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Winners Autumn 2023

Best Feature, Best Original Score (Feature Film)
Out of My Comfort Zone

Director: Ivy Vale

Writers: Ivy Vale, Rick Reil

Producers: Deb Robicheau, Dalila Costa-Leroy, Whitney Dunn, Ivy Vale, Rick Reil

Country: United States

Genre: Musical, Family, Comedy

Overview: Josh and Rachel's close friendship is tested when a high school cyberbully with a hidden past threatens to expose secrets in this feature film musical comedy about finding the courage to be who you are.

Director Statement: Out of My Comfort Zone is a coming of age, coming out, family musical comedy set in a NYC school. It was created to address the bullying epidemic, for 'tweens, teens and families to watch together, to open up dialogues about gender and sexuality, and provide a safe way for kids to talk to their parents about how they are treated at school. We are seeking to promote positive change through diverse, relatable characters, humor and original music.

Best Indian Feature


Director/Writer: Selvakumar M

Producer: Thiagaraja S

Country: India

Genre: Drama, Feature

Overview: It's the journey of a man who will do anything for money and a man who will do anything for humanity!

Director Statement: I am scripting my own life experience. I have made the main characters of my film the humane, religious and harmonious people I have met in my life.

Best Feature Director

The Prototype

Director/Producer: Marcelo Grion

Writers: Marcelo Grion, Stephen L Karandy, Stephen Brown

Country: United States

Project Type: Feature

Overview: Garrett Brown wakes up to a destroyed world 300 years into the future. His memory is slowly coming back thanks to drinking a blue liquid provided by human clones that survived the nuclear holocaust. Garrett remembers being part of a United States government agency and leading an investigation, in which terrorist aliens, led by Reverend Jeremiah C. Hope, plan to take over the planet. Garrett dies protecting us but is buried and hidden by the agency to later resurrect in the future. He and the clones who saved him must now come together to overthrow Piak, the alien conqueror, and take back Earth. Garrett fulfills his destiny and becomes The Prototype - the only hope for mankind

Director Statement: "The Prototype" is my first feature film, mostly shot in 16mm and in English. We started principal photography in June of 1998 and it was finally completed in December of 2021. I have mostly self funded the film working as a waiter in different restaurants to finance the production. Being a filmmaker allows me to create new worlds and to live forever, and I wanted my first feature film to be in the science fiction genre. Without enough money or connections to get started, just my passion and burning desire for filmmaking, "The Prototype", was born. I wanted to push my mental strength to the limit, no matter how long it would take to prove my talent.

Best Feature Documentary

Tax Broke

Directors: Stephen S Janis, Taya M Graham

Writer: Stephen S Janis

Producer: Taya M Graham

Country: United States

Project Type: Documentary

Overview: For decades, Baltimore has struggled to grow, hamstrung by a property tax rate twice that of the surrounding counties, a lack of affordable housing strategy, and underinvestment in education. The unequal burden has prompted the city to pursue a risky strategy of effectively paying developers to build. Using incentives with innocuous sounding acronyms like TIF and PILOT, new construction in the city has occurred largely at the expense of the city’s working class. Meanwhile, despite the promises that these incentives would reverse the city’s decline, Baltimore continues to lose population. How did we get here? Why is Baltimore the only jurisdiction in the state that must pay for development? And is there a better way to grow a city? These are just a few of the questions that our ongoing investigation, Tax Broke, will try to answer. The centerpiece of the project is an investigative documentary of the same name. The film—five years in the making—explores the history of the city’s fraught relationship with artificially imposed boundaries, codified segregation, and, finally, a political economy fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives doled out behind closed doors.

Director Statement: As a black woman fully invested in reporting on my community Baltimore in creative and innovative ways, the story of "Tax Broke" posed a particularly daunting dilemma. How to make a subject that is both dry and not really visual - i.e tax breaks for developers - interesting and watchable. I was faced with this dilemma because over time the city had invested hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars in these incentives, but there had been little in-depth reporting on how this policy evolved and who was benefiting. That's why I knew I had to create this film, even. the though prospect of making a Tax Break visual interesting is not easy. Hopefully you will find in this film not just a story about a very poor city making very rich people richer, but an innovate approach to filmmaking that has made a topic often overlooked worth learning about.

Best Student Director

Director/Writer/Producer: Leo Harper Gow

Country: United Kingdom

Project Type: Student, Short

Overview: Eli is in search for his missing sister Violet, only to find that a technology company has the key to her whereabouts. Will Eli reunite with Violet and confront the dark truth behind her disappearance?

Director Statement: Trojan is a film that hits close to home for me. I went through many stages of grief during my teen years after loosing a sister. This film symbolises those emotions, telling a story that focuses on an intense narrative, with a lovely twist at the end. Enjoy!

