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Matriochkas directed by Bérangère Mc Neese.
Matriochkas directed by Bérangère Mc Neese.

The 2020 Palm Springs International ShortFest announced its juried award winners from the 332 shorts films that were part of the Official Selection and made available online to screen from June 16-22. The top prize, Best of the Festival Award went to Matriochkas directed by Bérangère Mc Neese.

Oscar® Qualifying Awards:

The winner of these awards may be eligible to submit their short to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Oscar® consideration.

Greater Palm Springs CVB Best of the Festival Award

Matriochkas (Belgium/France), Directed by Bérangère Mc Neese

Anna is 16, and lives with her young mother, Rebecca. It is the end of another summer defined by her mom’s flings and conquests, but during which Anna begins to discover her own sexuality. As Anna learns she is pregnant, her mother sees herself in her daughter, at the same age, facing the same choices.

Jury statement: “Writer/Director Bérangère Mc Neese brings a complex and bold point of view to the page and screen, drawing unexpected turns from the script and nuanced performances from her cast, including a remarkable debut from lead actress Héloïse Volle.”

Special Mention (for Creative Vision): Stay Awake, Be Ready (Vietnam/South Korea/USA), Directed by Pham Thien An

A motorbike crash happening before the street stalls on a street corner was embedded in the mysterious story of three young men.

Special Mention (for Direction): Mizaru (India/USA), Directed by Sudarshan Suresh

In a suburb of Mumbai, India, a young couple tries to steal some private time in a very public place when they’re paid a visit by the moral police.

Best Animated Short

The Fabric of You (UK), Directed by Josephine Lohoar Self

In the Bronx in the era of 1950s McCarthyism, everybody wants to look the same. Michael, a gay twenty-something-year-old mouse, hides his true identity while he works as a tailor. When Isaac enters the shop one day, he offers the escapism and love Michael craves.

Jury statement: “Weaving together strong thematic elements with keen attention to simple detail and a tangible, textural aesthetic, stop-motion animator Josephine Lohoar Self masterfully breathes life into this fully-realized story of love and loss that is both visually impactful and emotionally resonant.”

Special Mention: SH_T Happens (Czech Republic/Slovakia/France), Directed by Mihalyi and David Stumpf

The caretaker exhausted by everything, his frustrated wife and one totally depressed deer. Their mutual despair leads them to absurd events, because… shit happens all the time.

Best Documentary Short

The Heart Still Hums (USA), Directed by Savanah Leaf and Taylor Russell

A documentary short following five women as they fight for their children through the cycle of homelessness, drug addictions and neglect from their own parents. Unique, yet undoubtedly familiar to many; a story about fear, sacrifice and the unconditional love between a mother and her children.

Jury statement: “The Best Documentary Short award goes to The Heart Still Hums for its expansive yet still intimate examination of mothers in crisis and the Sacramento collectives who work with them to enable agency and hope.”

Special Mentions:

Dead Woman’s Pass (Peru/Qatar), Directed by Lali Houghton

An indigenous woman embarks on a journey to her ancestral home in the Andes that will force her to confront the horrors from her past.

Huntsville Station (USA), Directed by Jamie Meltzer and Chris Filippone

Every weekday, inmates are released from Huntsville State Penitentiary, taking in their first moments of freedom with phone calls, cigarettes, and quiet reflection at the Greyhound station up the block.

Best Live-Action Short Over 15 Minutes

Birth Right (Israel), Directed by Inbar Horesh

Natasha is participating in The Way Home Journey, organized to encourage immigration of descendants of Jews to Israel. On the second day, the group arrives to a Bedouin camp in the Israeli desert, where two soldiers join them for the night.

Jury statement: “Inbar Horesh’s exquisitely composed film balances satire and subtlety to explore pressing questions of identity and nationhood.”

Special Mention: Henet Ward (Egypt), Directed by Morad Mostafa

Halima, a Sudanese henna painter, and her seven-year-old daughter Ward get caught up in the craziness at a Giza home as they prepare a bride for her wedding.

