SXSW Announces Film Award Winners

Shithouse takes top narrative honors

Shithouse, winner of the SXSW Film Award for narrative feature

Innovative new college comedy-drama Shithouse and sensitive grief counselling documentary An Elephant in the Room have taken the top awards at the SXSW Film Awards.

While the festival itself was canceled, the decision was made to continue with the awards as a sign of the quality of the filmmaking involved, and the festival's dedication to celebrating their art and creativity.

“When we curated and announced our slate for the 2020 SXSW Film Festival, filled with an array of wonderful films we were excited to share with our unique audience, we had no idea of the unprecedented impact that Coronavirus would have on all our lives,” said Janet Pierson, Director of Film. “Our hearts were broken for all the filmmakers who invested so much time and talent in their work, hoping for a transformative experience at our event. We’re honored to at least be able to present our juried and special awards. We know that it’s no substitute for the actual festival’s vitality, enthusiasm, and potential for surprising outcomes — and that it is only available to a small fraction of our program — but we hope it will help garner some well-deserved recognition for these wonderful works.”

Here's the 2020 list in full: Congratulations to all the honored filmmakers.



Winner: Shithouse
D: Cooper Raiff
“Imbued with the sweet, heart-on-sleeve sensibilities of Before Sunrise, triple threat writer/director/star, Cooper Raiff's earnest portrait (and directorial debut) of a lonely college freshman and the girl he forges a magnetic connection with is refreshing and winningly sincere. The Grand Jury Prize goes to Shithouse.”

Special Jury Recognition for Directing: Topside
D: Celine Held, Logan George
“These two directors create a textured urban underground world to tell a poignant story of survival and sacrifice when a mother and daughter’s home is uprooted. The kinetic filmmaking that defines their film Topside results in a gripping and emotional viewing experience. The SXSW Special Jury Recognition for Directing goes to Celine Held and Logan George.”

Special Jury Recognition for Acting: Really Love
D: Angel Kristi Williams
Actors: Kofi Siriboe, Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing
“The power and excitement in this modern romance comes from the chemistry and depth of its two leads. Their subtle performances and undeniable screen charisma give this love story its emotional stakes. The SXSW Special Jury Recognition for Acting goes to Kofi Siriboe and Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing.”

Jurors: Rebecca Keegan, Rodrigo Perez, Kim Yutani


An Elephant in the Room

Winner: An Elephant in the Room
D: Katrine Philp
“Grief is one of the most challenging subjects for any filmmaker. The grief of young children even more so. In An Elephant in the Room, Katrine Philp follows a group of kids as they work with a grief counseling center in New Jersey. And while the resulting film is certainly heartbreaking, thanks to the director's artistry and sensitivity it is also inspiring, uplifting, and — especially in these troubled times — essential.”

Special Jury Recognition for Achievement in Documentary Storytelling: The Donut King
D: Alice Gu
“The many stories about Cambodian refugees arriving in America in the ‘70s are often overlooked. With The Donut King, first-time director Alice Gu puts a spotlight on entrepreneur Ted Ngoy and delivers a finely-crafted and timely immigrant narrative that is a story about the American dream as much as it is a story of redemption and overcoming adversity to leave a lasting legacy.”

Special Jury Recognition for Breakthrough Voice: Finding Yingying
D: Jiayan "Jenny" Shi
“This poignant documentary, which follows the story of Yingying Zhang, a Chinese graduate student whose disappearance in America leads her family to come search for her, combines the care and steadfastness of a true-crime procedural with a rare sensitivity to questions of cultural difference, family dynamics, and the immigrant experience.”

Jurors: Bilge Ebiri, Naomi Fry, Dino Ramos


Narrative Shorts

"White Eye"

Winner: "White Eye"
D: Tomer Shushan
“This timely and profoundly layered story captivated judges with its quiet and artful approach. Its combination of virtuosic camerawork, powerful performances and deeply human message is sure to connect with all who see it for this reason we are pleased to award it the Narrative Short Film Competition Jury Award.”

