Los Angeles-based filmmaker Blake Robbins took home top honors Sunday morning at the Free State Festival awards brunch for his drama "The Sublime and the Beautiful."
Robbins directed, wrote and starred in the film, which screened Saturday night at the Lawrence Arts Center.
Dressed casually in a blue button-up, cargo shorts and Converse sneakers, Robbins accepted the award for Best Narrative Feature Film alongside lead actress and Kansas University alumna Laura Kirk.
"I'm so blessed to show my film here, to share the love, to share with the audience in Lawrence that was responsible for my film to begin with," Robbins told about 30 onlookers at Lawrence's Cider Gallery.
"Sublime," he said, wouldn't exist without the help of many Lawrencians who opened their homes and businesses to Robbins during production. The crew, comprising mainly locals, shot at locations all over town— Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Douglas County Sheriff's Office and the KU campus, to name a few.
The film's plot, which follows a suburban Kansas couple torn apart by a sudden tragedy, originated in Robbins' own experiences. While a student at Wichita State University, Robbins experienced two close encounters with death— his aunt narrowly survived being struck by a drunk driver; later, a close friend died of cancer.
Making “The Sublime and the Beautiful” provided Robbins with a way to come to terms with his grief, he said. And, the film may be offering healing to others, too.
Since debuting the movie earlier this year, Robbins said at least one or two viewers have approached him after each screening to share similar stories.
“People coming up to me, hugging me, telling me they feel like I got it right— that’s the most rewarding thing," he said.
Other winners from Sunday’s awards ceremony include: “Black Rock Creek” (Best Youth Film), “Somewhere Between Freedom and Protection, Kansas” (Best Larryville Short Film), “And You’ll Be Navigator” (Best Original Music) and “Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty” (Best Documentary).