Award winners crowned as Naples film festival ends

David Albers/Staff
-  Comedian Steve Mazan performs at the conclusion of the Naples International Film Festival on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts. Mazan is the subject of the film Dying to Do Letterman which chronicles his battle with intestinal cancer as he pursues his dream to appear on the late night television show. The film was awarded the Neapolitan Award at the festival.

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David Albers/Staff - Comedian Steve Mazan performs at the conclusion of the Naples International Film Festival on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts. Mazan is the subject of the film Dying to Do Letterman which chronicles his battle with intestinal cancer as he pursues his dream to appear on the late night television show. The film was awarded the Neapolitan Award at the festival.

When Steve Mazan arrived for the Naples International Film Festival this week, he saw the award trophies on the first day.

Mazan, a comedian and subject of the documentary film "Dying To Do Letterman," said he had to get one.

By winning the Neapolitan Award on Sunday, honoring the spirit of generosity and community, he avoided having to employ his back-up plan.

"It's great that I didn't have to steal one of these," Mazan said, drawing a roar from the crowd.

Mazan joined six other award winners at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts, where about 125 people dropped the curtain on the four-day festival.

The victors included Audience Choice winner "The Welcome," a documentary feature looking at the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on war veterans and their families, and Best Feature winner "Hermano," a portrait of soccer-playing brothers from slums in Venezuela.

Among those honored was director Jon Fitzgerald, who capped a busy weekend with a Best Documentary award for "The Highest Pass." Fitzgerald shot about 100 hours of footage as nine men rode through treacherous roads along the Himalayan Mountains in northern India, each overcoming various fears along the way.

It was Fitzgerald's second showing at the Naples film festival.

"I just love coming to Naples," Fitzgerald said. "It's such a cultural place and the people here really get hospitality and programming, which are the two biggest things at any festival."

Winners in attendance repeatedly praised organizers and locals. The festival, which showed 34 films, had several thousand total viewings, including about 1,000 for the opening night screening of "East Fifth Bliss," starring Michael C. Hall of television's "Dexter."

Tim Rowe, president of the NIFF board of directors, said the festival continues to give people of different backgrounds and thoughts a place to gather.

"What we know from this weekend is there's something for everyone to talk about, to think about and to communicate about," Rowe said.

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