Tryon International Film Festival award winners announced

Press release from Tryon International Film Festival:

The overall winner in the Tryon International Film Festival 2020 is Invitation to the Dance, a short documentary that chronicles five special needs adults who take ballet lessons for a year.

The 40-minute film was directed by Sarah Shoemaker, a professional dancer, actress, producer, and the Executive Director for International Ballet in Greer, SC. Because of her interests in dance, cinema, and special needs, she has worked in various places, including Greenville and Charleston, SC. Frank Calo, an independent producer and director of international standing, judged the film on behalf of the Tryon International Film Festival.

“There were so many wonderful films in the 2020 Tryon International Film Festival that our team is incredibly proud — and totally surprised — to have been awarded the top honor,” Shoemaker said. “This was the first film festival we entered, so walking away with the award has motivated us to work faster to share the story of Lena and her accessibility class dancers with the world. Our film depicts the beauty, inspiration, and power of shared passion. It also highlights that every person is unique — both in gifts and limitations. As a culture, we get to decide what we celebrate. Invitation to the Dance is an invitation to celebrate something different and deeper from the usual. I want to thank TRIFF for the wonderful endorsement and Frank Calo, the judge of the Best Overall category, for awarding our film. To all the filmmakers represented in the festival, I wish you lots of continued success with your projects.”

The virtual film festival started Friday, Oct. 9, with special showings throughout the weekend, ending Sunday, Oct. 11, when the winners were announced virtually. However, the more than 85 films can be seen through Monday, Oct. 19, by registering via the festival’s website: The cost to see all of the films is $25.

“This has been such an exhilarating and new experience for everyone who helped put together the 2020 Tryon International Film Festival,” Festival Co-Founder Beau Menetre said. “Like with so many others around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the playing field for us. Instead of us bringing hundreds of people to Tryon, NC, for a whirlwind weekend of cinema, we had to take the charms of Tryon to the world via computer technology. Although we would have preferred to have had everyone in town, enjoying the Carolina foothills and Tryon’s hospitality, we were glad to have been motivated to create a truly ‘international’ film festival. People all over the world were able to see these films at a very low cost.”

“All of these films were produced before the pandemic,” Festival Co-Found Kirk Gollwitzer said. “So, that hot topic was not represented this year. However, I bet come next year, we’ll see a lot of films that explore how the virus has changed our lives. It certainly changed how we produced the sixth annual Tryon International Film Festival. We really had to step up our use of international technology and marketing. Personally, I was glad to not have any films about COVID-19. But I can’t wait to see how the creative people take what has happened globally in 2020 and produce films with that being either a focus or a setting. Creativity knows no bounds.”

This is the sixth consecutive year that the nonprofit Polk County Film Initiative has spearheaded the Tryon International Film Festival. The lead sponsor was New View Realty. This year, the Festival was dedicated to Sabian Menetre, daughter of Festival Co-Founder Beau Menetre. Miss Menetre died from a drug overdose in 2019.

“This film festival will have special meaning to me,” Menetre said. “Late last year, my teenage daughter Sabian died from a drug overdose, something that has changed my personal perspective as a parent and as a human being. I am dedicating this year’s Tryon International Film Festival to her, and it is my hope and prayer that in some way some of these films will shed light on personal loss, drugs, and coping.”

Here are the categories and winners for this year…

Best Overall Film
Invitation to the Dance
Director: Sarah Shoemaker
Judge: Frank M. Calo

Invitation to the Dance introduces Lena Forster and her adult special needs ballet class. Filmmaker Sarah Shoemaker follows five students through a year of dance and life, offering viewers the opportunity to glimpse a perspective frequently overlooked, to listen to voices frequently unheard, and to witness the experiences of those who are impacted by the dancers. The film seeks to explore questions about life, community, and our ability to appreciate both the gifts and the limits of each of us.

Human Rights & Dignity
The Flood
Director: Anthony Woodley
Judge: Homyara Selier
United Kingdom

Best Full Feature Film
The Flood
Director: Anthony Woodley
Judge: Kevin Bernhardt
United Kingdom

Wendy (Lena Headey), a hardened immigration officer is offered a high-profile asylum case, judged on her ability to quickly and clinically reject applicants. Through her interrogation, she must uncover whether Haile (Ivanno Jeremiah) is lying and has a more sinister reason for seeking asylum. We follow Haile on his perilous 5000 km journey over oceans, across borders, and amidst the flurry of the Calais Jungle to find solace and safety in the UK. But now he must cross the final hurdle. Based on multiple true stories, The Flood is a thoughtful and timely reflection on the humanity within the refugee crisis.

Best Short Dramatic Film
Director: Ario Motevaghe
Judge: Johnathan Brownlee

Moniri and Kheradmand family are in the park for a picnic. But after finishing their meal, it is revealed that they are here for something else.

Best Full Documentary Film
Lost Lives
Directors: Michael Hewitt and Dermot lavery
Judge: Patti D’Arbanville
United Kingdom

Lost Lives is inspired by the book of the same name that, uniquely, records the circumstances of every single death in a conflict – the Northern Irish ‘Troubles.’ There are over 3700 entries in the book. Over 3700 lost lives. The film is a reminder of what happens when we settle differences through violence. A reminder that war is hell.

Best Short Documentary Film
Choose Your Fight
Director: Manon Pietri
Judges: Gregg Jamback and Jamie Huss

Choose Your Fight is a pedagogical content that allows the viewer to get a better understanding of the social problems created by the fashion industry and helps us to realise how each of us can have a positive impact. Through introspection, you will question your consumption mode.

Best Student Film
In My Mind
Director: Daniel Carrai
Judge: Steven Esteb

Emma experiences her relationship in retrospect from a moment of betrayal, questioning how she perceives her position in the world.

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