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6th Annual Top Shorts Winners Announced

Chocolate Man - Top Shorts 2020 Best of Fest

The 6th annual Top Shorts 2020 winners have just been announced, and "Chocolate Man" is the big winner, taking home the most prestigious award, Best of Fest. This short film, directed by Murat Eyup Gonultas, was described by Top Shorts' Premier Judge, Dave Eichhorn, as "Simply stunning. Director Murat Eyüp Gönültas has rocked the world of short films with his latest outing, “Chocolate Man”, a tour-de-force of creative imagery and sound that takes us through a transformative 24 hours in the life of a jaded, world-weary war photographer."

Man in the Woods

Eichhorn, a multiple Emmy winning editor and sound designer, honored Man in the Woods (Kevin O'Neill) with Best of Fest Runner-Up, and selected it as Best Sound Design. In his review, Eichhorn wrote: "Here we have a shining example of how exemplary, well-executed sound design, along with tremendous acting and deft direction, can help draw us deeply into a story. Kudos to the sound team, as well as the entire crew. This is a moving little film, full of heart and intrigue."

Written Words

Top Shorts' festival director, Roy Zafrani, honored Chelsea Nwasike's thriller "Written Words" with this year's Jury President Award. He explained his decision: "There were so many incredible nominees this year, that it was almost impossible to make a decision about the jury award. At the end of the day, I decided to award the film that touched my heart, the one that shocked me the most and made me connect to its protagonist, more than any other character, in any of the 300 films this year. Written Words, written and directed by the talented Chelsea Nwasike, starring the fabulous Victoria Floro- is that film."

The Sunset Channel

The Sunset Channel (dir. Matthew Kinahan) won Best Narrative Film. Top Shorts' juror Maximiliano Hernández stated: "With the use of surrealist wit and Sci Fi storytelling, Matthew Kinahan, beautifully captures a lonely man looking for closure after he endures tragic loss. Simon Lee Phillips' performance lends a subtle voice to the film and keeps it steadily moving down a road of realism and truth even when the circumstances are bizarre. David Kaminsky J’s affectionate cinematography captures pain and comedy in every frame."

The Painting

Hernández, who won Best Actor at Top Shorts 2018, was honored to select this year's Best Director, and awarded The Painting (dir. Sergey Kalvarskiy, Stanislav Romanovsky). Hernández wrote: "The Directors of THE PAINTING tackle the difficult subject of government censorship in Russia with style and absurdity. Their central themes of who decides what is “acceptable” and does controversy fuel fame, is pulled off flawlessly with great comedic performances and an evenhanded view of the world. This “High Art” comedy hits all the right the notes."

The Painting also won Best Original Story. Juror Rui Yao wrote: "It combines religion, arts, politics and censorship in the tone of anti-utopia. It connotates art inevitably has to be taken advantage by the other fields including politics and religion. As a metaphor, it’s form and creative idea are attractive and eye-catching. Its narrative structure (from Day1 to Day7) and the other metaphorical elements such as the painter’s black cloak (like death) fits its subject well."

Yao selected Ellie (Becca E. Davis & Kathrene Gawel) as Best Screenplay of the year. He explained his decision: "This screenplay creatively expresses how a psychological experiment manipulates the relationships. It has a potential to be made as a film noir or sarcastic comedy. The structure, plot twist, characters and lines are also good."

William Baldwin in Talk

William Baldwin won Best Actor, for his performance in Talk. Juror Les Brandt, wrote in the review: "William Baldwin (Elvis, TALK) pushed his familiar talents in directions I havent seen him do in anything else before and with the help of director, Boulanger Romuald, took this film from zero to sixty from the start. Radio jock, Elvis (William Baldwin) deals with a caller who threatens the life of his wife and kid live and on-air on his hit radio talk show in LA, CA. Baldwin braided intimate, emotional and terrifying moments with a surgeon-like subltly throughout the film. William, is overloaded with charisma, personality, fun and charm."

Baldwin and his cast also won Best Ensemble. Juror Shaw Jones, stated: "TALK, written and directed by Boulanger Romuald and artfully executed by the talented cast, is a riveting film.

There is not a false note from any of the actors as they take us on a suspenseful and nail biting ride. Vanessa Guide, William Baldwin, Paul Spera and Tom Hudson and the rest of the cast all shine."

Chelsea Belle won Best Actress for her performance in Ripple Effect. Juror Lisa Roumain, wrote: "Chelsea’s performance as “Kat,” a teenager who is trying to find happiness in the midst of a toxic family life, is truthful & heart wrenching."

The Listener

The Listener (dir. Petr Melnikov), which earned 10 nominations, won Best Indie Film and Best Duo (Sergey Pavlov & Diana Klyushkina). Juror Jolie Lennon stated: "The listener for me had a great full circle unexpected story line. I also love when a film makes a story work in basically one location and yet holds the viewer, its a hard task that was pulled off really well. It felt fresh, both visually and with the subject matter. Both leads played the parts with naturalism and ease. A great short film with great moments of suspense and hints of comedy."

