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SXSW Film Awards: ‘The Fallout’ and ‘Lily Topples the World’ Win Top Prizes at Festival

In a year mostly free of major studio features and established talents, the 2021 winners class is made up of indie outings and rising stars to watch.

“The Fallout”

Universal Pictures

The SXSW Film Festival has announced the winners of its juried and special awards on Friday. In a year mostly free of major studio features and established talents, the 2021 winners class is made up of indie outings and rising stars to watch. Top Grand Jury awards went to Narrative Feature Competition winner “The Fallout” from director Megan Park, which was picked up by Universal late last year, and Jeremy Workman’s documentary “Lily Topples the World.”

The festival virtually screened 75 features, 84 shorts and music videos, 11 episodic selections, 20 virtual cinema projects, 14 title design entries, and 34 special events. Fifteen juries — which included IndieWire’s own Kate Erbland, plus industry heavy-hitters like Jason Blum and Sheila Nevins — bestowed awards to over three dozen titles.

The all-virtual festival wraps Saturday at 11:59 p.m. CT; Audience Award voting continues for 24 hours after that. Those awards will be announced on sxsw.com on Tuesday.

Below is the complete list of jury and special awards, along with jury statements where supplied:

Feature Film Grand Jury Awards

Narrative Feature Competition

Winner: “The Fallout,” dir. Megan Park

“’The Fallout’ takes us through the emotionally charged healing journey of a young girl whose life is forever changed in the wake of a school tragedy. Writer and director Megan Park delivers a timely, riveting, and thought-provoking film on the toll it takes on a teenager who is facing a world where they no longer feel safe. It is an intense, moving piece that highlights an important issue to which one can’t help but feel connected.”

Special Jury Recognition for Multi-hyphenate Storyteller: Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina, “I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)”

“’Kelley Kali’s I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking),’ financed in part by stimulus relief checks, is a marvel of multitasking and resourcefulness. Kali’s film, which she wrote, directed, produced and stars in, winningly captures the pandemic plight of a homeless, roller-skating single mother over a memorable daylong odyssey.”

Special Jury Recognition for Breakthrough Performance: Rogelio Balagtas, “Islands” (dir. Martin Edralin)

“’Islands’ gives us the story of a painfully shy man set adrift in the world by the declining health of the parents who sheltered him. This story, of someone blooming late in life, hinges on the tremendously compelling, interior performance from relative newcomer Rogelio Balagtas who can break hearts throughout with his tears and enables the movie to transcend with a single smile.”

Documentary Feature Competition

Winner: “Lily Topples the World,” dir. Jeremy Workman

“A joyful portrait of grace in artistry and commitment in engineering, ‘Lily Topples the World’ shows a life online that transcends virality and touches something deeper. In Lily Hevesh, aka Hevesh5, the film features a collaborative, creative soul who comes by community and entrepreneurship naturally. A rare achievement in nonjudgmental subcultural exploration and a gorgeously rendered portrait of burgeoning adulthood that tumbles forward, like Lily’s domino art, into something beautiful.”

Special Jury Recognition for Exceptional Intimacy in Storytelling: “Introducing, Selma Blair,” dir. Rachel Fleit

“Selma Blair’s unflinching and raw vulnerability in Introducing, Selma Blair, coupled with director Rachel Fleit’s almost voyeuristic chronicling of her MS diagnosis, invites us not just to feel empathy for the star. More than that, it invites us into her fight, prompting anyone watching to feel joined with her in battle. That level of disarming intimacy is rarely witnessed on screen, particularly from a public figure, making the feat all the more incredible.”

Special Jury Recognition for Humanity in Social Action: “Not Going Quietly,” dir. Nicholas Bruckman

“Activist is a word much used in contemporary culture. But few give expression to it like Ady Barkan, a California organizer who, upon being diagnosed with ALS in his early 30s, responds not with self-pitying convalescence but by barnstorming his fight across the country, bringing a movement with him. Barkan’s tale suggests that grace is not incompatible with ardor, and hardship no obstacle to achievement. Bruckman’s film captures him and the powerful women who lead his fight in ways that are richly human, always affectionate and frequently rousing.”

“Introducing, Selma Blair”

Discovery+

SXSW Special Awards

Brightcove Illumination Award Winner: “The Fallout,” dir. Megan Park

“For her empathetic and honest exploration of life after tragedy, inspired craft, and stellar guidance of a talented young cast, we award the Brightcove Illumination Award to Megan Park for her ‘The Fallout.’”

Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award Winner: “Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes,” dir. Caroline Catz

Adobe Editing Award: Lam Nguyen, “R#J”

Final Draft Screenwriters Award: Brook Driver, Matt White, and Nick Gillespie, “Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break”

Louis Black “Lone Star” Award Winner: “Without Getting Killed or Caught,” dir. Tamara Saviano and Paul Whitfield

“This year’s Lone Star Award goes to Tamara Saviano and Paul Whitfield’s remarkable ‘Without Getting Killed or Caught,’ an examination of not just the life of legendary Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark but the complicated, fascinating relationship between himself, his wife Susanna and his best friend Townes Van Zandt, all of whom made extraordinary work together and apart. The storytelling was graceful, densely layered and immersive.”

ZEISS Cinematography Award Winner: “Gaia,” Jorrie van der Walt

Mailchimp Support the Shorts Award: “Chuj Boys of Summer,” dir. Max Walker-Silverman

“With its gentle, observant eye, ‘Chuj Boys of Summer’ offers a vision of unexpected compassion and tender masculinity. Director Max Walker-Silverman and writer Marcos Ordoñez Ixwalanhkej Mendoza know too much about the world to provide convenient answers to the film’s complicated questions, so they instead focus on the little gestures that define their characters’ lives. Against the grandeur of the San Juan Mountains, these small moments become unspeakably powerful.”

Mailchimp Support the Shorts Special Jury Recognition: “Like the Ones I Used to Know,” dir. Annie St-Pierre

“Weaving a Christmas tale filled with familiar indignities, Annie St-Pierre and her talented ensemble deftly transform heartbreak into levity while always staying one step ahead of the audience. As every emotion imaginable plays across the cast’s astonishing faces, it’s the heroes’ crumpled dignity that leaves us smiling.”

Mailchimp Support the Shorts Special Jury Recognition: “Malignant,” dir. Morgan Bond and Nickolas Grisham

“In its combination of rich characterization and mysterious camera work, Malignant manages to conjure a uniquely cinematic sense of hallucinatory tension. We honestly can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that directors Morgan Bond and Nickolas Grisham have done to create this much unease, but thanks to their mesmerizing talents, ‘Malignant’s climax floods the senses and lingers long after the film is over.”

Short Film Grand Jury Awards

Narrative Shorts

Winner: “Play It Safe,” dir. Mitch Kalisa

“We were so thrilled by the varied, inventive selection of films in the Narrative Shorts competition this year. Of the shorts, we have decided to award the Jury Award to ‘Play It Safe,’ for approaching oft-addressed topics in a new way, for its incredible main performance, for its thoughtful direction, and compelling cinematography.”

Special Jury Recognition for Visionary Storytelling: “Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma,” dir. Topaz Jones and rubberband.

“We are awarding ‘Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma’ a Special Jury Recognition for Visionary Storytelling for its bold filmmaking and mix of music, visuals, and documentary footage.”

Special Jury Recognition for Direction: “Like the Ones I Used to Know,” dir. Annie St-Pierre

“We are awarding ‘Like the Ones I Used to Know’ a Special Jury Recognition for Direction, as its weaving between reality and flights of fancy make it a Christmas tale to remember. Congratulations to all of the filmmakers this year, and thank you for your new works!”

Documentary Shorts

Winner: “Águilas,” dir. Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Maite Zubiaurre

“’Águilas’ is a film that most poignantly displays the need immigrants feel to come to America — even at the cost of starvation and death. Failed attempts are presented by a backpack, a sweater, and scattered bones. How desperate the dream is of a perfect landing that ends so tragically.”

Special Jury Recognition for Courage: “Red Taxi,” dir. anonymous

“’Red Taxi’ is a film that is being recognized for its courage. The type of courage that spans the definition of the word. The subjects are courageous, the filmmakers are courageous and the film itself is courageous both stylistically and in the way it speaks on an issue through editing that is measured, considered and understanding of the complexities of the post-colonial project.”

Special Jury Recognition for Poetry: “I Ran From It and Was Still in It,” dir. Darol Olu Kae

“Its title invites audiences to expect a wholly distinct storytelling experience and this film delivers. For it’s audacious storytelling through textured imagery, bold structure and lyrical approach, we award this special achievement to I Ran From It and Was Still In It.”

Midnight Shorts

Winner: “The Moogai,” dir. Jon Bell

“’The Moogai’ is a haunting, psychological thriller that explores postpartum depression in an impressive display of disciplined filmmaking that stuck the landing at every pivotal moment. The cinematography is striking, the actor’s performances are brave, and the underlying commentary on a country’s forced removal of generations of children is heartbreaking. Filmmaker Jon Bell’s film affected us on so many levels that we proudly recognize it with the Jury Award prize.”

