Updated: Jun 19, 2021
The 7th annual Top Shorts 2021 winners have been announced, and "The Morning Walk" is this year's big winner, taking home the most prestigious award, Best of Fest. This short film, written by Louise Hylland and directed by Marc Harpsøe, was described by Top Shorts' Premier Judge Dave Eichhorn as "A mesmerizing film; it unfolds slowly and beautifully while it wraps its arms around you and ultimately shakes you to your core. The original story is poetic, well-told, and despite a rather heavy-handed score that didn't always pair well with the gorgeous visuals, carries a deeply human message. Lisbet Dahl's exquisitely understated performance as the elderly Lily is, for me, the heart and soul of the movie, and the well-cast supporting players are outstanding as well."
The Morning Walk won 3 awards, including Best of Fest, Best Original Story (Louise Hylland) and Best Cinematography (Sophie Caroline Gohr).
Juror Anup Kulkarni stated: "The film is blessed with wonderful use of color and cinematography. Director of Photography Sophie Caroline Gohr has done a great job here. Each and every frame is well thought & designed for the characters. As an audience, you get mesmerized in that world.
The Morning Walk is a great example of a film that has perfect synergy between narrative, tone, and cinematography. Throughout the film, the cinematography works to enhance the characters and the theme."
Eichhorn, a multiple Emmy winning editor and sound designer, honored RED with Best Sound Design (Dean Covill). RED, written by Beau Fowler and directed by David Newton, was one of the team's favorite films this year and won multiple awards, including Best Action Film, Best Director (David Newton), and Best Actor (Beau Fowler).
Juror Shaw Jones praised Newton's direction: "David Newton is at the top of his game with this film. His directing style is mesmerizing and precise. His execution of action scenes is focused and flawless. He is definitely one director to watch for!"
In his review, juror Maximiliano Hernandez (who previously won Best Actor at Top Shorts) wrote: "In RED, Beau Fowler, skillfully straddles the line of John Woo styled action lead with an emotionally rich performance usually found in the films of Sam Mendes. In this story, which he also wrote, Fowler effectively carries the weight of a distraught father trying to save a dying daughter, and also flexes his action hero muscles in very well executed fight sequences. He succeeds in blending two very different genres in what can only be described as a well balanced, star making performance. I’m looking forward to more work from Beau Fowler including the follow up this smart SERIAL."
Hernandez also honored Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick ("Until") with the Special Jury Award, stating: "In UNTIL, Kevin Bacon, who also wrote, shot and directed with wife and Co-Star Kyra Sedgwick, delivers a performance filled with melancholy and tangible longing. Dedicated to the families of those we’ve lost to the Covid -19 Pandemic, both Bacon and Sedgwick capture the pain and haunting memories felt by those left behind with the aplomb you’d expect from Master Actors of their caliber. The beautifully acted dreamlike sequences at first fill you with loneliness, but then turns to a more hopeful tone where the possibility of an "UNTIL we meet again” future, is within reach. Hopefully, this short will lead to more films helmed by this creative duo."
Top Shorts' jury president, Casey Ruggieri, selected Sleepwalk as this year's Jury President Award winner. She explained her decision: "Sleepwalk conjures a haunting, nostalgic, and poetic look at the lonesome, dusty, forgotten by-ways of the American Southwest. Director Filipe Melo turns in an impeccably shot and composed film which examines the weight of the choices and promises we make, and the loves we cannot save. The canvas of the wide deserted west and the incredible pained solemnity of the cast leave viewers perhaps mourning something from their own by-gone past. Sleepwalk invokes an introspective look with a masterful hand." Ruggieri also honored Sleepwalk with the Best Ensemble award: "Besides being impeccably shot and composed, Sleepwalk offers a poetic and painful look at the choices and promises we make to one another. Casting in this film is spot on and each player does their part to add to the dusty, lonesome atmosphere of the forgotten by-ways of the SouthWest. The eerie mystery builds, ultimately unraveling in a bittersweet mix of suspense and consequence."
