Announcing the 2021 Jury and Special Award winners of the 28th SXSW Film Festival!
“We are so honored by the 2021 filmmakers who entrusted their work to us for this online version of our event and joined us on this new adventure in such a beautiful way,” said Janet Pierson, Director of Film. “We are thrilled we could launch great new projects and talent in this pandemic year, and hope the films, sessions, music, and gatherings online and in virtual reality, showcased the resilience, perseverance, and creativity of our community.”
Selected by this season's esteemed Juries, explore the recipients of the 2021 SXSW Film Festival Awards presented by Brightcove. Grab some popcorn and transport yourself into the virtual ceremony, as if your couch were the red seats of the Paramount Theatre, to watch the 2021 SXSW Film Awards acceptance videos including a special introduction from Brightcove CEO, Jeff Ray.
Feature films receiving Jury Awards were selected from the Narrative Feature and Documentary Feature Competition categories. Also included are Shorts, Design, Virtual Cinema, and the following Special Awards: Louis Black “Lone Star” Award; Adobe Editing Award; Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award; Final Draft Screenwriters Award; ZEISS Cinematography Award; the Mailchimp Support the Shorts Award; and the Brightcove Illumination Award which honors a filmmaker on the rise, celebrating the innovation and creativity of new artists within the SXSW Film Festival official selections.
All films, except Special Events, are eligible for the SXSW Film Festival Audience Awards, which will be certified by the accounting firm of Maxwell Locke & Ritter. On Sunday, March 21, visit your "My SXSW" page on the SXSW Online platform to look back at the films you’ve watched (you must be registered or have RSVP’ed for them in order to vote). Use the "Give Your Feedback" feature on each film’s event page to cast your votes by 11:59pm CT on Sunday, March 21. If you’ve already voted, your vote is in the system and will be counted.
Films will continue to be available on the SXSW Online platform until 11:59pm CT on Saturday, March 20. SXSW will continue running the Online Shift72 Screening Library through March 31, 2021, for those films that have opted-in to the extended timeframe.
Explore the 2021 SXSW Film Festival Awards winners by category below with comments from the Juries. Congrats to all recipients!
Feature Film Grand Jury Awards
- Narrative Feature Competition: Amanda N’Duka, Jake Coyle, Joanna Robinson
- Documentary Feature Competition: Jacqueline Coley, Sean Fennessey, Steven Zeitchik
- Louis Black “Lone Star”: Joe Gross, Ann Hornaday, Stephen Saito
- Brightcove Illumination Award: Clayton Davis, Kate Erbland, Inkoo Kang
- Narrative Shorts Program: Janicza Bravo, Karen Han, Ina Pira
- Documentary Shorts: Opal H. Bennett, Omid Fatemi, Sheila Nevins
- Animated Shorts: Bryan Dimas, Chris Prynoski, Taylor K. Shaw
- Midnight Shorts: Jason Blum, Arbi Pedrossian, Kristy Puchko
- Music Videos: Hugo Burnham, Michael Kauffman, Kristian Mercado
- Texas Shorts: Sarah Green, Paula Mejía, Monique Walton
- Texas High School Shorts: Laura Kincaid, Hans-Martin Liebing, Cooper Raiff
- Episodic Pilots: Jessica Derschowitz, Yassir Lester, Ben Wasserstein
- Excellence in Title Design: Brian Mah, Brian Merrell, Erin Sarofsky
- Excellence in Poster Design: Damon Nelson, Yen Tan, Erica Williams
- Virtual Cinema Competition: Myriam Achard, Jesse Damiani, Liz Rosenthal
Narrative Feature Competition
Director: Megan Park
“The Fallout takes us through the emotionally charged healing journey of a young girl whose life is forever changed in the wake of a school tragedy. Writer and director Megan Park delivers a timely, riveting, and thought-provoking film on the toll it takes on a teenager who is facing a world where they no longer feel safe. It is an intense, moving piece that highlights an important issue to which one can’t help but feel connected.”
Special Jury Recognition for Multi-hyphenate Storyteller
I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)
Directors: Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina
“Kelley Kali’s I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking), financed in part by stimulus relief checks, is a marvel of multitasking and resourcefulness. Kali’s film, which she wrote, directed, produced and stars in, winningly captures the pandemic plight of a homeless, roller-skating single mother over a memorable daylong odyssey.”
