“This Fremont Theatre is a real treasure,” Mayor Jan Marx said onstage under the San Luis Obispo landmark’s signature spiral ceiling lit with vibrant splashes of green, purple, pink.
Marx was one of several speakers, presenters and award recipients to echo this sentiment on Saturday night at the 19th annual SLO International Film Festival’s (SLOIFF) climactic George Sidney Independent Film Awards and King Vidor Award presentations.
These statements were accentuated by — and perhaps the result of — a recent temporary closure of the Fremont after lease complications. In retrospect of the shuttering and the concerned reaction it spurred on social media, Saturday’s ceremony seemed like a triumph for the theater as well as the city.
KSBY anchor Dan Shadwell emceed the event, which was sponsored by New Times, KSBY, the city of San Luis Obispo and others.
Throughout the night, films featured at the festival earned cash prizes in several categories, including Best Narrative Feature, Best Documentary Feature and Best Short Film.
Though the winners of these awards were chosen by a panel of film professionals and journalists, viewer-selected Audience Awards were also announced for similar categories.
Cal Poly alumnus Kenny Stevenson wrote and acted in one of the jury’s two picks for Best Narrative Feature, the romantic comedy “Missed Connections.”
“To be able to win an award at a festival I went to when I was at Cal Poly — it’s awesome,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson also said he was honored because the film could have been disadvantaged by its genre.
“To win Best Narrative Feature when there’s so many great films, it’s amazing,” Stevenson said. “Especially because I feel like our movie’s this silly little movie about manipulating women to have sex with you, and we’re winning awards.”
The SLOIFF was the 16th festival for “Missed Connections” — and its last.
Stevenson said the movie has a distributor lined up and will come out within the next few months with a limited theatrical release. The film will also be released on DVD and Netflix.
“So if you missed it while it was here, there will be ample opportunity to see it later this year,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson said his next script — a heist comedy — is already finished.
Following the Independent Film Awards, SLOIFF co-founder and Palm Theatre owner Jim Dee presented the festival’s highest honor, the King Vidor Award, to actor John Hawkes.
Hawkes has acted in many notable films, such as “The Perfect Storm,” “Lincoln” and “The Sessions.”
Hawkes’ acceptance speech highlighted the importance of including arts in education. After accepting the award, he participated in a Q&A session with the audience.
“This is the first, and hopefully not last, career achievement award I’ll receive,” Hawkes said.
Best in Fest
Best Short Film
Best Documentary Feature
Best Narrative Feature
“The Story of Luke”
Best Student Film — $500 prize
“First in Flight”
Best Short Film — $500 prize
“Behind the Mirrors”
Best Documentary Feature — $1,000 prize
Best Narrative Film — $1,000 prize
“The Story of Luke” and “Missed Connections”