The 18th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival has come and gone, and while it will be dearly missed, there is still a cause for celebration as we get to give the best films of the festival some well-deserved recognition!
With over 400 amazing films to choose from, the jury had some hard choices to make. And while all the films are special in their own right, these were some of the standouts of the them all. Congratulations to everyone who was selected this year, and to everyone who was selected as an award winner at this year’s festival! Please feel free to check out all of these films and more on BitPix, so you don’t miss a moment of the festival even if it’s already run its course.
I have loved covering the festival and while it is over for this year, expect a tonne more reviews from the films that were on shows here over the next two weeks!
Grand Prix Best Short
Hallelujah – Congratulations to writer and director Victor Gabriel for their incredible film about two brothers in Compton who find themselves taking care of their nephew. It was an amazing film that is certainly worthy of this award! A big congrats to stars Richard Nevels, Bruce Lemon, Stephen Thomas, Mariah Pharms, Damon Rutledge and Maelina Gibson as well!
Best Live Action
Mulaqat/Sandstorm – Seemab Gul’s brilliant film about a young Pakistani girl who is blackmailed by an online boyfriend after sharing a video was one of the most powerful films of the festival. An excellent look into how culture meets modernity, and how a yearning for connection can go wrong if not careful. Parizae Fatima, Hamza Mushtaq, Ayesha Shoaib Ahmed, Nabila Khan, Aun Ali Saleem, Masuma Halai Khwaja and Qasim Ali were all excellent in this riveting piece.
Scale – Joseph Pierce and co-writer Nicolas Pleskof deliver a fantastic animated short that shows the depths and dangers of drug addiction in a way that is truly a sight to behold. With an excellent cast and a unique style, this is truly an amazing film.
Sideral – Carlos Segundo’s film about a couple that lives near the space station that will launch the first manned space rocket for Brazil. Priscilla Vilela and Enio Calvacante shine in the film.
Kickstart My Heart – Kelsey Bollig’s film, which stars Emma Pasarow, Sadie Eve Scott, Cooper Alexander, Jacquline Bell and Bollig herself is an action packed ride as a woman fights her way through her own subconscious after an accident. A wildly fun trip based on Bollig’s own life experience, this film was a hit at the festival, and for good reason.
All I Ever Wanted – Erin Lau and Van B. Nguyen’s film about a romance fixated teen that finds out her prince may actually be a princess instead is beautiful and heartfelt, with a charming cast of Cathy Bui, Maria Zhang, Connor McRaith, Long Nguyen and Elyse Dinh that is well deserving of praise.
Best Costume Design
Sauerdogs – Carmen Granell wins for their work on this cold and difficult film that shows the trials of two people as they fight through a freezing winter as they try to make it home. Brilliant work from Granell for their costuming work, especially on stars Auguste Diehl and Jonathan D. Mellor.
Like the Ones I Used to Know – Annie St.-Pierre delivers on the story of a man who goes to see his kids on Christmas, with the children providing some hard truths along the way. Starring Steve Laplante, Lilou Roy-Lanouette, Larissa Corriveau, Amélie Grenier, Jérémie Jacob and Laurent Lemaire, this is a tough but fascinating film.
MINK! – Ben Proudfoot continues their award winning work as a filmmaker with this documentary about the woman who pioneered Title IX and the fight for women’s equality in sports. This was an inspiring story that never got the attention it deserved, until now.
The Machine – Rowan McKay wins this for their work on this Isaac Bell/Matt Kelleher project, and for good reason. This film is excellently put together, really showing the power a good editor can wield in creating such a great film.
Best Female Screenplay Presented by BeCine
Last Ship East – Eris Qian wins for their screenplay, bringing the voices of female writers more into the spotlight, something that has been more and more common, thankfully, as female voices are in need of being heard. Qian’s film highlights that with an excellent and well-deserving screenplay.
Moshari – Nuhash Humayun wins the award for best horror film for their story of two sisters attempting to survive the outside world with the help of a mosquito net, which forces them together, bringing them face to face with the end of the world, and with each other.
The Voice Actress – Anna J. Takayama takes some inspiration from her mother in this film, that sees a voice actress attempt to modernize in the ever changing world, a challenge that is even more complicated given her ability to see the soul of all things, living and inanimate. Urara Takano is a powerhouse in this film, really shining in her first live action role.
Latinx Award Presented by Viacom International Studios
Huella – Gabriela Ortega’s beautiful film about a disenchanted flamenco dancer is one of the standouts of the festival as we watch her go through the five stages of grief, thanks to visits from her female ancestors after a family member’s passing. It’s engaging and gorgeous, with the main cast of Shakira Barrera, Denise Blasor and Carla Valentine all giving wonderful performances.
North Star – P.J. Palmer directs this film that stars Colman Domingo and Kevin Bacon and tells the story of a rancher and his husband in this sensitive and powerful film that really brings out the challenges of living your truest life in the face of outside pressures.