Special Jury Recognition for Breakthrough Performance
Director: Martin Edralin
Actor: Rogelio Balagtas
“Islands gives us the story of a painfully shy man set adrift in the world by the declining health of the parents who sheltered him. This story, of someone blooming late in life, hinges on the tremendously compelling, interior performance from relative newcomer Rogelio Balagtas who can break hearts throughout with his tears and enables the movie to transcend with a single smile.”
Documentary Feature Competition
Lily Topples the World
Director: Jeremy Workman
“A joyful portrait of grace in artistry and commitment in engineering, Lily Topples the World shows a life online that transcends virality and touches something deeper. In Lily Hevesh, aka Hevesh5, the film features a collaborative, creative soul who comes by community and entrepreneurship naturally. A rare achievement in nonjudgmental subcultural exploration and a gorgeously rendered portrait of burgeoning adulthood that tumbles forward, like Lily’s domino art, into something beautiful.”
Special Jury Recognition for Exceptional Intimacy in Storytelling
Introducing, Selma Blair
Director: Rachel Fleit
“Selma Blair's unflinching and raw vulnerability in Introducing, Selma Blair, coupled with director Rachel Fleit's almost voyeuristic chronicling of her MS diagnosis, invites us not just to feel empathy for the star. More than that, it invites us into her fight, prompting anyone watching to feel joined with her in battle. That level of disarming intimacy is rarely witnessed on screen, particularly from a public figure, making the feat all the more incredible.”
Special Jury Recognition for Humanity in Social Action
Not Going Quietly
Director: Nicholas Bruckman
“Activist is a word much used in contemporary culture. But few give expression to it like Ady Barkan, a California organizer who, upon being diagnosed with ALS in his early 30s, responds not with self-pitying convalescence but by barnstorming his fight across the country, bringing a movement with him. Barkan’s tale suggests that grace is not incompatible with ardor, and hardship no obstacle to achievement. Bruckman’s film captures him and the powerful women who lead his fight in ways that are richly human, always affectionate and frequently rousing.”
Short Film Grand Jury Awards
Play It Safe
Director: Mitch Kalisa
“We were so thrilled by the varied, inventive selection of films in the Narrative Shorts competition this year. Of the shorts, we have decided to award the Jury Award to Play It Safe, for approaching oft-addressed topics in a new way, for its incredible main performance, for its thoughtful direction, and compelling cinematography.”
Special Jury Recognition for Visionary Storytelling
Don't Go Tellin' Your Momma
Directors: Topaz Jones, rubberband.
“We are awarding Don't Go Tellin' Your Momma a Special Jury Recognition for Visionary Storytelling for its bold filmmaking and mix of music, visuals, and documentary footage.”
Special Jury Recognition for Direction
Like the Ones I Used to Know
Director: Annie St-Pierre
“We are awarding Like the Ones I Used to Know a Special Jury Recognition for Direction, as its weaving between reality and flights of fancy make it a Christmas tale to remember. Congratulations to all of the filmmakers this year, and thank you for your new works!”
Directors: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Maite Zubiaurre
“Águilas is a film that most poignantly displays the need immigrants feel to come to America — even at the cost of starvation and death. Failed attempts are presented by a backpack, a sweater, and scattered bones. How desperate the dream is of a perfect landing that ends so tragically.”
Special Jury Recognition for Courage
“Red Taxi is a film that is being recognized for its courage. The type of courage that spans the definition of the word. The subjects are courageous, the filmmakers are courageous, and the film itself is courageous both stylistically and in the way it speaks on an issue through editing that is measured, considered, and understanding of the complexities of the post-colonial project.”
Special Jury Recognition for Poetry
I Ran From It and Was Still in It
Director: Darol Olu Kae
“Its title invites audiences to expect a wholly distinct storytelling experience and this film delivers. For its audacious storytelling through textured imagery, bold structure and lyrical approach, we award this special achievement to I Ran From It and Was Still In It.”
