrent explosive tensions of two different ways of life. In one neighborhood, there are two houses of interest in the story: one where the daughter is barely hanging on to her family’s religiously centered connections by way of antidepressant medication and the other across the street where a kingpin dealer and addict terrorizes his younger brother. Both are desperate to escape. The film, which played at Cannes, is actually a prologue of a forthcoming feature film. Familiar faces in this film with actors Whit Hertford, Lauren Lapkus and Jon Heder.

The Fear No Filmmaker Award went to Riccardo Di Gerlando from Italy who directed 33 giri. This 14-minute film (‘giri’ translates as ‘laps’) is a courageously expressive story, definitely driven by poetry more than by dialogue, about disability and an authentic portrayal about the condition as well as the desire for self-sufficiency. The technical quality of the filmmaking underscore the film’s impressive artistic statement.

Scene from WIldife, directed by Ryan Darst, Utah Short Film of the Year, 2015 Fear No Film, Utah Arts Festival.
Scene from WIldife, directed by Ryan Darst, Utah Short Film of the Year, 2015 Fear No Film, Utah Arts Festival.
Three short films, with solid festival portfolios already developed, also earned Grand Jury Honorable Mentions:. The first is Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution, New York, directed by Matthew VanDyke, filmed in Aleppo, Syria and featuring Nour [Kelze, producer of the film] a teacher now working as a journalist, and Mowya, a rebel fighter who spent seven months in prison being tortured by Assad’s henchmen. The second is Bad Vibrations (Malas Vibraciones), from Spain and directed by Flavia Santos, about a man, fastidious about keeping his life in order, who becomes extraordinarily obsessed with trying to explain the reason for his wife having a dildo, which he discovered in her personal belongings. The third is Love and Commando from France and directed by Laurent Ardoint and Stéphane Duprat, which sets the story of a World War II lieutenant trying to handle the simultaneous expectations of his personal life and military duty in a 14-minute musical. The film has earned three prizes at international festivals.

“What a great year for Fear No Film, with multiple highlights and keystone films. Several audience awards were decided by just a few votes, which couldn’t thrill me more,” Topher Horman, director of the program, says. “Audiences clearly loved the wide range of films. I’m honored to receive, and program, such amazing works from around the world. Fear No Film at the Utah Arts Festival is on the map for global filmmakers, and I’m excited to provide our very film-savvy viewers a glimpse into stories and artistic communities usually unavailable to many Americans, in addition to showcasing several notable Utah-produced short films. Congratulations to all of this year’s filmmakers.”

33 giri, directed by Riccardo  di Gerlando, Fear No Filmmaker Award, Fear No Film 2015, Utah Arts Festival.
33 giri, directed by Riccardo di Gerlando, Fear No Filmmaker Award, Fear No Film 2015, Utah Arts Festival.
Fear No Film, held in the City Library auditorium, had full houses for many of its screenings, Horman adds. Also, the two screenings of film shorts exclusively for kids in the Art Yard proved to be a rousing success. Fear No Film is the festival’s fourth largest program.

Now in its 13th year, Fear No Film, which featured 55 shorts, has come into its own as an international event, attracting a record of nearly 500 submissions from around the world. This year’s lineup comprised 16 films from Utah, 8 from other states in the country and 31 from outside of the United States. A festival jury of filmmaking and media industry peers along with audience members selected the festival winners.

Audience award winners included the following:

Filmmaker Impulse: Discover why these artists felt compelled to create their films. — Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution, Matthew VanDyke, New York

Audience Impulse: Experience how each of these films elicit an audience reaction or a shared moment. — T.P., Bob Blevins and Bradly Werley, Illinois

Physical Impulse: Identify how our basic impulses such as breathing and our will to live aren’t always so simple. — Birthday, Chris King, California

Mental Impulse: Examine how mental impulses often initiate through our memories, imagination and emotions. — Cinnamon, Shahid Kamal, United Kingdom

Soul Impulse: Identify urges ranging from the subconscious to the spiritual. — Made of Stone, Sebastian Olivari, Chile

Impulse to Connect: Investigate ways we connect with each other. — The Story of a Rainy Night, Mehdi Fard-Qaderi, Iran

Impulse to Disconnect: Explores the anxieties of living in isolation, bad breakups, and separation from ideals. — our perfect first date, Desiree Lavoy and Eytan Millstone, New York

Fear No Film KIDS! Award:

3 and up: Viva La Roach!, Sameer Al Jaberi, United Arab Emirates

8 and up: I’ve Just Had a Dream, Javier Navarro, Spain

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Les Roka
I am a native of Toledo, Ohio, having received my Ph.D. in journalism and mass communication from Ohio University's Scripps School of Journalism in 2002. In addition to teaching at Utah State University and the University of Utah, I have worked extensively in public relations for a variety of organizations including a major metropolitan university, college of osteopathic medicine, and community college. When it comes to intellectual curiosity, I venture into as many areas as possible, whether it’s about music criticism, the history of journalism, the practice of public relations in a Web 2.0 world and the soon-to-arrive Web 3.0 landscape, or how public debates are formed about many issues especially in the political arena. As a Salt Lake City resident, I currently write and edit a blog called The Selective Echo that provides an entertaining, informative, and provocative look at Salt Lake City and its cosmopolitan best. I also have been the U.S. editorial advisor for an online publication Art Design Publicity based in The Netherlands. And, I use social media tools such as Twitter for blogging, networking with journalists and experts, and staying current on the latest trends in culture and news. I also have been a regular monthly contributor to a Utah business magazine, and I have recently conducted a variety of editing projects involving authors and researchers throughout the country and the world, including Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Lebanon, Cyprus, the United Kingdom, France, and Japan. I’m also a classically trained musician who spent more than 15 years in a string quartet, being involved in more than 400 performances.

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