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OSCAR FINDS A FRIEND IN V.I.'S FOSTER

Memories of Oscar Night for St. Thomas-born film producer Lilibet Foster:
– Sitting in the fifth row at the mammoth Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles Sunday night, along with all the other documentary feature nominees, thinking how exciting it was "just to have been nominated" for Speaking in Strings, and at the same time realizing, "You were so near the front of the stage, so close to the presenters, that you could literally get up and accept any award."
– Finding it funny how fast Uma Thurmond seemed to read off the names of the five films before announcing One Day in September as the winner. "We're always the last, waiting because we start with an S, but it happened so quickly," she said Monday shortly after checking out of the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
– Feeling herself part of a "small, exclusive club" because of the bonding between the "documentarists," as they refer to themselves — from Cannes Film Festival honoree Wim Wenders, director of Buena Vista Social Club, and five-time Oscar-winner Arthur Cohn, producer of One Day in September, to lesser-known, but equally respected younger independent filmmakers like herself.
– Looking forward to getting out of her shoes. "They were too high, and my feet hurt, and that was like every other woman there!" she quipped.
– Watching her parents, retired St. Thomas real estate business owners John and Claire Foster, "dancing up a storm" at the Governor's Ball, held in the Shrine Auditorium right after the awards ceremony. And her dad engaging Michael Caine — who had just won the Best Supporting Actor award for The Cider House Rules — in animated conversation "because Michael once called him looking to buy property on St. Thomas."
– Getting into "our limo" — the limousine the Speaking in Strings nominees had the use of all day and night Sunday — before a lot of the big-name celebrities could get to theirs, "because our chauffeur was good at whipping around."
– Saying to herself, "I'm gonna be back."
Foster was seated beside violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, the subject of her documentary, at the 72nd Awards Ceremony of the National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Seated on Salerno-Sonnenberg's other side was Paola di Florio, director of the film and Nadja's friend from childhood in New Jersey. Making the film, Foster and Salerno-Sonnenberg developed a friendship, too, and, according to Claire Foster, "they play poker together every week" when they're both in New York.
The high point of the night for Salerno-Sonnenberg, Foster said, was when Meryl Streep, Best Actress nominee for Music of the Heart, came up to her and said she admired the violinist and was so excited to meet her.
Foster, who co-owns Asphalt Films, a production company in New York, says she and di Florio are hoping to collaborate on two new projects, a documentary and a fiction film. "We're just in the process of pitching, so I can't give any details," she said. The next stop on her schedule is a film festival in Sun Valley, Calif., where Strings and other documentaries on music will be featured and she will be a panel presenter.
For this year, the documentary features nominating process was changed. An Academy- appointed committee of member documentarians advanced 12 of 55 films initially considered to a "short list." Those 12 were then screened in New York, Beverly Hills and San Francisco for academy members to cast their votes. According to Foster, the final selection of One Day in September, which she liked, "is in keeping with how the academy usually votes — for something that is historically or politically weighty." The film, which won Cohn his sixth Oscar, focuses on and then follows up on the aftermath of the murders of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
The other nominees in the category were Buena Vista Social Club, about the return to popular stardom of long-forgotten son musicians in Cuba; Ghengis Blues, which traces the experience of blind San Francisco blues artist Paul Pena in a "throatsinging" competition in the obscure nation of Tuva; and On the Ropes, a stark look at the ghetto-bound lives of a Bedford-Stuyvesant boxing trainer and his three most promising proteges.
Three of the five films focus on African-Americans or African-Cubans. Three also focus on music and musicians. And Foster noted a thematic similarity between On the Ropes and Soul in the Hole, a documentary she produced several years ago about a Brooklyn street basketball team and its coach. That film and Speaking in Strings were screened at the premiere Virgin Islands International Film and Video Festival at the Reichhold Center for the Arts last month on St. Thomas.
"We already felt like winners," Foster said going into the Oscar presentations. Coming out, she said, "We'll try to go back. . . Of course, you don't make a film thinking 'This is an Academy Award kind of film.' You make a film and then you submit it."