Juror Mor Cohen, who picked Sergey Pavlov & Diana Klyushkina for Best Duo of the Year, explained her selection: I absolutely loved watching Sergey Pavlov & Diana Klyushkina in The Listener! Their relationship was so believable that you felt the presence of the other character even when they weren’t on screen. Our investment in their relationship is integral to the building suspense and guides the tone of the film throughout.

The Little Picture

Last year's Best Drama winner, Virginia Bach ("Tell Him"), served as a juror this year, and selected The Little Picture (dir. Toby Kearton) as Best Drama of the Year. Bach described The Little Picture as "A beautiful short film. Brilliant screenplay, cinematography and directing. Toby Kearton is a very talented Filmmaker. In the troubled times we are now experiencing, I found this story extremely relevant."

Benjamin Schnau who plays Gunter Wolfgang, the Nazi commander, won Best Supporting Actor. His character was described by Top Shorts' team as "so cruel and brainwashed, that he never lets himself feel or show compassion- exactly the type of character that makes everyone else better, literally."


Bach selected Infinito (DOP Daniel Lares) as Best Cinematography, stating: "Brilliant work of cinematography. Great mastery of the lenses, the camera moves, the use of the flare and the techniques of animation, to immerse the audience into a world full of poetry and wonder."

What the Hell

Best Comedy went to What The Hell (dir. Dede Harlan). Juror Mason Heidger (who recently won Best Performance of the Year at the Actors Awards), stated: "In "What the Hell" one can go to Heaven, one can go to Hell, or they can both go to hell! It’s up to them to decide who gets the honor. I laughed my entire way through this hilarious 10 minute short, especially when finding out how they both died (I’ll just say it involves a turkey dinner)."

Happy Earth Co

Heidger awarded Happy Earth Co (dir. Hylton Jandrell) as Best Dark Comedy: "Shot well, edited amazingly, acted wonderfully, and was funny to boot. I really loved this futuristic progression of society continuously buying that “new thing” they have to get to make them happy. And in the case of “Happy Earth Co.” it works. With an almost mind numbing quality."

The Malicious

The Malicious (dir. Noel Vinson) won Best Thriller. Juror Shaw Jones explained his decision: Writer/Director Noel Vinson does a masterful job of creating tension in this chilling film. His use of sound and imagery grabs you and doesn’t let you go. Actors Jacki Mison, Matthew R. Grego and Yannick Lawry exquisitely breathe life into Vinson’s horrifying vision.


Caducea (dir. Christophe Mavroudis) took home two awards - Best Horror and Best Fantasy Film. Juror Jarek Marszewski praised the film: "Gripping with the atmosphere, style and mystery, "Caducea” is a gothic parable of loneliness and otherness. The great creative collaboration of the director/writer, Christophe Mavroudis, and the DOP, Gillaume Simonin, resulted in a visually and emotionally powerful film - full of poetry and sensitivity, with memorable performances from Helena Coppejans, Marie-Jeanne Maldague, Vincent Deldre, Guillaume Alexandre." And juror Anup Kulkarni, added: "Good dark fantasy is a rare thing to find in movies nowadays. Director-writer Christophe Mavroudis’s dark mystery Gothic fantasy film CADUCEA has all landmarks of distinctive pieces of work. It was a wonderfully written film. The visuals, especially in the Art Direction & Cinematography departments, are beautiful, full of little details, and a fine-tuned sense of tone. Not to mention, Catherine Rossignot's character played by Marie-Jeanne Maldague and Alain - Guillaume Alexandre is outstanding."

The Teacher

The Best Action Film winner, The Teacher (dir. Jeremy Weiss) , was selected by last year's Best Actor and Best First Time Director Hugo Diego Garcia, who wrote: In The Teacher, Jeremy Weiss delivers a brilliant action short film packed with brilliant fighting choreography. The movie is technically excellent, the cinematography is on point and he uses sophisticated techniques on par with the best Hollywood movies of the genre. An incredible production, excellent performers, pure violence and fast pace, The Teacher is a must see and one of the most impressive action short films out there."

If We Had Tomorrow

Garcia awarded Anastasiya Yevchenko ("If We Had Tomorrow") as Best First Time Director: "You wouldn’t expect “If we had tomorrow”, to be a first film. There is mastery and control in this captivating and beautifully shot surrealistic dream-like short film. Approached as a puzzle and treated like a piece of art, it keeps you guessing the whole time.

This tremendously talented director tackles a deep subject, the war and its consequences, and increases its horror and devastating effects on life by showing in an iconographical perfection what will never be because of it. Every aspect of filmmaking is nailed and the narrative technique very clever.

A perfect blend of form and content, full of metaphors and brilliant filmmaking techniques. More than a filmmaker to follow, a real artist that we’ll keep hearing about."