Updated: Dec 21, 2020
This year's Best of Fest winner is the Chinese thriller Night Watch, directed by Allen Chiang. The premier judge, 3-time Emmy winner Dave Eichhorn, stated: "Allen Chiang’s Nightwatch is a delicious film; moody, stylish and cerebral. It starts with a bang, then begins drawing you into a slowly unfolding scenario with more twists and turns than I've seen since 1996’s Primal Fear. It's as if the script keeps updating itself, and never seems to stop presenting new clues, so that you, the viewer, are essentially placed on an obscured, winding path that will keep you guessing to the final frame."
Eichhorn also selected Shepard (Jourdan McClure, Philip Landa) as the Best of Fest runner-up. The lead actors, Will Beinbrink and Kurt Krause, won Best Duo of the year. Juror Beate Malkus said: "'Shepard' is a dark thriller about a troubled teenager who by pure chance meets a charismatic but mysterious stranger and decides to reach out to him for help. But what seemed to be a fortunate coincidence, slowly turns into the bane of his life.
Surrounded by a throughout great cast (like Kareem J. Grimes as teacher Dwyer who tries
to gain Ray's trust and to support him as much as he can), Will Beinbrink and Kurt Krause
make an incredible duo - especially the scenes of them interacting are truly the most
compelling of the film.
Will Beinbrink's 'Shepard' is charismatic, mysterious and layered, with such a dark abysses
deep inside, which are unfolding slowly and are not to be stopped after his savage demons
once have been set free – it is an incredibly thrilling performance Beinbrink delivers here.
Kurt Krause's 'Ray' seems to always expect rather something bad coming up than
something positive... for good reason: things get fatally out of control after he asked this
mysterious stranger Shepard for help him to not being bullied anymore.
Krause is able to put into his character all the vulnerability and the destabilization needed,
his performance of this teenager who grew up in the foster care system and has been
kicked around all life, who tries to make an effort but yet things get worse, is impressive.
Aside from a great story written by Philip Landa, director Jourdan McClure had the magic
touch for choosing these two fantastic actors for his lead cast - they make the perfect
LAFA 2020 Best of Fest winner, Relish (dir. Justin Ward), won Best Narrative Feature and Best Ensemble. Juror Virginia Bach stated: "Justin Ward takes us on a very touching coming of age road trip, with promising teen actors, questionning the meaning of freedom for young people today."
In one of the most competitive categories, Roadside (dir. Peter Falls) won Best Narrative Short. Juror Casey Ruggieri said: "Clever, charming and endearing, Roadside checks all the boxes. Set in a picturesque little town, Roadside is loaded with talent as two strangers recount their experience of Eddie, both brother and new acquaintance, respectively. A witty and heartwarming look at two sides of the coin of how someone is remembered."
Zeng Zhen won Best Director for her work on Because of You. Shaw Jones stated: "Zeng Zhen gives us a heartfelt and powerful film that navigates a delicate story of motherhood and acceptance. Zhen brings out dynamic performances by the entire cast."
The Jury President Award went to Dana Richie, for her work on Gateway. Roy Zafrani described the film as "An eye-opening documentary told through the eyes and hearts of everyday American families who were introduced to opioids after surgery and go on to battle with addiction. Very well directed by Dana Richie, who creates a meaningful film that is both heartfelt and thought-provoking."
Zafrani also picked Why She Smiles (Caroline Sims) as Best Documentary Feature: "An incredibly touching documentary about 34-year old Jamie Sorum and her fatal diagnosis of Huntington's Disease. Director Caroline Sims tells the story with so much heart and sensitivity. Why She Smiles is the kind of film that stays with you for a long time."
Why She Smiles also won Best Editing (Caroline Sims, Noah Hanson). Adrian Morales Ramos said: "Even though the story of Jamie Sorum and her family is worth being told by itself, I believe it is through the edit that this film paves a way that reaches deep inside the viewer to deliver the story as it should be told. Taking a heavy subject like the incurable Huntington's Disease and turning it into a voyage for the audience is no easy task. Through the edit, Caroline Sims and Noah Hanson (also director and cinematographer, respectively) take us into the mind and hearts of this family without falling for easy sensationalism or over dramatization. Their use of empty space, silences, looks, breathing and talking over black give us the exact amount of time to reflect ourselves into what these people go through, and how it would affect us were it to happen to us. And it does it without losing you, as you are captivated by the story till the end.
