The 24th Slamdance Film Festival presented by DGA announced the feature and short film recipients of this year’s Sparky Awards in the Audience, Jury, and Sponsored Categories. The festival also announced the recipients of three new awards: The Russo Brothers Fellowship, the CreativeFuture Innovation Award, and a curated Acting Award. The award winners were announced this evening at the festival’s annual Awards Ceremony at the Treasure Mountain Inn in Park City, UT.

The Awards Ceremony celebrates a week of emerging talent and the continued success of Slamdance Alumni, which includes: Jana Winternitz (Ur Friendz, 2010) and Dana Nachman (BatKid Begins, 2015). Pick Of The Litter, directed by Don Hardy and Nachman, made its world premiere at the fest and was acquired by Sundance Selects. The film was sold within 24 hours of its Opening Night screening, making it the first documentary feature to sell in Park City this year.

“We congratulate the winners and everyone at Slamdance who represented the unfiltered voice of independent artists. Thousands came to appreciate our diverse international program, including our neighbors Sundance. As the major acquisition of Pick of the Litter demonstrates, we can expect millions more to follow as our filmmakers and their work continue to attract global recognition out of our showcase.”

During the Awards Ceremony, Baxter announced the recipient of the highly anticipated The Russo Brothers Fellowship. The $25,000 prize, presented by AGBO Films in partnership with the festival, is designed to enable a deserving filmmaker the opportunity to continue their journey with mentorship from Joe and Anthony as well as development support from their studio. The 2018 recipient of the inaugural Russo Brothers Fellowship is Yassmina Karajah, director of the narrative short, Rupture.

“Ever since their first film premiered at Slamdance, Anthony and Joe Russo have cared deeply about supporting our community. They have continually given back to a festival that helped them—first as programmers and increasingly now as mentors. The Russo brothers embody our ‘by filmmakers, for filmmakers’ paradigm and by awarding Yassmina Karajah with the inaugural Fellowship Award, demonstrate the power of our artist led community to help launch careers.”

Peter Baxter presented the award, and shared these remarks from Anthony and Joe Russo: “There were many special films at Slamdance this year, but Yassmina Karajah brought exceptional direction and an elegant cinematic style to a very difficult and worthy story, portraying the heartbreaking experience of immigrant children. We’re inspired to help her continue her journey as a filmmaker, and greatly look forward to working with her.”

The Festival also presented the inaugural CreativeFeature Innovation Award. Slamdance and CreativeFuture have partnered for years to support new talent in the world of film and educate creatives on the importance of protecting their work. This inaugural Award is given to an emerging filmmaker who exhibits the innovative spirit of filmmaking. The CreativeFuture Innovation Award went to Shunsaku Hayashi for his animated short film, Railment.

Peter Baxter presented the award on behalf of CreativeFuture, and shared remarks from Ruth Vitale, CreativeFuture CEO: “Congratulations to Shunsaku Hayashi for winning Slamdance’s CreativeFuture Innovation Award. His film, Railment, exemplifies the innovative spirit of filmmaking by masterfully telling a story through the expert use of visuals and striking colors. The award is well-deserved and we look forward to seeing more from Shunsaku.”

This year’s feature competition lineup included 16 premieres—9 World, 6 North American, and 1 US premiere. Most titles were produced in the US, with additional features hailing from: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany and Netherlands. All competition films are feature length directorial debuts with budgets of less than $1 million USD, and without US distribution.

A jury of esteemed filmmakers and industry professionals determined the Slamdance Jury Awards for Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature, and Short Film categories. Audience Awards, as well as the newly named George Starks Spirit Of Slamdance Award—an award given by the filmmakers of Slamdance 2018 to the filmmaker who best embodies the spirit of the Festival—were also presented during the ceremony.

This year’s Slamdance Narrative Jury Prizes were selected by: Charles Olivier (Director, Snow & Ashes), Lucy Mukerjee (Director of Programming, Outfest), Thomas Mahoney (Producer, The Girl In The Photographs). The Sparky Award for Best Narrative Feature went to Rock Steady Row, directed by Trevor Stevens and written by Bomani Story

Rock Steady Row is a shining star in genre, young adult themes, and ‘save the day’ filmmaking. Done creatively in a comic book meets George Miller meets John Carpenter universe. Sharply directed by Trevor Stevens and written by Bomani Story. With strong ingenuity not commonly seen at this budget and experience level, Rock Steady Row stands tall,” said jurors.

