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Michael’s in the top director’s ‘chair’

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AWARD-WINNING director Michael Bergmann added the most unlikeliest notch on his global film festival belt this week – the top Tammie.

The Montreal favourite, famous for spotting new talents like Calista Flopckhart and re-igniting the flames of established actors such as Man from U.N.C.L.E. Robert Vaughn, took the Best in Festival at Tamworth’s inaugural Heart of England International event for his movie Tied To A Chair.

More than 160 film-makers from across the globe, special guests and local business and civic leaders attended the festival’s gala awards banquet at the Castle Hotel on Friday.

Some 25 Oscar-style Tammies were presented to winning directors from Best Short Film Under 5 minutes through documentary categories and feature films to the top award on a glittering night.

”It was a fitting finale to a wonderful week where independent film-makers from Hong Kong to South America visited a town which until this week, had only been famous cinematically for two pigs trying to save their bacon en route to the abattoir,” said a delighted festival director Nick Hudson.

”Michael’s film Tied To A Chair was a clear winner – and made me laugh for 90 minutes. It was cleverly constructed and hugely entertaining.”

Bergmann, winner of Best American Independent Feature at Cleveland International Film Festival; Prix du Jury Montreal Film Festival and Best Short Film Whitehead International Film Festival, was unable to be at the awards ceremony.

But he said this week: “Thank you a thousand times over for the award.”

Actress Bonnie Loren, whose crazy character basically IS the movie, flew in from Paris on Friday afternoon to collect the impressive slate award at the end of a breath-taking night – where Tamworth played host to the world of independent moviemakers and their creations.

She praised the festival for its “warm , open, inviting, generous and nurturing atmosphere.”

Instead of two Tamworth porkers, it was two Puerto Ricans who also basked in the limelight on Ladybank last Friday.

Alba Rayton, at 64, took the Tammie for best Student Film International for her 35-minute movie Masks and New York-based Vagabond Beaumont, hugely popular with his fellow film-makers, won the First Film USA catgeory for his thought-provoking movie Machetero.

The first award went to Indira Somani, CNBC TV anchorwoman on the 9/11 disaster, who took best American Documentary for her story of returning to her Indian roots after being brought up in the States.

Best Feature Film winner Emma Blue saw producer Yanni Koutsomitis jet in from Greece to pick up the award while Short Film Under 10 minutes winner Rafael Elizalde (La Noche Es Clara) came from Mexico and Best Short Film winner Costa Ipsa travelled from Croatia for his Tammie for the 12-minute film A Matter of Taste.

Young Film-maker Ahmad Alkhalaf collected his second gong in a week for the pro Palestinian six-minute movie Salam.

Tamworth joined their illustrious international film-making colleagues with Luke Rufo taking the Tamworth Tinseltown award for the feature film Wasters and Richard Edkins, who sumbitted six films and took visiting directors to college to show off their films, shared the Festival Director’s Special Award with Boston movie-maker Andrew Silver.

Richard Miller, who had his PAL movie nominated for best feature, won Tamworth’s best Under 10 minutes with Toast.

The top regional award for Midlands movie-making went to Crust inventor Mark Locke, whose 2000 film about a 7ft shrimp won rave reviews.

Midlands actor Jeremy Bulloch was special guest of the night. The former Bond veteran and Star Wars bounty hunter Boba Fett said: “It was a fantastic night – and most enjoyable.”

The week-long festival had a shop inside Ankerside promoting the event and its centre adminstrator Lucy Harvey added: “The festival was a huge success.

“It was extremely nice to hear all the positive comments about Tamworth from those who attended and hopefully something that can be built on in the future.”

Aucott Holdings, who built Ventura Park in Tamworth, were the main sponsors of the festival which saw 200 films submitted from film-makers representing 31 different countries and screened at Casa bar and the Globe Inn in Lower Gungate.