The timing and patience before a cut, the excellent use of sound design and music, and the pairing with family homemade films and videos, are all threaded seamlessly to take us, without forcing us, into the joy and strength of Jamie and her family. On top of that, the filmmakers also use these elements to create simulations of how Jamie sees the world, with overbearing stimuli at times, with impotence, but ultimately, through the joy of living. Even though they are silent witnesses of their stories, you can tell both filmmakers care so much about telling Jamie's family story. The respect, and the love, shows. And no one will watch this film and leave unchanged. And that's the reason movies should be made."
One of the most refershing short films of the year, Basic (dir. Chelsea Devantez) won Best Indie Short. Lisa Roumain wrote: "A hilarious, relatable, and deliciously cringy 3 minutes of film. Chelsea Devantez is all of us at our worst in the best way."
Wienerland, an epic TV pilot, won no less than 4 annual awards, including Best Web/TV Pilot (Jan Woletz, Stefan Polasek), Best Actor (David Wurawa), Best Cinematography (Ulrich Neuburg, Florian Gintenreiter) and Best Score (Horst Schnattler). Comika Hartford stated: "The stunning locations and solid acting in this supernatural western series set it apart. The blend of genres is incredibly effective and reminds one of the best elements of epic stories like Westworld and The Dark Tower." Mason Heidger added a few words on Wurawa's performance: "Everything about his performance is so subtle and natural. If an actor can earn everything they do then I can’t keep my eyes off them and that’s exactly what David did."
The Gliwensbourg Chronicles by Emilie Tommasi won Best Web/TV Series. Jarek Marszewski said: "Cleverly written and directed by Emilie Tommasi THE GLIWENSBOURG CHRONICLES are an original hommage to a land and its inhabitants, to a "microcosm" located somewhere in the North of France, and at the same time, this is a tale of fate and the tricks that fortune plays with us. With a fascinating range of characters with their various biographies, virtues, fears and complexes, we are taken on a mesmerizing journey in time - intelligent, stylish and intriguing. Sensitively photographed and directed, THE GLIWENSBOURG CHRONICLES are a refined manifestation of passionate love for cinema, its magic, but also its rich tradition and history."
NoWhereMan (Chong Liu, Kuan Ting Lu, Han Chen Chang) won Best Animation of the year. Nami Melumad said: "This powerful 3D animation short tells the story of a national hero who goes on a somewhat 'successful' mission to become the first time-traveler in history. But then... things go wrong, and he is trapped in a repetitive timeline forever. This individual is basically sacrificed by the government and the crowds- and the ironic truth is well hidden.
NoWhereMan's concept design and character-design are absolutely stunning. There's somewhat of an expressionist influence throughout, which works in favor of the characters and the story. Directors Chong Liu and Kuang Ting Lu paid attention to every detail and this resulted in a visually impressive, cinematic piece that sends a strong statement about society and human nature."
A Land Where Children Play (Alexia Garcia del Rio) won Best Student Film of the year. Jean Vincentelli, explained his decision: "I was very touched and impressed in that film by the sensitivity that emerges from the three characters of three different generations and not issued of the same family, with a child adpoted and wild who finds his place with difficulty...
Three characters, three personalities,with a subtle and natural play. Very well played by William Frederick Knight, Élisabeth Hales and Sire Collins."
Joseph Ramos won Best First Time Director (Feature) for his work on Deadly Promises. Mor Cohen said: "This ambitious feature film sets a crazy high bar for itself - and delivers! Director Joseph Ramos clearly doesn't shy away from a good challenge, and Deadly Promises presented plenty. Ramos masterfully orchestrated his huge cast and his top-notch production team to create this awesome thriller, bringing the screenplay to screen using much skill and every tool in his toolbox. I must also mention lead actor Julian Crouser for his brilliant performance in a very difficult role(s)! Great work by everyone involved."
Tessa Ferrer won Best Actress of the year for her performance in Roadside. Casey Ruggieri praised Ferrer's performance: "Ferrer delivers a charming, radiant, and realistic performance as Piper, a woman met with a sudden loss in Roadside. She exudes a grounded, subtle quality laced with sadness and even a playful bit of sass that leaves you really falling in love with her."
The team also selected Wuthering Heights (Bryan R Ferriter, Quincey Kuiava, J. Owen Rogers) as Best Indie Feature, The Return (Jon Fish) as Best Documentary Short, Azhar's Aria (Madina Altynbayeva) as Best Music Video, and Andrea Fantauzzi won Best First Time Director for her work on Letters from a Father.
Horrible Hannah (Geoffrey D Sollars, Michael D Sollars, Eric G Sollars) won Best Screenplay, and Untitled Gay Hitman Project (James Tison, Gus Constantellis) won Best Television Script of the year.
Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!
Submit your film/screenplay: www.filmfreeway.com/festigious