The AFI festival came to a close late last week with an awards brunch presented by the fabulous Jackie Lyanga. Lyanga, who was a festival programmer for five years before becoming director, presented awards in six categories. Out of Denmark came A Royal Affair starring Mads Mikkelsen for the audience award. Mikkelson is a familiar face to fans of the 007 franchise as Bond’s nemesis in Casino Royale and was in the leading role of another festival favorite, The Hunt, directed by Dogma 95 auteur Thomas Vinterberg from Germany. But it’s compatriot Barbara that will represent Deutschland at the Academy Awards this winter.

It will be well-deserved if it wins, with a nuanced performance from Nina Hoss only matched by director Christian Petzold‘s restraint and mastery of detail. And will compete against Nairobi Half Life, the first foreign film submission out of Kenya, which won in the breakthrough category at the brunch. Other foreign film nom’s include: Korea’s noir Pieta, After Lucia from Mexico, Romania’s Beyond The Hills, and Something in the Air from Olivier Assays (Clean, Paris Je t’aime).

Tobias Lindholm, who received a writing credit on The Hunt, stole the new auteur award from The Last Step for A Hijacking–a stunning visual achievement about a group of Somali pirates and their refugees.  Ali Mosaffa’s The Last Step was one of our favorites at the festival this year, and one of only two submission screened on film.

We won’t belabor the point, but the Egyptian screened no less than three submissions on blu-ray discs that had serious technical glitches (Laurence Anyways, Holy Motors and Barbara) that evoked cries of regret from the audience and nearly jeopardized the screening to follow with artists in company. Holy Motors director Leos Carax seemed nonplussed in his introduction of the film remarking, “thank you for coming. Thank you for waiting. Hollywood. Digital. I hope you like the film, or not.”

Only the Young, a documentary about three teenagers in the southern California seemed fit for bill in the young audience category–lauded for taking an earnest approach to relationships on the eve of adulthood rather than resorting to cutesy nihilism and sentiment (here’s looking at you All The Light in the Sky).

Short film director Roger Hayn made a short and erudite speech about his film Introducing Bobby and how it helped him break out from a shell, only to disappear with the grand jury live action short and no trace of his work available online. If someone bumps into him, get that kid a WordPress account!

Tables were shared among filmmakers, press and staff alike. It was a real cosmopolitan affair. Mimosa flowed freely, and film-goers without the time to eat between back-to-back screenings queued up with big appetites. I was sitting with the winners in the critic’s award category for Eat Sleep Die, and as the recipient got up to accept his award, he bemoaned his full belly. More to come now that we’re rested and sober!

Keep checking back in over the weekend for more details from the fest. We’ll have reviews coming up for twelve of the films we saw there including foreign films to look out for and  favorites like the Burns documentary Central Park Five, The Impossible starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, and David O’ Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. We missed On The Road, but we’ll be sure to stay ahead of the December 21st theatrical release date. Our reviews of Spielberg‘s epic Lincoln and a secret screening of Skyfall at the fest, are now available for your pleasure!