Best Live-Action Short 15 Minutes and Under

Dummy (Lithuania), Directed by Laurynas Bareisa

When a detained suspect walks investigators through the scene of his loathsome crimes, his law-enforcement escort makes an unnerving display of fellowship.

Jury statement: “We unanimously felt that this film is an extremely subtle, nuanced and unapologetic indictment of misogyny under the most extreme circumstances.”

Special Mention: The Midsummer’s Voice (China/USA), Directed by Yudi Zhang

During a summer vacation, Lei, a young Chinese opera student, beings to experience changes in his voice.

Jury statement: “A beautifully orchestrated and quietly moving portrait of adolescents finding their own sense of self-worth.”

Student Short Awards:

Best Student Animated Short

Daughter (Czech Republic), Directed by Daria Kashcheeva

Should you hide your pain? Close yourself inside your inner world, full of longing for your father’s love and its displays? Or should you understand and forgive before it is too late?

Jury statement: “Elegant and deadly silent in its emotional power, the jury was moved by this impressively crafted look at a father-daughter dynamic marked by missed connections, mistakes and emotional misunderstandings. With painterly attention to detail that renders movement (especially eye movement) deeply cinematic, this universal story is a welcome reminder to take time for loved ones before it’s too late, and also that it’s never too late.”

Special Mention: SH_T Happens (Czech Republic/Slovakia/France), Directed by Michaela Mihalyi and David Stumpf

The caretaker exhausted by everything, his frustrated wife and one totally depressed deer. Their mutual despair leads them to absurd events, because… shit happens all the time.

Jury statement: “With a candy-sweet color palette and not a single spoken word, this film took us on an endlessly unexpected and entertaining journey, bringing us 13 minutes of dark comic absurdity that manage to capture the whole emotional spectrum of human (and deer?) relationships. An utterly unique film that gleefully leans into its title.”

Best Student Documentary Short:

For Your Sake (Germany), Directed by Ronja Hemm

Nepal is facing a generational change. Two daughters of a Tamang family are preparing to study abroad. Their hopes for a better life are high, but the price is immeasurable. They have to leave behind what is the Tamang people’s greatest good: their family.

Jury statement: “The jury would like to honor a timely film that shows how essential education and family support is to female empowerment and emancipation. Told through the perspective of three generations of Tamang women in Nepal, For Your Sake, observes its subjects with refreshing joy and optimism, and uses a conversational style to demonstrate how opportunities for women to study, travel and marry based on personal choice can co-exist with tradition and still lead to radical cultural change.”

Special Mention: All Cats Are Grey in the Dark (Switzerland), Directed by Lasse Linder

Christian lives with his two cats Marmelade and Katjuscha. As he is yearning to become a father, he decides to fertilize his beloved cat Marmelade by an exquisite tomcat from abroad.

Jury statement: “An endearingly human exploration of what it means to care for another creature, quirks and all, All Cats Are Grey in the Dark introduces its audience to a loving — if unexpected — familial unit and tracks them through a major impending change. An observational outing that never judges its principal subject, the documentary instead trusts its viewers to draw its own conclusions and view it through their own emotional lens.”

Best Student International Short

Still Working (Switzerland), Directed by Julietta Korbel

In an abandoned factory destined to be demolished, the routine of Pavel, the caretaker, is disturbed by the arrival of a young engineer who discovers an unusual electric activity, a running turbine. Pavel will be faced with the imminent disappearance of the factory and the end of his universe…

Jury statement: “For the poetic ways in which this film uses formal precision to evoke the memory of place, a man left behind, isolated in a moment in time.”

