Backstage at The Utah Arts Festival 2017: ‘Have No Fear,’ ‘Oxygen To Fly,’ ‘Roohangiz’ take top Fear No Film jury honors

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Fifteen awards were announced today in the Fear No Film portion of the Utah Arts Festival, including a Grand Jury Prize, Utah Short Film of The Year, Fear No Filmmaker Award, three honorable mentions and the best short film in each of the seven ‘memory’ categories around which the film festival was organized as well as two awards in the kids’ film category.

The Grand Jury Prize for Best of Show went to Have No Fear (Marco Calvise, 20 min, Italy, 2016), about an Alzheimer’s patient who is hospitalized in a clinic and the realities of each day are experienced as if they were new every morning. The concern is that the patient wakes up every morning reeling from a nightmare. The film exemplifies the toll on one’s memory loss, extending beyond the clinical, and often misunderstood and misinterpreted side of the disease.

Winning the Utah Short Film of The Year prize is Oxygen to Fly (Torben Bernhard, 7 min., 2017). The short documentary film, which has achieved a viral impact that few producers or filmmakers ever can imagine (having been viewed more than 32 million times), tells the story of Isaiah Acosta, 17, of Phoenix, who was born without a jaw and has never spoken a word. The young man released his first lyrical rap song with the eponymous title on iTunes, with the grace of Trap House, one of the nation’s most prominent rap musicians who collaborated with Acosta and gave his voice to the young man’s lyrics and debut track. The song is a vivid, compelling testament to the challenge of living with medical issues and conditions so serious that even many seasoned doctors and nurses are stymied. This is the third time Bernhard was won the award, Bernhard, who previously helmed Boomtown (2013) and Transmormon (2014).

The Fear No Filmmaker Award went to Roohangiz (Elmira Bagherzadeh, 6 min., Iran, 2016), a sharp, funny film about a séance and how the medium’s unexpected error unleashes a surprising disaster in the spirit that is being conjured up for the client’s sake. The film, which is in Farsi, came from the Tehran University of Art. “This award is presented to the filmmaker whose work bravely challenges audiences to fear no filmmaker vision,” Horman explains. “Roohangiz, directed by Bagherzadeh at the Tehran University of Art, is an animated dark comedy combining love and laughter, under a theme of the Mongol invasion of Persia, bravely setting the story in a séance, mentions of which are rare in Iran. What an honor it is to present this award to a young woman filmmaker in Tehran who is creating such courageous, magnificently balanced art intended to show the potential of Iranian history and culture for fantasy and horror genres.”

Three short films, with solid festival portfolios already developed, also earned Grand Jury Honorable Mentions. The first is Chandra (Fateme Ahmadi and Asmita Shrish, 15 min., Nepal, 2015), about a seven-year-old child who is traveling with his grandfather to Kathmandu to visit his mother and her newborn infant, his sibling. Production was ready to begin in Kathmandu in April 2015 when the earthquake struck but the team then revised the script and filming began in the following month. The second is M.A.M.O.N. (Monitor Against Mexicans Over Nationwide), (Ale Damiani, 5 min., Mexico, 2016), which was completed before the election but it was prescient, as the narrative, written by Enrique Codesido, Javier Cruzado, tells of a racist American president who uses hi-tech measures to expel Latino immigrants past the border wall. Damiani’s film is wild, wickedly humorous and immensely enjoyable for those who still cannot abide the election’s outcome. The third is Nowhere Line: Voices from Manus Island, Australia (Lukas Schrank, 15 min., Australia, 2015), a documentary which used animation to convey the details of two men who are imprisoned in one of Australia’s most notorious offshore detention facilities even though they had come to Australia for asylum.

Fear No Film, held in the City Library auditorium, is the festival’s fourth largest program. “I am thrilled and astounded by the audience reactions to this year’s slate of short films. Lengthy discussions among unrelated festivalgoers continued long after many screenings on topics ranging from the toll of Alzheimer’s disease, to modern romance, to improving dialogue between fathers and their teenage daughters,” Horman says.

He added, “2016 was an unsettled year globally, and the majority of filmmakers’ works created in the past year, from all corners of the world, reflected this unease and disharmony, even in the comedies and music videos. Fear No Film annually offers up an extraordinarily broad range of filmmaker visions, to match the equally broad range of artistic expressions found in dozens of mediums throughout the Utah Arts Festival, and we could not have had a more thoughtful slate of short films to offer up to 2017 arts festival audiences.”

Now in its 15th year, Fear No Film, which featured 69 shorts, has come into its own as an international event, attracting a record of more than 500 submissions from around the world. There were 31 films from outside the United States, representing 21 countries. Four nations were represented for the first time: Cyprus, Egypt, Nepal and Romania. Iran led the international component with four animated films, including three by women directors.

Of the 14 Utah films selected, seven were invited for the Utah Short Film of The Year competition and the other seven represented selections from KUER-FM’s VideoWest project, Spy Hop Productions, side projects from the award-winning animation production center at Brigham Young University and independent works. Sixteen films came from seven other states. Twenty-two films have garnered awards at international festivals, with several tabulating scores of honors apiece.

“Fear No Film is continuously grateful for the quality of submissions that we receive. In many cases, these talented filmmakers offered up exactly what 2017 Utah Arts Festival audiences needed to see. What a joy to showcase these filmmakers’ talents for a weekend,” Horman says.

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

Audience award winners included the following:

ROLLING MEMORIES – This screening expands upon existing remembered moments. A memory itself evolves over time: Have No Fear (Marco Calvise, 20 min, Italy, 2016).

MEMORY LANE – These films explore our unique ways of remembering things, individual takes on “the good old days”: Animation Hotline 2015 (Dustin Grella, 7 min., New York, 2016).

WHAT MIGHT BE – This program explores anticipated memories, the hopes and worries of what might be: No Fixed Motive (Jerome Peters, 14 min., Belgium, 2016) and Citipati (Andreas Feix and Francesco Faranna, 7 min., Germany, 2015).

MEMORY DISTORTION – This program explores a wide range of ways we each cope with transition: Wintry Spring (Rabie Chetwy) (Mohamed Kamel, 15 min., Egypt, 2015).

GROUPTHINK – From groups of strangers to our closest confidantes, these films demonstrate how our memory is shaped by those with whom we share it: Red Light (Na Cherveno) (Toma Waszarow, 21 min., Bulgaria, 2016).

CULTURAL DISSONANCE – This screening showcases stories of disharmony through our identity displacement as we reconcile each new memory: Accommodating Anxiety (Olivia Anderson, 6 min., Utah, 2016).

REVISIONIST HISTORY – This program traverses the re-interpretation of moments as understood in our collective memory: Nowhere Line: Voices from Manus Island, Australia (Lukas Schrank, 15 min., Australia, 2015).

Fear No Film KIDS! Award:

3 and up:: The Sheriff’s A Chicken (Kelly Loosli, 5 min., Utah, 2016).

8 and up:: Super Girl (Vaani Arora and Hemant Gaba, 16 min., India, 2016).

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