“Merry Gentleman” BMA’s big winner

The locally produced, Michael Keaton-directed hitman Christmas drama “The Merry Gentleman” was the big winner at the sold-out Best of the Midwest Awards, held Dec. 1 at Rockit Bar & Grill in River North.

“Gentleman” took home four of the nine BMAs, which honor films that screened this year in the monthly Midwest Independent Film Festival.

“Gentleman” won the top prize for best feature. Draftfcb creative development director Ron Lazzeretti ? originally slated to direct until he was sidelined by a ruptured appendix and handed the reins to leading man Keaton ? received the best screenplay award.

Tom Bastounes, executive producer of “Merry Gentleman” and owner of grocery wholesaler The Auster Company, was awarded the best actor prize for his third-billed role as a detective investigating Keaton, who shows inappropriate interest in murder witness Kelly Macdonald.

Actor-turned-first-time feature filmmaker Lori Petty won the best director prize for “The Poker House,” based on her troubled teenage years in Iowa. Jennifer Lawrence, just 15 years old at the time of the shoot, was awarded best actress prize for her performance in “Poker House” as a girl growing up surrounded by addiction and prostitution.

Sharon Zurek won best editor for “Hannah Free,” starring Sharon Gless as a woman fighting for the right to say goodbye to her dying lover. Zurek’s was the only prize for “Hannah,” which was tied with “The Poker House” for most nominations, with noms in five categories.