UNFORGIVABLE, THE MOHEL, and More Win at Palm Springs ShortFest
It was a great pleasure for me to sit on the jury for Best Live Action Short Under 15 Minutes; Palm Springs ShortFest gives out a lot of awards, but that's because there are so many amazing short films in their programme. Full list below, and congratulations to all the winners!
The 2021 Palm Springs International ShortFest announced its Festival juried award winners as part of Closing Night at the Camelot Theatres (Palm Springs Cultural Center). Awards and cash prizes worth $25,000 including five Academy Award® qualifying awards were presented to the winners selected from the 295 shorts films that were part of the Official Selection.
Greater Palm Springs CVB Best of the Festival Award - Winner received $5,000 cash prize courtesy of the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Jury: Bérangère Mc Neese (Actor, Director, & Screenwriter - 2020 ShortFest award winner in this category); Ania Trzebiatowska (Programmer at the Sundance Film Festival).
• Winner: Unforgivable (El Salvador), Directed by Marlén Viñayo. A ruthless hitman for the 18th Street gang serves his sentence inside an evangelical Salvadoran prison, where he is guilty not only of his crimes, but of an unforgivable sin under God and gang: being gay.
• Special Mention: Palma (France), Directed by Alexe Poukine. Jeanne is taking her 6-year-old daughter away for the weekend to Majorca. While everything is going down the drain, Jeanne's only concern is to photograph Kiki, the class mascot.
Best Animated Short - Winner received a $1,000 cash prize.
Jury: Chance Huskey (Director, Distribution at GKids); Josephine Lohoar Self (Writer/Director - 2020 ShortFest award winner in this category); Julia Pistor (Producer at Tamterra Entertainment).
• Winner: Step into the River (China/France), Directed by Weijia Ma. Lu and Wei are two young girls living in a village nestled on the banks of a river that bears many tragic stories in this surreal and stunning exploration of China's one-child policy.
• Special Mention: Navozande, the Musician (France), Directed by Reza Riahi. At the time of the attack of the Mongols, a young musician and the love of his life were separated from each other. Fifty years later, the musician is summoned to perform at the castle of the Mongols where his beloved is being held.
Best Documentary Short - Winner received a $1,000 cash prize.
Jury: Samah Ali (Shorts Programmer at Doc NYC); Doug Hawes-Davis (Co-Founder of High Plains Films); Lindy Leong (Senior Film Programmer at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival)
• Winner: Queen of Basketball (USA), Directed by Ben Proudfoot. Three consecutive college championships. The Olympics. The NBA. Lusia Harris is arguably the greatest American female basketball player of all time. But when will history honor her legend?
• Special Mention: The Interview (USA), Directed by Jon Miller and Zach Russo. For incarcerated people serving life sentences in the state of New York, the parole board is their only hope of release. But how do you convince a group of strangers that you are more than the worst thing you ever did?
Best Live-Action Short Over 15 Minutes - Winner received a $1,000 cash prize.
Jury: Kentucker Audley (Filmmaker/Actor at Nobudge); Inbar Horesh (Director - 2020 ShortFest Award winner in this category); Angelique Jackson (Film & Media Reporter at Variety/PMC)
• Winner: The Criminals (France/Romania/Turkey), Directed by Serhat Karaaslan. Late in the evening in a small Turkish town, a young couple are trying to find a hotel room to spend the night together, but they face rejection from every hotel for not having the required marriage certificate. Once they believe they’ve devised the perfect scheme, the situation gets out of hand.
• Special Mention: The Girls Who Burn the Night (Saudi Arabia), Directed by Sara Mesfer. While helping their mother prepare for a party, a denied request brings two young Saudi sisters to their boiling point.
Best Live-Action Short 15 Minutes and Under - Winner received a $1,000 cash prize.
Jury: Marja Bål Nango (Director, Script Writer, & Producer at Maigon Film - 2020 ShortFest award winner in this category); Kari Kim (Vice President, Animation Department at Nickelodeon); Shelagh Rowan-Legg (Contributing Editor at ScreenAnarchy).
• Winner: The Mohel (Canada), Directed by Charles Wahl. After celebrating the birth of their first son, James and his converted Jewish wife Lola fly a mohel out to perform the circumcision. Family expectations and financial strain force James to confront the transactional nature of religion, and the realities of maintaining old traditions in a modern world.
• Special Mentions: Aly (France), Directed by Thomas Wood. In Paris, Aly, a young asylum seeker from Guinea, is invited to a party. On his way, the reality of his situation catches up with him. The Long Goodbye (UK), Directed by Aneil Karia. A sobering and powerful watch, The Long Goodbye imagines a dystopian near future and sees actor Riz Ahmed unpack his feelings towards his country.
Student Short Awards:
Best Student Animated Short & Best Student Documentary Short - Each winner received a $500 cash prize.
Jury: Emily Apter (Cinema Programmer at Maysis Documentary Center); Daniel Wineman (Senior Director, Development at Nickelodeon Animation Studios).