Special Jury Recognition for Bold Vision: ‘Stuffed,” dir. Theo Rhys

“’Stuffed’ proudly presents a story grisly and grotesque yet beautifully bittersweet. Director and co-writer Theo Rhys stitches together a world of rot, flesh, and leather, then brings it to radiant life with curious characters and striking songs of dark dreams, lifting love, and the ultimate sacrifice. It is with shock and awe that we award this strange and sensational short a Jury Recognition for Bold Vision.”

Animated Shorts

Winner: “Nuevo Rico,” dir. Kristian Mercado

“Be prepared for this dystopian tragedy to rip your hair out by the roots and pour liquid vaporwave rainbows directly onto your brain’s tongue. A cautionary tale of friendship and fame, ‘Nuevo Rico’ slaps convention to the ground and stomps on it with steel toed boots of satisfying stylistic innovation. Kristian Mercado Figueroa doesn’t give a fuck — and gives all the fucks at the same time. If you’ve never wrestled a laser snake in a Lambo going two hundred off a cliff into an iridescent volcano, Nuevo Rico will make you feel like you have.”

Special Jury Recognition for Innovation: “KKUM,” dir. Kang Min Kim

“An awe inspiring masterclass in creativity, resourcefulness, and innovative lighting and stop-motion techniques. This film manages to elevate simplistic materials to create mesmerizing sequences, while also taking you on a poetic, dreamy, and emotional journey that serves as a beautiful tribute to a mother’s love.”

Special Jury Recognition for Storytelling: “Your Own Bullshit,” dir. Daria Kopiec

“We the jury have selected ‘Your Own Bullshit’ for a Jury Recognition for Storytelling for its masterful and experimental take on a vastly relatable human story. Its stylistic choices, humor, sound design, character development, and pace bring excitement to a topic under which it is not easy to push boundaries. Yet, it does just that.”

Music Videos

Winner: Madame Gandhi – “Waiting for Me,” dir. Misha Ghose

“Of all the wonderful works nominated, Madame Gandhi’s ‘Waiting for Me’, directed by Misha Ghose, soared to the top for its compelling visuals, rich color palettes, and vital message of empowerment and self-expression. The video supported and enhanced both the song and the artist. This video and this artist deserve to be shared, seen, and heard by everyone. Everywhere.”

Special Jury Recognition for How the Hell Did They Do That?!: Waze & Odyssey, George Michael, Mary J. Blige & Tommy Theo – “Always,” dir. Nelson de Castro

Special Jury Recognition for Pure Joy: Kuricorder Quartet – “Southpaw,” dir. Sawako Kabuki

Texas Shorts

Winner: “Summer Animals,” dir. Haley Elizabeth Anderson

“’Summer Animals,’ Haley Elizabeth Anderson’s short film entry for SXSW 2021, captivated us with its naturalistic style and layered approach to storytelling. Ostensibly a story about three siblings and their quest to find a moment of relief — or a pool to cannonball into — during a particularly grueling summer, the film evolves into something else entirely, and is anchored by the cast’s stellar performances and Anderson’s clear-eyed direction.”

Special Jury Recognition for Vision: “O Black Hole!,” dir. Renee Zhan

“This imaginative journey explores a literal impression of its title and a figurative one. It’s otherworldly imagery, music and sound design combined for an emotional experience that surprised us at every turn.”

Texas High School Shorts

Winner: “A Really Dark Comedy,” dir. Manasi Ughadmathe

“’A Really Dark Comedy’ is a well-crafted comedy short that weaves together great comedic timing, excellent chemistry between its two leads, and some surprising twists. We found it to be a breath of fresh air in a pandemic year where everyone could use a (really dark) laugh.”

Special Jury Recognition for Directing: Jessica Lin, “Beyond the Model”

“The power of this documentary comes from the artistry and sensitivity of its director, Jessica Lin. Parts observational and parts reflexive, ‘Beyond the Model’s clear voice stems from a desire to allow its subjects to breathe and share, making for an organic, poignant, and insightful short.”

Episodic Pilot Competition

Winner: “4 Feet High,” dir. Maria Belen Poncio and Rosario Perazolo Masjoan

“For its beautifully cinematic and heartfelt coming-of-age story, with a confident performance from a standout lead actress, the jury is awarding this year’s top prize to ‘4 Feet High.’ The episode is thrillingly unique from its opening minutes, with a strong point of view and an engaging central character whose journey feels keenly specific but also evokes universal high school experiences — and while the story takes its time, there is never a wasted frame. We commend the cast and creative team for telling this a moving story in such an assured way.”