Special Jury Recognition for Acting: "Dirty"
D: Matthew Puccini
Actors: Morgan Sullivan, Manny Dunn
“The jury were impressed by the way this deceptively simple short combined an uncompromising approach to sexuality with tenderness and humor, and by the nuanced, authentic performances of the two lead actors. The filmmaker courageously tackled a sexual situation that is rarely portrayed on screen, and made it feel intimate and real.”

Special Jury Recognition: "Darling"
D: Saim Sadiq
“This dramatic short wowed judges with its story, performances and execution. A stunning work about the complicated social dynamics of queer love that says so much through simple looks and gestures. Its most poignant moments are almost entirely speechless.”

Special Jury Recognition: "Single"
D: Ashley Eakin
“A comedic short with wit and bite, Single subverts viewers' expectations with purpose and an unapologetic voice. The layered performances are also worthy of commendation.”

Jurors: Penelope Bartlett, Monica Castillo, Greta Fuentes

Documentary Shorts

"No Crying at the Dinner Table"

Winner: "No Crying at the Dinner Table"
D: Carol Nguyen
“The way that 'No Crying at the Dinner Table' uses one of documentary's core components — the sit-down interview — to excavate undiscussed pain in the director's own family is insightful, raw, and, ultimately, extraordinary.”

Special Jury Recognition: "Mizuko"
D: Katelyn Rebelo, Kira Dane
“By blending animation with live action footage, 'Mizuko' defies expectations of what a nonfiction film can be and do, while offering up material that's both vulnerable and moving, elevating a personal narrative seen through a new lens.”

Special Jury Recognition: "Día de la Madre"
D: Ashley Brandon, Dennis Höhne
“Unexpected encounters that reveal themselves into just the sweetest thing ever.”

Jurors: Marjon Javadi, Allison Willmore

Midnight Shorts


Winner: "Regret"
D: Santiago Menghini
“In 'Regret,' the storytelling is simple but concise, allowing the tension to build at an effective pace. When paired with its strong lead actor, horrific creature design and precise visual execution, this film earns the top honor in this year's Midnight Shorts category.”

Special Jury Recognition: "Laura Hasn't Slept"
D: Parker Finn
“Filmmaker Parker Finn has created a terrifying vision of a nightmare world in 'Laura Hasn’t Slept.' This short’s tone, pacing, and set design bring the viewer completely into the main character’s experience, and it’s shocking reveal is sure to leave viewers wanting more. We are proud to award 'Laura Hasn’t Slept' with a Special Jury Recognition.”

Special Jury Recognition for Creature Design: "Stucco"
D: Janina Gavankar, Russo Schelling
“We wish to highlight the beautifully grotesque and deeply unsettling creature design of 'Stucco.' Clive Barker would be proud, which is why we award the short the Special Jury Recognition for Creature Design!”

Jurors: Jonathan Barkan, Derek Kingongo, Brittany Klesic

Animated Shorts

Winner: "Symbiosis"
D: Nadja Andrasev
“Beautifully simplistic in style, but powerful in content... We were blown away at how this film tackles the complex emotions of betrayal, loneliness, and curiosity, all while exploring different expressions of femininity. It asks the viewer to contend with their own empathy and curiosity about how the tale will unfold. It left us genuinely engaged, and wondering what would happen next. In today’s day and age, seeing this story told through the beautiful craft of animation was impactful in an unexpected way.”

Special Jury Recognition: "No, I Don’t Want to Dance!"
D: Andrea Vinciguerra
“This dark tale is told brilliantly with characters crafted meticulously from tactile materials and animated frame by frame. The end result is a relatable and laughable cautionary tale. The craftsmanship of this film and the balance of whimsy and dark humor was deserving of recognition.”

Special Jury Recognition: "The Shawl"
D: Sara Kiener
“The exuberant characters, whose story comes to life in this film, tickled our hearts. We were delighted as this film reminded us that animation in its simplest form when done right can capture the joy and nuance of our daily lives and love affairs.”

Jurors: Katie Krentz, Hana Shimizu, Asalle Tanha

Music Videos

Winner: 070 Shake - "Nice to Have"
D: Noah Lee
“A stunningly beautiful yet tragic exploration of the lives impacted by a fantastical traffic accident. Not only was it impressive in execution, but a poignant reminder to appreciate the people around us in this new world that we find ourselves in.”