Director: Jon Bell
“The Moogai is a haunting, psychological thriller that explores postpartum depression in an impressive display of disciplined filmmaking that stuck the landing at every pivotal moment. The cinematography is striking, the actor’s performances are brave, and the underlying commentary on a country’s forced removal of generations of children is heartbreaking. Filmmaker Jon Bell’s film affected us on so many levels that we proudly recognize it with the Jury Award prize.”
Special Jury Recognition for Bold Vision
Director: Theo Rhys
“Stuffed proudly presents a story grisly and grotesque yet beautifully bittersweet. Director and co-writer Theo Rhys stitches together a world of rot, flesh, and leather, then brings it to radiant life with curious characters and striking songs of dark dreams, lifting love, and the ultimate sacrifice. It is with shock and awe that we award this strange and sensational short a Jury Recognition for Bold Vision.”
Director: Kristian Mercado
“Be prepared for this dystopian tragedy to rip your hair out by the roots and pour liquid vaporwave rainbows directly onto your brain’s tongue. A cautionary tale of friendship and fame, Nuevo Rico slaps convention to the ground and stomps on it with steel toed boots of satisfying stylistic innovation. Kristian Mercado Figueroa doesn’t give a fuck — and gives all the fucks at the same time. If you’ve never wrestled a laser snake in a Lambo going two hundred off a cliff into an iridescent volcano, Nuevo Rico will make you feel like you have.”
Special Jury Recognition for Innovation
Director: Kang Min Kim
“An awe inspiring masterclass in creativity, resourcefulness, and innovative lighting and stop-motion techniques. This film manages to elevate simplistic materials to create mesmerizing sequences, while also taking you on a poetic, dreamy, and emotional journey that serves as a beautiful tribute to a mother's love.”
Special Jury Recognition for Storytelling
Your Own Bullshit
Director: Daria Kopiec
“We the jury have selected Your Own Bullshit for a Jury Recognition for Storytelling for its masterful and experimental take on a vastly relatable human story. Its stylistic choices, humor, sound design, character development, and pace bring excitement to a topic under which it is not easy to push boundaries. Yet, it does just that.”
Madame Gandhi - 'Waiting for Me'
Director: Misha Ghose
“Of all the wonderful works nominated, Madame Gandhi's 'Waiting for Me', directed by Misha Ghose, soared to the top for its compelling visuals, rich color palettes, and vital message of empowerment and self-expression. The video supported and enhanced both the song and the artist. This video and this artist deserve to be shared, seen, and heard by everyone. Everywhere.”
Special Jury Recognition for How the Hell Did They Do That?!
Waze & Odyssey, George Michael, Mary J. Blige & Tommy Theo - 'Always'
Director: Nelson de Castro
“The Jury would also like to award the music video for 'Always' by Waze & Odyssey with a Special Jury 'How the Hell Did They Do That?!' recognition.”
Special Jury Recognition for Pure Joy
Kuricorder Quartet - 'Southpaw'
Director: Sawako Kabuki
“The Jury would further like to recognize for pure joy, the music video, ‘Southpaw' by Kuricorder Quartet, directed by Sawako Kabuki.”
Director: Haley Elizabeth Anderson
“Summer Animals, Haley Elizabeth Anderson’s short film entry for SXSW 2021, captivated us with its naturalistic style and layered approach to storytelling. Ostensibly a story about three siblings and their quest to find a moment of relief — or a pool to cannonball into — during a particularly grueling summer, the film evolves into something else entirely, and is anchored by the cast’s stellar performances and Anderson’s clear-eyed direction.”
Special Jury Recognition for Vision
O Black Hole!
Director: Renee Zhan
“This imaginative journey explores a literal impression of its title and a figurative one. It’s otherworldly imagery, music and sound design combined for an emotional experience that surprised us at every turn.”
Texas High School Shorts
A Really Dark Comedy
Director: Manasi Ughadmathe
“A Really Dark Comedy is a well-crafted comedy short that weaves together great comedic timing, excellent chemistry between its two leads, and some surprising twists. We found it to be a breath of fresh air in a pandemic year where everyone could use a (really dark) laugh.”
Special Jury Recognition for Directing
Beyond the Model
Director: Jessica Lin
“The power of this documentary comes from the artistry and sensitivity of its director, Jessica Lin. Parts observational and parts reflexive, Beyond the Model’s clear voice stems from a desire to allow its subjects to breathe and share, making for an organic, poignant, and insightful short.”
