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The 25th Leeds International Film Festival which ran November 3 to November 20, 2011, attracted its largest ever audience of over 35,000, including a record audience for a single screening with 1000 people attending Closing Gala Shame. The Festival today announced its Audience Award winners and three prestigious Jury prizes.  

LIFF25 Audience Awards

Official Selection Audience Award: The Artist (dir. Michael Hazanavicius, France, 2011)

The Artist is a highly original and hilariously funny story about ambition and passion set in 1920s’ Hollywood. George Valentin is a silent movie superstar. The advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career and see him fall into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller, it seems the sky’s the limit – major movie stardom awaits. Acclaimed French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius has directed a glorious cinematic surprise, featuring a stunning recreation of the silent era and superb performances from all, including Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, Malcolm McDowell, and Uggy the dog.

Fanomenon Audience Award: Juan of the Dead (dir. Alejandro Brugues, Cuba, 2011)

For Juan and his rag-tag bunch of Cuban slackers, a new revolution is about shake up their laid-back Havanan lifestyle. Juan of the Dead has a bit of everything for fans of the genre: zombie splatter, belly laughs, great characters, social and political comedy, and laconic Cuban style. A crowd-pleasing zombie comedy with intelligence, shedding a humorous light on life and politics in modern Cuba through the premise of the zombie apocalypse, Juan’s UK premiere is a significant event as it is not just the country’s first zombie film, but the first independently produced film to break out of Cuba in 50 years.

Cinema Versa Audience Award: Sound It Out (dir. Jeanie Finlay, UK, 2011)

A cultural haven in one of the most deprived areas in the UK, Sound It Out Records in Stockton-on-Tees is thriving against the odds and the film pays tribute to the eccentric and enthusiastic Northern community that keeps it alive. Sound It Out is presented in collaboration with Jumbo Records.

LIFF25 Golden Owl Award –  22nd May (dir. Koen Mortier, Belgium, 2010).

The Golden Owl Jury presented the Golden Owl Award to 22nd May (dir. Koen Mortier, Belgium, 2010).

The Méliès d’Argent

Méliès d’Argent (feature film Winner): The Divide (dir. Xavier Gens, Germany/USA/Canada, 2011)

In The Divide, Frontier(s) director Xavier Gens delivers an incredible nightmarish portrayal of fear, paranoia, love and survival set against an apocalyptic backdrop. As nuclear bombs fall on New York eight strangers take refuge in the basement of their now destroyed apartment building, home to paranoid superintendent Mickey (a brilliant performance from The Terminator’s Michael Biehn). With food, water and supplies they are safe for now, but it isn’t long before anger and mistrust starts to divide the group and it soon becomes clear that the fight to survive has only just begun.

Méliès d’Argent (feature film) Special Mention: Masks (dir. Andreas Marschall, Germany, 2011)

Director Andreas Marschall disturbed LIFF audiences in 2004 with his previous film Tears of Kali. Now he’s back with a giallo-esque bloody thriller in a homage to Suspiria. Stella, an ambitious but unfocused acting student, is offered a place at the mysterious Mateusz Gdula school, which was infamous for a strange method which killed a number of students in the 70s. As Stella begins to hear strange noises and the other girls start to disappear she suspects that the method is still being practiced. Intrigued, she decides to investigate, but finds herself sucked into a nightmare beyond her control.

Méliès d’Argent (short film) Winner: Decapoda Shock (dir. Javier Chillón, Spain).

Méliès d’Argent (short film) Special Mention: Tommy  (dir. Arnold du Parscau, France, 2011)

Both The Divide and Decapoda Shock will now go forward to compete for the coveted Méliès d’Or at Sitges International Festival of Fantastic Film in Spain in 2012.

The Augustin Awards (short film)

World Animation: The Gloaming (dir. Nicholas Schmerkin, France, 2010)
Louis le Prince International Short Film: Bear (dir. Nash Edgerton, Australia, 2011)
British Shorts: Grandmothers (dir. Afarin Eghbal, UK, 2011)
Yorkshire Short Film – (We are Poets) ‘I Come From…’ (dirs. Alex Ramseyer-Bache, Daniel Lucchesi, UK, 2011).

Leeds also received news that it has been accepted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles as qualifying festival in the Academy Awards®  category of Short Film. Starting with 2012’s 26th Leeds International Film Festival, the winners of the annual World Animation and Louis Le Prince International Short Film awards at the Film Festival will be considered by the Academy voters in the Academy Awards® categories of Live Action Short Film and Animated Short Film of the from the 2013 Oscars® onwards.

Submissions for the 26th Leeds International Film Festival will open in January 2012.

film descriptions via LIFF

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