Special Jury Recognition for Animation: Mitski - "A Pearl"
D: Saad Moosajee, Art Camp
“The jury would also like to give a special recognition award to the music video 'A Pearl' by Mitski for Outstanding Achievement in Animation, directed by Saad Moosajee and Art Camp.”

Special Jury Recognition for Direction: The Lumineers - "Gloria"
D: Kevin Phillips
“We would like to present a special recognition award to Kevin Phillips for Outstanding Achievement in Direction for the music video 'Gloria' by The Lumineers.”

Jurors: Jason Baum, Chaka and Qi Dada

Texas Shorts

"Just Hold On"

Winner: "Just Hold On"
D: Sam Davis, Rayka Zehtabchi
“A lovely little documentary with a big giant Texas-sized heart, 'Just Hold On' charmingly shares the story of an inspiring young girl that overcomes the odds and captures the hearts of an entire Houston, Texas stadium. The structure of the film creates a space of powerful and emotional storytelling. Sam and Rayka truly capture Texas soul and authenticity in this film.”

Special Jury Recognition: "Coup d’etat Math"
D: Sai Selvarajan
“'Coup D’etat Math' is an inventive and complex film about the struggles of the refugee community. The social realism captured in the film’s animation adds an element of vulnerability and rawness to the storyline. Sai’s intentional and thoughtful approach is illustrated in every detail of the film. It presents a rich visual tapestry of mixed media combining animation and live-action with gripping stories of pathos and human resilience.”

Jurors: Denise Hernandez, Jenny Jacobi, Martin C. Jones

Texas High School Shorts

"Wish Upon a Snowman"

Winner: "Wish Upon a Snowman"
D: Miu Nakata
“'Wish Upon a Snowman' is a world unto itself. The imagination to conceive of as well as the discipline required to spin this yarn puts this disturbingly charming film in a class of its own.”

Special Jury Recognition: Narrative
Winner: "Ultimatum"
D: Kai Hashimoto
“'Ultimatum' is taut, twisted and terrifying. Chillingly economical with great sound and set design.”

Special Jury Recognition: Documentary
Winner: "Unveiled"
D: Sofia Bajwa
“Beyond the labels, the misconceptions, 'Unveiled' confidently and proudly defies the stereotypes to reveal the girls beyond our prejudice.”

Special Jury Recognition: Animation
Winner: "The Orchard"
D: Zeke French
“'The Orchard' is ambitious and epic with a heartfelt yet comedic core.”

Jurors: Jonathan Case, Jazmyne Moreno, Barton Weiss



Winner: Embrace
D: Jessica Sanders
“For its originality of voice, its depiction of characters and relationships that are both enigmatic and appealing, as well as telling an absorbing story in a world unseen on television at the moment — the jury is awarding its top prize to the Episodic Pilot Competition to Embrace. With real laughs and real heart, the presentation promises a wholly unique TV series with characters we’re eager to learn more about. The jury offers congratulations to the whole creative team on this excellent, thoughtful, funny and professional project — and are thrilled to be able to give it our top commendation.”

Special Jury Recognition for Drama: Chemo Brain
D: Kristian Håskjold
“The Jury is pleased to bestow its Special Recognition for Drama Jury Award to the unapologetically honest, deeply touching yet unsentimental Chemo Brain. Told over four complete episodes — a huge achievement in itself — Kristian Håskjold directs a series he co-creates with Johan Wang that depicts the indignities of illness and the struggle of hope with an understatement that only the best dramas achieve.”

Special Jury Recognition for Comedy: Lusty Crest
D: Kati Skelton
“For its incredibly ambitious story-telling, stylistic extravagance, completely original blend of absurdist melodrama, confident comedic filmmaking and just pure lustiness the Special Recognition for Comedy Jury Recognition goes to Lusty Crest. Kati Skelton both writes and directs this technicolor fever dream with a commitment and confidence that both successful humor and absorbing surrealism demand.”

Jurors: Mitch Hurwitz, Emily Nussbaum, Shelby Stone


Excellence in Poster Design

Winner: Laura Hasn’t Slept
Designer: Olivier Courbet
“The poster for Laura Hasn't Slept really stood out to us. It's a bold design with an excellent concept.”