Episodic Pilot Competition
4 Feet High
Directors: Maria Belen Poncio and Rosario Perazolo Masjoan
“For its beautifully cinematic and heartfelt coming-of-age story, with a confident performance from a standout lead actress, the jury is awarding this year’s top prize to 4 Feet High. The episode is thrillingly unique from its opening minutes, with a strong point of view and an engaging central character whose journey feels keenly specific but also evokes universal high school experiences — and while the story takes its time, there is never a wasted frame. We commend the cast and creative team for telling this a moving story in such an assured way.”
Special Jury Recognition for Best Duo
Director: Ron Najor
“For their witty script and genuine onscreen chemistry, the Special Jury Recognition for Best Duo goes to Kristin Erickson and Ron Najor for Pretend Partners. As showrunners, screenwriters, producers, and stars of the project (in addition to Najor directing), Erickson and Najor created an inventive take on the romantic comedy that was sweet and hilarious in equal measure, and then carried that story themselves as its central characters.”
SXSW Film Design Awards Presented by Adobe
Poster Design Competition
Bob Moses Featuring ZHU - 'Desire'
Creative Director: Owen Brown
Art Director and Illustrator: Benjámin Kalászi
Graphic Designer: Diego L. Rodríguez (Paramoidme)
“A visually gripping design, this poster draws you into a surreal moment frozen in time where something you want so badly seems just out of reach. We were struck by the electric color palette, bold typography and dreamy illustration style that evokes flight, time travel, and science fiction. Everything in this poster just feels intriguing and we are so excited to award the Excellence in Poster Design Winner to 'Desire'!”
Special Jury Recognition
Designers: James Burns and Shal Ngo, Aleksander Walijewski
“A mix of bold graphics, creative typography, and emotive imagery, this poster grabs attention and pulls you into the narrative of prisoners in criminal reform systems and isolation. Spending a moment with the imagery feels like a window into the film and the minds of those enduring their own boxes, both tangible and the ones built in our minds. Overall, this poster was interesting, thought provoking, and wove together narrative and design in striking ways. Brava! We’re thrilled to give a Special Jury Recognition to 'The Box'!”
Title Design Competition
The Queen’s Gambit Title Sequence
Designer: Saskia Marka
“Using simple geometric forms and a restrained palette, these titles spring to life through elegant motion design that captures the spirit of the protagonist’s brilliant mental calculations.”
Special Jury Recognition
Birds Of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn Title Sequence
Designer: Michael Riley
“This sequence embodies everything a great title should: The tone is a perfect match for the movie, the style is unique and ownable, and the visual narrative keeps the audience engaged and delighted throughout.”
Virtual Cinema Competition
Director: Huang Hsin-Chien
“Samsara provokes existential questions about the future of humanity and consciousness. From the evolution of users’ hands to the rhythmic juxtaposition of vignettes, every detail is weighted in metaphor. The result is a work that compresses a universe into a few minutes; audiences are left to reflect on humanity as a collective macro-organism—as experienced through the machine.”
Special Jury Recognition for Immersive Journalism
Director: Sam Wolson
“Reeducated offers a glimpse into a horrifying world obscured from public view. Through illustration and testimony from three people who lived through the internment camps in Xinjiang, we learn about the brutal practices used against the Uyghur ethnic minority. It’s a striking piece of 360 cinema that makes a clear argument for the unique affordances of immersive formats for telling stories, establishing a powerful logic and vocabulary through the use of composition, scale, pace, and perspective.”
SXSW Special Awards
Brightcove Illumination Award
The Brightcove Illumination Award honors a filmmaker on the rise, celebrating the innovation and creativity of new artists within the SXSW Film Festival official selections.
Brightcove Illumination Award Presented to:
Director: Megan Park
“For her empathetic and honest exploration of life after tragedy, inspired craft, and stellar guidance of a talented young cast, we award the Brightcove Illumination Award to Megan Park for her film The Fallout.”
Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award
In honor of a filmmaker whose work strives to be wholly its own, without regard for norms or desire to conform. The Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award is presented to a filmmaker from our Visions screening category.
Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award Presented to:
Delia Derbyshire - the Myths and the Legendary Tapes
Director: Caroline Catz
Adobe Editing Award
Adobe is committed to celebrating creativity for all and empowering everyone to bring their stories to life. By creating greater opportunity for all voices, we can enact change in our communities and move the world forward. We are proud to celebrate the art and craft of editing as we grant the Adobe Editing Award at the SXSW Film Awards. We are also pleased to spotlight this year’s incredible title and poster designers through the Film Design Awards presented by Adobe.
Adobe Editing Award Presented to:
Editor: Lam Nguyen
Final Draft Screenwriters Award
Final Draft, the industry standard in screenwriting software, is proud to support SXSW and provide the second SXSW Final Draft Screenwriters Award. We pride ourselves in shining a spotlight on new voices in the writing and filmmaking community, and coming together with like-minded organizations, such as SXSW, that share the same core values. A huge congratulations to this year’s recipient from all of us at Final Draft!
Final Draft Screenwriters Award Presented to:
Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break
Screenwriters: Brook Driver, Matt White, and Nick Gillespie
Louis Black “Lone Star” Award
To honor SXSW co-founder/director Louis Black, a jury prize was created in 2011 called the Louis Black “Lone Star” Award, presented to a feature film world premiering at SXSW that was shot primarily in Texas or directed by a current resident of Texas. (Opt-in Award)
Louis Black “Lone Star” Award Winner:
Without Getting Killed or Caught
Directors: Tamara Saviano and Paul Whitfield
“This year's Lone Star Award goes to Tamara Saviano and Paul Whitfield's remarkable Without Getting Killed or Caught, an examination of not just the life of legendary Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark but the complicated, fascinating relationship between himself, his wife Susanna and his best friend Townes Van Zandt, all of whom made extraordinary work together and apart. The storytelling was graceful, densely layered, and immersive.”
ZEISS Cinematography Award
ZEISS Cine Lenses is honored to be returning this year to support the SXSW film community in the Cinematography category. We believe that by supporting the art within the frame, ZEISS helps filmmakers realize their creative vision.
ZEISS Cinematography Award Winner:
Cinematographer: Jorrie van der Walt
Mailchimp Support the Shorts Award
Mailchimp is committed to uplifting and supporting creators. We’re so proud to support SXSW by helping short films win big. We congratulate the honorees of the Support the Shorts Award and Special Jury Recognition as well as the entire SXSW-invited filmmaking community.
Mailchimp Support the Shorts Award Presented to:
Chuj Boys of Summer
Director: Max Walker-Silverman
“With its gentle, observant eye, Chuj Boys of Summer offers a vision of unexpected compassion and tender masculinity. Director Max Walker-Silverman and writer Marcos Ordoñez Ixwalanhkej Mendoza know too much about the world to provide convenient answers to the film's complicated questions, so they instead focus on the little gestures that define their characters' lives. Against the grandeur of the San Juan Mountains, these small moments become unspeakably powerful.”
Mailchimp Support the Shorts Special Jury Recognition Presented to:
Like the Ones I Used to Know
Director: Annie St-Pierre
“Weaving a Christmas tale filled with familiar indignities, Annie St-Pierre and her talented ensemble deftly transform heartbreak into levity while always staying one step ahead of the audience. As every emotion imaginable plays across the cast's astonishing faces, it's the heroes' crumpled dignity that leaves us smiling.”
Mailchimp Support the Shorts Special Jury Recognition Presented to:
Director: Morgan Bond and Nickolas Grisham
“In its combination of rich characterization and mysterious camera work, Malignant manages to conjure a uniquely cinematic sense of hallucinatory tension. We honestly can't pinpoint exactly what it is that directors Morgan Bond and Nickolas Grisham have done to create this much unease, but thanks to their mesmerizing talents, Malignant's climax floods the senses and lingers long after the film is over.”
Watch the 2021 SXSW Film Awards
SXSW is proud to be an official qualifying festival for the Academy Awards® Short Film competition. Winners of our Best Animated, Best Narrative, and Best Documentary Short Film categories become eligible for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards (Oscars). Any British Short Film or British Short Animation that screens at SXSW is eligible for BAFTA nomination. Films are also eligible for the Independent Spirit Awards, more information on eligibility here.
Cheers to all the 2021 SXSW Film Festival Awards recipients!
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