Brian Banks
Brian Banks

The LA Film Festival, announced the winners of the 2018 Festival, with the top awards going to Brian Banks by Tom Shadyac winning the Audience Award for Fiction Feature Film and Stuntman by Kurt Mattila winning the Audience Award for Documentary Feature Film.   Other awards include This Teacher by Mark Jackson winning the U.S. Fiction Award, and the Swedish film Border by Ali Abbasi winning the World Fiction Award.

“We congratulate all of the filmmakers that shared their work with the LA Film Festival,” said Festival Director, Jennifer Cochis. “These awards honor the wide range of exceptional storytelling we’ve been sincerely delighted to present. All of us are looking forward to wider audiences discovering these stories in the year ahead.”

Festival Guest Director, Emmy-award-winning, Lauren Greenfield (Generation Wealth, Queen of Versailles) was awarded the Spirit of Independence Award at the event for her work advancing the cause of independent film and championing creative freedom as a celebrated documentarian, famed photographer and artist.

The Festival’s juried awards include: the U.S. Fiction Award, World Fiction Award, Documentary Award, LA Muse Awards, Nightfall Award, Music Video Award, Episodic Award, well as the Short Fiction Award and the Short Documentary Award. Audience awards are presented for Fiction Feature Film, Documentary Feature Film, Episodic Story, Episodic Pilot, Short Film, Music Video and Series from the Web.

Additionally the 25th anniversary of Film Independent’s diversity mentorship initiative Project Involve honored Effie T. Brown (Real Women Have Curves, Dear White People), Jon M. Chu (GI Joe: Retaliation, Crazy Rich Asians), Cherien Dabis (Amreeka, Empire) and MACRO’s Founder & CEO Charles D. King (Mudbound, Fences) at the home of Catharine and Jeffrey Soros during the Festival and the inaugural New Wave brunch celebrated the work of Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine Nine), Jay Ellis (Insecure), Dominique Fishback (The Hate U Give), Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Bumblebee), Leonardo Nam (Westworld) and Millicent Simmonds (A Quiet Place).

2018 LA Film Festival Awards Winners

The U.S. Fiction Award
Winner: This Teacher, dir. Mark Jackson, World Premiere
Screenwriters: Mark Jackson, Dana Thompson
Producers: Mark Jackson, Dana Thompson, Gigi Graff, Josh Mandel, Javier Gonzalez
Cast: Hafsia Herzi, Sarah Kazemy, Lucy Walters, Kevin Kane, Lev Gorn
Film Description: A young Arab-French woman on an introspective journey visits her childhood friend in New York City before heading to the woods upstate.

U.S. Fiction Special Mention
Winner: In Reality, dir. Ann Lupo, California Premiere
Screenwriters: Ann Lupo, Esteban Pedraza, Aaron Pryka
Producers: Ann Lupo, Nadine Martinez, Holly Meehl
Cast: Ann Lupo, Miles G. Jackson, Kimiko Glenn, Jill Eikenberry, Olivia Washington, Esteban Pedraza, Lauren E. Banks
Film Description: A young woman takes a journey through her own fantastic mind as she investigates her relationship to unrequited love.

World Fiction Award
Winner: Border, dir. Ali Abbasi, California Premiere
Country: Sweden
Screenwriters: Ali Abbasi, Isabella Eklöf, John Ajvide Lindqvis
Producers: Nina Bisgaard, Peter Gustafsson, Petra Jönsson
Cast: Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Jörgen Thorsson
Film Description: Despite having the remarkable gift of being able to smell emotions, a border agent leads a mundane existence until she meets a stranger who shares her unique abilities and upends her life.

World Fiction Special Jury Prize, Directing
Winner: The Day I Lost My Shadow, dir. Soudade Kaadan, US Premiere
Country: France/Lebanon/Qatar/Syrian Arab Republic
Screenwriters: Soudade Kaadan
Producers: Amira Kaadan
Cast: Sawsan Arshid, Reham Al Kasar, Samer Ismail, Ahmad Ali
Film Description: In the midst of a gas crisis during the early days of the Syrian Arab Spring, a young mother takes the day off work and strays far from home with only one objective in mind: finding a working cylinder so that she may cook a meal for her son.

