Below Zero has won the grand prize at this year’s edition which will be the last in its November slot before it moves to September in 2012.

Ulrike Vahl’s Below Zero has won the grand prix at the 17th edition of the Bristol Encounters short film festival (Nov 16-20).

The £2000 prize was presented to the winning film by The British Guide To Showing Off director Jes Benstock at a packed awards ceremony on Saturday at Bristol’s Watershed Cinema. Benstock praised Below Zero for its “powerful central performance and emotionally satisfying conclusion.

Meanwhile, the grand prix for an animated short went to Dan Ojari’s Slow Derek.

Brief Encounters Best of British Jury Award of £1000 was given to Simon Ellis’ Jam Today, with an honourable mention going to Nick Scott’s Big Society.

The Audience Award went to Las Palmas, directed by Johannes Nyholm, whilst the Brief Encounters short film nominee for the European Film Awards went to Elina Talvensaari’s How To Pick Berries.

The DepicT! main prize for a 90 second film went to UK film-maker Nick Fogg’s Wake, the first documentary to win the prize.

Looking ahead to 2012, the festival has announced that it will be moving its dates to the earlier slot of Sept 18-23.

The date change has been partly motivated by the festival’s new EFA/Oscar eligibility. Currently the deadline for those submissions is Oct 1, which would mean that films screening at Bristol Encounters would miss the deadline.

Encounters managing director Liz Harkman also points to the earlier slot as making more sense in terms of European funding deadlines and the fact that the festival currently clashes with other European festivals including IDFA (in terms of attracting European buyers rather than content) and Berlin’s short film festival Interfilm.

The date change also means that Encounters can become part of Bristol’s new “month of festivals” which is being planned as an annual event for the city in September as well as providing better access to venues including the city’s theatre The Old Vic and art gallery, The Arnolfini, which will have just finished their summer runs, as well as more opportunity for outdoor events.

One potential stumbling block will be its position just ahead of the London Film Festival, which has its own “premiere policy” on the short films it screens. “It could mean film-makers will have to make a choice,” explains Harkman.

Entries for next year’s festival will open earlier, in January, to accommodate the date change.

Meanwhile, the festival’s head of programming Mark Cosgrove is to take on the post of artistic director from 2012, working alongside the board and managing director Liz Harkman to develop the festival’s overall artistic vision, which is likely to include plans to work across more digital platforms and tap into Bristol’s strong digital roots, as well as placing a bigger focus on one of this year’s new strands – Future Encounters – which shines the spotlight on some of its star short film-makers.

A new head of programming is likely to be announced in the new year.