TRANSHOOD, directed by Sharon Liese
TRANSHOOD, directed by Sharon Liese

AFI DOCS 2020 concluded its five-day online festival with the Audience Award for Best Feature going to TRANSHOOD, directed by Sharon Liese and the Audience Award for Best Short going to BLACKFEET BOXING: NOT INVISIBLE, directed by Kristen Lappas and Tom Rinaldi.

The Grand Jury Prize for Short Films went to ABORTION HELPLINE, THIS IS LISA directed by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Mike Attie. The jury said of the ABORTION HELPLINE, THIS IS LISA: “For its simple yet profound approach to a polarizing issue, we have selected a film which puts humanity ahead of an agenda.” This year, AFI DOCS announced the Shorts Grand Jury Prize is a qualifying award for Academy Award® eligibility.

The jury also awarded the Special Jury Prize to DO NOT SPLIT, directed by Anders Hammer, saying, “From the opening sequence to the final frame, we were riveted by this film’s urgent and incendiary storytelling capturing a seminal moment in history.”

With 58 films from 11 countries, the 18th edition of AFI DOCS presented stories that delved into of-the-moment issues including policing, immigration and gun violence; honored luminaries of the past; and looked to the new guard of rising activists and politicians.

Among the participants were filmmakers and notables including President Jimmy Carter, Academy Award®-winning actor and filmmaker Lee Grant; Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Ron Howard; Academy Award®-winning filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar; Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker Steve James; actor and filmmaker Bryce Dallas Howard; Stockton, CA Mayor Michael Tubbs; Boston 9to5 co-founder Karen Nussbaum; musician Big Freedia; and journalist Maria Ressa.

This year’s festival included a number of panels featuring engaging discussions between filmmakers and film subjects, examining the films and the ideas they inspire, led by some of the nation’s top journalists: NBC News’ Meet the Press moderator and NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd; NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell; MSNBC correspondent Trymaine Lee; CNN anchor and correspondent Juan Carlos Arciniegas; NBC News correspondent and MSNBC anchor Katy Tur; NBC News correspondent Jacob Soboroff; NBC News’ Meet the Press senior producer Allie Sandza; CNN history correspondent Douglas Brinkley; author and journalist Lois Romano; activist and journalist Tre’vell Anderson; journalist Soledad O’Brien; and The Washington Post’s chief film critic Ann Hornaday, Global Opinions writer Jason Rezaian, on-air reporter Nicole Ellis and deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus.

AUDIENCE AWARD: FEATURE

TRANSHOOD

DIR: Sharon Liese. We all remember the trials and tribulations of being a kid: fitting in at school, getting along with siblings, finishing homework. These alone are enough to handle. Now, add in discovering who you are and growing up as a trans youth in Kansas City. TRANSHOOD is director Sharon Liese’s in-depth five-year journey following the lives of four kids (ages beginning at 4, 9, 12, and 15) discovering their specific trans experiences alongside their families. Each of the kids and their parents navigate the day-to-day challenges of their home lives and their lives out in the world. Finding normalcy isn’t easy while tackling issues of body dysphoria, transphobia and bullying, and many other big topics that their cis-gender classmates can’t understand. What truly ties these stories together is the unbelievable empathy and humanity exemplified by each family, not just with the heavy moments, but often also during those typical of any childhood.

AUDIENCE AWARD: SHORT

BLACKFEET BOXING: NOT INVISIBLE

DIRS: Kristen Lappas and Tom Rinaldi. As the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women epidemic affects tribal communities, a group of Blackfeet women tackle the threat head-on by practicing and training in self-defense.

SHORT FILM GRAND JURY PRIZE

ABORTION HELPLINE, THIS IS LISA

DIRS: Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Mike Attie. At an abortion fund in Philadelphia, counselors arrive each morning to the nonstop ring of calls from women and teens who seek to end a pregnancy but can’t afford to.

SHORT FILM SPECIAL JURY PRIZE

DO NOT SPLIT

DIR: Anders Hammer. During the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, a series of evening demonstrations escalate into conflict when heavily armed police appear on the scene.

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