Backstage at the Utah Arts Festival 2022: Fear No Film, Artist Marketplace, WordFest Poetry Slam, Wasatch IronPen award winners announced

Twelve awards were announced today in the 19th annual Fear No Film portion of the Utah Arts Festival, including a Grand Jury Prize, two Utah Short Film of The Year honors, Fearless Filmmaker Award, three honorable mentions and five audience awards.

This year’s Grand Jury Prize: Best of Show represents two firsts in Fear No Film history: the first animated short and the first film from Israel to win the top honors.  Black Slide, directed by Uri Lotan, features a pre-pubescent teen and a friend who sneak into a water amusement park to take a ride on the Black Slide, considered to be the most thrilling attraction. Accomplishing the dare, though, means more than enduring the thrill as the young teen discovers when he returns home.

Eight of the last nine Fear No Film’s Grand Jury Prize: Best of Show have gone to a film from outside of the U.S. There were 71 films, the second highest total in the program’s history. Thirty-two (44%) were helmed by female directors and 16 were by first-time directors (22%). Coming from outside of the U.S., 40 films, representing 22 countries and 11 languages, were part of the 2022 slate. That is, more than 56% of the slate confirmed the true cosmopolitan nature of the program.

Black Slide.

Taking the Grand Jury Fearless Filmmaker Award is Weijia Ma, with the first animation short from China to be featured in Fear No Film: Step into the River. It is a striking story based on the Chinese policy, which dictates that families prioritize the birth of boys over girls. Two young village girls are on the banks of a river where they have seen parents drown infant girls because they had wanted boys. The story, framed in spiritual mysticism, leads to the pair of girls finding a magical power to overcome the traumas of what they have witnessed.

The Utah Short Film of the Year honors went to the documentary short Janwaar. The film explores how a skatepark in an small village in India is more than just a slice of Americana. It becomes a motivating platform for rewarding a young generation which no longer accepts or sees their country’s caste system and entrenched gender discrimination as relevant. Danny Schmidt, who earned a bachelor of earth science degree at The University of Utah before going onto a master’s program in science and natural history filmmaking at Montana State University, is the director. He also won an NW Emmy award for cinematography for his DP work on the PBS/Independent Lens film Indian Relay and another for best topical documentary for Finding Traction on Netflix.

Step into the River.

Winning the student film honors for Utah Short Film of the Year was The Man in The Tree, directed by Weber Keith Griffiths, which resulted from a capstone film project for Griffiths to complete his degree at Brigham Young University. The story has a mythical frame, about a boy who is grieving after his mother’s death and encounters a mysterious creature in the woods who is trapped in a tree. The creature promises the boy that his mother will return if he chops the tree down so his spirit can be freed. The boy now finds himself in a cosmological dilemma that he must resolve.

Three short films also earned Grand Jury Honorable Mentions. The Honorary Mention for Bold and Honest Filmmaking went to a world premiere at the festival, Plan C by Lauren Caster. Honorable Mention for Best Performance went to Eva Noblezada in Champ, which was directed by Hannah Peterson. Honorary Mention for Best Original Score went to Natasha Paulberg for The Yellow Dress, directed by Deborah Grimes.

Fear No Film, held in the City Library auditorium, is the festival’s fourth largest program.


“This year’s Fear No Film Festival was a huge success. It was so meaningful to be back to our usual four day in-person event in the Salt Lake City Library auditorium,”  Derek Mellus, artistic coordinator of the Fear No Film Festival, says. “Film is a very unique and special artform that unites people, sharing perspectives they otherwise wouldn’t have. I’d like to thank all of the filmmakers first and foremost, our volunteers that made this year’s festival remarkable, our jurors for their insights, the support received from the Utah Arts Festival staff and most importantly, the audiences which with their laughter, tears and applause make it all worthwhile.” 

A festival jury of filmmaking and media industry peers along with audience members selected the festival winners.

Audience awards were made in the following categories:

Narrative: White Eye, an Oscar-nominated Israeli short by Tomer Shushan.

Documentary: A Poet in The Dark, a Mexican short documentary directed by Juan Urgell about a blind sculptor.

Animated:  Animation Hotline, 2022 (Ohio Edition), directed by Dustin Grella, as part of a series comprising two hundred crowd-sourced telephone answering machine messages that he translates into animation.

KIDS!:  Kayak, the French animated short directed by Solène Bosseboeuf, Flore DeChorgnat, Tiphaine Klein, Auguste LeFort and Antoine Rossi, about a father-and-baby kayak trip that becomes more adventurous when large birds arrive on the scene.

Midnight: Steakhouse, a Slovenia short animated piece directed by Špela Čadež, which revolves around a married couple and the husband is anticipating the wonderful steak dinner he is about to prepare for him and his wife.


The 46th Utah Arts Festival has announced various awards for visual arts and the Wordfest literary arts programs. Nine awards were presented for the Artist Marketplace. All of the visual artist award winners are eligible for invitation to the Utah Arts Festival in 2023. Best of Show and People’s Choice Award winners also will have their booth fees waived.


Artist Marketplace Award: Jon Morgan, Sculpture, Ogden, Utah

Board of Directors Award: Randy Thomae, Photography, Boulder, Colorado

Community and Inclusion Award: Robert Jackman, Wood, Filer, Idaho

Donor Jury Award: Michelle McDowell Smith, 2-D Mixed Media, St. Johns, Florida


Artist Marketplace Award: Doug Roy, Fiber, McMinnville, Oregon

Board of Directors Award: Landon Hill, Photography, Ogden, Utah 

Community and Inclusion Award: Veronica Sandoval, Metalwork, Tucson, Arizona

Donor Jury Award: Lee Drake, Jewelry, Hailey, Idaho 

PEOPLE’S CHOICE: Adam Hoffman, Digital, Salt Lake City 

Wasatch IronPen/UltraPen Contest, The Salt Lake Community College Writing Center, 14th edition 

Fiction (Adult): 

Winner: James Cox, The Sun’s a Different Color Now

Honorable Mention: Cole Fritz, The Beginning 

Fiction (Youth)

Winner: Katie Hurley, The Sea Spiral

Poetry (Adult)

Winner: Rachel White, Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty

Honorable Mentions; Kathy Ann Rekoutis, Art Endures; Alexandria Shuey, Elements; Aspen Stuart, Erosion

Poetry (Youth)

Winner: Joanne Uzoigwe, Liberty’s Mask

Nonfiction (Adult)

Winner: Sarah Allen Baird, Visit the Snail

Ultra IronPen (Adult)

Winner: Grey Bateman 

Honorable Mention: Pete Gomben 

Ultra IronPen (Youth)

Winner: Francesca Vales


Youth Individual: Claire Batterman, Kearns High School, Utah

Youth Team: SWAG (students from Kearns, Copper Hills and Skyridge)

Team Invitational:

1st place: Salt Lake City Slam, SLC

2nd place: Plumas Colectiva, South Jordan, Utah 

Individual Invitational:

1st place: Chris Ware, Phoenix, Arizona 

2nd place: Monarch the Poet, Las Vegas, Nevada

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