This year’s Slamdance Documentary Jury Prizes were selected by: Charlotte Cook (Co-Founder and Executive Producer, Field Of Vision), and Cullen Hoback (Director, What Lies Upstream). The Sparky Award for Best Documentary Feature went to Mr. Fish: Cartooning From The Deep End, directed by Pablo Bryant

The jury shared, “Crafted with the same rugged earnestness and political incorrectness as its subject, this fast paced, exceptionally told portrait creates a complex, funny and layered depiction of a cartoonist who embodies the principles of free speech while revealing the trappings of such an existence. Just like Fish’s cartoons, Mr, Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End is a gateway to hard political discourse, challenging social norms and forcing us to look more closely at what tolerance means. For showing us what is lost when political art is sacrificed to subscription fees, and capturing its subject with the same raw idealism that keeps Fish drawing, we give the Feature Documentary Award to Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End.”

The Sparky Award for Best Documentary Short went to Nueva Vida, directed by Jonathan Seligson.

From the jurors: “Humble, heartbreaking, and hilarious; this short, personal documentary employs animation to great effect; reminding us of the impermanence and seeming randomness of the universe, and the life altering calamity that can ensue from nothing more than a soccer ball hit to the head. For transforming a captivating 7 minute interview into a highly illustrative and unforgettable story, we give the Best Short Documentary Award to: Nueva Vida.”

This year’s Slamdance Narrative Shorts Prize was selected by: Kevin Hanson (Head of the Film & Media Arts Department, University of Utah), Scott Renshaw (Arts & Entertainment Editor, The Salt Lake Tribune) and Olivia Mascheroni (Executive Producer, Blumhouse Productions). The Sparky award for Best Narrative Short went to Rupture, directed by Yassmina Karajah.

“As a filmmaker and a teacher, I am always encouraging blurring the line between narrative and documentary,” said Kevin Hanson. “This film does that to enormous effect. Not only is the film as a whole a beautiful and uniquely framed journey, but we also have a truly organic experience of these children who are pushed by the director and then allowed to live their own lives within the story. It was a privilege to experience this film.”

This year’s Slamdance Experimental and Animation Shorts jury prizes were selected by: Angela H. Brown (Executive Editor, SLUG Magazine), Beckie Stocchetti (Executive Director, Hawaii International Film Festival) and Andres Olsen-Rodriguez (Projectionist, Slamdance). The Sparky Prize for Best Experimental Short went to Are You Tired Of Forever?, directed by Caitlin Craggs.

Are You Tired Of Forever? embodies the artistic, DIY soul of Slamdance ... in melting teacup." said the jurors.

The Sparky Prize for Best Animation Short went to Interstitial, directed by Shunsaku Hayashi.

"Interstitial is a visual poem that evokes a universal human experience. Hayashi's hand-drawn artwork and self-composed audio are testaments to the labor and love injected into this emotive piece," said the jury.

Each jury also recognized additional films with Honorable Mentions:

  • Narrative Feature Honorable Mention - Lovers (Dir.: Niels Holstein Kaa)

  • Narrative Feature Honorable Mention - Fake Tattoos (Dir.: Pascal Plante)

  • Documentary Feature Honorable Mention - MexMan (Dir.: Josh Polon)

  • Documentary Shorts Honorable Mention - The Last Man You Meet (Chris Bone)

  • Narrative Shorts Honorable Mention - Goodbye Brooklyn (Dir.: Daniel Jaffe)

  • Experimental Shorts Honorable Mention - Silica (Dir.: Pia Borg)

  • Animation Shorts Honorable Mention - Satellite Strangers (Dir. James Bascara)

Additionally, a curated Acting Award was presented to Rhaechyl Walker for her breakout performance in, My Name Is Myeisha.