Best Indian Short
The Desire, The Fear and The God : THE DRAVIDIAN TALE
The Desire, The Fear and The God : THE DRAVIDIAN TALE

Director/Writer: Rakin. K

Producers: Poorna K. K, Shabeena Ara

Country: India

Project Type: Student, Short

Overview: In the setting of pre-pared India, 1800BC. Conquest a quest of how and why did mankind surrender to god?

Best Drama Short
From a Barren State
From a Barren State

Director/Writer: Priyam Sadhukhan

Producers: Ishan Mehra

Country: United States

Genres: Student, Drama, Short

Overview: The title ‘From a Barren State’ represents the barren land that Lena was rescued from only to serve a childless barren woman who falsely promised to hydrate the barren life of Lena through kindness. It represents the journey of Lena from wandering in a barren land to the comfort of a home; alongside the journey of Martha from a barren woman to the desire of being a mother which ultimately seals her fate.

Director Statement: Me, as a director believes in building up a scene and character together with the talents. I have been fortunate enough to have such a wonderful cast and crew. With very useful and amazing inputs from every talent on the film, the characters developed a wide perspective of how one would react to any particular situation given at a time. The pace of the story development actually represents the status of Lena’s state of mind till her world becomes calm again once she achieved what she desired.

Best Long Short
When the Rain Fallls in Baden-Baden
When the Rain Fallls in Baden-Baden

Director/Writer/Producer: Alessandro Soetje

Country: Italy

Project Type:Drama, Short

Overview: Covid-19 has decimated the patients of the Retirement Homes. In one of them two stories flow parallel through the empty corridors. Alfredo, the medical director, must face the inspection of the inflexible inspector, Viola, to whom he must account for the anti Covid measures adopted. Meanwhile Georg, an elegant and light-hearted guest of foreign origins apparently heedless of any health precautions, uses all his talents to win the heart of a new patient, Alida, who, who resists advances with less and less firmness. The two plots will inevitably intertwine. But nothing is as it seems.

Director Statement: With “When the Rain Falls in Baden-Baden” I tried to tell a story that brings to light more questions than answers. The Covid-19 emergency made the human race react to a drama where quick responses were the lesser of evils. Yet, we should never stop growing good doubts, that must not concern the reliability of science, yet the importance of human relationships. All the players in the movie at some point look outside a window, like we all did during the pandemic, seeking for the external world. Only one of them, through the window, finds an answer and not a question. It’s because in her world there is much more room for rules than for emotions. Rules are reassuring. Never the less, all other players follow their feelings, even though they don’t know if that’s the right thing to do. And that’s how we live, rather than only survive, in the end.

Best Animation Short
American Dream
American Dream

Director/Writer/Producer: Renee Shi

Country: United States

Genre: Animation, Student, Short

Overview: This is a story of a young girl's day at school, bright and cheerful until the sound of gunshots rings in her ears. Her best friend dies in the shooting, and she must walk through the tainted hallways of her school once again. This animation is dedicated to the victims of school shooting tragedies.

Director Statement: The world is a better place without gun violence.

Best Cinematography, Best Sound Design
Pollo Loco
Pollo Loco

Director/Writer: Derek Bauder

Producers: Derek Bauder, Giancarlo Beltran, Ben Escobar

Country: United States

Project Type: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Overview: When a young, power-hungry drug dealer discovers the love of his life has been unfaithful with a member of his crew, he and his right-hand man seek revenge.

Director Statement: I'm proud to present Pollo Loco as my Directorial Debut. We had an amazing cast and crew as well as the pleasure of filming entirely in New Mexico. My goal with this film was to tell a story that shows why you should never judge a book by it's cover. It's about a character in the early stages of being a criminal and the relationships that he must navigate in the pursuit of power. I hope that our passion for storytelling shows on screen and most importantly, that you feel something.

Best Director
Blood Drive
Blood Drive

Director/Writer Gurinder J Singh

Country: United States

Project Type: Drama, Romance, Short

Overview: A newlywed gay couple's world shatters when one spouse's life hangs in the balance. As the complacent partner confronts the harsh reality of a still-unfair world for gay men, he embarks on an emotional journey to fight for their love and the right to save each other. Inspired by true events, this poignant tale unveils the resilience of love and the transformative power of acceptance.

Director Biography: Gurinder J. Singh is an award-winning filmmaker based in New York, celebrated for her commitment to using the power of cinema to drive positive change. With over 16 years of experience as a seasoned lawyer, Gurinder brings a unique strength to her filmmaking. Her legal expertise, honed through roles in BigLaw and in-house positions, has not only equipped her with a deep understanding of the intricacies of the law but also enhanced her storytelling ability. Gurinder's filmmaking journey, enriched by her education at prestigious institutions such as the University of Southern California, New York Film Academy, The Barrow Group, and Jacob Krueger Studio, reflects her distinct vision. Her debut short film, "Rising Lotus," achieved global acclaim, selected in 60+ prestigious film festivals and earning 30+ awards, including several "Best Short Film" honors. Awards like "Best Director" and "Rising Star" underscore her profound impact on the world of cinema. Beyond her filmmaking endeavors, Gurinder dedicates her time to promoting diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry. She serves as a Director on the Board of the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC). Gurinder earned her Bachelors of Science in Engineering from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) College of Engineering and her Juris Doctor from Wayne State University School of Law. Her passions range from family time and nature exploration to yoga and sports like tennis, golf, and skiing. Music and dance resonate deeply, encapsulating her soul's rhythm.

