2018 LA Film Festival Wrap-Up: Highlights & Winners

LA Film Festival 2018 winners

Today the LA Film Festival, produced by Film Independent, announced the winners of the 2018 Festival at the Awards Reception at the W Hotel in Hollywood presided over by Festival Director Jennifer Cochis and Film Independent President Josh Welsh. Cochis and Welsh also took the opportunity to thank the more than 50 generous sponsors, funders and media partners without whom the Festival would not be possible.

“We congratulate all of the filmmakers that shared their work with the LA Film Festival,” said Festival Director, Jennifer Cochis. “These awards honor the wide range of exceptional storytelling we’ve been sincerely delighted to present. All of us are looking forward to wider audiences discovering these stories in the year ahead.”

“A festival is made up of many groups – the filmmakers and the audience, of course, but also the sponsors and funders who make it all possible," said Film Independent President Josh Welsh. "We are profoundly thankful to all the companies, foundations, and individuals who have financially supported the LA Film Festival without whom we truly would not be here.”

Festival Guest Director, Emmy-award-winning, Lauren Greenfield (Generation WealthQueen of Versailles) was awarded the Spirit of Independence Award at the event for her work advancing the cause of independent film and championing creative freedom as a celebrated documentarian, famed photographer and artist.

The Festival’s juried awards include: the U.S. Fiction Award, World Fiction Award, Documentary Award, LA Muse Awards, Nightfall Award, Music Video Award, Episodic Award, well as the Short Fiction Award and the Short Documentary Award. Audience awards are presented for Fiction Feature Film, Documentary Feature Film, Episodic Story, Episodic Pilot, Short Film, Music Video and Series from the Web.

The LA Film Festival kicked off on Thursday, September 20 with the World Premiere of Andrew Slater’s Echo in the Canyon, with a performance with special guests Jackson Browne, Jade Castrinos, Jakob Dylan, Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) and Michelle Phillips.  Gala screenings during the Festival included Eva Vives’ All About Nina, Ike Barinholtz’s The Oath, Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin’s documentaryFree Solo.

Additionally the 25th anniversary of Film Independent’s diversity mentorship initiative Project Involve honored Effie T. Brown (Real Women Have CurvesDear White People), Jon M. Chu (GI Joe: Retaliation, Crazy Rich Asians), Cherien Dabis (Amreeka, Empire) and MACRO’s Founder & CEO Charles D. King (Mudbound, Fences) at the home of Catharine and Jeffrey Soros during the Festival and the inaugural New Wave brunch celebrated the work of Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine Nine), Jay Ellis (Insecure), Dominique Fishback (The Hate U Give), Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Bumblebee), Leonardo Nam (Westworld) and Millicent Simmonds (A Quiet Place).

VR and immersive storytelling were showcased at The Portal in partnership with Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television at their new Playa Vista campus. Lastly, over two days We the People offered a free series committed to advancing inclusion within the entertainment industry by serving as a solution-oriented call to action, Regina Hall (The Hate U Give, Support the Girls) was the keynote conversation.

The Festival’s competitions featured a diverse slate of 40 feature films, 41 short films and 10 short episodic works representing 26 countries. Across the competition categories 42% of the films are directed by women and 39% are directed by people of color.

The Festival will close later today with the World Premiere of David Raymond’s Nomis starring Henry Cavill, Sir Ben Kingsley, Nathan Fillion, Minka Kelly, Alexandra Daddario and Stanley Tucci at the ArcLight Hollywood Cinerama Dome and the Closing Night Documentary will be the LA Premiere of Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown’s United Skatesat the ArcLight Culver City. 

Awards were given out in the following categories:

The U.S. Fiction Award

Winner: This Teacher, dir. Mark Jackson, World Premiere

Screenwriters: Mark Jackson, Dana Thompson

Producers: Mark Jackson, Dana Thompson, Gigi Graff, Josh Mandel, Javier Gonzalez

Cast: Hafsia Herzi, Sarah Kazemy, Lucy Walters, Kevin Kane, Lev Gorn

Film Description: A young Arab-French woman on an introspective journey visits her childhood friend in New York City before heading to the woods upstate. 