Student Animated Short
• Winner: Love is Just a Death Away (Czech Republic), Directed by Bára Anna Stejskalová. Amid the debris of a perilous landfill, hopeful creatures yearn for an amorous connection.
• Special Mention: Misery Loves Company (South Korea/USA), Directed by Sasha Lee. One night, Seolgi is lying on a grass field with friends. A shooting star falls, and dark and intrusive thoughts hit her. Her melancholy blooms into bright and colorful “flower people,” dancing around wishing for a meteorite to end the world.
Student Documentary Short
• Winner: The Void Inside (Germany/Iran), Directed by Julian Dieterich. After getting caught in a fight, Vahid needs to sell one of his kidneys to avoid a long prison sentence. While waiting for a buyer, a wish for a better life starts to grow within him.
• Special Mention: Joychild (USA), Directed by Aurora Brachman. A young child tells their mother "I'm not a girl" for the first time.
Best Student International Short - Winner received a $500 cash prize.
Jury: Doug Jones (Executive Director at Images Cinema); Megan Leonard (Programmer at the Seattle International Film Festival); Julietta Korbel (Writer and Director at Thera Productions - 2020 ShortFest Award winner in this category).
• Winner: Her Dance (Israel), Directed by Bar Cohen. Estranged from her family, Aya shows up uninvited to her sister's wedding Shabbat night. Her presence threatens to reveal family secrets and lies.
Best Student U.S. Short - Winner received a $500 cash prize.
Jury: Carlos Aguilar (Film Critic); Christina Routhier (Executive Director of Theaters and Festivals at SCAD); Yuan Yuan (Writer/Director at New York University - 2020 ShortFest award winner in this category).
• Winner: El Clásico (Mexico), Directed by Joel Vázquez Cárdenas. The tumultuous journey of two friends on their way to a soccer stadium hands them a new perspective of their friendship, their morals and Mexico City.
• Special Mention: Fourth of July (USA), Directed by Major Dorfman. A young mother struggles to parent her two rambunctious boys over the course of one hot summer day.
Special Jury Awards:
Best International Short - Winner received a $1,000 cash prize.
Jury: Ingir Bål Nango (Script Writer at Maigon Film, 2020 ShortFest award winner in this category); Jaie Laplante (Director at Miami Film Festival); Amanda Salazar (Head of Programming and Acquisitions at Argo).
• Winner: Howling (Belgium), Directed by Laura Van Haecke. Together with her mother and her half-sister, nine-year-old Bo moves to the countryside. Slightly bored in the new environment of fields and farms, the sisters look forward to the weekend when their fathers come to pick them up. Bo's father, however, doesn’t show up time and time again.
Best U.S. Short - Winner received a $1,000 cash prize.
Jury: Mimi Brody (Film Programmer); Greta Hagen-Richardson (Director of Programming at the Hot Springs Film Festival); Logan Jackson (Director at Free Milk Films, 2020 ShortFest award winner in this category).
• Winner: Inheritance (USA), Directed by Annalise Lockhart. A Black family in rural Vermont attempts to live a life of solitude and cope with the ghosts living on their property.
• Special Mention: Please Hold (USA), Directed by KD Dávila. In the near future, a young working-class Latino is wrongfully arrested. Realizing he has no means of recourse in the fully automated and privatized justice system, he attempts to reach a human who can set things right.
Best Comedy Short - Winner received a $1,000 cash prize.
Jury: Tim Gray (Film Program Manager at the Austin Film Festival); Sarah Winshall (Producer at Smudge Films).
• Winner: Break In (USA), Directed by Alyssa Lerner. What’s more embarrassing than writing erotic fiction about your crush? Writing erotic fiction about your crush and then accidentally texting it to her. When this very thing happens to Nousha she enlists the help of her best friend Oliver, and they set out on a mission to delete the text. By any means necessary.
• Special Mention: Snowy (USA), Directed by Kaitlyn Schwalje, Alex Wolf Lewis. Snowy the turtle has lived an isolated life in the family basement for the past 10+ years with minimal sunlight and no companionship other than that of his primary caretaker, Uncle Larry. In an effort to improve their pet turtle's life, the family asks—is Snowy happy?
Best LGBT+ Short - Winner received a $1,000 cash prize.
Jury: Mey Rude (Staff Writer at Pride Media); Brighid Wheeler (Senior Programmer at Indie Memphis).
• Winner: Eggshells (Bulgaria), Directed by Slava Doytcheva. After her girlfriend chooses to spend Easter with family, Nevena dyes two red eggs and heads off to visit her own estranged father.
• Special Mention: F1-100 (USA/Malaysia), Directed by Emory Chao Johnson. Art, animation, archival footage and digital video are interwoven in this transnational meditation through time and space of an international art student carrying a heavy burden.
Best Midnight Short - Winner received a $1,000 cash prize.