Special Mention: 22:47 Linie 34 (Switzerland), Directed by Michael Karrer

It’s 10:47pm on a bus somewhere in a city. A few teenagers are listening to music and talking loudly. The other passengers look languidly out the window or at their cell phones. A drunk man gets in and joins the teenagers; the mood starts to shift…

Best Student U.S. Short

Heading South (China/USA), Directed by Yuan Yuan

8-year-old Chasuna travels from her home in the grassland to visit her father who lives in the big city. However, during her father’s birthday party, she finds out he has remarried to a Chinese woman. Chasuna has to learn how to accept her as part of the family.

Jury statement: “For its elegant use of visual language to deftly convey emotion in every frame, paired with subtle performances and superb direction.”

Special Mention: Tape (USA/Canada/Finland), Directed by Jojo Erholtz

A 16-year-old hockey player tries to repair her relationship with her teammate while preparing for the team’s pre-qualifying match.

Special Jury Awards:

Best International Short

The Tongues (Norway), Directed by Marja Bål Nango and Ingir Bål

During a blizzard on the tundra, a Sami woman is herding her reindeer when she is attacked by a man. Her sister senses that something is wrong and starts looking for her. Wrapped in fear and confusion, both women will unite in their fight for revenge.

Jury statement: “Crafted by two Sami sisters, who write, direct and act in the short film, The Tongues gives us an opportunity to learn about a part of Norwegian culture that’s perhaps not as widely known and denounces violence against women while empowering them. It’s a unique story but a universal issue, experienced through the tension built on powerful editing and cinematography.”

Special Mention: Funfair (Iran/Canada), Directed by Kaveh Mazaheri

Majid, a young financially struggling man comes up with a ploy in order to better the life of his wife Sarah.

Best U.S. Short

My Hero (USA), Directed by Logan Jackson

As last-minute plans for a babysitter fall apart, eight-year-old Brandon is left alone to oversee his younger brother Mason.

Jury statement: “The jury found this to be a technically proficient, emotionally charged film by a director who has a respect for filmmaking language and an ability to use it in service of a unique vision.”

Special Mention (for Stylistic Vision and Emerging Talent): Pharmacopeia (USA), Directed by Tania Taiwo

The story of a quirky, Black Pharmacist drowning in student loan debt, who rebels against the system and becomes the drug dealer Pharmacy School never taught her.

GoE Bridging the Borders Award

The Present (Palestine), Directed by Farah Nabulsi

On his wedding anniversary, Yusef and his daughter, Yasmine, set out in the West Bank to buy his wife a gift. Between the soldiers, segregated roads and checkpoints, how easy would it be to go shopping?

Special Mention: Container (Greece/USA), Directed by Daphne Maziariaki

A strong friendship is formed between five unaccompanied refugee boys who live inside a shipping container in a refugee camp in Greece.

Local Jury Award

Welcome Strangers (USA), Directed by Dia Sokol Savage

Every night at 6pm, detained immigrants are legally released from a for-profit ICE facility onto unfriendly, industrial streets near Denver, Colorado. The men and women, most of them asylum-seekers, have little idea where they are and have nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Sarah Jackson, a young woman, searches the streets for these immigrants and invites them into her home.

Jury statement: “Welcome Strangers is a testament to the power of community, a film whose subject is a beacon, lifeline and bridge to the immigration process. This honest, relevant and inspiring story is a reminder of the human spirit and the importance of “loving thy neighbor.””

Special Mention: Sundays at the Triple Nickel (USA), Directed by Jess Colquhoun

On Edgecombe Avenue in Sugar Hill, Harlem, Marjorie Eliot is making sure her apartment building’s iconic jazz legacy lives on. Marjorie and her son have been hosting jazz concerts in her apartment every Sunday for the past 26 years, a pursuit of overcoming grief through music.

Vimeo Staff Pick Award

Give Up the Ghost (Jordan/Germany/Sweden), Directed by Zain Duraie

Salam’s dream of becoming a mother shatters when she finds out that she is unable to have children with her husband. As she searches for the silver lining, she finds herself in a battle to save her marriage. A lifetime of convictions and beliefs are put to the test as Salam realizes she must make a choice.