Documentary Award
Winner: hillbilly, dir. Sally Rubin & Ashley York, LA Premiere
Country: USA
Producers: Sally Rubin & Ashley York
Featuring: bell hooks, Billy Redden, Ronny Cox, Frank X Walker, Crystal Good, Silas Howard
Film Description: Two filmmakers visit rural Kentucky, one returning home to Appalachian to unpack the stereotype of “hillbilly” and explore the personal and painful experiences fueling our polarizing political climate.

Documentary Special Jury Award for Excellence in Social Justice Storytelling
Winner: False Confessions, dir. Katrine Philp, North American Premiere
Country: Denmark
Producers: Katrine A. Sahlstrøm
Film Description: “Would you confess to a crime you did not commit?” A defense attorney fights against the complex and manipulative tactics of US police interrogations, focusing on victims of coerced confessions as she helps exonerate her incarcerated clients.

LA Muse Award
Winner: Staycation, dir. Tanuj Chopra, World Premiere
Country: USA
Screenwriters: Tanuj Chopra, Anthony Ma, Grace Su
Producer: Lalithra Fernando
Cast: Anthony Ma, Grace Su
Film Description: A modern millennial codependent couple in DTLA have their relationship thrown for a loop when he discovers a photo from an ex on her phone.

LA Muse Documentary Award
Winner: Fire on the Hill dir. Brett Fallentine, World Premiere
Country: USA
Producers: Brett Fallentine, Jordana Glick-Franzheim, Steven Amato
Film Description: Three black cowboys in South Central share their stories following a mysterious fire that burnt down the community’s stables, leaving the fate of the culture in question.

Jury Members: Tamar Halpern (filmmaker, Llyn Foulkes One Man Band), Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (actor, Bumblebee), Jamil Walker Smith (director, The American Dream, actor, Code Black)

LA Muse Special Mention, Best Ensemble Cast
Winner: Solace, dir. Tchaiko Omawale, World Premiere
Country: USA
Screenwriter: Tchaiko Omawale
Producers: Tchaiko Omawale, Maya Emelle, Hope Olaide Wilson, Sabine Hoffman, Sascha Brown Rice
Cast: Hope Olaide Wilson, Lynn Whitfield, Chelsea Tavares, Glynn Turman, Luke Rampersad, Sydney Bennett
Film Description: A teenage orphan moves to LA to live with her estranged grandmother and works to win a performance art grant while secretly struggling with binge eating.

Nightfall Award
Winner: The Dead Center, dir. Billy Senese, World Premiere
Country: USA
Screenwriters: Billy Senese
Producers: Billy Senese, Denis Deck, Jonathan Rogers, Shane Carruth
Cast: Shane Carruth, Poorna Jagannathan, Jeremy Childs, Billy Feehely
Film Description: When a mysterious John Doe wakes up in a morgue and wanders into a psychiatric ward, a devoted doctor and curious medical examiner must slowly uncover dark and sinister secrets about the man that reveal a more horrifying truth than they could have ever imagined.

Nightfall Special Jury Prize, Lead Actor
Actor: Ashleigh Morghan
Film: Head Count, dir. Elle Callahan, World Premiere
Country: USA
Screenwriters: Michael Nader
Producers: Samuel Sandweiss, Brandon Somerhalder
Film Description: During a weekend getaway to Joshua Tree, a group of teenagers find themselves under mental and physical assault from a supernatural entity that mimics their appearances as it completes an ancient ritual.

Nightfall Special Jury Prize, Ensemble Cast
Cast: Barak Hardley, Jackie Tohn, Magnús Jónsson, Birna Rún Eiriksdóttir, Tom Wright, Stacey Moseley, Michael Nanfria, Michole Briana White, Bryndís Haraldsdíttir
Film: Spell, dir. Brendan Walter, World Premiere
Screenwriter: Barak Hardley
Producers: Brendan Walter, Jon Lullo, Barak Hardley, Katy Stoll, Eleanor WIlson
Film Description: Following the unexpected death of his fiancé an American illustrator travels to the Icelandic countryside to seek solace. What he finds instead is a blurred line between reality and fantasy as magical things begin to shake his very foundation — unless it’s all in his head.

