‘Doctor By Heart’ wins Best Documentary Award at UMFF

Tammie Starr Jury
Team With Award
Team With Award

RANCHO PALOS VERDE, CA: The 15thannual Universe Multicultural Film Festival (UMFF – http://www.umfilms.org) was held in Rancho Palos Verde in Southern California from April 6 to 8.

Founded by Lynn Tang, the President of the festival – she is the first Chinese producer of a Chinese opera and also organizes the San Diego International Children’s Film Festival – the event was a smorgasbord of shorts, features, music videos and documentaries from across the world. 17 features and more than 40 shorts were programmed into the schedule that spanned three days and included different venues around the Rolling Hills Estates, Palos Verde area.

The festival definitely had a predominantly Chinese flavor to it as most of the main organizing committee members were of Chinese descent.
The awards ceremony on April 8 kicked off with a red carpet event at the Rolling Hills Community Center. It was quite a sight with filmmakers, beauty queens, dancers in their costumes, media persons, actors and singers in traditional Chinese and Mongolian attire, and of course, the guests decked up in their finest suits, tuxedos and dazzling evening gowns.

One of the jury members was Tammie Starr, a pageant winner with the World Queen Ambassador title and curvy model ambassador for Chinese designer, Kiki Wang.

Beauty Queens
Beauty Queens

The evening’s main hosts were actress Maggie Avila, actor Mark Justice and Chinese actress, model and novelist Isabelle Hu. Maggie has worked in 30+ films alongside the likes of Bruce Willis, Nicolas Cage and director Woody Allen, while Mark has worked in over 60 films.

The evening’s announcement of winners was punctuated with stunning musical and dance performances. The opening act was by the lovely young Indian girls of Nitya Shetra Academy who performed a beautiful Bharatnatyam dance in two acts, the second one a rendition of Krishna’s ‘Raslila’.

There were other stellar performances such as a live performance of an original single, “Fly Away”, performed by Jessica Lissett that the singer herself had composed.

Two Chinese opera stars – a gentleman who also produced one of the evening’s award winners and an elegant lady – performed a Chinese opera that is over 200 years old.

An American band added to the international repertoire and the grand finale was a melodious performance by a Chinese pop star, with all the beauty queens from different regions and countries walking on the stage.

The team of “Doctor By Heart” – the documentary with some fictionalized dramatization based on the life of Dr. Romesh Japra, Founder of Festival of Globe (FOG) and Publisher of India Post – was in for a grand surprise when the film won the award for Best Documentary Feature.

Four Oriental Costume
Four Oriental Costume

The director, Ranu Sinha and cast/crew members Bharat Aggarwal, Ritu Maheshwari and Lakshmi Iyer were present to accept the award. Cast member and stand up comedian Johnny Corn joined the team for the screening earlier in the afternoon. In her acceptance speech, Ms. Sinha thanked Lynn Tang and the festival for the award and said that the film was the story of a man who started out with very little.

Academy Award (Oscar) winner for Visual Effects for the film terminator 2, Mr. Gene Warren Jr. was the recipient of the UMFF Lifetime Achievement Award this year. Last year’s Lifetime Achievement honoree, Aki Aleong, a veteran of cinema who has worked in the entertainment industry for about 63 years, was one of the distinguished guests.

Mr. Aleong spoke of the difficulties in getting work as an Asian American actor back in his youth and added his voice against the “whitewashing” of Asian roles in Hollywood.

Vida Ghaffari, an actress of Iranian descent, took home the Trailblazer Award.

A young Indian, Tanmay Srivastava, all of 15 years old, was honored with the Rising Star Award along with young actor Weilisi from China.
Tanmay’s parents and older brother, who is a college student in Ohio, were present with him. The prodigious young man brought his film, “The Residency” to the festival, and already has an impressive 23 films in his body of work.

Gene Warren Jr Ritu
Gene Warren Jr Ritu

The festival had some really talented youth participants, for example, Mary Liu, a high school student who produced one of the award winning short films in the festival, “Crackers” and also directed it. What is more, she volunteered at the festival and showed amazing poise and intelligence while hosting the Q & A session for “Doctor By Heart”.

Many other awards were given out during the evening ranging from Best Original Score to Best Actor and Actress and awards for shorts and features in the romance and drama categories.

The event wrapped up with the announcement of the Grand Jury Awards for Best Short – “Jackrabbit” (USA) and Best Feature – “Families Like Yours” (Argentina) and a big group photo session on the stage.




Lakshmi Iyer
India Post News Service