 

Jury Members: Karin Chien (Producer), Leena Pendharkar (director, 20 Weeks), Erica Winograd (VP of Development, Refinery29)

 

U.S. Fiction Special Mention

Winner: In Reality, dir. Ann Lupo, California Premiere

Screenwriters: Ann Lupo, Esteban Pedraza, Aaron Pryka

Producers: Ann Lupo, Nadine Martinez, Holly Meehl

Cast: Ann Lupo, Miles G. Jackson, Kimiko Glenn, Jill Eikenberry, Olivia Washington, Esteban Pedraza, Lauren E. Banks

Film Description: A young woman takes a journey through her own fantastic mind as she investigates her relationship to unrequited love. 

 

World Fiction Award

Winner: Border, dir. Ali Abbasi, California Premiere

Country: Sweden

Screenwriters: Ali Abbasi, Isabella Eklöf, John Ajvide Lindqvis

Producers: Nina Bisgaard, Peter Gustafsson, Petra Jönsson

Cast: Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Jörgen Thorsson 

Film Description: Despite having the remarkable gift of being able to smell emotions, a border agent leads a mundane existence until she meets a stranger who shares her unique abilities and upends her life.

 

Jury Members: Roxanne Benjamin (actress/director, V/H/S), Anna Rogers (COO/VP Production at The Art of Elysium/EB Studios), Yuval Sharon (Artistic Director, TheIndustry in Los Angeles)

 

World Fiction Special Jury Prize, Directing

Winner: The Day I Lost My Shadow, dir. Soudade Kaadan, US Premiere

Country: France/Lebanon/Qatar/Syrian Arab Republic

Screenwriters: Soudade Kaadan

Producers: Amira Kaadan

Cast: Sawsan Arshid, Reham Al Kasar, Samer Ismail, Ahmad Ali

Film Description: In the midst of a gas crisis during the early days of the Syrian Arab Spring, a young mother takes the day off work and strays far from home with only one objective in mind: finding a working cylinder so that she may cook a meal for her son.

 

Documentary Award

Winner: hillbilly, dir. Sally Rubin & Ashley York, LA Premiere

Country: USA

Producers: Sally Rubin & Ashley York

Featuring: bell hooks, Billy Redden, Ronny Cox, Frank X Walker, Crystal Good, Silas Howard

Film Description: Two filmmakers visit rural Kentucky, one returning home to Appalachian to unpack the stereotype of “hillbilly” and explore the personal and painful experiences fueling our polarizing political climate. 

 

Jury Members: Michael Bodie (director/professor, USC School of Cinematic Arts), Hans Charles (Cinematographer, 13th), Rae Dawn Chong (actress, The Color Purple)

 

   Documentary Special Jury Award for

Excellence in Social Justice Storytelling

Winner: False Confessions, dir. Katrine Philp, North American Premiere

Country: Denmark

Producers: Katrine A. Sahlstrøm

Film Description: “Would you confess to a crime you did not commit?” A defense attorney fights against the complex and manipulative tactics of US police interrogations, focusing on victims of coerced confessions as she helps exonerate her incarcerated clients.

 

LA Muse Award

Winner: Staycation, dir. Tanuj Chopra, World Premiere 

Country: USA

Screenwriters: Tanuj Chopra, Anthony Ma, Grace Su

Producer: Lalithra Fernando

Cast: Anthony Ma, Grace Su

Film Description: A modern millennial codependent couple in DTLA have their relationship thrown for a loop when he discovers a photo from an ex on her phone.

 

Jury Members: Tamar Halpern (filmmaker, Llyn Foulkes One Man Band), Jorge Lendeborg (actor, Bumblebee), Jamil Walker Smith (director, The American Dream, actor, Code Black)

 

LA Muse Documentary Award

Winner: Fire on the Hill dir. Brett Fallentine, World Premiere

Country: USA

Producers: Brett Fallentine, Jordana Glick-Franzheim, Steven Amato

Film Description: Three black cowboys in South Central share their stories following a mysterious fire that burnt down the community’s stables, leaving the fate of the culture in question.

