Chris Guerra and Kelsey Cooke accept the Best Feature Film Award for “Re-Opening” during the 16th annual Beaufort International Film Festival awards ceremony Sunday, Feb. 27, at the USC Beaufort Center for the Arts in Beaufort. Cooke starred in the film, as did Guerra, who also co-directed the feature with Matthew John Koppin. Photo by Tony Kukulich/The Island News.

It’s a wrap for this year’s Beaufort International Film Festival 


 By Tony Kukulich 

The 16th annual Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF) drew to a close Sunday night, Feb. 27, with an awards ceremony honoring the best of the festival. 

“I say it every year – this is the best BIFF yet,” said festival co-director Ron Tucker. “I say it every year. I mean it every year.” 

Festival directors Ron and Rebecca Tucker open the 16th annual Beaufort International Film Festival awards ceremony at the University of South Carolina Beaufort Center for the Arts in Beaufort, South Carolina, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Photos by Tony Kukulich/The Island News.

Held at the University of South Carolina Beaufort Center for the Arts, the ceremony bestowed awards in 20 categories including: Best Screenplay, Best Feature, Best Actor and Best Actress. 

Festivities were hosted by Hilton Head Island resident Anneliza Itkor. Itkor has had a 25-year long career in the entertainment industry that includes work in the theater, movies, television and as a voiceover artist.

“Re-Opening,” a feature-length comedy directed by Chris Guerra and Matthew John Koppin, took home two of the night’s top awards including Best Feature and Best Comedy.

Members of the production of “Song for Hope: The Ryan Anthony Story” accept the Documentary Feature Award during the 16th annual Beaufort International Film Festival awards ceremony.

“The Long Rider” grabbed the prestigious Audience Choice Award. The feature-length documentary directed by Sean Cisterna tells the story of Filipe Leite’s journey on horseback from the Calgary Stampede in Canada to the Barretos Rodeo in Brazil, a trip of more than 25,000 kilometers that took eight years and crossed 12 international borders.

Tona Dahlquist of Columbia, S.C., received the Behind the Scenes Award for her long career casting extras in many top films and television features including “Forrest Gump,” “The Hunger Games,” and “The Righteous Gemstones.”

Simeon Daise was honored with the Rising Star Award. Daise got his start as a child starring alongside his family in Nickelodeon’s “Gullah Gullah Island.” He has appeared in BET’s “The Bobby Brown Story” and “American Soul.” Daise currently portrays Jabari on The CW’s “All-American.”

Simeon Daise accepts the Rising Star Award during the 16th annual Beaufort International Film Festival.

The festival got started with an opening reception at the Tabby Center, Tuesday, Feb. 22. The next four days included film showings that started at 9 a.m. and continued straight through the day until the final showing that started at 7:30 p.m. Over the course of those four days, audiences were treated to the works of more than 70 filmmakers who presented feature and short films; long- and short-form documentaries; animated shorts and student films.

Following is the complete list of winners from this year’s Beaufort International Film Festival:

Behind the Scenes Award: Tona B. Dahlquist, Columbia, S.C.

Rising Star Award: Simeon Daise, Atlanta, Ga.

Best Screenplay: Stealing the Moon, Written by, Eric Carlson, Richmond, Va.

Best Animation: There You Are, Rui Huang, Director, Los Angeles

Best Student Film: Winter of ’79, Julia Elihu, Director, Orange, Calif.

Best Narrative Short Film: All That Glitters, Dan Bronzite, Director, Essex, U.K.

Best Documentary Feature: Song For Hope: The Ryan Anthony Story, Chris Haigh, Director, Northridge, Calif.

Best Documentary Short: Meltdown in Dixie, Emily Harold, Director, New York

Best Feature: Re-Opening, Chris Guerra and Matthew Koppin, Directors, Burbank, Calif.

Duty and Honor: Veterans Journey Home: Leaving It On the Land, Frederick Marx, Director, Oakland, Calif.

Best Comedy: Re-Opening, Feature Film

Best Ensemble Cast: Over My Dead Body, Short Film

Best Musical Score: Song For Hope: The Ryan Anthony Story, Anthony Di Lorenzo, Composer

Best Actress: Lisa Belcher, Guest of Honor, Austin, Texas

Best Actor: Stephen Dexter, American Morning, New York

Best Director: Meital Cohen Navarro, Over My Dead Body, Los Angeles

Audience Choice Award: The Long Rider, Sean Cisterna, Director, Ontario, Calif.

Susan A. K. Shaffer Humanitarian Award: Sacred Waters: The Okefenokee in Peril, Mark Albertin, Director, Augusta, Ga.

The 17th annual Beaufort International Film Festival is scheduled for Feb. 21 to 26, 2023.

The Beaufort International Film Festival is produced by the Beaufort Film Society. For more information, visit http://www.beaufortfilmfestival.com.

Tony Kukulich is a recent transplant to the Lowcountry. A native of Wilmington, Del., he comes to The Island News from the San Francisco Bay Area where he spent seven years as a reporter and photographer for several publications. He can be reached at tony.theislandnews@gmail.com.

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