Playing with Sharks by Sally Aitken
Playing with Sharks by Sally Aitken. | photo by Ron & Valerie Taylor.

The 2021 Sun Valley Film Festival (SVFF) announced this year’s award winners with Playing with Sharks and Everything in the End tie for Audience Award. Jury awards went to See You Then for Best Narrative and Searchers for Best Documentary feature films.

Winners of 2021 Sun Valley Film Festival Awards

Audience Award

Playing With Sharks, writer, director Sally Atiken
From National Geographic Documentary Films comes the incredible story of pioneering Australian scuba diver and conservationist Valerie Taylor, who has dedicated her life to exposing the myth surrounding our fear of sharks and whose footage has been featured in trailblazing films such as Jaws.

Everything in the End, writer, director, producer Mylissa Fitzsimmons
Stranded in a small village during Earth’s final days, a man seeks solace in the brief human connections he encounters.

SVFF Shorts package, which included the following films:
· “Bruiser,” director Miles Warren
· “Rebel,” director Pier-Philippe Chevigny
· “What I See When I Look,” director Lindsay Calleran
· “Fort Irwin,” director. Quinn Else
· “My Hero,” director Logan Jackson
· “Dustin,” director Naïla Guiguet
· “Ghost Girl,” director Paavo Hanninen
· “I Really Love This Piece,” director Graham Goldstein

Best Narrative Feature Film
WINNER: See You Then, director Mari Walker
A decade after abruptly breaking up with Naomi, Kris invites her to dinner to catch-up on their complicated lives, relationships and Kris’ transition. Over the course of a one night encounter, they engage in a series of increasingly intimate and vulnerable conversations, before a shocking revelation is unveiled.

Best Documentary Feature Film
WINNER: Searchers, director Pacho Velez
Alternately humorous and touching, Searchers draws on encounters with a diverse set of New Yorkers as they navigate their preferred dating apps, searching for their special someone.

One in a Million Awards
NARRATIVE WINNER: Marvelous & The Black Hole, director Kate Tsang.
A teenage delinquent befriends a surly magician who helps her navigate her inner demons and dysfunctional family with sleight of hand magic. A coming of age comedy that touches on unlikely friendships, grief and finding hope in the darkest moments.

Kid Candidate, director Jasmine Stodel
Helmed by first-time director Jasmine Stodel, this is a funny, irreverent and impactful doc about Hayden Pedigo, a 24-year-old experimental musician whose viral videos for fake City Council campaigns in Amarillo, TX inspired him to take action and actually run, showing that young people are stepping up to make a difference in their communities.

The SVShorty Award
WINNER: Bruiser, director Miles Warren.
After his father gets into a fight at a bowling alley, Darious begins to investigate the limitations of his own manhood.

What I See When I Look, director Lindsay Calleran
The filmmaker recreates memories from their childhood to present the complicated dynamics of one family, as observed by a child.

SVFF Film & Screenwriting Competition Winners

Ford Producers Grant
WINNER: Tiger Girl, director Andrew Thomas
HuangSet in 1967 Los Angeles, Tiger Girl is a coming of age fantasy about a repressed Chinese American teenage girl haunted by a tiger lurking in her attic. When pressured by her immigrant mother’s rigid social expectations, the girl must learn that the beast upstairs is the tiger within that will set her free.

High Scribe Award
WINNER: The Paisley Witch Trial, written by Julia Campanelli
Two disenfranchised single mothers, a White midwife with an illicit past and a formerly enslaved Black emancipator, form an uneasy bond when both are arrested for witchcraft in the true, untold story of the last witch hunt in Scotland.

Future Filmmaker Forum
HOT SHOT WINNER: Sprout, director Luca Csathy (18) from Rancho Santa Fe, CA

National Geographic FURTHER AWARD
The FURTHER AWARD honors a filmmaker or storyteller who embraces the FURTHER spirit, using their lens to inspire, enlighten and entertain, and celebrate the unexpected stories that take us the extra mile. FURTHER serves as National Geographic’s internal inspiration and aspirational message to the world, exemplifying the desire to take risks and never settle, to be radical about facts and to always be hungry for more.WINNER: Brian Skerry, renowned National Geographic Explorer and Photographer featured in the Disney+ original series Secrets of the Whales.

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