Award for Short Fiction
Winner: The Passage, dir. Kitao Sakurai
Country: USA
Film Description: Fleeing a pair of mysterious agents sends a dim-witted mute on a series of absurd misadventures.
Jury Members: Missy Laney (Director of Development, Adult Swim), Caleb Spencer (Managing Director, Nashville Film Festival), Garth Trinidad (DJ, KCRW)
Award for Documentary Short
Winner: One Leg In, One Leg Out, dir. Lisa Rideout
Country: Canada
Film Description: A lively, strong-willed sex worker struggles to move from the streets and into a career as a social worker, hoping to help fellow trans sex workers find acceptance.

Web Episodes Jury Award
Winner: Psusy, dir. Anna Duckworth
Country: New Zealand
Film Description: Two close friends drag us through their controversial, inappropriate, but always playful feminist world.
Jury Members: Missy Laney (Director of Development, Adult Swim), Caleb Spencer (Managing Director, Nashville Film Festival), Garth Trinidad (DJ, KCRW)

Audience Award for Fiction Feature Film
Winner: Brian Banks, dir. Tom Shadyac, World Premiere
Country: USA
Screenwriter: Doug Atchison
Producers: Amy Baer, Monica Levinson, Shivani Rawat
Cast: Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepherd, Tiffany Dupont, Xosha Roquemore
Film Description: Based on a true story, a young football player’s dreams to play in the NFL are halted when he is falsely accused of rape and sent to prison.

This award is given to the fiction feature audiences liked most as voted by a tabulated rating system. Select fiction feature-length films screening in the following sections were eligible for the Audience Award for Best Fiction Feature: U.S. Fiction, World Fiction, LA Muse, Nightfall and Premieres.

Audience Award for Documentary Feature Film
Winner: Stuntman, dir. Kurt Mattila, World Premiere
Country: USA
Producers: Steven Golebiowski, Kurt Mattila, Eddie Braun
Featuring: Eddie Braun, Gary Davis, Conrad E. Palmisano, Buddy Joe Hooker, Scott Truax, Meg Braun
Film Description: A veteran Stuntman sets out to complete the jump that bested his idol Evel Knievel: clearing the Snake River Canyon in a rocket-powered craft.

This award is given to the documentary feature audiences liked most as voted by a tabulated rating system. Select documentary feature-length films screening in the following sections were eligible for the Audience Award for Documentary Feature: Documentary LA Muse and Premieres.

Audience Award for Music Video
Winner: Clutch, dir. Christopher Ripley
Country: USA
Film Description: A professional athlete’s rise and fall from grace.
This award is given to the music video audiences liked most as voted by tabulated rating system.

Audience Award for Short Film
Winner: Weekends, dir. Trevor Jimenez
Country: USA
Film Description: A young boy shuffles between the homes of his recently divorced parents in this surreal hand-animated film set in 1980s Toronto.
This award is given to the short film audiences liked most as voted by a tabulated rating system. Short films screening in the Shorts Programs or before feature films in the Festival were eligible for the Audience Award for Short Film.

Audience Award for Episodic Story
Winner: Revenge Tour, dir. Andrew Carter
Country: USA
Film Description: He’s been cheated on, living in a friend’s living room and stuck at a dead-end job. But one night he finds an unlikely stress-reliever—rapping.
This award is given to the web-series audiences liked most as voted by a tabulated rating system.

Audience Award for Episodic Pilot
Winner: 40 & Single, dir. Leila Djansi, World Premiere
Country: Ghana
Film Description: A single, bisexual, mixed race bridal fashion designer maneuvers life and business in post-colonial Africa.
This award is given to the web-series audiences liked most as voted by a tabulated rating system.

Seattle Story Award
Winner: I’m Sorry Happy Birthday, dir. Claire Buss, World Premiere
Film Description: A playful showcase of everyday life in Seattle’s neighborhoods through whimsical vignettes that border on the fantastical – complete with a little bit of Pacific Northwest quirkiness.
Selected by special committee assembled by Film Independent and funded by Visit Seattle.

TikTok Real Short Award
Winner: dir. Ann Lupo
TikTok gave Festival filmmakers the chance to win a $10,000 unrestricted cash grant. Ann’s video addressed the “Why I’m a Filmmaker” prompt with exceptional storytelling through the lens of TikTok, utilizing creator tools to enhance the narrative. Her innovative short, along with all of the submissions, can be found on the Film Independent (@filmindependent) TikTok account. Selected by special committee assembled by the LA Film Festival programming team.

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