For the Savannah Tribune film and television Professor Michael Hofstein had reason to be surprised Saturday night at the Savannah Film Festival. He had won the Panavision Professional and Educational Cinematography Award at the Savannah Film Festival six times before. So, when his name was called the seventh time for the award that helps him provide camera equipment and software to share with film students at the Savannah College of Art and Design he sighed with gratitude.
Minutes later, a filmmaker in the audience, Slony Sow was also a standout at the awards ceremony. He was the only film maker of African-descent to receive a major award at the 14th annual Savannah Film Festival.
Sow’s 18 minute shortfilm, “Winter Frog’’ (Grenouille D’Hiver) star- ring Academy Award nominee Gerard Depardieu (“Cyrano de Bergerac,” “Green Card”) is a story about a grieving winemaker and widower, who is compelled to suspend his grief and thoughts of suicide when a guest from Japan played by Eriko Takeda shows up for a pre-scheduled wine tasting. Sow, the writer of the screenplay and cinematographer, won the HBO Film Producer’s Award Saturday night. The prize came with a cash award of $5,000. Sow ran up the stairs to the stage and was almost out of breath when he reached the microphone.
“I apologize for my English. I’m French. I’m very upset,’’ Sow said later that his nerves had gotten the best of him and he was extremely happy to receive the award at the Savannah Film Festival. He said he has received numerous awards in the past but this was his first in the United States.
The son of a Senegalese chef and a Partisan factory worker, Sow said during an interview Sunday at the Marshall House that he started in film 15 years ago. He worked as a comedic actor for years and grew up watching American movies. He said he is currently working on a TV movie about Toussaint L’ouverture, the slave who ran Napoleon out of Haiti.
Sow said he had to learn every aspect of the film industry before he could call himself a film maker. “I love writing that is my real, real pleasure.” To receive an award from the festival and from HBO, he said. “It’s so big.”
In Savannah, he said the festival’s organization “was perfect program-wise. People are very passionate about what they do. All the time the theatre is full. The festival is very generous to the filmmakers. I was proud to be here and I won a prize. When I think about 40 years ago, it wouldn’t have happened in Savannah.”
Sow said, once one develops a product, he or she should also establish relationships with others of like interest that will become like family. “You have to be the maestro. Find the good people and work with all like mind professionals. You start alone,’’ said the 40 year-old film maker.
Tina A. Brown is an independent journalist based in Savannah.
Other award recipients are: 1. “These Amazing Shadows”– Center Best Documentary – On Both Sides Savannah Film Festival 2011 2. “Inuk” – Center Best Editing – On Both Sides Savannah Film Festival 2011 3. “Inuk” – Center Best Narrative Feature – On Both Sides Savannah Film Festival 2011 4. “Inuk” – Mike Magidson – Center Best Director – On Both Sides Savannah Film Festival 2011 5. “The Secret Number” – Center Best SCAD Student Competition Award Savannah Film Festival 2011 6. “Minka” – Center Special Jury Award – On Both Sides Savannah Film Festival 2011 7. “Bottle” – Center Best Animated Film – On Both Sides Savannah Film Festival 2011 8. “North Atlantic” – Center Best Short – On Both Sides Savannah Film Festival 2011 9. “Create” – Center Best Student Animation – On Both Sides Savannah Film Festival 2011 10. “Bone’Yeerd” – Center Silver Screen Society Best Short Film by a SCAD Student – On Both Sides Savannah Film Festival 2011 “The Reality Clock” – Center HBO Films Student Competition Award 2011
(Source: Jenn Bins, Media Relations Manager, Savannah College of Art and Design®)