Movies screened at the inaugural Film Fest 919 at the Silverspot Cinema in Chapel Hill last October earned Academy Awards in five major categories Sunday night.
“Green Book,” which got little pre-release buzz, won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The film tells the story of black New York City classical pianist Donald Shirley, played by Marhershala Ali, as he tours his music across the deep South in 1962 accompanied by white driver — and bodyguard — Tony “The Lip” Vallelonga, played by Viggo Mortensen.
“Green Book” closed Film Fest 919 and was introduced by Nick Vallelonga, son of the real-life Tony Vallelonga, who was co-writer and co-producer for the story of his father and Shirley’s trip together.
Ali won Best Supporting Actor for his role as Shirley while Mortensen was nominated for Best Actor but lost out to Rami Malek — who portrayed Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the story of Mercury and the British rock band Queen.
“Roma,” the story of working-class domestic Cleo as she cares for four children in Mexico City in the ’70s, won Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, and Alfonso Cuaron took home the award for Best Director for his efforts. “Roma” played on opening night at Film Fest 919, kicking off the local film festival that ended up being full of award-winning films.
Olivia Colman — who played Queen Anne in “The Favourite” — won Best Actress for her role in the humorous story of Great Britain at the turn of the 18th Century. Colman beat out favorite Glenn Close in “The Wife” and Yalitza Aparicio, the first-time actress in “Roma.”
In all, Film Fest 919 screened seven Oscars worth of cinema, making their slogan of “catch the films before they catch on!” more accurate than ever.
“We are absolutely thrilled that our films got so much recognition,” said Randi Emerman, the founder and CEO of Film Fest 919. “This is the quality of films we wanted to bring to Chapel Hill and plan to keep bringing. It was an unbelievable night.”
This year’s Film Fest 919 will be October 9-13 at Silverspot.
Featured image: Carol Marshall, co-founder of Film Fest 919, with Nick Vallelonga after Green Book won the OSCAR for Best Picture