Just before she left to welcome an expected 163 dinner guests Sunday evening, Joanie Fraughton, director of the Durango Independent Film Festival, revealed the names of the films that won this year's awards.The congratulations ceremony changed venues this year, to the Durango Arts Center.
They have been at the Abbey Theatre in earlier years, but this year cinema-goers were spending Sunday night trying to fit in a few last-minute films at that venue.
Fraughton was in an ebullient mood after thanks she had received for bringing the festival back a few years ago when it was about to close.
She said by phone that the volunteers won praise all over town.
The jurors who chose the year's best short films are Fred Wildfang, Christine Knickerbocker and Steve Walker.
Their choice for the best live action short was "Coons,"a dark film directed by Chris Cloyd about a joyride that goes wrong when the protagonist's brother and friend kidnap a black teenager.
The jurors commended the live action short "Happiending," directed by Matias Masucci about how a clown faces 40 years of failure.
Their favorite animated short was "Aston's Stones," a touching Swedish film with subtitles directed by Lotta Geffenblad and Uzi Geffenblad about a lonely dog who finds stones on his way home, then picks them up and cares for them.
They commended the animated short "The Cave: An Adaptation of Plato's Allegory in Clay," directed by Michael Ramsey.
It's a claymation version of Plato's interpretation of the shortsightedness of mankind.
Jurors for the documentaries were David Eckenrode, Anita Moffatt and Charlie Dierkop.
Their favorite short was "Green," an Indonesian film directed by Moez Moez. The "Green" of the title is an orangutan who has lost her habitat through deforestation.
The jurors' favorite documentary feature was "Under Our Skin," directed by Andy Abrahams Wilson about Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a misunderstood illness that may affect more than 200,000 people a year, a number greater than AIDS, West Nile Virus and Avian Flu combined.
The judges commended "Without a Home," directed by 24-year-old Rachel Fleischer, who set out by herself to document the lives of six homeless individuals and families over a four-year period.
The judges for feature films were Peter Brown, Chuck Disney and Todd Elgin.
They chose as the best narrative feature "A Deal Is a Deal," a British film directed by Jonathan Gershfield.
He invented a train driver who endures two people falling under his train. The driver hears that if three people suffer the same fate, he can retire with 10 years salary.
He sets out to find a willing victim.
The judges commended "A Lonely Place for Dying," directed by Justin Evans.
Shot in the New Mexico State Penitentiary, it pictures a CIA agent and a KGB defector in an abandoned prison.
The audiences also voted for their favorites.
They named "Go," an American film directed by Laren Poole as the best school film.
It concerns 20 children who won a trip to see schools rebuilt in war-torn Uganda.
The moviegoers agreed with the judges that "Aston's Stones" was the best short.
They agreed with the judges twice more, naming "Under Our Skin" as the best documentary and "A Deal Is a Deal" as the best narrative feature.
The filmmakers themselves named "Chronic Town," directed by Tom Hines, as their favorite.
It centers on a lonely cab driver in Alaska who attempts suicide while on a bad acid trip.
The organizers gave their Independent Spirit Award to Dave Thibodeau, Bill Graham and Matt Vincent of the Ska Brewing Co. for their many contributions to the festivalSadly, the festival has ended for this year and, as of now, Fraughton said, there is no way for audiences to see the winners.
But she didn't rule out bringing the favorites back for a program.
There should be a popular demand for that.