Special Jury Recognition: The Donut King
Designer: Andrew Hem & Charlie Le
“The Donut King's poster is undeniably fun and makes us really want to see the movie. Personally, we love illustrated movie posters and the illustration is really good here.”

Jurors: Becky Cloonan, Barak Epstein, Kevin Tong

Excellence in Title Design

Winner: See
Designer: Karin Fong
See stands out to us as a unique and beautifully-executed main title. We love the quick glimpses into the darkness, giving you just enough time to comprehend your surroundings. CG ropes are artfully directed with a light, elegant and ultimately fleeting aesthetic. Along with the visuals, the environmental sound design used in the almost absence of a discernible musical theme adds to the feeling of losing sight.”

Special Jury Recognition: Why We Hate
Designers: Allison Brownmoore, Anthony Brownmoore
Why We Hate is a haunting look at humanity’s past with scenes that contrast bright symbols with dark moments in time. Beautifully done transitions and color treatment bolster the power of the images. What is added to the photos is as powerful as what is lost.”

Jurors: Ryan Butterworth, Alex Johnson


Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award

In & Of Itself

In honor of a filmmaker whose work strives to be wholly its own, without regard for norms or desire to conform. The Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award is presented to a filmmaker from our Visions screening category.

Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award Presented to: In and of Itself
D: Frank Oz

Adobe Editing Award

You Cannot Kill David Arquette

Winner: You Cannot Kill David Arquette
Editor: Paul Rogers and Additional Editing By David Darg

Final Draft Screenwriters Award

Winner: Best Summer Ever
Screenwriters: Michael Parks Randa, Will Halby, Terra Mackintosh, Andrew Pilkington, Lauren Smitelli

Louis Black “Lone Star” Award

Miss Juneteenth

To honor SXSW co-founder/director Louis Black, a jury prize was created in 2011 called the Louis Black “Lone Star” Award, presented to a feature film world premiering at SXSW that was shot primarily in Texas or directed by a current resident of Texas. (Opt-in Award)

Winner: Miss Juneteenth
D: Channing Godfrey Peoples
“The Louis Black 'Lone Star' Award has always been about celebrating Texas filmmakers. With Miss Juneteenth we can also celebrate a view into a community and a culture that is often overlooked or stereotyped, but is as profoundly Texan as breakfast tacos and traffic jams on I-35.”

Special Jury Recognition for Acting: Rob Morgan from Bull
D: Annie Silverstein
“The jury also wanted to recognize Rob Morgan's work in Bull, Annie Silverstein's moving look at the bond between an at-risk teen girl and an aging bull rider. There's a dignity and a humanity that the actor brings to his portrayal of a man beaten down (but not yet broken) by life — a reminder that there's a story behind even the most stoic Lone Star citizen.”

Special Jury Recognition for Documentary: Boys State
D: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss
“This impressive documentary is as polished as a scripted drama, but it pulses with real human complexity. Through these four captivating Texas teenagers, we see the best and worst of the American political system play out over a hot summer week in a way that’s at once alarming and uplifting. There’s hope for us yet.”

Jurors: Kathy Blackwell, David Fear, Richard Whittaker

Vimeo Staff Pick Award


Vimeo is excited to announce the 3rd annual Vimeo Staff Pick Award for the 2020 SXSW Film Festival. Short films featured in the Narrative, Documentary, Animation, Midnight, 360/VR, and Texas Shorts competitions are eligible for this award, which includes a $5,000 cash prize and, of course, a Vimeo Staff Pick. The winning film will be released on Vimeo on Wednesday, March 25.

Winner: "Vert"
D: Kate Cox
"The SXSW Vimeo Staff Pick Award goes to a film that takes its viewers into the future and tenderly conveys a very current and human subject. We are pleased to award "Vert" from director Kate Cox."

ZEISS Cinematography Award


ZEISS Cine Lenses is honored to be returning this year to support the SXSW film community in the Cinematography category. We believe that by supporting the art within the frame, ZEISS helps filmmakers realize their creative vision.

Winner: Echoes of the Invisible
D: Steve Elkins

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SXSW 2020, SXSW Film 2020, SXSW Film Awards, Shithouse, The Donut King, An Elephant in the Room

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