‘Absaroka’ wins People’s Choice Award at Hyart Film Festival

Lauren Mitchell casts her vote following the Saturday afternoon session of the Hyart Film Festival June 21. Preparing to vote are members of the Merritt family of Powell (l-r): Daniel, Melissa, Jenna and Ladell. David Peck photo
Lauren Mitchell casts her vote following the Saturday afternoon session of the Hyart Film Festival June 21. Preparing to vote are members of the Merritt family of Powell (l-r): Daniel, Melissa, Jenna and Ladell.
David Peck photo

A locally-made film was the People’s Choice Award winner at the 2014 Hyart Film Festival, Director Jason Zeller announced this week.

“Absaroka,” made by part-time Cody resident Patrick Mignano, was a runaway hit at Saturday night’s final session (June 21) of the film festival, when Mignano attended the festival with Clay Gibbons of Worland and Bill Greer of Hyattville, who have also acted in recent Mignano films, including “Absaroka: Sins.”

Asked what he thought appealed to audience members, Zeller said, “The scenery, the story, the whole Wyoming aspect.”

A morality tale of rescue and revenge, “Absaroka” features spectacular footage of the Absaroka Mountains in both the South Fork and North Fork of the Shoshone River areas. With a good story, a western theme and outstanding cinematography, it was a winning combination, Zeller said.

“It appealed to people without Patrick being there, but since he was there, that just added to it,” he said.

Six other films were judged as the winners in the festival based on judging by a panel of “jurors” who viewed all of the films.

“A committee votes for the rest. We outsource it,” Zeller said. “We send it off to people in the film industry.”

Winning Action Comedy category was “Fantasy Fight” produced by the Vancouver Film School in Canada. The film portrayed an imaginary gun battle among friends.

“It was very creative,” Zeller said. “I just thought it was hilarious.”

Winning the Comedy category was “Pint,” an Australian film about a poor bloke attending a wedding who just can’t seem to do anything right, starting when his cell phone goes off during the wedding vows. Scorned by wedding guests, he takes to drinking beer, and just as he heads to the restroom, a long series of toasts begins. He suffers the consequences.

“There were probably four movies Friday night with 20-plus People’s Choice votes, and this was one of them,” Zeller said. “It was very competitive Friday night. It would have been my choice for best comedy, and thankfully it was the jurors’ choice. I really wanted it to be the one.”

Judged best drama was the sad tale of “The Telegraph Man,” an Australian film about a man who must deliver telegrams to families whose sons were killed in battle, showing the reactions he receives. Winning an honorable mention in the Drama category was “Love at First Sight,” a film about a young man trying everything within his power to impress a beautiful woman who appears from time to time on the balcony of the building next door. Music becomes the key.

“I thought ‘Love at First Sight’ would be the drama winner, so I asked the jurors why they chose ‘The Telegram Man,’” Zeller said. “They replied: fabulous cinematography, amazing editing, awesome interpersonal drama, outstanding inner turmoil drama, superb acting, and that it was very well done for a period piece.

“They liked Love’s non-verbal storytelling, but felt it was more of a comedy than a drama. I think the comedy makes the drama more dramatic, but I can understand where they’re coming from.”

The winner of Friday night’s late-night Horror category was “A Veces Viene (Sometimes it Comes).” Zeller said the Spanish film about a woman who can sense an evil presence in her home “brings goose bumps to me and raises the hair on my neck,” especially the scene where the woman’s hair is pulled into the crack of the door while she’s in the bathroom calming down, showing that “whatever it is” was right there.”

Winning the Science Fiction category was the very first film of the festival, Thursday night’s “2020,” made by Lovell High School graduate Ethan McDowell. The post-nuclear war freedom fighters drew a number of “People’s Choice” votes.

Zeller said the film was popular because of McDowell’s hometown appeal but also because the film was well done.

“I thought it was his best movie so far, and I hope to keep saying that (in future years).”

Zeller said attendance this year was up and down. He said Friday and Saturday evening showings were record-breakers, but attendance was down on Thursday, late Friday and Saturday afternoon. He said the festival committee is considering some changes for next year, but nothing has been decided yet.

By David Peck