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CIFF 2015: "Nahid" Wins Roger Ebert Award, "A Childhood" Takes Top Prize

"Nahid," Iranian filmmaker Ida Panahandeh's uncompromising drama about a woman striving to escape her societally imposed prison, won The Roger Ebert Award at last night's awards ceremony for the 2015 Chicago International Film Festival. It was one of three films singled out in the New Directors competition. Chinese director Pengfei Song was on hand to accept the Gold Hugo for his masterful debut feature, "Underground Fragrance," a picture carrying echoes of Chaplin's "City Lights," while Icelandic director Rúnar Rúnarsson submitted an amusing video acceptance speech for the Silver Hugo awarded to his haunting film, "Sparrows."

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Taking home the top prize in the main competition, presided over by jury president Andrew Davis (director of "The Fugitive"), was French director Philippe Claudel's riveting coming-of-age drama, "A Childhood," which also garnered Best Actor awards for its two young leads, Alexi Mathieu and Jules Gauzelin. Pablo Larraín's immensely disturbing drama, "The Club," scored accolades for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Ensemble. The Special Jury Prize went to Santiago Mitre's Argentinian-Brazillian coproduction, "Paulina," while David Verbeek's timely thriller, "Full Contact," from the Netherlands and Croatia, won Best Actress (for leading lady Lizzie Brocheré) and Best Cinematography. Arnaud Desplechin's vivid period piece, "My Golden Days," deservedly received the Best Art Direction award.

Two notable productions from Windy City filmmakers were honored during the ceremony as well. Though the Gold Q Hugo award went to Todd Haynes's widely acclaimed "Carol," the Silver Q Hugo was awarded to "Henry Gamble's Birthday Party," the latest and most narratively audacious film yet from the excellent writer/director Stephen Cone. "Radical Grace," Rebecca Parrish's wonderful documentary about the "Nuns on the Bus," won the Chicago Award, and is set to open at the Gene Siskel Film Center on November 6th. Four other nonfiction films were among the night's big winners: the documentary jury gave João Pedro Plácido's "Volta à Terra" the Gold Hugo, Song Zhantao's "In the Underground" the Silver Hugo and Natalia Bruschtein's "Time Suspended" a Gold Plaque Special Mention, while Festival Director Michael Kutza awarded Michael Moore with the Founder's Prize for his latest crowd-pleasing exposé, "Where to Invade Next."

Short films awarded during the ceremony included live action selections "Leidi" (Gold Hugo), "The Exquisite Corpus" (Silver Hugo), "One minded" (Gold Plaque), "over" (Silver Plaque) and "Ramona" (Silver Plaque); documentary selections "Santa Cruz del Islote" (Silver Hugo) and "A Tale of Love, Madness and Death" (Gold Plaque); and animated selections "Sunday Lunch" (Silver Hugo), "The Same River Twice" (Gold Plaque) and "Waves '98" (Silver Plaque). The INTERCOM Gold Hugo went to "Patrick Frost" from Seed Audio-Visual Communications.

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