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Memories of Oscar Night for St. Thomas-born film producer Lilibet Foster:
- Sitting in the fifth row at the mammoth Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles Sunday night, along with all the other documentary feature nominees, thinking how exciting it was "just to have been nominated" for Speaking in Strings, and at the same time realizing, "You were so near the front of the stage, so close to the presenters, that you could literally get up and accept any award."
- Finding it funny how fast Uma Thurmond seemed to read off the names of the five films before announcing One Day in September as the winner. "We're always the last, waiting because we start with an S, but it happened so quickly," she said Monday shortly after checking out of the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
- Feeling herself part of a "small, exclusive club" because of the bonding between the "documentarists," as they refer to themselves -- from Cannes Film Festival honoree Wim Wenders, director of Buena Vista Social Club, and five-time Oscar-winner Arthur Cohn, producer of One Day in September, to lesser-known, but equally respected younger independent filmmakers like herself.
- Looking forward to getting out of her shoes. "They were too high, and my feet hurt, and that was like every other woman there!" she quipped.
- Watching her parents, retired St. Thomas real estate business owners John and Claire Foster, "dancing up a storm" at the Governor's Ball, held in the Shrine Auditorium right after the awards ceremony. And her dad engaging Michael Caine -- who had just won the Best Supporting Actor award for The Cider House Rules -- in animated conversation "because Michael once called him looking to buy property on St. Thomas."
- Getting into "our limo" -- the limousine the Speaking in Strings nominees had the use of all day and night Sunday -- before a lot of the big-name celebrities could get to theirs, "because our chauffeur was good at whipping around."
- Saying to herself, "I'm gonna be back."
Foster was seated beside violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, the subject of her documentary, at the 72nd Awards Ceremony of the National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Seated on Salerno-Sonnenberg's other side was Paola di Florio, director of the film and Nadja's friend from childhood in New Jersey. Making the film, Foster and Salerno-Sonnenberg developed a friendship, too, and, according to Claire Foster, "they play poker together every week" when they're both in New York.
The high point of the night for Salerno-Sonnenberg, Foster said, was when Meryl Streep, Best Actress nominee for Music of the Heart, came up to her and said she admired the violinist and was so excited to meet her.
Foster, who co-owns Asphalt Films, a production company in New York, says she and di Florio are hoping to collaborate on two new projects, a documentary and a fiction film. "We're just in the process of pitching, so I can't give any details," she said. The next stop on her schedule is a film festival in Sun Valley, Calif., where Strings and other documentaries on music will be featured and she will be a panel presenter.
For this year, the documentary features nominating process was changed. An Academy- appointed committee of member documentarians advanced 12 of 55 films initially considered to a "short list." Those 12 were then screened in New York, Beverly Hills and San Francisco for academy members to cast their votes. According to Foster, the final selection of One Day in September, which she liked, "is in keeping with how the academy usually votes -- for something that is historically or politically weighty." The film, which won Cohn his sixth Oscar, focuses on and then follows up on the aftermath of the murders of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
The other nominees in the category were Buena Vista Social Club, about the return to popular stardom of long-forgotten son musicians in Cuba; Ghengis Blues, which traces the experience of blind San Francisco blues artist Paul Pena in a "throatsinging" competition in the obscure nation of Tuva; and On the Ropes, a stark look at the ghetto-bound lives of a Bedford-Stuyvesant boxing trainer and his three most promising proteges.
Three of the five films focus on African-Americans or African-Cubans. Three also focus on music and musicians. And Foster noted a thematic similarity between On the Ropes and Soul in the Hole, a documentary she produced several years ago about a Brooklyn street basketball team and its coach. That film and Speaking in Strings were screened at the premiere Virgin Islands International Film and Video Festival at the Reichhold Center for the Arts last month on St. Thomas.
"We already felt like winners," Foster said going into the Oscar presentations. Coming out, she said, "We'll try to go back. . . Of course, you don't make a film thinking 'This is an Academy Award kind of film.' You make a film and then you submit it."