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SXSW Winners: Despite Cancellation, Festival Announces Grand Jury Prizes

The annual Texas event was the first major film event to cancel in recent weeks, but kept its competitions intact.


Rachel Klein

Normally, the SXSW Film Festival award winners are handed out during a lively ceremony at the end of the first weekend, but this year required some improvisation. When the SXSW became the first major film event to cancel in the face of global pandemic, it was unclear what would happen to the hundreds of films and filmmakers primed for the late March festivities.

While many filmmakers were left struggling to figure out their next moves, the festival’s leadership opted to hand out awards to the films set to premiere at the festival, with the juries announced weeks earlier. SXSW Director of Film Janet Pierson and her team made the decision to “continue and expand to all the juried competitions, if the majority of the filmmakers opted in and juries were available.” (For obvious reasons, there were no Audience Awards this year.)

The winners include films that had already picked up buzz before the festival’s cancellation, including Cooper Raiff’s Narrative Feature Competition winner “Shithouse” and Katrine Philp’s Documentary Feature Competition winner “An Elephant in the Room.” Other films picking up accolades include “Topside,” “Really Love,” “The Donut King,” and “Finding Yingying.”

Feature films receiving Jury Awards were selected from the Narrative Feature and Documentary Feature Competition categories. Short films and other juried sections, including Film Design Awards, are also included. SXSW also announced Special Awards including: Adobe Editing Award, Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award, Final Draft Screenwriters Award, Louis Black “Lone Star” Award, Vimeo Staff Pick Award, and the ZEISS Cinematography Award.

This year’s program would have hosted 135 feature films, including 99 world premieres, nine North American premieres, five U.S. premieres, and 75 films from first-time filmmakers. The rest of the program would have also played home to 119 short films, including music videos, 12 episodic premieres, 7 Special Events, 14 episodic pilots in 2 curated programs, 30 title design entries, and 27 virtual cinema projects.

Due to increased demand from press and industry, and at the request of filmmakers, SXSW will continue running the Online Shift72 Screening Library through March 31, 2020, for those films that have opted-in to the extended timeframe.

Check out the full list of awards below.

Winner: “Shithouse,” directed by Cooper Raiff
Special Jury Recognition for Directing: “Topside,” directed by Celine Held, Logan George
Special Jury Recognition for Acting: “Really Love” (Kofi Siriboe, Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing), directed by Angel Kristi Williams

Winner: “An Elephant in the Room,” directed by Katrine Philp
Special Jury Recognition for Achievement in Documentary Storytelling: “The Donut King,” directed by Alice Gu
Special Jury Recognition for Breakthrough Voice: “Finding Yingying,” directed by Jiayan “Jenny” Shi

Winner: “White Eye,” directed by Tomer Shushan
Special Jury Recognition for Acting: “Dirty” (Morgan Sullivan, Manny Dunn), directed by Matthew Puccini
Special Jury Recognition: “Darling,” directed by Saim Sadiq
Special Jury Recognition: “Single,” directed by Ashley Eakin

Winner: “No Crying at the Dinner Table,” directed by Carol Nguyen
Special Jury Recognition: “Mizuko,” directed by Katelyn Rebelo, Kira Dane
Special Jury Recognition: “Día de la Madre,” directed by Ashley Brandon, Dennis Höhne

Winner: “Regret,” directed by Santiago Menghini
Special Jury Recognition: “Laura Hasn’t Slept,” directed by Parker Finn
Special Jury Recognition for Creature Design: “Stucco,” directed by Janina Gavankar, Russo Schelling

Winner: “Symbiosis,” directed by Nadja Andrasev
Special Jury Recognition: “No, I Don’t Want to Dance!,” directed by Andrea Vinciguerra
Special Jury Recognition: “The Shawl,” directed by Sara Kiener

Winner: 070 Shake – “Nice to Have,” directed by Noah Lee
Special Jury Recognition for Animation: Mitski – “A Pearl,” directed by Saad Moosajee, Art Camp
Special Jury Recognition for Direction: The Lumineers – “Gloria,” directed by Kevin Phillips

Winner: “Just Hold On,” directed by Sam Davis, Rayka Zehtabchi
Special Jury Recognition: “Coup d’etat Math,” directed by Sai Selvarajan

Winner: “Wish Upon a Snowman,” directed by Miu Nakata
Special Jury Recognition: Narrative
Winner: “Ultimatum,” directed by Kai Hashimoto
Special Jury Recognition: Documentary
Winner: “Unveiled,” directed by Sofia Bakwa
Special Jury Recognition: Animation
Winner: “The Orchard,” directed by Zeke French

Winner: “Embrace,” directed by Jessica Sanders
Special Jury Recognition for Drama: “Chemo Brain,” directed by Kristian Håskjold
Special Jury Recognition for Comedy: “Lusty Crest,” directed by Kati Skelton

Winner: “Laura Hasn’t Slept,” designed by Olivier Courbet
Special Jury Recognition: “The Donut King,” designed by Andrew Hem & Charlie Le

Winner: “See,” designed by Karin Fong
Special Jury Recognition: “Why We Hate,” designed by Allison Brownmoore, Anthony Brownmoore


Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award
Presented to: “In and of Itself,” directed by Frank Oz

Adobe Editing Award
Presented to: “You Cannot Kill David Arquette,” edited by Paul Rogers with additional editing by David Darg

Final Draft Screenwriters Award
Presented to: “Best Summer Ever,” written by Michael Parks Randa, Will Halby, Terra Mackintosh, Andrew Pilkington, Lauren Smitelli 

Louis Black “Lone Star” Award
Winner: “Miss Juneteenth,” directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples
LOUIS BLACK “LONE STAR” AWARD Special Jury Recognition for Acting:
Winner: Rob Morgan from “Bull,” directed by Annie Silverstein
LOUIS BLACK “LONE STAR” AWARD Special Jury Recognition for Documentary:
Winner: “Boys State,” directed by Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss

Vimeo Staff Picks Award
Presented to: “Vert,” directed by Kate Cox

ZEISS Cinematography Award
Winner: “Echoes of the Invisible,” directed by Steve Elkins

The 2020 SXSW Film Festival Juries consisted of:
Narrative Feature Competition: Rebecca Keegan, Rodrigo Perez, Kim Yutani
Documentary Feature Competition: Bilge Ebiri, Naomi Fry, Dino Ramos
Narrative Shorts Program: Penelope Bartlett, Monica Castillo, Greta Fuentes
Documentary Shorts: Marjon Javadi, Allison Willmore
Animated Shorts: Katie Krentz, Hana Shimizu, Asalle Tanha
Midnight Shorts: Jonathan Barkan, Derek Kingongo, Brittany Klesic
Music Videos: Jason Baum, Chaka and Qi Dada
Texas Shorts: Denise Hernandez, Jenny Jacobi, Martin C. Jones
Texas High School Shorts: Jonathan Case, Jazmyne Moreno, Barton Weiss
Episodic Pilots: Mitch Hurwitz, Emily Nussbaum, Shelby Stone
Louis Black “Lone Star”: Kathy Blackwell, David Fear, Richard Whittaker
Excellence in Title Design: Ryan Butterworth, Alex Johnson
Excellence in Poster Design: Becky Cloonan, Barak Epstein, Kevin Tong

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