39th Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival - April 9-25, 2020MSPIFF38 Jury Award Winners

Documentary Feature Competition

Jurors: Jeffrey Palmer, Filmmaker; Gary Smaby, Producer; Carmen Vicencio, Supervising Producer of America ReFramed

This juried competition recognizes national and international non-fiction filmmaking that exemplifies the very best in presentation, diversity, innovation, and powerful storytelling in the documentary form.

Winner: Always in Season
Director: Jacqueline Olive | COUNTRY



Emerging Filmmaker Competition

Jurors: Ajuawak Kapashesit, Actor; Jennifer Kramer, Filmmaker; Musa Syeed, Filmmaker

This juried competition recognizes new and up-and-coming filmmakers from around the world for their achievements in feature fiction filmmaking. The award is given to a film and filmmaker that demonstrates excellence in creativity, storytelling, technique, and innovation in the dramatic form.

Winner: Tremors
Director: Jayro Bustamante | Guatemala, France

Jury Statement: Complimented by a visually and sonically rich world, the overwhelmingly powerful human story within Tremors lies in its nuanced, moving performances by an incredibly talented ensemble.

Special Jury Award: Volcano
Director: Roman Bondarchuk | Ukraine, Germany

Expertly weaving together surreal comedy, striking visuals, and strong performances, Volcano tells a timely story in a most unexpected, surprising way.

Honorable Mention: The Longest Night
Director: Gabriela Calvache | Ecuador, Mexico

Gabriela Calvache has created a unique and insightful look into a gut-wrenching story on human trafficking, with multiple layers of issues and character motivations intertwined. Her extensive research into the subject matter has paid off in spades.



Minnesota Made Documentary Competition

Jurors: Maxine Davis, Filmmaker; Tom Debiaso, Filmmaker; John Whitehead, Filmmaker

Representative of the abundance of talent and diversity of vision in local filmmaking, the Minnesota Made competition includes a slate of must-see films from Minnesota-based and Minnesota-native filmmakers. Awards are given for films that exemplify standout achievements in filmmaking.

Winner: Love Them First: Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary School
Director: Lindsey Seavert & Ben Garvin | USA

Special Jury Award: The Interpreters
Director: Sofian Khan & Andres Caballero | USA

Honorable Mention: Stalag Luft III – One Man’s Story
Director: Louise Woehrle | USA



Spotlight: Disruption Documentary Competition

Jurors: Roma Calatayud-Stocks, Author and Composer; Jeremy Iggers, Journalist; Graeme Stout, Senior Lecturer and Film Studies Coordinator at the U of MN

For this year’s Spotlight on the World program, MSPIFF presented a selection of films united by their willingness to address momentous cultural, social, political, or humanitarian issues facing the local and global community today. The theme for 2019 MSPIFF was stories of Disruption, and those individuals who dare to put themselves in the way of the status quo in order to instigate change, challenge structures of power, reveal what is obscured, and make possible a more just and hopeful world.

Winner: Ghost Fleet
Director: Shannon Service, Jeffrey Waldron | USA, Thailand, Indonesia

Jury Statement: Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron’s Ghost Fleet – their first feature film – exposes the widespread use of slave labor in the Thai fishing industry. Using an array of persuasive documentary and cinematic techniques, they reveal to us the hidden realities of labor and human rights abuses taking place across South East Asia. The most moving element of the film was the directors’ ability not only to bring awareness to a grave injustice happening in the Thai Fishing industry, but to also to draw in the viewer with profound empathy and compassion for the thousands of kidnapped and exploited people. It is an important story, skillfully told in such a way that individual stories are balanced with critiques of global economics. In so doing it clearly shows the complicity that we as Western consumers have in the use of slave labor in the fishing industry around the world, and the responsibility that we have to change the way we consume.

As this year’s competition for documentary feature seeks out films that disrupt dominant narratives to “instigate change and challenge structures of power,” Ghost Fleet tells a story that raises awareness, offers hope, and refuses to compromise either in its storytelling or its critical lens. The genius of Service and Waldron’s film it allows the stories and struggles of Patima Tungpuchayakul – the founder and manager of the Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation – and Tun Lin – a former slave turned organizer and advocate – to serve as the central focus of the film. As they risk their lives to help free others, their commitment to human rights shows us that justice is not simply a word but a hope turned into a reality by those who never cease to struggle for it.