Jury: Radhika Apte (Actor, 2020 ShortFest award winner in this category); Roxanne Benjamin (Filmmaker at Planemo Pictures); Rachel Walker (Head of Programming and Creative at Alamo Drafthouse LA).
• Winner: Night Bus (Taiwan), Directed by Joe Hsieh. Aboard a late-night commuter bus, a stolen necklace sets off a macabre chain of events involving a jealous husband and a vengeful monkey.
• Special Mention: Night of the Living Dicks (Finland/Denmark), Directed by Ilja Rautsi. Venla is fed up with getting dick pics when she finds a pair of glasses that reveal the true nature of people and which men are real dicks. As the dick monsters realize they've been exposed to Venla in ways they didn't intend, they come after her and Venla must confront an explosive nightmare of genitals and gender roles.
Mozaik Bridging the Borders Award - Winner received a $2,500 cash prize.
Jury: Keely Badger (Executive Director of Mozaik); Hossein Jafarian (Cinematographer & Academy Award Member); Vladek Juszkiewicz (Programmer at and Founder of the Polish Film Festival Los Angeles); Susan Morgan Cooper (Director; Producer, Writer); Farah Nabulsi (Filmmaker); Bijan Tehrani (Editor in Chief of Cinema Without Borders & Cinequal).
• Winner: A Broken House (USA/Lebanon), Directed by Jimmy Goldblum. A Syrian architect and artist stuck in the U.S. on a single-entry visa eases his homesickness by sculpting life-like renditions of the home he left behind.
• Special Mentions: On My Way (Belgium), Directed by Sonam Larcin. The unexpected arrival of a Nigerian migrant in the Belgian countryside shakes up the fragile daily life of two men living a secret relationship. Bambirak (Germany/USA), Directed by Zamarin Wahdat. When 8-year-old Kati stows away in her father's truck, Faruk must juggle his responsibilities as a single dad while holding down his first job in a new country.
Local Jury Award - Winner received a $1,000 cash prize.
Jury: Tammi Cooper (National Sales Director at Destination PSP); Deborah Glickman (Business Advocate at the City of Palm Desert); Brielle Leon (Medical Student at Keck School of Medicine of USC); Dr. Joseph Palacios (Contributing Fellow at The Center for Religion & Civic Culture, USC); Xochitl Pena (Outreach Specialist, Desert Water Agency).
• Winner: Dying in Your Mother’s Arms (USA), Directed by John Beder. If losing a child to an illness is one of the worst things that can happen to a family, Dr. Nadia Tremonti has made it her mission to make it better. It’s not easy, but as a pediatric palliative care physician, she works to ensure that terminally ill children receive quality end-of-life care.
• Special Mention: Don vs Lightning (UK), Directed by Big Red Button. All Don wants is a quiet life in the Scottish Highlands. Unfortunately the universe has other plans.
Vimeo Staff Pick Award – Selected by Vimeo curators. Winner received a $2,500 cash prize.
• Winner: The Nannies (Denmark), Directed by Signe Barvild Staehr. Signe's mother died unexpectedly when she was five years old. Now a filmmaker, Signe reconstructs a forgotten time in her life with memories from nannies who cared for her. The film is a character-driven story about a daughter trying to relive the past, and a father trying to avoid it.
Young Cineastes Award – Winner received a $1,000 cash prize.
Jury: Ella Fitzpatrick (Xavier College Preparatory High School); Hector Gonzalez (Cathedral City High School); Holly Hinman (Palm Desert High School); Danica Palmersheim (Cathedral City High School); Haven Reyna (29 Palms High School); William Riordan (Palm Desert High School).
• Winner: Americanized (USA), Directed by Erica Eng. Growing up in Oakland's hip-hop culture and playing on the high school basketball team makes it difficult for Eng to identify with her Chinese-American roots. As her sophomore year of high school comes to an end, Eng tries to find a sense of belonging within the two worlds that don't accept her.
• Special Mention: Little Bear (France), Directed by Nicolas Birkenstock. When Little Bear starts sleepwalking, she decides to find out where her sleep takes her.
AUDIENCE AWARDS - Winner received a $500 cash prize. Awarded to the film which scored the highest on ballots submitted by the audience in its respected category.
• BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT – The Departure (France), directed by Saïd Hamich Benlarbi. It's the summer of 2004 in Morocco, and 11-year-old Adil is upset by the visit of his father and big brother, who will leave for France in just a few days...
• BEST ANIMATED SHORT – Love is Just a Death Away (Czech Republic), Directed by Bára Anna Stejskalová. Amid the debris of a perilous landfill, hopeful creatures yearn for an amorous connection.
• BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT – A Broken House (USA/Lebanon), Directed by Jimmy Goldblum. A Syrian architect and artist stuck in the U.S. on a single-entry visa eases his homesickness by sculpting life-like renditions of the home he left behind.
• BEST STUDENT SHORT – Her Dance (Israel), Directed by Bar Cohen.Estranged from her family, Aya shows up uninvited to her sister's wedding Shabbat night. Her presence threatens to reveal family secrets and lies.