‘Groundhog Day for a Black Man’ wows fest crowd

Burl Mosely, Manny Jacinto, Jameela Jamil, Cynthia Kao

Burl Mosely, Manny Jacinto, Jameela Jamil, Cynthia Kao

With more than 4,200 submissions, the 12th annual NBCUniversal Short Film Festival announced the winners from a group of nine finalists during the grand finale gala at the Director’s Guild in Los Angeles.

The competition, which occurred Wednesday night, was stiff as the nine short films and web series presented were amazingly crafted and thoughtful entries, but the two shorts that came out on top were Cynthia Kao’s Groundhog Day For A Black Man and Cullan Bruce’s Lost Dogs.

Groundhog Day for a Black Man is hilarious and poignant, telling the tale of a black man who continually lives the same day and ends up being shot by a police officer. No, it doesn’t sound funny at all. But Kao’s film takes a serious, timely subject and turns it on its head. The black comedy won for Outstanding Comedy and the Critics’ Choice Award. You can watch the short below:

Kao, who was flattered and honored to win both awards, had this to say, “I’m honored that NBCU short film festival recognized Groundhog Day For A Black Man and I’m grateful it will mean more exposure for this important issue.”

Carey Williams, who directed the outstanding Emergency, which is about a group of Black and Latino college students who are forced to carefully weigh the pros and cons of calling the police when faced with an emergency situation, seconded Kao’s opinion of winning.

"Emergency" by Carey Williams
“Emergency” by Carey Williams
“Winning the Harness Social Impact award means a lot to me because it tells me that our film was successfully able to address an important issue that concerns people of color in a way that gives validity to differing points of view. We are posing both sides of a POV concerning race and giving credence to both sides and hopefully making viewers think about where they stand on the issue.”

Hosted this year by Master of None’s Kym Whitley, the NBCUniversal Short Film Festival celebrated diversity in storytelling and features stories about and by people of ethnically diverse backgrounds, the LGBTQ community, women and people with disabilities. Supporting that diversity is Panavision. Judy Doherty, a spokeswoman for the company said, “Panavision is proud to support the NBCU Shorts Fest and help the next generation of filmmakers and talent bring their stories to life. We look forward to celebrating their diverse voices and following them as they establish their careers.”

This year, the fest named America Ferrera, Mariska Hargitay, Chrissy Metz and Lena Waithe as its first ambassadors. They served as advocates for the festival and join the judging panel determining award winners.

Here is the complete list of winners:

Emergency, Director: Carey Williams, Writer: K.D Davila

Groundhog Day For A Black Man, Writer & Director: Cynthia Kao

Lost Dogs, Director: Cullan Bruce, Writers: Cullan Bruce and Chris Lee
Inspired by the insane brilliance of Korean horror, told the story of a woman ridiculed by her family who longs to escape. Striking a deal with her brother to clear his illegal debt, she delves deeper into darkness.

Mayumi Yoshida, Akashi
Kana, a young Japanese woman, receives news that her grandmother has passed away. During her trip to attend the funeral, she recalls intimate conversations with her grandmother that lead her to examine her own life.

Chris Lee, Lost Dogs

Damon Russell, Cul-De-Sac
Parents living at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac discover a listening device inside their son’s teddy bear. The film stars Phoebe Tonkin (The Originals, The Vampire Diaries).

Groundhog Day For A Black Man, Writer & Director: Cynthia Kao

Audible Static, Writer & Director: Sai Selvarajan
Thaddeus, a clever teenager with a speech impediment, creates a new way to communicate his feelings to his crush.

Contact Colin Costello at colin@reelchicago.com or follow him on Twitter @colincostello.com