Films about girls and women in peril were big award winners at Sunday’s culmination of the 2018 Long Beach Indie International Film Festival (LBIIFF).
The Broken Rose, which tells the story of human trafficking in Oakland through the eyes of a girl who grew up abused in foster care, received the Best Narrative Feature honor at the LBIIFF gala at the Long Beach Hilton. The ceremony capped four days of screenings of more than 150 shorts and feature-length works at Cinemark at the Pike Theaters in Long Beach.
Directed by Matt McClellan and starring Monee’ Brehaut and Evan Joelle, the chilling drama was represented at the festival by co-writers/executive producers Tyrone Dangerfield and Will Uschold, who issued this joint statement: “We are thrilled and humbled The Broken Rose was honored with this award. We are passionate filmmakers trying to bring much needed attention to the human trafficking epidemic that has plagued our beautiful hometown, and we thank the Long Beach Indie International Film Festival for this recognition and their support of our cause.”
Paula Mozen’s Life Interrupted, which chronicles her story as well as the stories of fellow breast cancer survivors, received the Best Documentary Feature award. “As a survivor, it’s great to meet women all over the country who are survivors and they feel like I’m speaking to them and I’m telling their truths,” said Mozen, an Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker based in Montana, during her acceptance speech. “This is my dream to have filmmakers give me an award because I’m going to be a filmmaker first. I’ll be a survivor second.”
Audience demand led to three screenings of the narrative feature drama Love Cecy, which would go on to pick up the Audience Choice Award. It is based on the real-life story of Cecilia Rios, who was 15 in 1994 when she was murdered in Richmond, California. The movie is for “all of the young women, all of the young men that we’ve lost to violence,” says Angie Marie Espinoza, who portrays Rios. “I feel like this is just the beginning to showcasing young lives and what art can do for communities to turn pain into art.”
Best of the Fest winning short Funeral for a Bird also had a female director (Zoe Luebeck) and star (6-year-old Dawn Roman). With no lines of dialogue, she gives a nuanced performance as a young girl who finds a dead bird and decides to throw it an elaborate funeral.
Nikita T. Hamilton, whose short film Call Out Black played on the LBIIFF’s opening night, received the Dolores Huerta Award, which is named after the civil rights activist and United Farm Workers co-founder and recognizes a female filmmaker creating work designed to progressively impact society. The recipient of a doctorate from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC in 2017, Hamilton is also the showrunner’s assistant on FX’s much lauded Atlanta.
The LBIIFF California Endowment Award, which acknowledges a filmmaker creating progressive and balanced narratives of young men of color, was given to Nathaniel Lezra, the writer/director of In Echo Park, an interlocking story of class and identity in LA’s Echo Park.
2018 Long Beach Indie International Film Festival Awards Winners
Best Narrative Feature – The Broken Rose, Matthew McClelland
Best Documentary Feature – Life Interrupted, Paula Mozen
Best Documentary Short – Through Your Eyes, Tevin Tavares
Best Animated Short – The Untold Story of Romeo and Juliet, John Tso
Best Music Video – “Not That Strong,” Gregory Kasunich
Best Web Series – Baby Making Time, Armen Evrensel
Best Television Pilot – In My Father’s Name, Georgia Lessalle
Best Youth Film (Under 18) – T(HE)Y, Caroline Callender
Best Narrative Short – I Think I Have Crush on You, Maria Eriksson-Hecht
Best Student Film – Stuck, Javier Sanchez Jr.
Best Faith Film – Our Rose Garden, Ligia Maria Storrs Rojas
Best Comedic Short – Only the Drum, Ann Sullivan Cross
Best Suspense/Horror Film – Distorted, Tai Anderson and Al G. Sillah
Dolores Huerta Award – Dr. Nikita Hamilton, Call Out Black
California Endowment Award – Nathaniel Lezra, In Echo Park
Audience Choice Award – Love Cecy, Jay Francisco Lopez
Best of Fest – Funeral for a Bird, Zoe Lubeck
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.