Sleepwalk also won one of the most competitive categories: Best Narrative Film. In his review, juror Shaw Jones wrote: "Sleepwalk is a visually beautiful and emotionally engaging film. Director Filipe Melo takes us on a subtle, yet powerful journey. Cinematographer Federico Cantini deserves praise for his outstanding work. As does actor Greg Lucey for his solid performance."
Top Shorts' festival director, Roy Zafrani, honored Laura Zéphirin's documentary "Making Waves" with the Best Inspirational Film award. He described the film as "Heartbreaking, shocking, brave, eye opening. Lamya's passion to help and protect the animals and nature ("I owe nature a lot"), and her peaceful yet assertive approach are inspiring. This film makes you think and reconsider things that have been axiomatic for you. Great work."
Windblown, a thriller by Usher Morgan, Katie Vincent was one of the team's highest rated films. Windblown won Best Thriller, Best Actress (Katie Vincent) and Best Duo (Katie Vincent & Jacob A. Ware). Juror Benjamin Schnau described Windblown as "A very powerful film about the mental challenge we are all facing at some point in life after losing a loved one trying to find acceptance to be able to move on with life. The evolvement of the story flows nicely and takes you on a journey that is so raw and human, combining reality and desire that it almost merges into one. The directing and attention to detail in editing, scoring and coloring by filmmaker Usher Morgan with the exceptional performance of Katie Vincent portraying Beth leaves you breathtaking. It feels like you are identifying with her every step on the way finding her inner peace."
Juror Lisa Roumain praised Vincent's performance: "Katie Vincent grips the screen immediately in a haunting story of grief and the beautiful way only siblings can understand each other. She delivers a powerful performance with so much depth and surprise, and equally impresses as the Writer and Director of this stirring film."
Juror Jarek Marszewski described the duo performance as amazing: "Katie Vincent & Jacob A. Ware do an amazing job in this gripping and moving tale of the extremely thin borderline between life and death. In „Windblown” reality and illusion merge into one and it is due the strong and nuanced performances from the lead couple - sensitively navigated by the directors: Usher Morgan and Katie Vincent herself! - that we get so deeply grasped by the story. Congratulations!"
In the genre categories, "Vincent" (dir. Nicholas Andrews) won Best Horror, "The Counterfeit Mind" (dir. Malek Haneen) won Best Sci-Fi, "Fulgidusen" (Alexander Feichter) took home Best Fantasy Film and Best Visual Effects, "Manasanamaha" (Deepak) won Best Romance Film, "Acid Fantasy (Lorenzo Lanzillotti) won Best Mystery Film, "Chronicles of Gnarnia: The Rex Chadwick Story" (Brian Colin Foley) won Best Parody, "We Met in Quarantine" (Rob Seiffert and Rob Wagner) won Best Romantic Comedy, "Lockbox" (Jake Noecker) won Best Crime Film, "Underneath" (Lena Weller) won Best LGBTQ Film, and "The Widow" (Brendan Young) won Best Film Noir.
"Becoming Everything" (Dan Lowënstein) won Best Drama. Juror Hugo Diego Garcia stated: "Very well directed, excellent acting and visually impressive, the film keeps us emotionally engaged and makes us feel the father’s distress. I loved the impressive underwater scene and the poetic story-telling."
In one of the most competitive categories this year, "Hero" (Jayson Martin) won Best Dark Comedy. Juror Buffy Milner wrote: "Hero is a short and too the point, funny, well paced short film. The films structure emphasizes the comedy and the ending scene is funny and unpredictable. The film is simple but well executed all round."
Juror Beate Malkus selected "A Girl and a Gun" (Pierre-Edouard Joubert) as this year's Best Comedy: "'All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun', Jean Luc Godard once said.
