Jacinta directed by Jessica Earnshaw
Jacinta directed by Jessica Earnshaw

The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival announced the award winning films and filmmakers for this year’s 29th edition of the festival with Jessica Earnshaw’s Jacinta winning the jury prize for Best US Feature as well as earning a Special Jury Mention for the Critics Prize. Anabel Rodríguez Ríos’ Once Upon a Time in Venezuela won the jury prize for Best International Feature, and Lisa Molomot and Jeff Bemiss’ World Premiere of Missing in Brooks County earned the award for Best Southern Feature. Ra’anan Alexandrowicz’s The Viewing Booth was the recipient of this year’s HSDFF Critics Prize, and Sami Khan and Michael Gassert’s The Last Out won the Matt DeCample Audience Choice Award.

“This year was one for our festival history books and we are exceedingly proud of the safe ways we brought our community together, says Artistic Director, Jen Gerber. “Through virtual talks and a mix of safe outdoor activities, we were reminded of the strength of our film-loving community and this year surpassed all our expectations for audience engagement and connectivity.”

Regarding their selection of Earnshaw’s Jacinta for the US Features Jury Prize, the jury said said, “The incredible access to the subjects of this film were vital in showing how the cycles of addiction, drug dependency, and generational trauma firmly grip a loving American family. Devastating and searingly intimate, the subjects in this film stuck with our jury long after it ended.” The US Features Jury also gave a Special Jury Mention to Loira Mimbal’s Through The Night.

When discussing Ríos’ Once Upon a Time in Venezuela, the jury stated that they were, “..compelled by the intimate and unforgettable moments that the filmmaker captures, along with the narrative’s impressive backbone: a fraying community that lives on an increasingly polluted lake amidst Venezuela’s own progressively inhospitable political environment. To bear witness to the neighborhood resting on stilts just inches above Lake Maracaibo is striking and awe-inspiring. But this water, Congo Mirador’s lifeblood, is filled with sediment which kills first its marine life, and, over time, the community’s chance for survival. The film dwells in such grey areas, as its passionate and empathetic characters struggle to save their homes…while still fighting bitterly with their remaining neighbors, political rivals. Once Upon a Time in Venezuela achieves a remarkable feat, captivating the viewer with its characters and incongruous beauty – then jarring its audience back to the realities of modern Venezuela.”

The Southern Features Jury selected Molomot and Bemiss’ Missing in Brooks County, saying “We were all moved by this thoughtful and immersive examination of the ongoing US/Mexico border crisis. The film doesn’t get lost in the inflammatory rhetoric or political posturing that in many ways has dominated this important issue. Instead the filmmakers explore the human cost by placing us at the heartbreaking epicenter and putting us into the shoes of those most deeply affected. Missing in Brooks County is powerful, evocative, stunningly shot and deeply rooted in its South Texas setting.” The jury also issued a Special Mention for Nathan Willis’ Rap Squad.

The Critics Prize Jury selected Ra’anan Alexandrowicz’s The Viewing Booth, for “a provocative exploration of personal bias, and how these steadfast opinions become rooted in our sense of identity. What could have been a more facile exercise in politicized judgment concerning the Israeli/Palestinian conflict instead becomes a vastly more thoughtful and moving examination of the ways people’s preconditioned belief systems disrupt true engagement with the other side. With its lone setting, inside a darkened media lab, the interplay between the director and their subject provides stark evocation of the difficulty in realizing significant societal change, even as lives hang perilously in the balance. Given the current, highly polemic state of our political discourse, the film becomes an essential watch in the Trump, and post-Trump, eras.” Earnshaw’s Jacinta received a Special Jury Mention to go with its Best US Feature Film award.

The winner of the Jury Prize for Best Short Film was Joanna Vasquez Arong’s To Calm the Pig Inside (Ang Pagpakalma sa Unos), with a Special Jury Mention going to Yung Chang and Annie Katsura Rollins’ Pandemic 19, which made its World Premiere at HSDFF.

The Hot Springs Matt DeCample Audience Choice Award went to HSDFF alumni Sami Khan and Michael Gassert’s feature film, The Last Out, while Yung Chang and Annie Katsura Rollins picked up another recognition for their newest short Pandemic 19, as the Audience Choice Award for a short film. In partnership with PBS Reel South, Bronson Crabtree’s short, History In Pieces took home the Reel South Award.

2020 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Award Winners

Best US Features Film
Director: Jessica Earnshaw

US Features – Special Mention

Director: Loira Limbal

Best International Features Film

Director: Anabel Rodríguez Ríos

Best Southern Features Film

Directors: Lisa Molomot, Jeff Bemiss

Southern Features Film – Special Mention

Director: Nathan Willis

Critics Prize

Director: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz

Critics Prize – Special Mention

Director: Jessica Earnshaw

Best Short Documentary Film
Director: Joanna Vasquez Arong

Short Documentary Film – Special Mention

Directors: Yung Chang, Annie Katsura Rollins

Reel South Award (In partnership with PBS Reel South)

Director: Bronson Crabtree

Matt DeCample Audience Choice Award – Feature

Directors: Sami Khan, Michael Gassert

Matt DeCample Audience Choice Award – Short

Directors: Yung Chang, Annie Katsura Rollins

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