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2019 Naples International Film Festival

Artis—Naples Award

“We celebrate that film is a truly multidisciplinary art form, and the films, panel discussions, live performances and education programs associated with the festival provide our community with a unique opportunity to experience the art of film.” says David Filner, Artis—Naples executive vice president, artistic operations.

The popular Naples International Film Festival launched into its second decade with the 11th annual event Oct. 24–27 at Hayes Hall. It opened with Van Maximilian Carlson’s festival favorite, Princess of the Row, which has won a number of awards on the film festival circuit and closed with a special presentation of Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark featuring a live performance of John Williams’ classic score by the Naples Philharmonic, conducted by Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly. In addition, the renowned actor Joe Pantoliano was honored with the 2019 Naples International Film Festival Artis—Naples Award. 

Recently named one of MovieMaker Magazine’s 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World 2019, NIFF presented 54 films (16 narratives, nine documentaries, 29 shorts) representing 20 countries. The premiere list included one world premiere, three films making their North American premieres, four East Coast premieres and 28 Florida premieres. In addition to the films, more than 24 filmmakers attended post-screening Q&A conversations and panel discussions during the festival. 

$25,000 in cash prizes was awarded to filmmakers in a variety of categories: $7,500 each for the two juried competitions (Best Narrative Feature and Best Documentary Feature), $2,000 each for the Audience Award winners in the Best Narrative Feature and Best Documentary Feature categories and $1,000 for the Audience Award winner in the Best Short Film category. A new award was added this year, the Focus on the Arts Award, and was accompanied by a $5,000 cash prize. The Focus on the Arts Award was created to recognize a narrative or documentary film that emphasized one or more of the visual and performing arts.

“We are proud to have made a significant investment in celebrating the art of film and are thrilled with the growth of the film festival over the past three years. The development of the Naples International Film Festival reflects the commitment to quality and variety that is at the heart of the Artis—Naples mission,” says Kathleen van Bergen, Artis—Naples CEO and president.

The recipient of this year’s Artis—Naples Award, which is presented to a filmmaker, actor or artist who exemplifies the multidisciplinary approach to the arts, was the incomparable Joe Pantoliano. NIFF showcased one of his latest films, Sean Cisterna’s From the Vine, in which he plays a CEO who retreats to his family’s hometown in Italy in an effort to deal with a moral dilemma and discovers an Italian vineyard on its last legs—which just may be the answer to getting him back on track.

Pantoliano’s performance on The Sopranos (2001–2004) yielded him multiple Emmy nominations and a coveted Emmy win in 1999, but he made his initial breakthrough in Taylor Hackford’s The Idolmaker (1980). He first received widespread notice for his role as Guido, the killer pimp, in Paul Brickman’s Risky Business (1982). Numerous films and television roles followed: The Goonies (1985), La Bamba (1987), Empire of the Sun (1987), Midnight Run (1988), The Fugitive (1993), Bad Boys (1995) and Bound (1996). Pantoliano’s place in cinema was forever cemented by his roles in two modern-day classics: Matrix (1999) and Memento (2000). The prolific Pantoliano currently has five more films in various stages of post-production.

The Naples International Film Festival’s Narrative competition sections included Leon Chambers’ Above the Clouds, an Audience Award winner at the Austin Film Festival about a headstrong teenage girl’s car trip to Scotland with a dubious driver’s license in order to find her “real” father; Amber McGinnis’ International Falls, about a woman stuck in a small, snowbound border town with a dream of being a comedian who meets a burned-out touring comic who would rather do anything else; R.J. Daniel Hanna’s Miss Virginia, which follows the journey of a single mother who reacts to her son’s struggles on the rough streets of Washington, D.C. by launching a movement to change the education system; and Hilary Brougher’s South Mountain, which stars Talia Balsam as a woman dealing with the personal crisis of her future turned on its head when her husband tells her he is leaving her, just as her kids also leave for the summer.

NIFF’s Documentary Competition included Jenifer McShane’s Ernie and Joe: Crisis Cops, which follows two Texas police officers with the San Antonio Police Department who are diverting people away from jail and into mental health treatment, one 911 call at a time; Peter Michael Dowd’s Mr. Jimmy, which looks at the moment where a lifelong dream meets reality when a Japanese kimono salesman and die-hard Led Zeppelin fan comes face-to-face with his rockstar hero, Jimmy Page; Jennifer Trainer’s Museum Town, which looks at the origins of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art; and Bill Gallagher’s Runner, which follows Guor Mading Maker, a long-distance runner who, against difficult odds, ran for South Sudan in the 2012 Olympics.

“From tearjerkers and thoughtful dramas to sincerely funny and delightful comedies, as well as documentaries that surely caught attendees off guard, our audiences rode a roller coaster of emotions over the four days of NIFF.” NIFF Producer Shannon Franklin says.

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