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4th Annual New York Film Awards Winners Announced

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

The winners of the 4th annual New York Film Awards have been announced!

New York Film Awards’ 4th annual competition included films of very high quality and was extremely tight in many categories. This year, 12 nominees were selected for each category, making it even harder than usual to choose a single winner for the awards. The judging panel consisted of actors, directors, screenwriters, and producers, such as Lisa Rumain, Shaw Jones, Aaron Dalla Villa and more.

The big winner of the year is the Hungarian short film "Breakdown," directed by Sándor Gál. Lisa Rumain, the premier judge, stated: ״Director Sándor Gál's film Breakdown keeps you on the edge of your seat with 15 minutes of perfectly executed suspense. Every moment creates a new question, and the actors masterfully walk the tightrope to deliver a fantastic ending!״

Breakdown won two more annual awards, including Best Actor (Balázs Szitás) and Best Duo (Balázs Szitás & Réka Gerlits). Juror Nigel Barber praised Balázs performance: "Balázs Szitás as ’the stranger’ gives a simple yet superb performance. His subtle choices encourage the viewer, allowing us to engage and anticipate his character’s sinister involvement in the storyline, rightly or wrongly."

This year's Jury President Award goes to the Chinese feature film Because of You. The Jury President, Jarek Marszewski (who won Best of Fest 2017 with Bikini Blue), stated: "This modern fairy tale of angels, devils, empathy, violence, and tolerance takes us on an incredible emotional rollercoaster raising the most crucial questions concerning ourselves and the society we live in. Do we have the right to be different, more sensitive, more vulnerable than the others? Is a mental disability a curse or a blessing? BECAUSE OF YOU is a powerful story of a desperate heart-breaking struggle for the right to live and love. You simply cannot resist the charm of the two lead actresses. PiPi Yao, as the mother, and phenomenal Chen Pin Hsuan, as the little daughter, are not afraid of deep, extreme emotions and - with their radiating talents that simply leap off the screen - instantly create a tight, intimate connection with the viewer and increase our heart rate along with the story. Congratulations to the director Zeng Zhen and the whole team for bringing this ultra-sensitive drama to life!"

The lead actress in Because of You, PiPi Yao, won Best Actress of the Year. Juror Casey Ruggieri described her performance as 'pure and delightful': "Yao's portrayal of a mentally challenged young mother trying her best to care for and be with her daughter is both uplifting and heartbreaking. Yao's performance is beautifully subtle with a nuanced innocence and joy. She is so pure and delightful, it's hard to take your eyes off of her as she seems to float on the screen."

Two Autumns in Paris won Best Narrative Feature. Juror Nick Connor, who won the same category in 2019 and joined this year's judging panel, explained his decision: "Two Autumns in Paris is incredibly heartbreaking, nuanced, and deeply touching. A historic examination of class, refugees, and political rebellion that subtly speaks in parallel to the world today. Its turbulent romance set with the background of the 'City of Love' is relatable and raw. As an audience, we fall in love with María Teresa and Antonio just as the characters do with one another, which is down to two fantastic central performances from Maria Antonieta Hidalgo and Slavko Sorman. A scene at the halfway mark is so unforgettable in its brutality that it truly imprints itself in your memory for days. Gibelys Coronado’s vision is beautifully classical and traditional yet a story of this kind has never been shown on our screens before. Plaudits to Coronado and Francisco Villarroel for bringing this narrative to life, especially in a time when it's themes and ideas are so important. No matter who you are, this story will likely enlighten you, warm you, and then may even break you."

Tim Poon's thriller Flesh, which was also nominated for Best of Fest, won Best Narrative Short. Aaron Dalla Villa said: "I now know why my grandmother's cooking was so good. FLESH showcases wonderful acting, clear storytelling, and is absolutely haunting. You think the story is going one way and then the turn stabs you like a knife. All actors are fantastic, with Nina Paw as the standout, and director Tim Poon is definitely one to watch."

Flesh also won Best Cinematography (Geoffrey So). Juror Anup Kulkarni stated: "Flesh is a movie that you'll definitely go for the revisit, though it must be seen to be experienced and that experience will linger with you. The aspects of cinematography applied in the film came out as a success in relation to its genre. Cinematography plays an important role in this story. It gives you a dark and complexly entertaining ride. Fantastic use of light & shadows makes it a perfect thriller."

Kulkarni, an LA-based cinematographer and VFX artist who has worked in films such as "Thor: The Dark World" and "Life of Pi" also picked the Italian short film "Air of Elba" for Best Indie Film: "What an amazing story! Such a beautifully made movie, it has a perfect blend of drama & comedy. This movie has a rollercoaster of emotions, but it teaches you about finding your true self and giving those who have a chance some patience and have some hope and that if you devote yourself and have passion for something you can make it happen. Directors, Michael Monni & Matteo Sardi have done a wonderful job!

Alfredo Ceccarini’s performance is just so unforgettable and never get out of your head. Then there are the music & cinematography that really make the movie. An absolutely remarkable film about a decent, humble boy with high ambition."