Director Pierre-Edouard Joubert adjusts a beautiful sense of
intelligent, sensitive, minimalist humor and an incredible eye for detail to make this
wonderful and very absurd short film about three guys who take Godard's quote literally.
'A Girl and a Gun' is fantastically well put together. It is a great pleasure to watch this film
from the basic idea, the originality of incidents happening in the story and extremely
well defined characters right up to cinematography, editing and and fine acting. Brilliant!"
Malkus also selected "A Threat to Justice" (Chris Files) as this year's Best Indie Film: "'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere' (Martin Luther King Jr.)
With his remarkable documentary short 'A Threat to Justice' director Chris Files refers to
this quote of Martin Luther King Jr. and explores the civil unrest sparked by the death of
George Floyd in Minneapolis. Especially in St. Louis, a city already marked by a strained
relationship with its police force since a long time, a wave of protests aroused. Files
approaches the sensitive and emotionally charged topic of racism through interviews with
police and activists and footage from demonstrations throughout the city.
He succeeds in showing the importance of giving the oppressed community a voice, of
communication and of building a relationship instead of controlling and inducing fear.
In 'A Threat to Justice' we understand how deep the rift, how big the distrust which
separates the black community and the police force. And we understand how important it
is to overcome the ditch and find a way to listen one to another and create a new system
of understanding, interaction and being. 'A Threat to Justice' is a very well done film on a
very important topic. A must-see documentary!"
Juror Jarek Marszewski selected "Sharp" (Sander Ligthart) as Best Web/TV Pilot of the Year, stating: "All elements function so well in this cleverly written and directed production. The story is intriguing, thrilling and touching. Also the combination of realism and psycho-drama works in an original and impressive way. Congratulations to the cast and the whole crew!"
"Divorce School" (Dana Marisa Schoenfeld, Julie Zelman) which earned the Jury President Award nomination, took home Best Web Series of the Year. Another film that stood out was the short animation Pork Chop (Katherine Guggenberger). In addition to the Best of Fest nomination, this brilliant short won Best Student Film of the Year.
Another animated short, "Made with Love" (Chloé Robichaud) won Best Microfilm of the Year.
"The Heretic" (Veselin Efremov) won Best Animation of the Year. Juror Jolie Lennon (who previously won Best Actress at Top Shorts) explained her decision: "Utterly engrossing. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it and it blew me away with the mind-blowing animation and the world that has been created. I loved everything about it. Apart from feeling slightly concerned for us actors being out of a job!! Wow."
"Currently Katie" (Hannah Petosa) won Best Television Script of the Year. Juror Rui Yao stated: “This story is a female-leading adult comedy that takes place in the workplace of TV show business with some self-reflexivity and meta-television elements.
As a television show pilot, the plot also includes lots of interesting details about the show business in a self-parody way, making it even fun to read for outsiders of the business.”
Yao also honored "Anya" (Mike Greenwood) with Best Screenplay of the Year. He wrote: “Anya is a teen comedy-drama with the protagonist being a Gen-Z punk girl. Young, angry and rebellious she may be, she still has a real talent for music, and a shy heart that desires love.
As the story develops and gradually gets to climax, it gets better and better, with an almost surreal experience, a strong direct conflict between Anya and another distinct character as well as a showdown of Anya’s spectacular music talent. The whole plot feels tight, touching, suspenseful and powerful.”
Joel Wetterstein ("Gunther") won Best Actor in an Indie Film. Juror Mor Cohen wrote: "Joel Wetterstein’s performance as Gunther is like a breath of fresh air. His effortless deliveries and authentic presence vitalize the film and infuse the dark subject matter with levity and charm."
Cohen also selected Lindi Cecile ("You Up?") as Best Actress in an Indie Film: "Lindi Cecile gracefully carries You Up? with her inventive performance. She’s creative, intuitive, fearless, and brave. Portraying both leads in the film offered an opportunity to display a wider range of emotions and human behavior, which she explores to the fullest."