Why does the South Dakota Film Festival choose the winners before the festival even begins?
One reason is that awards helps filmmakers decide whether to attend the festival, said Tom Black, one of the producers of the Aberdeen-based festival.
The system seems to work well. Lots of filmmakers will be in Aberdeen to support their films this weekend.
Another reason for their presence has to do with geography. Many of the filmmakers live in Minnesota and the Dakotas.
Black is very pleased with the quality of the 51 films being shown at the fifth annual festival, which begins today at the Capitol Theatre.
The quality, he said, is “another level higher than it's ever been before.”
For the second year in a row, the festival runs four days. That's because the judges had trouble narrowing down the field.
One film Black is delighted to have in the festival is “The Pact.” That romantic comedy, which was filmed entirely in Brookings is “maybe the funniest feature length film ever to come out of South Dakota,” Black said. That film has been awarded the Best of Festival and Best Feature Narrative awards.
Brothers Matt and Aaron Toronto, who wrote the film, will be on hand this weekend.
Black is also very high on “Age of Champions,” a light-hearted documentary that looks at the lives of Senior Olympians. That film has been named the festival's Best Feature Documentary. The film shows that it's never too late to get up off the couch and compete. The games shown in the film are very competitive, Black said. It shows one women's basketball player taking a charge and bouncing up off the floor with a separated shoulder.
Black also praises “Pioneer,” a 16-minute film that closes out the festival Sunday afternoon.
“Bear Force One,” which received the Best Comedy Short prize, is “probably the goofiest film we've ever shown,” Black said. “Check your brain at the door just laugh and have a great time.”
“A Common Occurrence” is a beautiful film that was shot in the Sioux Falls area, Black said. It received the festival's Jury Award for Excellence in Cinematography. The producers are “very proud to have that in our festival,” Black said.
Black also praises “Fatakra,” the story of an Indian man and his family who are trying to set up a new life in America. It was voted the festival's Best Short Narrative.
Three films in the festival have been given a Jury Award for South Dakota Significance. They are “Language of the Unheard,” “Reservation of the Realities” and “Tasunke Witko.”
Two films were made in Aberdeen - “The Deep End,” directed by Shaun O'Connell, and “Alex Chance and the Dagger of Kings,” which was made for the Aberdeen's Fischgaard Short Film Project.
“You Don't Know Bertha Constantine” is set in the Badlands. It was written and directed by Andrew Kightlinger, who will attend the festival.
Another interesting film, “Bighorn,” was inspired by the fact that General Custer's bandmaster, Felix Vinatieri, was the great-great-grandfather of NFL kicker Adam Vinatieri. The 15-minute film is described as a “supernatural historical fantasy.”
Cinematographer Adam Greenberg will receive a lifetime achievement award at the festival's opening ceremonies, which begin at 7 p.m. Friday.
Three workshops will take place Saturday morning.