Despite cancelling the physical South by Southwest festival, the Austin-set event revealed today (March 24) which films won Special Awards that had juries already in place.
Katrine Philp’s An Elephant in the Room (pictured) took home the top prize in the documentary feature competition. The 88-minute feature sees the director follow a group of kids as they work with a grief counseling center in New Jersey. An Elephant in the Room was lauded for being “heartbreaking, thanks to the director’s artistry and sensitivity, it is also inspiring, uplifting and – especially in these troubled time – essential,” said the jury made up of Bilge Ebiri, Naomi Fry, and Dino Ramos.
Alice Gu’s The Donut King received a special jury recognition for achievement in documentary storytelling. First-time director Gu’s film puts the spotlight on entrepreneur Ted Ngoy, a Cambodian refugee arriving in the U.S. in the ’70s.
Director Jiayan “Jenny” Shi’s Finding Yingying was recognized for a special jury recognition for breakthrough voice. The doc follows the story of Yingying Zhang, a Chinese graduate student who disappears in America. The true-crime procedural is combined with questions of cultural difference, family dynamics and the immigrant experience.
Documentary short No Crying at the Dinner Table, from Carol Nguyen, took the documentary short award, while special jury recognition went to Mizuko from Katelyn Rebelo and Kira Dane.
Just Hold On, a short film from Sam Davis and Rayka Zehtabchi, was named the Texas Shorts winner, while the Texas High School Shorts award went to Sofia Bajwa’s Unveiled.
The Louis Black “Lone Star” Award went to Boys State from directing team Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss.
Due to the event cancellation, there are no Audience Awards for 2020.
“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 Janet Pierson, director of film, in a statement. “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 honored 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 program — but we hope it will help garner some well-deserved recognition for these wonderful works.”
SXSW will continue running the Online Shift72 Screening Library through March 31, 2020, for those films that have opted-in to the extended timeframe.