ONCE MY MOTHER, FIDELIO: ALICE’S ODYSSEY Win AWFJ EDA Awards @ 2015 St. Louis International Film Festival — Michelle McCue Reports

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After 11 days of celebrating magnificent and electric movies, the 24th Annual St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) came to a conclusion on Sunday evening, November 15.

At the closing ceremony the Alliance of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) presented EDA Awards for Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature and Best Female-Directed Documentary. Read on…

The awards were announced and award certificates and laurels were presented by AWFJ members Cate Marquis (St. Louis Jewish Light) and myself.

The films were nominated by SLIFF in October, and viewed by two AWFJ-member jury panels — one for the narrative competition, the other for documentaries — who viewed the films and selected the honoree in their category.

THE WINNERS ARE FEMME-CENTRIC

Lucie Borleteau’s Fidelio: Alice’s Odyssey received the EDA for Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature.

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Actress Lucie Borleteau makes her feature directing debut with this insightful study of a woman situated in an almost exclusively male milieu. Sailor Alice (Ariane Labed) joins the freighter Fidelio as a replacement engineer, soon discovering that the captain, Gaël (MelvilPoupaud), is a man with whom she was once romantically involved. Though she leaves behind a fiancé on land (Anders DanielsenLie, Oslo, August 31st), she finds her feelings for Gaël have not abated. Buttressed by a remarkable international cast, Fidelio, Alice’s Odyssey presents a rounded portrait of a passionate woman faced with difficult choices. Greek actress Labed won Best Actress at Locarno for her memorable performance. Nominated for two César Awards including Best Debut Feature.

Sophia Turkiewicz’s ONCE MY MOTHER took the EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Documentary.

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When Australian filmmaker Sophia Turkiewicz was 7 years old, her Polish mother, Helen, abandoned her in an Adelaide orphanage. Sophia never forgot this maternal act of betrayal. Now in middle age, as Sophia examines her troubled relationship with Helen, she discovers the full story behind her mother’s miraculous survival in the years before, during, and after World War II. The details of Helen’s pre-Australia life are the stuff of epics: orphaned at 6; abandoned at age 9 by an indifferent uncle; forced to live for years on the streets of her small Polish town (now part of the Ukraine); shipped at 16 to a Russian gulag to work as a slave laborer after Stalin and Hitler divvy up Poland; twice compelled to trek endless miles through Russian territory, ending up first in Uzbekistan and then in Persia; displaced to a refugee camp in Rhodesia, where she becomes pregnant — by an Italian soldier — with Sophia; finally arriving in Australia, where she’s forced to temporarily place her daughrer in an orphanage. With Helen now sliding into dementia, Sophia must confront some difficult questions: Did she ever truly know her mother? Does she have it in her heart to forgive her? And is it too late?

SLIFF AND PROGRAMMING WOMEN’S FILMS

SLIFF_2015_posterSLIFF Executive Director Cliff Froehlich said, “Dating back to the silent era, women have been vital contributors to film art, but they have long been underrepresented and underappreciated in the industry. Thankfully, that situation is changing, and the number of women filmmakers has grown exponentially in recent years. SLIFF believes it’s important to shine a spotlight on their increasing role, and the EDA Awards are an excellent means of acknowledging the diverse works that contemporary women filmmakers are directing.”

According to AWFJ President Jennifer Merin, “SLIFF is one of the country’s top regional showcases for independent and international film, and it has been a delight to collaborate with them and to honor them for presenting such an exciting slate of films by and about women.”

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AWFJ EDA Award Jurors

Marina Antunes (Quietearth.us, Vancouver, Narrative), Laurie Coker (True View Reviews, Austin, Documentaries), Cate Marquis (St. Louis Jewish Light, St. Louis, Narrative), Jennifer Merin (chair, Women’s eNews, New York, Narrative), Michelle McCue (chair, We Are Movie Geeks, St. Louis, Documentaries), Rebecca Pahle (Film Journal International, Brooklyn, Narrative), Betsy Pickle (AWFJ, Knoxville, TN, Documentaries), and Diana Saenger (Review Express, Alpine, CA, Documentaries).

AWFJ, an organization of top women film journalists and critics from across the U.S, Canada and UK, will distribute in December a full slate of EDA Awards recognizing the year’s best (and worst) films by and about women.

Click on the SLIFF Website for the list of this year’s festival winners in all categories, and for more information about the festival.

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