The 28th annual Palm Springs International ShortFest announced its Festival juried and audience award winners and the Estonian film Sierra directed by Sander Joon won the Oscar® qualifying Best of the Festival Award. Loosely inspired by the director’s childhood, Sierra pulls us into the surreal car racing world.
Other Oscar®Qualifying prizes went to The Cave directed by Kim Jinman for Best Animated Short; The Sentence of Michael Thompson directed by Kyle Thrash, Haley Elizabeth Anderson for Best Documentary Short; Further and Further Away directed by Polen Ly for Best Live-Action Short Over 15 Minutes; and The Right Words directed by Adrian Moyse Dullin for Best Live-Action Short 15 Minutes and Under.
The winner of these awards may be eligible to submit their short to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Oscar® consideration.
Visit Greater Palm Springs Best of the Festival Award
Winner: Sierra (Estonia), Directed by Sander Joon. A father and his son are losing the folkrace. In order to win, a boy turns himself into a car tire. Loosely inspired by the director’s childhood, Sierra pulls us into the surreal car racing world.
Special Mention: The Great Abandonment (India/UK), Directed by Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya. As the world’s harshest Covid lockdown is announced in India, 1.3 billion people are commanded to stay home, at merely four hours’ notice. As millions of migrant laborers walk home and the Prime Minister vaingloriously promises a better future nightly, some wonder: might this be time for revolution?
Special Mention: The Voice Actress (Japan/USA), Directed by Anna Takayama. Kingyo, a veteran voice actress working in Tokyo, possesses a unique ability to see the soul in all things, living and inanimate. As the voice acting world changes, Kingyo must find a way to reconcile her way of living with her profession.
Best Animated Short
Winner: The Cave (South Korea), Directed by Kim Jinman, Chon Jiyoung. A boy longs for affection from his distant fisherman father. When he dies, the boy’s grief turns into an obsession with his father’s belongings. In an imaginary cave, he curses those relatives who took items of his late father’s. The curse begins to eat the boy’s soul…
Special Mention: The Originals (USA), Directed by Cristina Costantini, Alfie Kim Koetter. Matty Square Ruggiero and his childhood friends, the Union Street Boys, tell their story of growing up in South Brooklyn, where money was tight but friendships were tighter.
Best Documentary Short
Winner: The Sentence of Michael Thompson (USA), Directed by Kyle Thrash, Haley Elizabeth Anderson. Michael Thompson is the longest serving nonviolent offender in the history of Michigan. After 25 years, three appeals and two denied applications for clemency, it seems that Michael may finally have a chance at freedom.
Special Mention: Haulout (UK), Directed by Evgenia Arbugaeva, Maxim Arbugaev. A man is waiting in his hut in the desolate expanse of the Russian Arctic. He is holding out in order to observe a natural event that occurs here, every year. But ocean warming is taking its toll.
Best Live-Action Short Over 15 Minutes
Winner: Further and Further Away (Cambodia), Directed by Polen Ly. A young indigenous Bunong woman and her older brother spend one last day in their rural village in northeastern Cambodia, before an impending move to the capital city in search of a more prosperous life. While her brother is excited for the move, she feels a quiet desire to return to their long-gone village that was lost to the development of a nearby hydroelectric dam a few years earlier.
Special Mention: Makassar is a City for Football Fans (Indonesia/France), Directed by Khozy Rizal. In a city where the men are crazy about football, Akbar is compelled to pretend he loves the game to avoid being rejected by his new college friends.
Best Live-Action Short 15 Minutes and Under
Winner: The Right Words (France), Directed by Adrian Moyse Dullin. Kenza, 15, and her little brother Madhi, 13, regularly humiliate one another. On the bus, Kenza puts her naive and romantic little brother to the test: profess his love for Jada, a girl that Madhi loves but who does not know he exists.
Special Mentions: Madhu (India), Directed by Tanmay Chowdhary, Tanvi Chowdhary. Two female childhood friends, now adults, reunite at a festival for Durga Puja. Over the course of the night and rides, snacks and glances, their relationship is charged with an energy that lasts years.
Student Short Awards:
Best Student Animated Short & Best Student Documentary Short
Student Animated Short
Winner: The Seine’s Tears (France), Directed by Yanis Belaid, Eliott Benard, Nicolas Mayeur, Etienne Moulin, Hadrien Pinot, Lisa Vicente, Philippine Singer, Alice Letailleur. October 17, 1961, in the middle of the Algerian war, Algerian workers are demonstrating against the mandatory curfew imposed by the Paris police.
Student Documentary Short
Winner: La Prova (Belgium), Directed by Toni Isabella Valenzi. In the south of Italy, Rosa and Peppe witness the passing of time as they grow old together and raise a pig.
Special Mention: Love, Dad (Czech Republic/Slovakia), Directed by Diana Cam Van Nguyen. Rediscovering the heartfelt letters her dad wrote to her 15 years ago from prison, director Diana Cam Van Nguyen writes to him with a new understanding.
Best Student International Short
Winner: Bug (Israel), Directed by Bar Cohen. After not seeing her for four months, Alma’s father asks her to leave her baby sister with him without her mother’s knowledge. Alma is forced to choose between her mom and her dad.
Special Mention: Stained Skin (Germany), Directed by Mandy Peterat and Adam Graf. Inside the halls of a dystopian textile factory, two young workers escape their harsh reality into the fantasies of a fairy tale.
Best Student U.S. Short
Winner: Foreign Uncle (USA/China), Directed by Sining Xiang. Sining brings his American boyfriend, Patrick, back to China when he goes to visit his family. Everyone’s attitude towards Patrick changes once Sining inadvertently comes out, except for his 7-year-old nephew’s, Naonao.
