The eighth-annual Tribeca Film Festival presented its best narrative feature prize to Asghar FarhadI’s Iranian drama About Elly (Darbareye Elly). 

The jury said the film was “a seamless piece of ensemble filmmaking. The universality of the characters and themes, and the directors riveting grasp of this story make About Elly a film that collapses barriers and deepens our understanding of the world we share.”

A group of friends on an outing to the Caspian Sea weave a web of deceit that is exposed when one of their party disappears.

The Best Documentary Feature was Marshall Curry’s Racing Dreams, which that jury described as “a completely compelling, entertaining film of incredible quality.” Curry is a TFF veteran who won the audience prize in 2005 for Street Fight.

The festival also gave prizes worth $25,000 each to the best new filmmakers. Those winners were (narrative) Rune Denstad Langlo for North (Nord) from Norway and (documentary) Ian Olds for Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi from the US. HBO picked up Fixer for US broadcast during the festival; that project was also supported by the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund.

Jurors included Meg Ryan, Todd Haynes, Uma Thurman, Whoopi Goldberg, Morgan Spurlock, and Mary Harron.

“The jurors’ passion for the films echoes what we are seeing from audiences,” said Nancy Schafer, executive director of TFF. “The breadth of talent displayed through all the competitions is reflected in the jurors’ choices.”

The Heineken Audience Award winner (with a $25,000 cash prize) will be announced on May 2 at the Festival Wrap party; the current leading film is Curry‘s Racing Dreams.

The winning films will screen on May 3, the closing day of the festival.

Tribeca Film Festival 2009 Winners

Best Narrative Feature ($25,000):

  • About Elly (Darbareye Elly), dir Asghar Farhadi (Iran) 

Best New Narrative Filmmaker ($25,000) 

  • Rune Rune Denstad Langlo for North (Nord) Norway

Best Actor in a Narrative Feature

  • Ciaran Hinds, The Eclipse

Best Actress in a Narrative Feature

  • Zoe Kazan, The Exploding Girl

Best Documentary Feature ($25,000)

  • Racing Dreams, dir Marshall Curry (US)

Documentary Special Jury Mention

  • Defamation (Hashmatsa), dir Yoav Shamir (Denmark, Austria, US, Israel)

Best New Documentary Filmmaker ($25,000)

  • Ian Olds for Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi (US)

Best New York Narrative ($5,000)

  • Here and There (Tamo I Ovde), dir Darko Lungulov (Serbia, US)

Best New York Documentary ($5,000)

  • Partly Private, dir Danae Elon (Canada)

Best Narrative Short ($5,000)

  • The North Road (La Route Du Nord), dir Carlos Chahine (France)

Best Documentary Short ($5,000)

  • Home, dir Matthew Faust (US)

Documentary Short Special Jury Mention

  • The Last Mermaids, dir Liz Chae (US, South Korea)

Student Visionary Award

  • Small Change, dir Anna McGrath (Australia) 

Student Visionary Award Special Jury Mention

  • Oda a la Pina, dir Laimir Fano (Cuba)