2020 AFI Fest announces winners

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With the largest national audience in its 34th history including attendees from all 50 states, AFI FEST 2020 presented by Audi announced today the films that received this year’s Jury and Audience awards.

The Grand Jury Award winners for Live Action and Animated Short will be eligible for the 2021 Best Live Action Short and Best Animated Short Academy Awards. The Shorts jury was comprised of film critic Carlos Aguilar, filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison and Film Festival Alliance Executive Director Lela Meadow-Conner.

Highlights of the 2020 festival, which was mostly virtual this year, included a Centerpiece Drive-in screening of One Night in Miami… (DIR Regina King) at the Rose Bowl; the World Premieres of I’m Your Woman (DIR Julia Hart), Pink Skies Ahead (DIR Kelly Oxford) and Really Love (DIR Angel Kristi Williams); screenings of highly anticipated films including Collective (Collectiv) (DIR Alexander Nanau), The Father (DIR Florian Zeller), I Carry You with Me (Heidi Ewing), My Little Sister (DIR Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond), New Order (NUEVO ORDEN) (DIR Michel Franco), Nine Days (DIR Edson Oda) and Wolfwalkers (DIR Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart).

Other highlights a conversation with Dr. Stacy Smith on the portrayal of characters with mental health conditions in film and television; a discussion with the director and cast of Sound of Metal with the Deaf community; a conversation with Academy Award nominee, producer, director and writer Ava DuVernay about elevating and supporting BIPOC filmmakers; the Indie Contenders and Doc Roundtables; and Tributes to Sofia Coppola, Kirby Dirk, Mira Nair and Rita Moreno.

“With an audience of more than double from last year, we welcomed over 200 filmmakers and guests from around the world for Q&As and panels,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director AFI Festivals.

“This year’s festival was truly a celebration of film across the country with festival goers joining us online from all 50 states.”


ALSO READ: Review: ‘I’m Your Woman’ is your film to see


Audience Award – Narrative Feature

WOLFWALKERS (DIR Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart)

Robyn befriends wild girl Mebh while exploring the magical forest outside an Irish town’s walls and undergoes a transformation in this adventurous animated film from The Secret of Kells creators, Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart.

Audience Award – Documentary Feature

76 DAYS (DIR Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous)

January 23, 2020: Wuhan, China, a city of 11 million, goes on complete lockdown to combat COVID-19. Filming inside Wuhan’s hospitals, 76 DAYS provides an unforgettable look at a city’s fight for survival.

Audience Award – Short Film

LONELY BLUE NIGHT (DIR Johnson Cheng)

The consequences of a mother’s decision to leave her daughter in the care of an American homestay family are unearthed when they reunite for a dinner on one lonely blue night.

Grand Jury Prize – Animation

TIGER AND OX (호랑이와 소) (DIR Seunghee Kim)

Jury Statement:  “With its economical, yet powerful use of the animated medium, this film tells a tender intergenerational story of the layered relationship between a mother and a daughter and invites us to engage in necessary conversations around gender and trauma.”

What does divorce mean to women in Korean patriarchal society? Is a fatherless family a failure? In order to find the answer to these questions, a single mother and her daughter start a conversation.

Grand Jury Prize – Live Action

PILLARS (DIR Haley Elizabeth Anderson)

Jury Statement:  “The filmmaker navigates the coming-of-age terrain with a mesmerizing point of view anchored in stunning performances by its young cast. The nuanced showcased in explored Black girlhood in today’s America resonated strongly with us.”

One Sunday at church, 12-year-old Amber experiences her first kiss, a moment of innocence that triggers a series of awakenings: sexual, emotional and religious.

Special Mention

BLACK GOAT (DIR Yi Tang)

Jury Statement:  “Gifted with an original cinematic voice, the filmmaker reclaims the often-taboo transformation of a young girl’s body in a singular context. Harnessing magical realism to enhance this journey from shame to acceptance, this film both enchants and empowers.”

Pasang, a new girl at a nunnery, has her first period after hearing a late-night ghost story. She keeps it secret until she bleeds at a prayer session. She believes that she has been cursed and needs to sacrifice a black goat to avoid further misfortune.

Special Mention

MAALBEEK (DIR Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis)

Jury Statement:  “Departing from a tragic event, the director created a hybrid piece that is as immersive as it is moving and haunting. The reconstruction of a traumatic memory, both the personal and the collective, come to life in vibrant form.”

Sabine is looking for a missing image: a day that has left its mark forever and that everyone remembers but her. But maybe this absence is what allows her to move on with her life?

Special Mention

UMBILICAL (DIR Danski Tang)

Jury Statement: “Poignant and eye-popping, this animated vision speaks to the importance of understanding one’s family history and the inextricable connection between a mother and a daughter. Through beautifully abstract animation, the filmmaker expresses these complex themes in an affecting manner.”

An animated documentary exploring how the filmmaker’s mother’s abusive relationship with her father shaped her own experiences in a boarding school in China.


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One has to wonder if the AFI grabbing a national online audience will continue to keep that component when it safe to hold the festival live again.

We shall see in 2021…

SOURCE: AFI

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