Imperial Dreams directed by Malik Vitthal

The Ashland Independent Film Festival announced the 2015 juried and audience award winning films at an Awards Celebration gala at the Historic Ashland Armory. Imperial Dreams (pictured above), directed by Malik Vitthal was the big winner of this year’s festival, taking home both the Jury Award and Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature film.

In Imperial Dreams,  21-year-old Bambi returns home to Los Angeles and his old stomping grounds in Watts, fresh off a 28-month stint in prison for gang activity, Now educated and eager to pursue his dream of becoming a published writer, he must first come to terms with his role as the sole caretaker of his 3-year-old son. To have any hope of reaching his goal and giving his son the upbringing he deserves, he needs to get a job and get off parole. Bambi’s dreams of a legitimate life are challenged by both the red tape of government bureaucracy and the pressure to return to his old gangster life. Even so, he finds hope where it is scarce, and learns what it really means to be a father.

In total, twelve awards were presented to attending filmmakers, honoring their work screened at the 14th annual festival.

The AIFF presented the 2015 Rogue Award to Olympic Champion Greg Louganis. In 1988, Louganis became the first man to sweep the diving events in consecutive Olympic games. His legendary grace, beauty, and courage sparked a worldwide fascination with diving. Louganis shared his story in the documentary Back on Board: Greg Louganis, directed by Cheryl Furjanic, which  screened Saturday evening. The film reveals the complicated life of the pioneering, openly gay athlete who revealed his HIV-positive status, at great risk to his career.

Earlier in the week, the AIFF presented Award-winning Director Ondi Timoner with the inaugural AIFF “No Limits” Award in recognition of her fearless filmmaking and unique storytelling style in her latest film, BRAND: A Second Coming. The film follows comedian, author, and activist Russell Brand’s (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) evolution from a superficial Hollywood star and addict to a political disrupter and unexpected hero to the underserved. BRAND: A Second Coming screened Opening Night.

Western, directed by Bill and Turner Ross, took home the Les Blank Award for Best Feature Length Documentary, bestowed by the festival’s jurors. This real-life western is a dazzling vérité portrait that puts a human face on an uncertain new reality of two border towns. Barge and Cartel Land received Honorable Mentions.

It was a tie for The Rogue Creamery Audience Award for Best Documentary. Sharing the honor are FRAME BY FRAME and Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World.

Imperial Dreams, directed by Malik Vitthal, received the festival’s jury award for Best Narrative Feature film and won the Varsity Audience Award for Best Feature. Another double winner was One Year Lease, taking home the Juried Best Short Documentary prize and the Audience Award for Best Short Documentary.

Birthday took home the Jim Teece “Local Hero” Audience Award for Best Short Film. The Audience Family Choice Award went to The Dam Keeper.

The jury award for Best Editing: Feature Length Documentary went to Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, directed by Brett Morgan. The juried award for Best Short Film went to SKUNK. Stop received an Honorable Mention.

Wildlike won The Jim Giancarlo Award for Best Acting Ensemble and received the Gerald Hirschfeld A.S.C. Award for Best Cinematography. Proud Citizen received an Honorable Mention. Hirschfeld was the 2007 A.S.C

President’s Award Honoree and Director of Photography for films such as Young Frankenstein and My Favorite Year.

Most Juried and Audience Award-winning documentary, feature and short films will receive encore presentations, Monday April 13 at the Varsity Theatre in downtown Ashland.

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