Honorable Mentions

Freedom Fields Whispering Truth to Power
Director: Naziha Arebi | Libya Director: Shameela Seedat | South Africa, Netherlands

Jury Statement: Filmmakers Naziha Arebi (Freedom Fields) and Shameela Seedat (Whispering Truth to Power) provided powerful and personal portraits of their subjects – women who are struggling against oppression and for justice and equality. In her portrayal of the Libyan women’s football team, Arebi offers a group portrait that captures the hopes, struggles and stories of women living through the Libyan Revolution and engaging in their love of sport and community. In Seedat’s portrayal of South Africa’s Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, we are able to trace the recent history of South African politics and economics through the work of an undaunted proponent of justice and public responsibility. In their persuasive and well-crafted films, Arebi and Seedat show us the personal face of those who stand up against power.



Shorts Competition

This juried competition recognizes national, international, and local short form documentary filmmaking that exemplifies the very best in presentation, diversity, innovation, and powerful storytelling.



Jurors: Phil Anderson, Film Professor; Emily Goldberg, Filmmaker; Andres Parra, Filmmaker

Jurors: E.G. Bailey, Filmmaker; Erika Frederick, Film Distributor

Winner: Lowland Kids
Director: Sandra Winther | USA

Winner: All These Creatures
Director: Charles Williams | Australia


Jury Statement: Beautiful and beguiling, All These Creatures is brilliant in all aspects of filmmaking, from the storytelling to the cinematography and performances. Director Charles Williams deftly handles not only the displacement of adolescence and parental relationships but also the displacement that happens for immigrants as they struggle to adjust and survive in a new environment often hostile to mental and spiritual grounding.


Visionary Award: Reruns
Director: Rosto
Netherlands, France, Belgium

Genre-bending and surrealistic, Reruns mixes animation with live action in unexpected and innovative ways, and takes us on a journey through the dream-induced implosion of the ego, with the skills of a modern, absinthe-laden Méliès.



Nextwave Youth Jury Competition

Nextwave is a program of the MSP Film Society that celebrates and engages the next generation of international films and talent. The Nextwave Youth Film competition is a program of short films by diverse filmmakers from around the globe aged 11 to 18. Nextwave films are selected and reviewed by a Youth Jury, who honor two of the selections with awards.

Jurors: Qwayed Akuei, Baine Avent, Sage Curry-Wynne, Amasa Eveson, AJ Joaj, Ethan Marek, Ceci Obetz, Max Reynolds, Essence Young

Excellence in Youth Filmmaking Winner

Meeting at Half Past Five
Director: Daria Litichenko

Jury Statement: This film had excellent compositions with smooth editing that used mixed media and abstraction to tell a story with a unique voice. Creative animation and comedic perspective subverted audience expectations to deliver a refreshing plot twist.



Youth Jury Award (Favorite Film) Winner

Directed By: Jeanette Fantone

Jury Statement: Gossamer’s beautiful color and amazing editing mesmerized the jury as it pulsated with the music. Artistic ambiguity sparked debate over possible interpretations. With great re-watch value, the jury was happy to shout out the animators.



Youth Jury Award (Age 11-14)

Jurors: Zada Basford-Hammond, Aiden Bortel, Luca La Hoz Calassara, Tess Peters, Sam Proper, Marina Souladze

Winner: Abe
Director: Fernando Grostein Andrade | Brazil, USA

Jury Statement: Abe is an engaging and unpredictable film with an original premise. Good pacing and score built up the emotional acting. Beautiful food contrasted with the tension of the complicated relationships, leading to a memorable climax and a complete ending.



Global Lens AWARD

Winner: Chuskit
Director: Priya Ramasubban | India

Jury Statement: Chuskit is a sweet, powerful, in-depth portrayal of the Ladakh people. The story fulfilled its purpose, teaching those unfamiliar with their way of life. The symbolism of the sand mandala and the portrayal of elders were well appreciated plot devices. The jury felt empathetic to Chuskit’s experience.