Young Cineastes Award

Colette (USA/France/Germany), Directed by Anthony Giacchino

World War II. Not all warriors wore uniforms. Not all warriors were men. Meet ninety-year-old Colette Catherine who, as a young girl, fought the Nazis as a member of the French Resistance. Now she’s about to re-open old wounds, re-visting the terrors of that time. Some nightmares are too terrible to remember. But also, too dangerous to forget.

Jury statement: “One film in particular stuck with us and had a profound, lasting effect. Colette creates a pathway connecting a history of loss through an unexpected connection transcending generations. The relationship between the two women ultimately provides a vulnerable and honest look into grief and memory. Every member of the jury was affected in one way or another by this film.”

Special Mention: Gold Plated (Belgium), Directed by Chloé Léonil

Inès, 16 years old, is determined to find a job when she meets Martin, a boy from the nice neighborhoods of Brussels. Feeling something between shame and fascination, she becomes brutally aware of social injustice.

Jury statement: “This film was able to touch the hearts of all us on the jury, even if we didn’t relate to it personally. The experiences and mindset of the main character were rooted in universal human emotions that felt universally applicable and made for an emotionally compelling story. The grounded nature in which this narrative and character were shaped not only made for a film that was emotionally moving, but also one that followed jury members and stayed in their hearts and minds far after the credits rolled.”

Best Comedy Short

Viktor on the Moon (Denmark), Directed by Christian Arhoff

Viktor Leth has never been on a date. When going on his first date ever, he accidentally sits down at the wrong table with the slightly older and married Rebekka. So begins their weird and wild night.

Jury statement: “We of the jury would like to award Viktor on the Moon for Best Comedy for creating a subtle, well-crafted story that made us not only fall in love with the characters but also the world and love itself.”

Special Mention (for Direction): Blocks (USA), Directed by Bridget Moloney

An existential comedy about the mother of two young children who begins to spontaneously vomit toy blocks.

Jury statement: “Bridgette Moloney’s vision was executed with such assurance and clarity that it left room for its main character to deliver authenticity in a fantastical story.”

Best LGBTQ+ Short

Kama’aina (USA), Directed by Kimi Howl Lee

A queer sixteen-year-old girl, Mahina, resides in the predominantly Native Hawaiʻian neighborhood of Wai’anae, Oahu. After suffering abuse from her stepfather, Mahina must navigate life on the streets, until she eventually finds refuge at the Pu’uhonua o Wai’anae––Hawaiʻi’s largest organized homeless encampment.

Jury statement: “The award for best LGBT+ Short goes to Kama’aina for its empathetic depiction of Hawaii’s largest houseless community coupled with a gripping portrait of a resourceful queer teenager.”

Special Mention: La Gloria (USA), Directed by Mary Evangelista

In the days following her suicide attempt, a queer lovelorn teen finds connection and solace with her Abuela through the secret language of dreams.

Jury statement: “Special Mention goes to La Gloria for its thoughtful intergenerational story about a young queer woman finding solace with her grandmother after a suicide attempt.”

Best Midnight Short

The Sleepwalkers (India), Directed by Radhika Apte

Having found themselves in a delusional state, trying to discover if they are sleepwalking, a couple on the cusp of starting a family, dreaming of the perfect future, are made to face the consequences of their willful blindness.

Jury statement: “We’re proud to give the jury award to first time director Radhika Apte for her elegiac folk horror tale Sleepwalkers, with its wonderfully petulant characters and haunted landscapes. We could sense the identity of the filmmaker in every frame and are excited to see what she does next.”

Special Mention (for Best Climax): The Nights Alone (France), Directed by Olivier Strauss

Graziella, a woman with no history, is hired as a maid by a family of wealthy bourgeois living in a private mansion isolated from the city. A monstrous thing is locked up, an old beast, only waiting for death, even forgetting himself. Their meeting will cause the rebirth of Graziella’s desire.

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