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Fires in the Dark directed by Dominique Lienhard
Fires in the Dark directed by Dominique Lienhard

RiverRun International Film Festival announced the Jury Awards for the 2021 Festival with Best Film going to Fires in the Dark directed by Dominique Lienhard and Best Documentary Feature going to Sapelo directed by Nick Brandestini. In addition to Best Film, Fires in the Dark also won Best Director along with Best Screenplay for Dominique Lienhard and Best Cinematography for Philippe Kress.

Watch the trailer for Fires in the Dark (des feux dans la nuit) directed by Dominique Lienhard.

Watch the trailer for Sapelo directed by Nick Brandestini.

“We had an impressive slate of films this year, from both emerging and established directors. It was not easy for the juries to make their final decisions,” said Rob Davis, RiverRun Executive Director. “This year’s festival was of course a bit different than in traditional years, but we were just so grateful to be able to be back in a creative fashion. Thank you to everyone who was a part of this year – from filmmakers and directors to patrons and staff. Being a part of this community is such a gift to RiverRun.”



Best Film: Fires in the Dark directed by Dominique Lienhard
Peter Brunette Award for Best Director: Dominique Lienhard for Fires in the Dark
Best Cinematography: Philippe Kress for A Beautiful Curse
Best Screenplay: Dominique Lienhard for Fires in the Dark
Best Editing: Marco Perez for A Beautiful Curse
Best Actress: Shein Mompremier in Ludi
Best Ensemble: The cast of Events Transpiring Before, During and After a High School Basketball Game


Best Documentary Feature: Sapelo directed by Nick Brandestini
Best Director of a Documentary Feature: Jeff Daniels for Television Event
Human Rights Award: Missing in Brooks County


Best Narrative Short: White Eye directed by Tomer Shushan
Best Student Narrative Short: The Washing Machine directed by Dominik Hartl
Honorable Mention for Student Narrative Short: Must Love Pie directed by Patrick Clement

DOCUMENTARY SHORTS (RiverRun is an Academy Award qualifying Festival for Documentary Shorts):

Best Documentary Short: A Broken House directed Jimmy Goldblum
Honorable Mention: Atomic Café: The Noisiest Corner in J-Town directed by Akira Boch and Tadashi Nakamura

ANIMATED SHORTS (RiverRun is an Academy Award qualifying Festival for Animated Shorts):

Best Animated Short: The Source of the Mountains directed by Adrien Communier, Camille Di Dio, Benjamin Francois, Pierre Gorichon, Briag Mallat and Marianne Moisy

Special Jury Award for Student Film: The Winter directed by Xin Li


RiverRun is pleased to be affiliated with Reel South. Reel South SHORTS, the digital hive of the PBS series Reel South, showcases the best in Southern short-form and is built on partnerships with the South’s regional film festivals. The Reel South SHORT Award honors the best in Southern short-form. The winning documentary short receives a cash prize and distribution in Reel South’s digital platforms. The winner of this year’s Reel South Award from RiverRun is Bug Farm directed by Lydia Cornett. The film is about four distinct women in Central Florida who bond over working with crickets, superworms, and roaches on an insect farm in the small town of LaBelle.


The 10th annual RiverRun Pitch Fest was held with college students from six colleges from North Carolina and Virginia pitching their documentary film projects to a panel of judges in hopes of winning cash prizes. First place was awarded for America vs. Herself directed by Kiersten Houser from UNC Wilmington. Second place was awarded to The Subway directed by Gannon La Croix of James Madison University.


Alan Cumming
Lee Grant


Finnerty Steeves

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