 

Jury Members: Tamar Halpern (filmmaker, Llyn Foulkes One Man Band), Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (actor, Bumblebee), Jamil Walker Smith (director, The American Dream, actor, Code Black)

 

LA Muse Special Mention, Best Ensemble Cast

Winner: Solace, dir. Tchaiko Omawale, World Premiere

Country: USA

Screenwriter: Tchaiko Omawale

Producers: Tchaiko Omawale, Maya Emelle, Hope Olaide Wilson, Sabine Hoffman, Sascha Brown Rice

Cast: Hope Olaide Wilson, Lynn Whitfield, Chelsea Tavares, Glynn Turman, Luke Rampersad, Sydney Bennett

Film Description: A teenage orphan moves to LA to live with her estranged grandmother and works to win a performance art grant while secretly struggling with binge eating.

 

Nightfall Award

Winner: The Dead Center, dir. Billy Senese, World Premiere

Country: USA

Screenwriters: Billy Senese

Producers: Billy Senese, Denis Deck, Jonathan Rogers, Shane Carruth

Cast: Shane Carruth, Poorna Jagannathan, Jeremy Childs, Billy Feehely

Film Description: When a mysterious John Doe wakes up in a morgue and wanders into a psychiatric ward, a devoted doctor and curious medical examiner must slowly uncover dark and sinister secrets about the man that reveal a more horrifying truth than they could have ever imagined.

 

Jury Members: Niyia Mack (producer, Delusion: The Blue Blade), Alex Neustaedter (actor, A.X.L.), Sarah Adina Smith (director, Legion, Room 104)

 

Nightfall Special Jury Prize, Lead Actor

Actor: Ashleigh Morghan

Film: Head Count, dir. Elle Callahan, World Premiere 

Country: USA

Screenwriters: Michael Nader

Producers: Samuel Sandweiss, Brandon Somerhalder

Film Description: During a weekend getaway to Joshua Tree, a group of teenagers find themselves under mental and physical assault from a supernatural entity that mimics their appearances as it completes an ancient ritual.

 

Nightfall Special Jury Prize, Ensemble Cast

Cast: Barak Hardley, Jackie Tohn, Magnús Jónsson, Birna Rún Eiriksdóttir, Tom Wright, Stacey Moseley, Michael Nanfria, Michole Briana White, Bryndís Haraldsdíttir

Film: Spell, dir. Brendan Walter, World Premiere

Screenwriter: Barak Hardley

Producers: Brendan Walter, Jon Lullo, Barak Hardley, Katy Stoll, Eleanor WIlson

Film Description: Following the unexpected death of his fiancé an American illustrator travels to the Icelandic countryside to seek solace. What he finds instead is a blurred line between reality and fantasy as magical things begin to shake his very foundation -- unless it’s all in his head.

 

Award for Short Fiction

Winner: The Passage, dir. Kitao Sakurai

Country: USA

Film Description: Fleeing a pair of mysterious agents sends a dim-witted mute on a series of absurd misadventures.

 

Jury Members: Missy Laney (Director of Development, Adult Swim), Caleb Spencer (Managing Director, Nashville Film Festival), Garth Trinidad (DJ, KCRW)

 

Award for Documentary Short

Winner: One Leg In, One Leg Out, dir. Lisa Rideout

Country: Canada

Film Description: A lively, strong-willed sex worker struggles to move from the streets and into a career as a social worker, hoping to help fellow trans sex workers find acceptance.

 

Jury Members: Missy Laney (Director of Development, Adult Swim), Caleb Spencer (Managing Director, Nashville Film Festival), Garth Trinidad (DJ, KCRW)

 

Web Episodes Jury Award

Winner: Psusy, dir. Anna Duckworth

Country: New Zealand

Film Description: Two close friends drag us through their controversial, inappropriate, but always playful feminist world.

