Almost There Wins Special Jury Prize at Sarasota

The 2015 Sarasota Film Festival judges have awarded a Special Jury Prize for "complex hands-on storytelling" to Almost There.

This is the second festival award for Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden's film, about their discovery and complicated curation and caretaking of elderly "outsider" artist Peter Anton. It won an Emerging Filmmaker Award at the Geneva Film Festival, and was also a Jury Award Finalist at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival in March 2015.

The film next screens at the Arizona Film Festival on April 24th, and has also been confirmed to return to Sebastopol on June 27th as a "Best of the Fest" selection. Get more details. Expect more festival announcements very soon.

Acclaim continues to pour in for Rybicky and Wickenden's work. In a recent Reverse Shot recap of the True/False Film Festival, where Almost There was a major breakout hit, Eric Hynes penned one of the finest reviews of the film yet:

"Formally different but also evocatively unresolved is Almost There, a seemingly familiar character study of an aged outsider artist that becomes a thoroughly self-examining, and open-ended rumination on filmmaker-subject complicity, responsibility, and purpose. Even during the early stages of the narrative, filmmakers Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden invite us to think about the nature of their relationship with subject Peter Anton, whom they meet sketching children at a local fair in East Chicago, Indiana, and follow home to his jerry-rigged disaster of a home. “They took pictures of my underwear,” Anton narrates via voiceover, effectively critiquing proceedings from a future tense. “People told me to beware. Maybe they were out to take advantage of me. I want my story told, and that’s why I put up with it.” Such mutual interrogation takes place long before the filmmakers find out about a dark chapter in Anton’s damaged life, which forces them to further question the entire endeavor—particularly a gallery show they’ve set up for Anton in Chicago. He’s apologetic about not being truthful to the filmmakers, but doesn’t regret what it’s done to the film. “I’m not just a project,” he says. Yet Rybicky goes one further than exposing the seams of the doc filmmaking process. He interrogates similarities between Anton’s family and his own, which pushes the film past self-reflection into self-exposure. It’s rare for a film to be both sincerely outwardly and inwardly focused, and pretty much unheard of for one to explore, as Almost There does, how they can be effectively the same thing."

See below for a summary of critical and viewer responses from Almost There's other recent appearances at Chicago's Midwest Independent Film Festival and CIMMFest, and the Sebastopol, Sarasota, Cleveland, Wisconsin, and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festivals. For more reviews and responses, click here.