Source: Rachel Klein


SXSW has announced the 2020 jury and special award winners of the 27th festival after it enabled online voting to select categories after the physical event was cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cooper Raiff’s Shithouse won the narrative feature competition and Katrine Philp’s Elephant In The Room won the documentary feature competition, among others announced on Tuesday (24).

“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.”

Feature films receiving jury awards were selected from the narrative feature and documentary feature competition categories. Short films and other juried sections, including film design awards, are also included.

Special Awards winners come from the following categories: Adobe Editing Award, Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award, Final Draft Screenwriters Award, Louis Black “Lone Star” Award, Vimeo Staff Pick Award, and the ZEISS Cinematography Award.

Director of film Janet Pierson and her team already had several special awards juries in place and took the decision to expand voting to all juried competitions once the majority of the filmmakers opted in and juries were available. ”Our focus has remained as much as possible on the filmmakers and what we can do for them in this tough, tough time,” Pierson told Screen. Most of the juries watched links of films supplied by the filmmakers via Vimeo.

“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 Pierson. “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 honoured 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 programme – but we hope it will help garner some well-deserved recognition for these wonderful works.”

Due to increased demand from press and industry, and at the request of filmmakers, SXSW will continue running the Online Shift72 Screening Library through March 31, 2020, for those films that have opted-in to the extended timeframe.

Due to the event cancellation, there will be no Audience Awards for 2020.

This year’s programme would have presented 135 feature films, including 99 world premieres, 9 North American premieres, 5 US premieres, and 75 films from first-time filmmakers. There would have been 119 short films including music videos, 12 episodic premieres, 7 special events, 14 episodic pilots in two curated programmes, 30 title design entries, and 27 virtual cinema projects.

Feature Film Grand Jury Awards


Winner: Shithouse
Director: 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
Directors: 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
Director: 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.”


Winner: An Elephant In The Room
Director: 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
Director: 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
Director: 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.”



Winner: White Eye
Director: 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
Director: 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
Director: 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
Director: 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.”


Winner: No Crying At The Dinner Table
Director: 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
Directors: 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
Directors: Ashley Brandon, Dennis Höhne

“Unexpected encounters that reveal themselves into just the sweetest thing ever.”


Winner: Regret
Director: 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
Director: 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
Director: 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!”


Winner: Symbiosis
Director: Director: 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 and in an unexpected way.”

Special Jury Recognition: No, I Don’t Want To Dance!
Director: 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
Director: 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.”


Winner: Just Hold On
Director: 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
Director: 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.”


Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award

In And Of Itself
Director: Frank Oz

Adobe Editing Award

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

Final Draft Screenwriters Award

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

Louis Black “Lone Star” Award

Miss Juneteenth
Director: 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.”

LOUIS BLACK “LONE STAR” AWARD Special Jury Recognition for Acting:

Rob Morgan from Bull
Director: 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.”

LOUIS BLACK “LONE STAR” AWARD Special Jury Recognition for Documentary:

Winner: Boys State

Directors: 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.”

Vimeo Staff Pick Award

Director: 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

Echoes Of The Invisible
Director: Steve Elkins

The 2020 SXSW Film Festival Juries:

Narrative Feature Competition: Rebecca Keegan, Rodrigo Perez, Kim Yutani

Documentary Feature Competition: Bilge Ebiri, Naomi Fry, Dino Ramos

Narrative Shorts Program: Penelope Bartlett, Monica Castillo, Greta Fuentes

Documentary Shorts: Marjon Javadi, Allison Willmore

Animated Shorts: Katie Krentz, Hana Shimizu, Asalle Tanha

Midnight Shorts: Jonathan Barkan, Derek Kingongo, Brittany Klesic

Music Videos: Jason Baum, Chaka and Qi Dada

Texas Shorts: Denise Hernandez, Jenny Jacobi, Martin C. Jones

Texas High School Shorts: Jonathan Case, Jazmyne Moreno, Barton Weiss

Episodic Pilots: Mitch Hurwitz, Emily Nussbaum, Shelby Stone

Louis Black “Lone Star”: Kathy Blackwell, David Fear, Richard Whittaker

Excellence in Title Design: Ryan Butterworth, Alex Johnson

Excellence in Poster Design: Becky Cloonan, Barak Epstein, Kevin Tong

To see a list of all winners click here.