Best Thriller/Horror Short
The Ceremony

Director/Producer: Connor Hall

Writer: Aashish Gadhvi

Country: United Kingdom

Project Type: Horror, Thriller, Short

Overview: Two sisters, Alice & Ellie, have to sacrifice a Witch in order to become rich and powerful. As The Ceremony gets underway, it takes an unexpected turn when the ‘Witch’ uses her powers for evil. Who was the Ceremony actually for?

Director Statement: Joining the film industry at a young age, my dream was to always be a film director. Whilst meeting some incredible people along the way, one of them being Aashish Gadhvi, we spoke about making a film of our own. I had a clear vision in mind when setting out to direct my debut short film and I was specifically interested in the use of colour in horror. Ari Asters Midsommar and Hereditary are some of my favourite pieces of horror cinematography. I was greatly inspired by his use of colour to portray a story and in my instance the narrative of Evil vs Evil. Ari Aster has always, in my opinion, been one of the best Directors to use colours, blocking and framing to unconsciously unsettle the audience before shocking you with a jump scare or a disturbing scene of horror. Watching his films growing up, this is something I wanted to achieve in my short film.

Best Actor/Actress - Kaze Uzumaki
My Method

Director/Writer/Producer: Kaze Uzumaki

Key Cast "Tetsuo": Kaze Uzumaki

Country: Germany

Project Type: Drama, Short

Overview: A rising actor reaches stardom by taking method acting harmfully serious. Things escalade when he tries to teach others his way by forcing them to "be the role".

Best Short
The Fortune Teller
The Fortune Teller

Director/Writer: William Andrew Wen

Producers: Belle Lau, Grace Ngau

Country: China

Project Type: Fiction, Drama, Psychological, Mystery

Overview: As a young man checks out of a motel during midnight, he meets the motel owner - a mysterious old man who thinks of various ways to stop the young man from leaving. The old man claims to be a fortune teller and insists on reading the young man's future, to which the young man reluctantly agrees. As the old man predicts the young man's fortune through self-invented methods, he starts to get involved in the young man’s life choices and even becomes angry at the young man, making the young man surprised and suspicious about the old man's true intentions. That's when the young man decides to challenge the old man's predictions through philosophical reasoning and even gambling. As they debate about the future and free will, the motel also seems to subtly change in appearance, almost as if it were a scene from a dream… All this makes the young man wonder: who is this old man? And where exactly is this motel?

Director Statement: One of the key goals of “The Fortune Teller” is to experiment the breaking of traditional “continuity” rules in filmmaking. Writer & director William Wen is curious to present the most accurate or “true” perspective of a story’s protagonist, believing that a film’s visuals and sounds should be dictated by or even based around a protagonist’s state of mind. This is why Wen set the story inside a deserted motel - a symbolization of the protagonist’s fading memory, and a perfect playground to defy visual consistency. Although “The Fortune Teller” is a short drama by definition, the filmmakers’ approached the film with strong experimental ideas and philosophies. We encourage those who view the film on the big screen to pay careful attention to the film’s details - set design, costume, sound, etc… as they may be subtle clues to deciphering the mysterious relationship between the two apparent strangers.

Best Short Screenplay
The Colouring Book

Writer: Toby Smith

Country: United Kingdom

Project Type: Drama, Psychological Horror, Short Script

Overview: A director is eager to film his daughter with her new colouring book. She, however, is less than thrilled. His constant struggle to capture the "perfect moment" on film is the core conflict of this story, and the twists and turns we take are all as a result of this illicit desire of his.

Writer Statement: With 'The Colouring Book', I wanted to tackle a subject that has always fascinated me: the director and their muse. Some of my favourite filmmakers - David Lynch, Jean-Luc Godard, Ingmar Bergman - have actresses they return to time after time. Why is this?

Best Feature Screenplay
Live Your Life
Live Your Life

Writer: Philipp Weiler

Country: Austria

Project Type: Supernatural, Drama, Love-story, Feature Screenplay

Overview: A life-weary boy falls in love with the cheerful ghost of a deceased girl. Max, a young adult, ekes out his existence anonymously in a big city, socially isolated. His life is turned upside down, when meeting Sarah, the cheerful ghost of a deceased girl. While trying to figure out the cause of her death, the two lonely souls fall in love with each other. In the end, it turns out that Max was responsible for Sarahs demise. A movie about an impossible love, guilt and salvation.