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The 12th Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) announced the winners of the two Heineken Audience Awards — one for narrative and one for documentary. The Rocket, directed by Kim Mordaunt, was chosen by the audience to receive the Narrative award; the film also took top honors at the Festival jury awards where it received both The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature and Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film for Sitthiphon Disamoe’s performance as Ahlo. Bridegroom, directed by Linda Bloodworth Thomason, was chosen for the Documentary award. Each award comes with a cash prize of $25,000.

Set against the lush backdrop of rural Laos, The Rocket tells the story of scrappy ten-year-old Ahlo, who yearns to break free from his ill-fated destiny. After his village is displaced to make way for a massive dam, Ahlo escapes with his father and grandmother through the Laotian outback in search of a new home. Along the way, they come across a rocket festival that offers a lucrative—but dangerous—chance for a new beginning. With the help of his new friend Kia and her eccentric, James Brown-loving uncle, Ahlo sets out to build his own rocket, enter the contest and prove his worth to his family. The Rocket’s characters, mostly played by non-professional actors, embody the spirit of resilience and hope born out of a country affected by a legacy of war and undergoing a great economic change. 

Bridegroom chronicles the emotional journey of Shane and Tom, two young men in a loving and committed relationship. Unfortunately, their love is cut short by Tom’s accidental death, and his partner finds himself facing the failure of same sex marriage protections that leave him completely shut out and ostracized. Bloodworth Thomason sheds light on the often-overlooked struggles that same sex couples face as a result of marriage inequality. As this issue heads to the United States Supreme Court for deliberation, Bridegroom is poised as a timely and moving documentary about love and perseverance through loss.

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