 

Jury Members: Missy Laney (Director of Development, Adult Swim), Caleb Spencer (Managing Director, Nashville Film Festival), Garth Trinidad (DJ, KCRW)

 

Audience Award for Fiction Feature Film

Winner: Brian Banks, dir. Tom Shadyac, World Premiere

Country: USA

Screenwriter: Doug Atchison

Producers: Amy Baer, Monica Levinson, Shivani Rawat

Cast: Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepherd, Tiffany Dupont, Xosha Roquemore

Film Description: Based on a true story, a young football player’s dreams to play in the NFL are halted when he is falsely accused of rape and sent to prison. 

This award is given to the fiction feature audiences liked most as voted by a tabulated rating system. Select fiction feature-length films screening in the following sections were eligible for the Audience Award for Best Fiction Feature: U.S. Fiction, World Fiction, LA Muse, Nightfall and Premieres.

Audience Award for Documentary Feature Film

Winner: Stuntman, dir. Kurt Mattila, World Premiere

Country: USA

Producers: Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Hiram Garcia and Brian Gewirtz (Seven Bucks Productions), Steven Golebiowski, Kurt Mattila, Eddie Braun (Driven Pictures).

Featuring: Eddie Braun, Gary Davis, Conrad E. Palmisano, Buddy Joe Hooker, Scott Truax, Meg Braun

Film Description: A veteran Stuntman sets out to complete the jump that bested his idol Evel Knievel: clearing the Snake River Canyon in a rocket-powered craft.

 

This award is given to the documentary feature audiences liked most as voted by a tabulated rating system. Select documentary feature-length films screening in the following sections were eligible for the Audience Award for Documentary Feature: Documentary LA Muse and Premieres.

 

Audience Award for Music Video

Winner: Clutch, dir. Christopher Ripley

Country: USA

Film Description: A professional athlete's rise and fall from grace.

 

This award is given to the music video audiences liked most as voted by tabulated rating system.

 

Audience Award for Short Film

Winner: Weekends, dir. Trevor Jimenez

Country: USA

Film Description: A young boy shuffles between the homes of his recently divorced parents in this surreal hand-animated film set in 1980s Toronto.

 

This award is given to the short film audiences liked most as voted by a tabulated rating system. Short films screening in the Shorts Programs or before feature films in the Festival were eligible for the Audience Award for Short Film.

 

Audience Award for Episodic Story

Winner: Revenge Tour, dir. Andrew Carter

Country: USA

Film Description: He’s been cheated on, living in a friend’s living room and stuck at a dead-end job. But one night he finds an unlikely stress-reliever—rapping.

 

This award is given to the web-series audiences liked most as voted by a tabulated rating system.

 

Audience Award for Episodic Pilot

Winner: 40 & Single, dir. Leila Djansi, World Premiere

Country: Ghana

Film Description: A single, bisexual, mixed race bridal fashion designer maneuvers life and business in post-colonial Africa.

 

This award is given to the web-series audiences liked most as voted by a tabulated rating system.

 

Seattle Story Award

Winner: I’m Sorry Happy Birthday, dir. Claire Buss, World Premiere

Film Description: A playful showcase of everyday life in Seattle’s neighborhoods through whimsical vignettes that border on the fantastical – complete with a little bit of Pacific Northwest quirkiness. 

 

Selected by special committee assembled by Film Independent and funded by Visit Seattle.

 

TikTok Real Short Award

Winner: dir. Ann Lupo

TikTok gave Festival filmmakers the chance to win a $10,000 unrestricted cash grant. Ann’s video addressed the "Why I'm a Filmmaker" prompt with exceptional storytelling through the lens of TikTok, utilizing creator tools to enhance the narrative. Her innovative short, along with all of the submissions, can be found on the Film Independent (@filmindependent) TikTok account. Selected by special committee assembled by the LA Film Festival programming team.

Share this article:

More From LATF USA