On Saturday I attended Heineken’s and the Tribeca Film Institute’s Affinity Award presentation and party at Studio 48 on NYC’s West Side. The award, given to an African-American filmmaker (age 21 and over) to empower and encourage them to continue to craft stories through film, was awarded to Ava DuVernay. Storm Saulter, director of Better Must Come, above, accepted the award on DuVernay’s behalf.
In addition to a $20,000 cash prize awarded at the event Saturday night, DuVernay will receive year round support and professional development from TFI for her future projects.
DuVernay, of Los Angeles, won the Best Director Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film, Middle of Nowhere. A writer, director and distributor of independent film, her directorial work also includes the critically-acclaimed dramatic feature I Will Follow, as well as the music documentaries This is the Life and My Mic Sounds Nice. She was instrumental in getting Saulter’s film screened around the US, and has pledged her full support behind independent films and their makers. Her upcoming project Part of the Sky, is currently in development. DuVernay is also the founder of the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM).
DuVernay was chosen as the winner by public vote on a website dedicated to the Heineken Affinity Award. Myself and hundreds of thousands of visitors voted from January 15 to March 31, 2013, several times a week, spreading the word via Twitter.
“We could not be more pleased to name such a talented and dedicated filmmaker as the winner of the first ever Heineken Affinity Award,” said Pattie Falch, Brand Director, Sponsorships and Events. “Heineken offers exceptional and unique experiences to our consumers and Ava does the same with her creative vision. We know she will go far with the funding and support we are able to provide along with the Tribeca Film Institute.”
The filmmakers were nominated for the award by a survey of industry executives. From the list of submissions, Heineken and TFI invited ten finalists to apply for the award based on their prior work and the amount they’ll benefit from extra exposure and resources. Submissions were reviewed on how well they fulfilled the mission of the Tribeca Film Institute, the quality and strength of the proposal, the potential for international and US distribution, as well as the filmmakers’ previous body of work.
In addition to DuVernay, the finalists were Andrew Dosunmu, Cheryl Dunye, Nelson George, Kahlil Joseph, Victoria Mahoney, Terence Nance, Akosua Adoma Owuso, Yvonne Welbon, and Ross Williams. Each of the filmmakers will receive a $1,000 grant.
“Our partnership with Heineken on the Affinity Award allows TFI to broaden our support of working filmmakers from communities that are underrepresented in the film industry,” said Beth Janson, Executive Director, TFI. “We were excited to see such an incredible range of talent and diverse voices in this inaugural group of filmmakers. We look forward to supporting many more artists in the years to come and we thank Heineken for their dedication to the field.”
I met filmmaker Khalil Joseph while waiting on line to enter the venue
and he struck me as aloof as well as elusive. Joseph, a Seattle native who makes short films and has worked with Terrence Malick and Nicole Beharie, was ghost during an acknowledement from TFI during the ceremony. We did, however, chat, over Heinekens and finger foods, about his upcoming projects which include a Kendrick Lamar video and a documentary project for German television about the 50th anniversary of MLK’s I Have A Dream speech.
Nelson George and a few of the other filmmakers were also on hand but I didnt speak to him nor the beautiful lady accompanying him. Neither did I chat with Lance Gross nor Tyson Beckford, both decked in green and white, who were also at the event and after party. Did Heineken ask them to wear green? Are they under contract?