A familiar face helped make a California filmmaker and his documentary the big winner of the 5th annual Beaufort International Film Festival on Saturday night.
Jonathan Flora, a Northridge, Calif., filmmaker and producer with Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, was honored twice for his documentary, "Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good" during the film festival's awards gala at the University of South Carolina Beaufort's Performing Arts Center.
The film, which spotlights actor Gary Sinise's 13-piece Lt. Dan Band and its work with the military, won the festival's award for best documentary, and earned Flora the inaugural Santini Patriot Spirit Award.
Named after the title character in Pat Conroy's novel "The Great Santini," the award will be given annually to a filmmaker whose work honors American veterans or their families, according to organizers.
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Flora honored servicemembers in a pair of short acceptance speeches for both awards.
"(Servicemembers) answer the call in such a valiant way," Flora said. "They're America's sons and daughters, and they come from every walk of life."
Sinise named his ensemble after the Vietnam vet and double amputee he portrayed in the 1994 film "Forrest Gump," parts of which were filmed in Beaufort the year before.
In a short video message to Flora before he received the Santini award, Sinise said it was appropriate that the filmmaker was being honored in Beaufort.
"You're there in Beaufort where Lt. Dan was born," Sinise said in the message. "It's come full-circle that you're being honored there tonight with this wonderful award in Beaufort."
Flora's documentary was among 204 films entered in this year's festival, according to organizers.
"This year was the best festival we've had," said Ron Tucker, the festival's executive director. "We had four sell-out screenings this year. We've never even had one, and this year we had four. Some of the ones that didn't sell out only had l... two or three seats open."