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“Storm Lake” and “Shelter” recognized as AFI DOCS 2021 award winners

The American Film Institute unveiled the award winners for this year’s edition of its annual documentary film festival, which concluded on Sunday (June 27). The 19th edition of AFI DOCS ran last week ...
June 28, 2021

The American Film Institute unveiled the award winners for this year’s edition of its annual documentary film festival, which concluded on Sunday (June 27).

The 19th edition of AFI DOCS ran last week from June 22 to 27 both online and with some in-person screenings at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland near Washington, D.C. At the end of the festival, Storm Lake won the Audience Award for Best Feature, and Shelter won the Audience Award for Best Short.

Directed by Jerry Risius and Beth Leivison, Storm Lake is a documentary about Art Cullen and his family who have published a Pulitzer Prize-winning local newspaper in Storm Lake, Iowa for 30 years, but face an uncertain future with newspapers everywhere going out of business. A Q&A with Levison, Risius and Cullen was also held (pictured), moderated by The Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan. Meanwhile, Shelter is a short verité film directed by Smriti Mundhra about three children and their families grappling with housing insecurity in Los Angeles.

The festival’s Short Film Grand Jury Prize was awarded to Red Taxi. The short film features the experience of taxi drivers in Hong Kong working during escalating protests. The short was anonymously filmed by locals, and was awarded for “telling a story from the perspective of those living and working in a moment of political upheaval,” AFI DOCS said.

AFI DOCS’ grand jury prize for short films is a qualifying award for Academy Award eligibility.

Special jury prizes were also awarded to a pair of short films at AFI DOCS. The Communion of My Cousin Andrea, directed by Brandán Cerviño was one winner for telling a reflexive story with levity and tenderness. The other award went to S P A C E S (M E Z E R Y) directed by Nora Štrbová, which is a multi-textured animated exploration of memory as a container for identity based on the personal story of Štrbová’s brother who was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

AFI DOCS this year included a slate of 78 films from 23 countries. This year, 52% of the films were directed by women, 40% were by BIPOC directors and 18% by LGBTQ directors.

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