aaiff 2009 award winners

Over the weekend in New York Asian CineVision announced the award winners of the Asian American International Film Festival. Five filmmakers were honored Sunday night as part of the Festival's closing ceremonies.

First announced was Iemi Hernandez-Kim, director of the short film Ayi's Story and winner of the One to Watch award, an audience-voted prize that recognizes talent in filmmakers under the age of 21. Ayi's Story follows the journey of a teenaged girl from Brooklyn to numerous destinations in China, capturing her experiences in documentary and video-journal style.

Kim Snyder, director of the short film Crossing Midnight, won the award for Excellence in Short Filmmaking. Her documentary on the efforts of health workers to treat Burmese refugees deals with the issue of human rights through the lens of medicine.

Also putting a spotlight on the plight of persecuted minorities is director Ngawang Choephel, who won the award for Best Emerging Director in Documentary Feature. His film, Tibet in Song, explores the traditional folk music of Tibet, China's impact on this tradition, and Choephel's own political imprisonment during his attempt to capture his subject on film.

Chinese director Nian Liu won the award for Best Emerging Director in Narrative Feature. Her film, Li Tong, used the fictional story of a schoolgirl losing her bus pass as a means of exploring and exposing the many cultural, socioeconomic and personal facets of contemporary Beijing.

Director Christopher Wong won the Audience Choice Award, which was based on votes cast by the audience during the Festival's various screenings. His documentary feature, Whatever It Takes, follows the progress of the Bronx Center of Science and Mathematics in its first year of operation, focusing especially on the relationship between principal Edward Tom and student Sharifea Baskerville.

I have to give special props to Whatever It Takes. I've been following this film's journey for a long time, and it's just awesome to see audiences respond to Sharifea and Principal Tom's story in such a positive way. The film is a bold, honest portrait of people trying to do the best they can in circumstances that seem stacked against them. If you get a chance to see this film, don't miss it.

To learn more about this year's film festival and all the award winning films, visit the Asian American International Film Festival website here.

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