The Austin Chronicle

AFS Announces 2020 Short Film Grant Recipients

By Richard Whittaker, December 16, 2020, 10:02am, Picture in Picture

Surviving a witch hunt; expressing forbidden anger; friendship and technical creativity between two teenagers. These topics and more are part of the stories told in the 11 short films announced today as the latest recipients of AFS Grants.

Austin Film Society announced the winners of its 2020 feature grants in September, and today was the turn of the short films - in many ways, the true springboard for indie filmmakers. Previous recipients of the grant have included future luminaries such as Kat Candler (Queen Sugar), Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas (Pahokee, Annie Silverstein (Bull), and Caleb Michael Johnson (the upcoming Carnivores).

The grants go to emerging filmmakers from all across Texas, and this year sees projects from Austin, Dallas, and El Paso getting support. The grantees were selected from 121 applicants (all 40 minutes or less) by a panel of filmmakers based outside of Texas: Monica Peña, Mike Jacobs, and DaManuel Richardson. Their selections reflect the diversity of Texas filmmaking, with nine of the 12 directors identifying with a community of color (five being women of color), and six female or non-binary gender identifying.

In total, AFS will be handing out $32,500 in cash grants and 11,440 in-kind support. That includes a $10,000 certificate to Spencer Cook's "Act of God" from MPS Camera and Lighting, and as well as six Vimeo Pro accounts, courtesy of Vimeo. AFS Head of Film Holly Herrick stated, “With our awards, we are celebrating short film as an important format for artistic expression, while also recognizing that these films are a critical pathway for emerging filmmakers who are developing their voices. We were moved and inspired by the vision and artistry of the selected filmmakers and we look forward to them sharing their stories with Texas and with the world.”


"Baahar" ("Outside")
D: Prakshi Malik, Austin
Disaster brews when Seher gets accepted to a boarding school-a dream come true-on the evening of a big family dinner.

"Catharsis: A Journey Through Anger"
D: Deborah Valcin, Austin
Deborah is angry. Her repressed anger and guilt consumes her as she speaks with her Inner Monologue. After being told by her friend that her emotions don’t matter, Deborah will ignore the way people may see her so that she can release the one emotion Black women are told by society to suppress.

"Disrupted Border"
D: Ramón Villa-Hernández and Alejandra Aragón, El Paso
Wendy (16), maker and aspiring engineer, tinkers using parts from discarded electronics to innovate 3D printed prostheses for her best friend Shelly (15), who has double limb deficiencies. This Mexican-American tech disruptor reinvents cultural and gender norms in a turbulent backdrop of the border, currently healing from a horrific racially-motivated domestic terrorist attack.

D: Chinwe Okorie, Austin
After adopting a new identity at her predominately white, a young Black girl befriends a wealthy, yet troubled, classmate. She soon becomes a pariah after repeating something she shouldn't have to her classmate.

D: Paul Lovelace, Austin
Gilbert Lujan’s postal route is one of the longest and remote in the United States. As he travels 133 miles to the West Texas border, we see how Lujan is more than just a mailman for these hard-to-reach communities.

D: Kenya Gillespie, Austin
A composer turns to music to process the loss of his ex-boyfriend.

"Testimony of Ana"
D: Sachin Dheeraj Mudigonda, Pflugerville
Anaben Pawar is an elderly tribal woman accused of witchcraft in rural India. Through Ana's story, we delve into a deep-rooted culture of patriarchy and examine one of the most monstrous attacks on women's bodies in modern India: the witch-hunt.

"Untitled Mugeni Project"
D: Amy Bench, Austin
Animated Documentary
One night at her home in southeastern Congo, fourteen-year-old Mugeni awakes to the sounds of bombs. As her family scatters to the surrounding forests to save themselves, Mugeni finds herself completely alone. From there, she sets out on a remarkable solo journey across the globe, determined to reunite with her lost loved ones and lift up the Banyamulenge people.

"What They Found"
D: Ryan Darbonne, Austin
In 1868, after discovering the lifeless body of a man, a sensitive eight-year-old boy living in small town Louisiana drifts into his own fantasy world.

MPS Award Camera and Lighting Award

"Act of God"
D: Spencer Cook, Austin
A disabled man chases after a windblown $100 bill on a journey that eventually destroys his wheelchair and forces him to reckon with his dependence on other people.

Harrison McClure Endowed Film Fund Grant for a Texas undergraduate student

D: Wren Lee, Dallas
College student Tina 'Teeny' Wong comes back home to her strict, Chinese, immigrant mother for the first time since leaving for college with news about her future.

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