Juror Lea Mornar selected Dana Marisa Schoenfeld's comedy "Divorce School" as this year's Best Web/TV Series: ״The director in my opinion has created great comedy for a very broad audience. The humor is universal and can be understood by any person anywhere in the world. It has perfect timing. I would love to point out the third story about Juliette and Richard Bernstein that made me laugh a lot, especially Me Too joke.

The story is beautifully written. It has a lightness and it is full of surprise. It is never judgmental, heavy, cynical, or dry but moves on a very fine line. The director manages to keep our attention and entertain us constantly. To me, it says "Hey guys let's not be too serious."

Laurence Brahm's documentary "Return of the Lotus-Born Master: Decrypting the Dakini Code" won Best Documentary Feature. Juror Mor Cohen described the film as "A fascinating journey into the "hidden realms" of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Set to decrypt the secret teachings concealed by the Lotus-Born Master in the 8th Century, the film’s expedition (led by director Laurence Brahm himself) explores and ties the concept of parallel universes and subconsciousness with quantum physics and the ancient wisdom of Tibetan-Buddhism. A fascinating watch."

"In the Same Direction: Jeff Pifher & Socrates' Trial" won Best Documentary Short. Juror Anthony James Faure described the film as a 'delightful ride': "Expertly shot and edited, Alexander Craven’s film transports us within the music and includes us among the players, from the original idea, through recording, to a final live, in minutes that seem to cheat with time as it leaves us wanting for more when we’ve already experienced so much. What a delightful ride!"

Anthony James Faure also picked "Light" by Manuel Yasir Baldoceda Cerdán as this year's Best Music Video: "Light manages to grasp dystopian themes and aesthetics in a very simple and efficient setup while staying “rock and roll”. Rock in the Matrix with a message; pretty cool."

Megan Mackenzie's "Whenn" won Best Screenplay of the year. Juror Roy Zafrani described Whenn as "A sweet, heart-warming romantic comedy, that will make you laugh, cry and fall in love with the characters."

HongWei Wang's film Kite, which was also nominated for Best of Fest, won Best Animation. Juror Paten Hughes praised the film: "I was so impressed with how the sound design and the music wove in with the narrative and illustrations — it was all just so emotionally effective and grounded. The imagination with which this was approached and executed was extraordinary. I loved being able to follow the dreams and nightmares through to a sense of healing."

K.I.N.G. by Rashad Frett won Best Student Film. Juror Beate Malkus explained her decision: “Rashad Frett’s ‘K.I.N.G.’ (an acronym meaning ‘Kid in Need of Guidance’) tells us the story of a troubled black teenager living in an African American Community at his aunt’s house, seeking desperately for a bond to his estranged father. Performing King, the main character with intimacy, incredible vulnerability, and authenticity, Jadiah Bailey is surrounded by as wonderful performances of Janice Dias as Aunty Dee and Yarc Lewinson as Alton. Director and writer Rashad Frett creates his story about the painful and affective presence of an absent father in teenage years in such a beautifully haunting way, with a great cast and with impressive cinematography (Alejandro Miyashiro) that he manages to captivate us from the first moment till the last, in which King finally has to realize his father is not the parent figure to identify with, he is not the father he was longing for. A beautiful and inspiring film with an important social issue. Congratulations!”

In one of the most competitive categories, Jon Fish took home Best Director for his work on The Return. Juror Shaw Jones described this documentary as 'an incredibly powerful story.' "Director John Fish’s The Return is an incredibly uplifting and powerful story of overcoming all odds and the sacrifice that comes along with it. Fish takes us on a journey that is emotional and inspiring."

Andrew Chen won Best First Time Director for his impressive work on the western Ghost in the Gun. Juror Casey Ruggieri stated: ״First time filmmaker Chen delivers an impressive and unique Western-Horror in his directorial debut. Chen brings together iconic Western themes, visually compelling shots, pacing, and an impeccable sense of place. A refreshing take on the Western revenge motif. We'll look forward to seeing what else Chen has up his sleeve."

The key cast of the Russian comedy The Painting won Best Ensemble of the year. Aaron Dalla Villa stated: "Much like the painting itself, the cast delivers solid and complete performances. Nicely done.""

Sergio Herencias won Best Editing for his work on Muñeca. Juror Nigel Barber praised: "Sergio Herencias produces some of the best cinema ‘eye candy’ that I have seen in a long while. In this short, but extremely powerful film, each frame is a work of art, timed to metronome perfection, causing the viewer to want to look away, but pulled down the rabbit hole nonetheless, like a child covering its eyes with spread fingers."

Lastly, Edgar Martinez won Best Score for his work on Ghostmantic. Juror Nami Melumad ("An American Pickle", "Star Trek: Short Treks") described Edgar's score as "Fun and exciting! Ghostmantic's dynamic score works beautifully to picture in that it propels the story forward while addressing all the key moments. The orchestration is rich and nuanced. Overall, the music takes this short to the next level."

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

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