First Time Fest 2014: Awards and Festival Reflections

First Time Fest, a film festival that celebrates and supports first time filmmakers, wrapped up its second edition on April 7 with a closing night awards ceremony held at 42West nightclub. During the festival, besides Josephine Decker's psychological horror film Butter on the Latch (read my review here), I was able to catch three other great features. 

Tommy Oliver's 1982, set in Philadelphia in the titular year at the onset of the crack epidemic, is a semi-autobiographical and emotionally moving film featuring a great central performance by Hill Harper. Harper plays a man struggling to raise his daughter while dealing with his wife's raging crack addiction, and the film itself has beautiful visual textures and a realistic-feeling sense of its time and place. 

Rok Bicek's Class Enemy, from Slovenia, deals with a group of students who stage a revolt against their new German professor, a strict and demanding man they hold responsible for their classmate's suicide. With expertly calibrated tension and impressively acted by nonprofessionals, Class Enemy is a much more nuanced and complex film than its premise would suggest.

Drew Tobia's See You Next Tuesday follows the seriously dysfunctional family life of an extremely pregnant grocery-store clerk with emotionally fraught relationships with her sister and her recovering alcoholic mother. It may be initially off-putting, because its style is so aggressively abrasive and its characters often come off as almost grotesquely unpleasant, but its skewed comic rhythms possess their own weird charm, and it leads to a conclusion that's actually kind of touching.

At the awards ceremony, the jury prizes were presented, and Julie Taymor was presented with the 2014 John Huston Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema, presented by her composer and long-time partner Elliot Goldenthal.

Click through the gallery below for the other First Time Fest award winners, with quotes from the jury about the films. This year's jury consisted of Nicholas Haden-Guest (actor), Anne-Katrin Titze (film critic at Eye For Film), and Stephanie Zacharek (Village Voice chief film critic).

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