“The First Grader,” “Wish Me Away” and “Most Valuable Players” walked away with the two major audience awards, the latter two tying, at the 2011 Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) presented by Nissan closing night party at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville.
Director Justin Chadwick’s “The First Grader,” the inspiring based-on-a-true story of an 84-year-old man who went back to primary school in Kenya, snagged the Southwest Airlines Audience Award for best narrative feature. “Wish Me Away,” the coming-out documentary of country singer Chely Wright by directors Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf, tied with “Most Valuable Players,” director Matthew D. Kallis’ film about high school theatre troupes vying for the Freddy Awards, for the Documentary Channel Audience Award for best documentary. A new addition this year, the Graveyard Shift Audience Award went to “The Troll Hunter” by director André Øvredal.
The opening night sellout of five screenings and a ticket sale record proved prescient, as the Festival went on to break its all-time ticket and attendance record. Attendance peaked at more than 26,000, a 14.7% increase over last year. Ticket sales for films and panels, which broke a record with two days left in the Festival, stood at 19,130 mid-afternoon today, an increase over last year’s total sales of 17,529.