Special Jury Awards
Best International Short
Winner: Sideral (France/Brazil), Directed by Carlos Segundo. In Natal, the northeast of Brazil, the country is preparing to launch its first manned spaceship. A couple with two children lives near the space center. The husband is a mechanic, the wife a maid who dreams of other horizons.
Special Mention: Some Kind of Intimacy (UK/France), Directed by Toby Bull. The filmmaker tries to communicate with the sheep living where his parents are buried.
Best U.S. Short
Winner: Act of God (USA), Directed by Spencer Cook, Parker Smith. Stuart, a disabled man, isn’t the most honest guy when it comes to asking for help. Total self-reliance is his goal, which is tough when you can’t get out of bed on your own.
Special Mention: Chaperone (USA), Directed by Sam Max. An unnamed figure picks up a young man in his car. As the two drive together and ultimately settle into an austere rental house in the country, the details of their arrangement become guttingly clear.
Best Comedy Short
Winner: The Diamond (Sweden), Directed by Vedran Rupic. Stefan is lonely with a blinding ambition to make friends. One day he stumbles upon a diamond in the woods. Unable to reach it, a solution presents itself in the form of a smaller man.
Special Mention: Past Life (USA), Directed by Rose O’Shea. An ambitious academic’s life implodes the night he is recognized by a forgotten enemy – a small dog.
Best LGBT+ Short
Winner: High Jump (Belgium), Directed by Lennert Madou. Otto lives in a remote village while his boyfriend, Casimir, a professional dancer, has been living thousands of miles away for work. From a distance, Otto finds comfort in his lover’s choreography and uses his own body to fight his longing.
Special Mention: Lucky Fish (USA), Directed by Emily May Jampel. Two Asian-American teenagers meet in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant while having dinner with their families.
Special Mention: Tank Fairy (Taiwan/USA), Directed by Erich Rettstadt. Once upon a time, the magical Tank Fairy delivered tanks of gas (with plenty of sass) to the home of young Jojo, a lonely dreamer in desperate need of a glittery godmother…
Best Midnight Short
Winner: Your Houseplants Are Screaming (USA), Directed by Benjamin Roberds. Human houseplants are held captive by a giant plant creature. Confined to their pots, the houseplants struggle to comprehend the horror of being shelf ornaments in a grotesque hell house made of flesh, meat, muscle and bone.
Special Mention: Wild Card (USA), Directed by Tipper Newton. Two strangers who never should have met are brought together by a video dating service.
Mozaik Bridging the Borders Award
Winner: Freedom Swimmer (Australia/France/UK/Hong Kong), Directed by Olivia Martin-McGuire. This hybrid, poetic documentary, interweaving hand-drawn animation and film, tells the tale of a grandfather’s perilous swim from China to Hong Kong during the Cultural Revolution while creating a parallel with his granddaughter’s participation in mass protests now.
Special Mentions: Breakpoint (France), Directed by Nicolas Panay. Odile – a textile worker – and her colleagues are forced to evaluate Tunisian young women for a week at their workplace. Playing a zero sum game for jobs they all need, there is no good solution, but Odile strives to make the right choice.
Local Jury Award
Winner: BABYBANGZ (USA/UK), Directed by Juliana Kasumu. Anastasia Ebel, owner of the Babybangz hair salon in Mid-City, New Orleans, reflects on her continuing desire to cultivate spaces of intentional reflection for both herself and her local New Orleans community.
Special Mention: El Carrito (USA), Directed by Zahida Pirani. Nelly lives alone with her elderly father. The only way she makes ends meet is by working as a street vendor from dawn to dusk. She has learned not to trust anyone until one day she is forced to take a leap of faith, or be resigned in her position forever.
Vimeo Staff Pick Award
Winner: Meantime (USA), Directed by Michael T. Workman. After Tim’s work-related stroke leads to troubling signs of memory loss, his son Michael returns home to Montana. As they spend more time together than they have since Michael’s childhood, they reckon with Tim’s past..
Young Cineastes Award
Winner: Lucky Fish (USA), Directed by Emily May Jampel. Two Asian-American teenagers meet in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant while having dinner with their families..
Special Mention: Picture Day (USA), Directed by Kelly Pike. The day before school pictures, a newly transplanted tomboy’s decision to pierce her ears sparks a family crisis.
Winner: Cat and Moth (Canada/UK), Directed by India Barnardo. A fluffy white cat wants nothing more than to find the most comfortable spot in the universe, but little does she know someone else has their eye on it too.
Special Mention: Lost Brain (Switzerland), Directed by Isabelle Favez. One day, Louise the crocodile accidentally sneezes her brain out, and her brain makes a run for it. Louise has difficulty performing the simplest tasks, and everything falls apart.
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT – You’re dead Helen (Belgium/France), Directed by Michael Blanchart.
Maxime, a young man in search of stability, is literally haunted by the ghost of his girlfriend Hélène, who died recently. Wishing to put an end to this unbearable situation, Maxime finally decides to break up with her. But Hélène does not seem ready to accept this decision…
BEST ANIMATED SHORT – The Fall (Canada), Directed by Desirae Witte.
Leafie is a plucky little maple leaf who loves to groove. But when their latest performance takes an unexpected turn, the harsh realities of the season come crashing down.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT – The Sentence of Michael Thompson (USA), Directed by Kyle Thrash.
Haley Elizabeth Anderson. Michael Thompson is the longest serving nonviolent offender in the history of Michigan. After 25 years, three appeals and two denied applications for clemency, it seems that Michael may finally have a chance at freedom.
BEST STUDENT SHORT – El Carrito (USA), Directed by Zahida Pirani. Nelly lives alone with her elderly father. The only way she makes ends meet is by working as a street vendor from dawn to dusk. She has learned not to trust anyone until one day she is forced to take a leap of faith, or be resigned in her position forever.