Best Midnight Madness
Homesick -Will Seefried’s film about a man who attends a retreat for the unfulfilled to get another chance at a happy childhood is absurd, wild and incredible, which fits the theme of Midnight Madness, in the best way.
Best Music Video
Consensual – Jeff Hilliard and Joey Danger directs Hilliard’s fun and psychadelic music video that features unicorns, vans, and a whole lot of sensuality.
Hallelujah – Duran Jones continues the awards wins for this film, which already won Best Short. An incredibly deserving film, these awards will likely keep coming for what was seen as the best film at this year’s festival.
My Jerome – Adjani Salmon wins for their powerful story of a mother’s determination to believe in the innocence of her son, despite the evidence that he is guilty of a violent crime. Emotional and thought-provoking, this is a film that definitely deserve its praise.
Hawk Films Screenplay Award
Mina Finds Her Edge! – Robin Rose Singer is the winner of this illustrious award, and for good reason. Their screenplay is sure to get some attention, and it will be interesting to see where it goes from here.
Waltz of the Angels – Braden Barton tells the story of a modern archangel being hunted down by a preacher and his assistant, question her powers and the motivations. It’s a thought-provoking and action-filled film that really puts a new perspective on religion and belief.
Script Compass Screenplay Award
In the Garden Of Tulips – Ava Lalezarzadeh sends out an excellent screenplay that will absolutely turn some heads for those who get a chance to check it out. Such a well-done script by a very talented screenwriter.
Kodak Best Shot on Film
North Pole – Marija Apcevska’s short drama about a woman who doesn’t quite fit in, and attempts to use the act of losing her virginity as a path towards acceptance.
Kodak Shot on Film Super 8MM
Deerwoods Deathtrap – James P. Gannon gives us an excellent film starring Elizabeth Gannon and John W. Gannon, two people, who 50 years ago, were hit by a train. Miraculously, they survived, and are now able to tell the tale.
Kodak Shot on Film Honorable Mention
Not the 80s – Marleen Valien tells the story of two people as they hit it off, only for one to reveal their positive HIV status. The stigma of this diagnosis is tough, especially when revealing it to someone who doesn’t have the knowledge base to really understand.
Social Impact Award
Stranger at the Gate – This documentary shows the dangers of indoctrination during wartime, as a veteran comes home, still fueled by the rage he’d been building during his fight overseas. To remedy this, he attempts to attack a mosque. Joshua Seftel really brings the emotions with this one, as it’s extremely powerful.
Best Student Film
The Visit – Ebele Tate tells the story of this film as Nneka tries to connect with her estranged mother, who has been built up as a fantasy in Nneka’s mind. As this dream person shatters, Nneka has to figure out what to do in this new reality of poverty and illness.
Wild Bitch – Rebekka Johnson and Kate Nash writer, direct and star in this film about two women to bond over an experience in the woods. Thrilling and tense, it’s a wildly interesting film that really brought it at this year’s festival.
A Question of Service – Erin Brown Thomas brings us a wonderful piece of television that has an ensemble cast follow the story of a failed missionary who winds up as an MI6 interpreter. An excellent cast and wonderful delivery really make this film.
Best TV Screenplay
Forsyth County – An winning screenplay is nearly impossible to write without massive talent, something James Sasser seems to have in spades. Excellent work by Sasser for really delivering on this script.
Black Dragon (Rồng đen) – Inspired by the My Lai Massacre in this dark and mysterious film by Alexander Thompson. Celia Au, Matthew Del Negro and Chris Day are all stellar in this film that is tough to watch, but well worth it.
Best Web Series
Kura – Vine McMillan’s series about a man desperate to leave his job and jumps at the chance to leave his small town is funny and wild, with this installment of it really delivering. Web series can be tough to pull off for an extended time, but McMillan really makes it work.
Women in Film Award
Apart, Together – Olivia Hang Zhou gives us an emotional film about a teen and her mother as they travel from China to Los Angeles to find her long lost sibling, who was given up due to China’s one child policy. An engaging and powerful film, Zhou has earned this award without question.
ZEISS Presents: Hollyshorts Film Festival Achievement in Filmmaking and Cinematography
Censor Of Dreams – Khalib Mohtaseb is the deserving recipient for Cinematography on this film, that has Léo Berne and Raphaël Rodriguez deliver an ethereal film that focuses on a man known as the Censor, and the moderation they do on a woman named Yzoko’s nightly dreams. It’s a fascinating film that hard to describe, but worth every moment, and was excellently done by everyone involved, with Mohtaseb really standing out for their work.
ZEISS Presents: HollyShorts Film Festival Achievement in Filmmaking and
Nancy Schreibe is a legendary cinematographer, who is well deserving of the honor for her achievements in film. With a resume that lasts spans over four decades, there are far too many credits to list, but every one of those projects have been better off for having her there.
For more of our reviews of the festival, please check out below:
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