Last Thursday was the (San Francisco) closing night gala, even though I was only 2/3 of the way through with the festival.
First they announced the jury award winners:
Best Narrative Feature: HALF-LIFE (and I agree wholeheartedly!)
Narrative Feature Special Jury Award: CHILDREN OF INVENTION (which I saw later in San Jose, and was also great)
Best Documentary Feature: A MOSQUE IN MORGANTOWN (which I saw later in San Jose, and I agree)
Documentary Special Jury Award: DIRTY HANDS: THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF DAVID CHOE (which I missed, and am bummed I missed)
Then on to the closing night film, the Korean movie, TREELESS MOUNTAIN. Another family story, although this one is a family without a father, and pretty quickly without a mother. Jin is 6 years old, and lives with her mom and little sister Bin. Dad is gone, and when things get too difficult mom leaves the girls with Big Auntie to go look for dad. They have a piggy bank, and Auntie promises that every day they're good they get a coin. When the piggy bank is full, mommy will return. The movie stays solidly in the children's' point of view, especially Jin, who has to grow up very quickly. Thing is, Auntie likes to drink and doesn't like to take care of children, so Jin has to take responsibility for herself and for Bin. A big burden to lay on a 6 year old who doesn't quite know what's going on. The movie is quiet, deep, and sentimental without being sappy. And it has some amazing performances by the two child actors (which is also a bit of a theme in the festival--see CHILDREN OF INVENTION, which I haven't written about yet).