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'Death' takes Best Film
Short films thrill festival goers at Averitt Center
Blake Walker, Chris Purser, Jim Harry, Neil Russell, and David Cone, left to right, picked up awards during the 2011 Statesboro Film Festival at the Averitt Center for the Arts Thursday. Cone's and Walker's film, Death at the Doorstep, picked up awards for Cinematography and Best Film. Russell's film, Dark Forest, notched the People's Choice award. Purser accepted the award for Best Director on behalf of Johnathan Pope for Flowers for Annabelle, and Harry notched Best Editing for I Just Want to Dance.

      Viewers laughed, sighed with compassion, and appeared to thoroughly enjoy themselves Thursday night at the Third Annual Statesboro Film Festival, which gave amateur filmmakers the chance to debut short productions.
      The event was held at the Emma Kelley Theater at the Averitt Center for the Arts in downtown Statesboro. Local businessman DeWayne Grice emceed the festival, tossing in a few wacky stunts related to the featured films as he introduced each production.
      Ranging from the bizarre to humorous, with a couple of entries that tugged at heartstrings tossed in for good measure, the films displayed a variety of talent and topics.
      A film by Neil Russell, "Dark Forest," won the Viewer's Choice Award with 8,847 votes cast by online viewers prior to the festival. The film was about a young woman walking in the woods when she was accosted by two with evil acts in mind. However, when the full moon rose above the trees, their plans were cut short when the woman turned into a werewolf.
       The campy spoof of the typical "college kids get killed in the woods" and werewolf movies was by far the favorite. Other nominations were "Death at the Doorstep," by David Cone, with 1,525 votes; "Flowers for Annabell," by Johnathan Pope, with 1,081 votes; "Into the Fog," by Ramsey Eden, with 885 votes and "Kenny's Surprise," with 679 votes.
      A documentary about a lady's fight with Parkinson's disease and her successful operations, "I Just Want to Dance," by Jim Harry, was awarded Best Editing, with "Into the Fog," "Dark Forest," "Death at the Doorstep," and "Flowers for Annabelle" also nominated.
      The Best Cinematography award went to "Death at the Doorstep," with the following also nominated: "Flowers for Annabell," "I Just Want to Dance," "Dark Forest," and a creepy but funny film about an evil doll who ate dead people, "Doug and Me," by Albert Lodge.
      "Flowers for Annabell," about a man in an assisted living facility who helps newcomers deal with the same transition struggles he experienced, won the award for Best Director, with "Dark Forest," "Death at the Doorstep," "Into the Fog," and "I Just Want to Dance" also nominated.
      "Death at the Doorstep" also won Best Film. The humorous piece about Death paying a man a visit depicted the Grim Reaper not as a dark presence, but a rather ordinary man who was mistaken for a salesman by his ‘victim."
      Other nominations for Best Film were "Flowers for Annabell," "Dark Forest," "I Just Want to Dance," and a film titled "Kenny's Surprise" by Albert Lodge, which was about a man haunted by insomnia, mental illness and pills whose surprise party had a bad end.
      "Into the Fog" was a dark film about a man's struggle with reality, the death of his girlfriend and his dreams of becoming a writer.
      Other entries included "Western Suburbia," by Brady McGaughey, which was a modern-day spoof of a Western hostage situation where a man fails to give the villain what he wants and therefore fails to save his brother's life.
      Also, "Statesboro's Most Interesting Man," by Phil Boyum, which was about a search in Statesboro for a replacement candidate for the world's most interesting man, who died.
      "Chased by a Dream," by James Daniel, was a flapper movie/monster film. A woman wants attention from her husband, but he turns into a monster in a cow suit, who flashes his udder at her in the end.
      Brad McGaughey's "Wheels on the Bus" shows a man on a bus who gets a break-up call from his girlfriend, who suddenly turned lesbian. He decides to break free from depression and get of the bus to run down the street, but after a brief bout of determination, settles down again to board the bus.
      The festival was hosted by the Statesboro Herald, and sponsored by the Averitt Center for the Arts and Farmer's Home Furniture. The grand prize for the Viewer's Choice Award was a flat screen TV from Farmer's Furniture. All winners were also given a trophy.
      Refreshments were provided before the festival and during intermission by Millhouse Steakhouse.
      The Statesboro Film Festival is the brainchild of Statesboro Herald videographer Matt Bankhead, who approached executive editor Jim Healy with the idea three years ago. The event has enjoyed increasing success.
      As Russell took the stage to accept the award for "Dark Forest," he said the film was "almost the movie that didn't happen." It had been planned for entry last year, but circumstances ended in Russell entering another film instead.
      "This was a blast," he said. "I want to thank everyone involved."
      Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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