Special Jury Recognition for Best Duo: Kristin Erickson and Ron Najor, “Pretend Partners”

“For their witty script and genuine onscreen chemistry, the Special Jury Recognition for Best Duo goes to Kristin Erickson and Ron Najor for ‘Pretend Partners.’ As showrunners, screenwriters, producers, and stars of the project (in addition to Najor directing), Erickson and Najor created an inventive take on the romantic comedy that was sweet and hilarious in equal measure, and then carried that story themselves as its central characters.”

4 Feet High Sundance 2021

Marisol Agostina Irigoyen in “4 Feet High”

Natalia Roca / Courtesy of Sundance Institute

SXSW Film Design Awards Presented by Adobe

Poster Design Winner: Bob Moses Featuring ZHU – “Desire,” designers Owen Brown and Diego Rodriguez (Paramoidme)

“A visually gripping design, this poster draws you into a surreal moment frozen in time where something you want so badly seems just out of reach. We were struck by the electric color palette, bold typography and dreamy illustration style that evokes flight, time travel and science fiction. Everything in this poster just feels intriguing and we are so excited to award the Excellence in Poster Design Winner to ‘Desire!’”

Special Jury Recognition for Poster Design: “The Box,” designers James Burns, Shal Ngo, and Aleksander Walijewski

“A mix of bold graphics, creative typography, and emotive imagery, this poster grabs attention and pulls you into the narrative of prisoners in criminal reform systems and isolation. Spending a moment with the imagery feels like a window into the film and the minds of those enduring their own boxes, both tangible and the ones built in our minds. Overall, this poster was interesting, thought provoking, and wove together narrative and design in striking ways. Brava! We’re thrilled to give a Special Jury Recognition to ‘The Box!’”

Title Design Winner: “The Queen’s Gambit,” designer Saskia Marka

“Using simple geometric forms and a restrained palette, these titles spring to life through elegant motion design that captures the spirit of the protagonist’s brilliant mental calculations.”

Special Jury Recognition for Title Design: “Birds Of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn,” designer Michael Riley

“This sequence embodies everything a great title should: The tone is a perfect match for the movie, the style is unique and ownable, and the visual narrative keeps the audience engaged and delighted throughout.”

Virtual Cinema Competition

Winner: “Samsara,” dir. Huang Hsin-Chien

“’Samsara’ provokes existential questions about the future of humanity and consciousness. From the evolution of users’ hands to the rhythmic juxtaposition of vignettes, every detail is weighted in metaphor. The result is a work that compresses a universe into a few minutes; audiences are left to reflect on humanity as a collective macro-organism—as experienced through the machine.”

Special Jury Recognition for Immersive Journalism: “Reeducated,” dir. Sam Wolson

“’Reeducated’ offers a glimpse into a horrifying world obscured from public view. Through illustration and testimony from three people who lived through the internment camps in Xinjiang, we learn about the brutal practices used against the Uyghur ethnic minority. It’s a striking piece of 360 cinema that makes a clear argument for the unique affordances of immersive formats for telling stories, establishing a powerful logic and vocabulary through the use of composition, scale, pace, and perspective.”

The juries consisted of:

Narrative Feature Competition: Amanda N’Duka, Jake Coyle, and Joanna Robinson

Documentary Feature Competition: Jacqueline Coley, Sean Fennessey, and Steven Zeitchik

Louis Black “Lone Star”: Joe Gross, Ann Hornaday, and Stephen Saito

Brightcove Illumination Award: Clayton Davis, Kate Erbland, and Inkoo Kang

Narrative Shorts Program: Janicza Bravo, Karen Han, and Ina Pira

Documentary Shorts: Opal H. Bennett, Omid Fatemi, and Sheila Nevins

Animated Shorts: Bryan Dimas, Chris Prynoski, and Taylor K. Shaw

Midnight Shorts: Jason Blum, Arbi Pedrossian, and Kristy Puchko

Music Videos: Hugo Burnham, Michael Kauffman, and Kristian Mercado

Texas Shorts: Sarah Green, Paula Mejía, and Monique Walton

Texas High School Shorts: Laura Kincaid, Hans-Martin Liebing, and Cooper Raiff

Episodic Pilots: Jessica Derschowitz, Yassir Lester, and Ben Wasserstein

Excellence in Title Design: Brian Mah, Brian Merrell, and Erin Sarofsky

Excellence in Poster Design: Damon Nelson, Yen Tan, and Erica Williams

Virtual Cinema Competition Jury: Myriam Achard, Jesse Damiani, and Liz Rosenthal

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