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Sansón and Me - 31st Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival award winners
Sansón and Me directed by Rodrigo Reyes

Rodrigo Reyes’ Sansón and Me won the jury prize for Best U.S. Feature, and Violet Du Feng and Zhao Qing’s Hidden Letters won the jury prize and the Audience Choice Award for Best International Feature at the 31st edition of Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.

Other top award went to Bhawin Suchak and Ira Mckinley’s Outta The Muck for Best Southern Feature, and Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica was the recipient of this year’s HSDFF Critics Prize.

Laura Checkoway’s The Cave of Adullam led the Matt DeCample Audience Choice Award winners taking the prize for Best U.S. Feature and You Have No Idea directed by Alexander Jeffery won Audience Choice Award for Best Southern Feature.

“This year marked a wonderful and rousing success, as we continue to foster conversation and connection between attending filmmakers and industry, students in our education programs, and, of course, our dedicated patrons here in Hot Springs through our inspiring and thought-provoking slate,” said Festival Director Sheryl Santacruz, “These award-winning films were also exemplary of the kind of thoughtful and dynamic filmmaking that the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has built its taste-making reputation on, and our audiences have celebrated throughout our three decade-long history.”

Regarding their selection of Reyes’ Sansón and Me for the Best U.S. Feature Film Jury Prize, they said, “While the jury had a difficult task choosing from this amazing lineup, we were particularly struck by a film that was formally and conceptually daring, but always in service of the raw human emotion at the center of the story. The trust that participants in a very vulnerable position had in this filmmaker was visible in the film, as was the director’s willingness to interrogate their own life and practice, and in fact the ethics of all documentary practice. Personal and provocative, intellectually complex but deeply humanistic.”

When discussing the Best International Feature Film prize winner, Violet Du Feng and Zhao Qing’s Hidden Letters, the jury stated, “This poetic and haunting portrait of identity and solidarity following two women as they attempt to preserve an ancient secret artform that granted a voice to Chinese women for generations both moved and enlightened us.”

Regarding the selection of Bhawin Suchak and Ira Mckinley’s Outta The Muck for Best Southern Feature Film, they jury said, “This film grabbed our attention with its wholly unique vision of a city resting quietly on the shores of Lake Okeechobee. With stunning cinematography and a captivating array of Black personalities captured sweetly in telling their stories, which unfold a deep history of proud citizens whose home is a celebration of life and opportunity. Told as an unconventional and rhythmic visual poem, dripping with joy and life just as thick as the “muck” that Pahokee, Florida is known for and its folk, and one special family, have climbed up so successfully from.”

Two HSDFF Critics’ Prize Honorable Mentions were given this year. Saeed Taji Farouky’s A Thousand Fires received a Critics’ Prize Honorable Mention for Achievement in Cinematography. Shot by Farouky, Than Win Han, and Joshua Min Htut, the jury cited their work, “for its careful attention to the daily rhythms of one family’s life working in the hand-drilled oil fields of Myanmar, from the quiet moments of affection to their ardent sense of spiritual devotion.”

A second Critics’ Prize Honorable Mention went to Laura Tomaselli and Jesse Short Bull’s Lakota Nation vs. the United States for Achievement in Editing. Edited by Tomaselli, the film was praised, “for confronting the centuries of injustice faced by the native Lakota people in an invigorating and propulsive assemblage of original footage, archival footage including pop culture touchstones, and poetic reflections on America’s brutal and enduring colonial history.

The winner of the Jury Prize for Best Short Film was Audrey Jean-Baptiste and Maxime Jean-Baptiste’s Listen to the Beat of Our Images. The award qualifies the film for Academy Award consideration. The PBS Reel South Short Award which comes with a $1400 cash prize and distribution on Reel South’s platforms, went to Andy Sarjahani’s To The Bone.

The 2022 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Award Winners:

FEATURE FILMS

Best U.S. Feature Film
SANSÓN AND ME directed by Rodrigo Reyes

Best International Feature Film
HIDDEN LETTERS directed by Violet Du Feng & Zhao Qing

Best Southern Feature Film
OUTTA THE MUCK directed by Bhawin Suchak & Ira Mckinley

HSDFF CRITICS’ PRIZES

Critics Prize
DE HUMANI CORPORIS FABRICA directed by Verena Paravel
& Lucien Castaing-Taylor

Critics Prize – Honorable Mention for Achievement in Cinematography
A THOUSAND FIRES directed by Saeed Taji Farouky,
and cinematography by Saeed Taji Farouky, Than Win Han, and Joshua Min Htut

Critics Prize – Honorable Mention for Achievement in Cinematography
LAKOTA NATION VS. THE UNITED STATES directed by Laura Tomaselli & Jesse Short Bull,
and edited by Laura Tomaselli

SHORT FILMS

Best Short Documentary Film
LISTEN TO THE BEAT OF OUR IMAGES directed by Audrey Jean-Baptiste
& Maxime Jean-Baptiste

Reel South Award (In partnership with PBS Reel South)
TO THE BONE directed by Andy Sarjahani

MATT DECAMPLE AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARDS

Audience Choice Award for Best U.S. Feature
THE CAVE OF ADULLAM directed by Laura Checkoway

Audience Choice Award for Best International Feature
HIDDEN LETTERS directed by Violet Du Feng & Zhao Qing

Audience Choice Award for Best Southern Feature
YOU HAVE NO IDEA directed by Alexander Jeffery

Audience Choice Award for Best International Short
FREEDOM SWIMMER directed by Olivia Martin-McGuire

Audience Choice Award for Best U.S. Short
FAVORITE DAUGHTER directed by Dana Reilly

Audience Choice Award for Best Southern Short
SOUTH directed by Kyle Gibbins

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