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Salty Dogs Takes Top Prize at Redstone

31st annual film festival plays to packed house

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Salty Dogs, a poetic documentary about a day in the life of Winthrop fishermen, took the top prize at the 2011 Redstone Film Festival Wednesday night.

Shot by Dimitri Kouri (CGS’09, COM’11) and Zack McGeehan (COM’11), the eight-minute short was filmed in a single day, after the filmmakers persuaded a fisherman to let them spend a day aboard his fishing boat.

“We met one guy at 5 a.m., who told us we could come as long as we didn’t get sick,” Kouri said. “It was a 12-hour workday. We didn’t get sick—you just had to look off at the horizon and not think about things so much. We were fortunate that the boat was photogenic and Zack has a beautiful eye.”

Speaking to a packed house at the Tsai Performance Center, Kouri said winning the $2,000 first prize had been his goal since he came to BU. “This is the coolest thing that has ever happened to me,” McGeehan added.

Kouri described Salty Dogs as a cross between a traditional documentary and a narrative story, what he called narrative documentary. “It’s when you film a documentary without talking head interviews and the characters themselves are the protagonists of the story,” he said. “It’s a real person in a real crisis. I guess that’s what we were trying to do with Salty Dogs, but there wasn’t really much of a conflict. It ended up being a poetic story about a day in the life of these fishermen.”

Festival coordinator Scott Thompson, a College of Communication assistant professor of film and television, called the film “a very strong piece of work, both with their vision and the material.” More than 30 films, first produced for a COM film, television, or video production class, had been submitted to the contest, he said.

The dramatic Your Way Home, by Pietro Nigro (COM’11), tooksecond place. The film, about an orphan boy who is left behind on atrip to the beach, was shot in Italy, in Nigro’s native Sicily.

Third place went to David Wells (COM’11) and Wes Ford (COM’09), director and screenwriter of the humorous and uplifting film The Life Smugglers. The film is about two old friends who smuggle an illegal alien, hoping make some quick cash. They end up wrestling with their morals throughout.

“I thought The Life Smugglers was going to win,” Kouri admitted after the awards were announced. “Dave Wells was my teaching assistant in Production 1 and I learned more from him than from any teacher.”

The annual Redstone Film Festival showcases films and screenplays created by undergraduate and graduate students in COM filmmaking and screenwriting programs. The festival is sponsored by media mogul Sumner Redstone (Hon.’94), chair of Viacom. This was the 31st annual festival.

The winners of the Fleder-Rosenberg short screenplay award, sponsored by screenwriters Gary Fleder (COM’85) and Scott Rosenberg (COM’85), were also announced. Marta Armengol Royo (COM’12) won the $1,250 first place prize for her screenplay Christmas Dinner; Eran Navot (COM’12) took the $750 second place award for Guitar Hero; and in third place was Keya Vakil (COM’13) taking home $500 for Too Cold to Cry.

The festival finalists were chosen by a preselection committee consisting of production, screenwriting, and film studies graduates. The winners were selected by a panel of film industry professionals, made up this year of Peter Keough, film editor of the Boston Phoenix, producer and director Gabrielle Savage Dockterman, and Kurt Fendt, a research manager of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program.

Other Redstone finalists were Maya Tanaka (COM’10), director of September, about a store clerk triumphing over a robber; Álvaro Congosto (COM’11), director of Seashells, a film about a boy who is intrigued by a girl who carries seashells; Steve Ohl (CGS’09, COM’11), director, Michael Nusbaum (COM’11), writer, McGeehan, director of photography, and Kouri, director of sound and editor, of ¿Qué? a story of two laborers who must escape a murderer.

Finalists for the Fleder-Rosenberg screenplay competition were Armengol Royo, Christmas Dinner; Eran Navot, Guitar Hero; Vakil, Too Cold to Cry; Haeli Dunstan (COM’11), ’Twas the Night; Jason Hellerman (COM’12), Flesheaters; Sarah LaBrusciano (COM’12), Newly Renovated; and Steve Jacobs (COM’12), Hang These Rusty Spurs.

The Redstone Film Festival will now continue on to New York in March and to Los Angeles in April. The New York festival is a “best of” of Redstone films from over the years, says Thompson. “There’s no winner—it’s just a screening of some great BU films. In Los Angeles, the films from the Boston festival, plus some others that made the semifinalist round, will go on to a separate set of judges, and they will decide on the first, second, and third place, as well as the official selection,” he says. “Essentially, there could be a somewhat different lineup and different winners than in Boston.”

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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