Twelve awards have been announced in the 18th Fear No Film portion of the Utah Arts Festival, including a Grand Jury Prize, Fear No Filmmaker Award, three honorable mentions and seven audience awards.
Winning Grand Jury Best of Show is the Swedish short film, You Are Always 20, directed by Christer Wahlberg, is based on footage the director and his best friend made when they were 19 at the turn of the millennium. In retrospect, the director begins to understand what actually happened during those days and why their friendship fell apart, involving the use of the GHB party drug.
Winning the Fear No Filmmaker Award is Luis Fernando Puente for The Moon and the Hummingbird. Representing the film school at Brigham Young University, the film is an outstanding allegorical narrative highlighting the tensions of immigration as seen from those who migrate. It is not political but it emphasizes what is at stake personally, as immigrants wonder if they can truly let go and move on and perhaps deciding if staying with loved ones is more important than their destination of migration. It is worth noting that once again the cinematography in a solid Utah made film project is courtesy of Oscar Ignacio Jiménez, one of the state’s most sought after directors of photography for film (e.g., The Killing of Two Lovers).
Honorable mentions for the Grand Jury category include Visual Storytelling, given to The Saverini Widow, a French production directed by Loïc Gaillard, set in the 1880s in a small town to the south of Corsica. The widow lives in a house along the cliffs isolated from the rest of the town but she works as a midwife. After her son is murdered in a town fight and the killer escapes to Sardinia, the widow seeks revenge, with her dog as her traveling companion. This excellent film, though, is not for the faint-hearted.
For the Grand Jury Honorable Mention: Production Design, Colossus, directed by James Roe, was selected. The film would be great Twilight Zone or Outer Limits fare in their classic hey-day. The story centers on a World War II Navy pilot who was shot down by aliens and is seeking revenge to kill whoever it was in the UFO that crashed his plane.
Receiving the Grand Jury Honorable Mention for Bold, Uncompromising Vision, Nuevo Rico, directed by Kristian Mercado, is a trippy, boisterous animated story with a beefy, solid narrative surrounding what it means to be Puerto Rican. While the brother and sister at the center of the story, Barbie and Vico, are characters in a tale about what family really means, there also are other dimensions that resonate in the stories and lives of young talented musicians who escalate quickly from poor, humble surroundings to lives of lavish exuberance. But, Mercado does not leave it there, astutely incorporating bits of Indigenous myths with Afro-Latino roots while punctuating the problems of cultural appropriation done primarily for commercial benefit and profit that eludes the people who are directly attached or responsible for the original cultural expression. The film won best animated short honors at SXSW.
Audience members voted for the following honors:
Audience Award: Utah Short Film of the Year
Subscribe, directed by Benji Allred and Merik Richardson with a script by Dan Hales and Stewart Tribe.
Audience Award: Utah Short Film of the Year (Student) The Moon and the Hummingbird, directed by Luis Fernando Puente.
Audience Award: Best Narrative Short
Flip The Switch, directed by Gretl Claggett.
Audience Award: Best Documentary Short
From Trash to Treasure, directed by Iara Lee (South Africa).
Audience Award: Best Animated Short
Benztown, directed by Gottfried Mentor (Germany).
Audience Award: Best Kids! Short
Hope, directed by Abdulla Al-Janahi (Qatar).
Audience Award Winner: Best Midnight Short
The Saverini Widow, directed by Loïc Gaillard (France).
There were 67 short films, culled from 275 submissions (a number that is smaller than what was seen in recent years), as announced by program coordinator Derek Mellus , but they also indicated the most extensive international representation in Fear No Film’s history: 22 countries outside of the U.S. including films, for the first time, coming from Croatia, India, Iraq, Qatar and Singapore. Once again, Iran was represented by several films with directors who submit through third-party channels to avoid the attention of Islamic Republic authorities. There also were films from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, Republic of Georgia, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Taiwan and the U.K., among others. There were 11 films with direct Utah connections. Four of out every nine films in the slate were helmed by female directors and there were numerous LGBTQ+ filmmakers in the program as well.