My Name Is Myeisha is one of the best feature narratives to have played at Slamdance and central to its a success is the performance of Rhaechyl Walker, one of the best I have ever seen,” said Baxter.

“When we started this project seven years ago on a stage at an open mic night, the thought of our story being amplified on a silver screen never entered my mind.” said Walker. “I am so proud, and beyond honored to be a part of such a powerful force of artistic expression that has found its way into many hearts, planted a seed, and nourished souls. Thank you Slamdance for providing this amazing platform, and for this phenomenal award.”

The George Starks Spirit Of Slamdance Award went to Wendy McColm, director of Birds Without Feathers. Formerly known as the Spirit of Slamdance Award, the prize was renamed in the honor of George Starks. Starks, who passed away last summer, was a longtime friend of Slamdance and served as the festival’s Utah Producer.

“I like to think that George was made for Slamdance, and Slamdance was made for him,” shared Baxter. “He always saw the best in our filmmakers and encouraged their potential while never seeking attention for himself. George’s spirit and constant belief in our community shaped Slamdance’s success and consequently many artists. We’ve lost a upon light upon us that we never wanted to go out. George will forever embody the spirit of Slamdance.”

Awards were also given to festival favorites, voted on by Slamdance audiences. The Narrative Feature Audience Award was presented to Rock Steady Row, directed by Trevor Stevens. Freedom For The Wolf, directed by Rupert Russell, received the Documentary Feature Audience Award, The Beyond Feature Audience Award was awarded to My Name Is Myeisha, directed by Gus Krieger.

The festival also recognized the Audience Award runners-up in their respective feature categories: Charlie And Hannah's Grand Night Out (Dir: Bert Scholiers), MexMan (Dir.: Josh Polon) and Funny Story (Dir.:  Michael Gallagher).

A full list of winners is below:

Jury Awards | Narrative Features

Narrative Feature Grand Jury Prize - Rock Steady Row (Dir.: Trevor Stevens)

Honorable Mentions: Fake Tattoos (Dir.: Pascal Plante) and Lovers (Dir.: Niels Holstein Kaa)


Jury Awards | Documentary Features, Documentary Shorts

Documentary Feature Grand Jury Prize - Mr. Fish: Cartooning From The Deep End (Dir.: Pablo Bryant)

Honorable Mention - MexMan (Dir.: Josh Polon)

Documentary Short Grand Jury Prize - Nueva Vida (Dir.: Jonathan Seligson)

Honorable Mention: The Last Man You Meet (Dir.: Chris Bone)


Jury Awards - Narrative Shorts

Narrative Shorts Grand Jury Prize: Rupture (Dir.: Yassmina Karajah)

Honorable Mention: Goodbye, Brooklyn (Dir.: Daniel Jaffe)


Jury Awards - Experimental Shorts/ Animated Shorts

Experimental Shorts Grand Jury Prize: Are You Tired Of Forever? (Dir.:  Caitlin Craggs)

Honorable Mention: Silica (Dir.: Pia Borg)

Animated Shorts Grand Jury Prize: Interstitial (Dir.: Shunsaku Hayashi)

Honorable Mention: Satellite Strangers (Dir.: James Bascara)


Slamdance Acting Award:

Rhaechyl Walker (My Name is Myeisha)


Spirit of Slamdance Award Winner:

Wendy McColm (Dir. of Birds Without Feathers)


CreativeFuture Innovation Award:

Railment (Dir.: Shunsaku Hayashi)


The Russo Brothers Fellowship Award Winner:

Rupture (Dir.: Yassmina Karajah)


Audience Awards:

Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature:  Rock Steady Row (Dir.: Trevor Stevens)

Runner up: Charlie And Hannah's Grand Night Out (Dir.: Bert Scholiers)


Audience Award for Documentary Feature: Freedom For The Wolf (Dir.: Rupert Russell)

Runner up: MexMan (Dir.: Josh Polon)


Audience Award for Beyond Feature: My Name Is Myeisha (Dir.: Gus Krieger)

Runner up: Funny Story (Dir.: Michael Gallagher)


Slamdance is a community, a year-round experience, and a statement. Established in 1995 by a wild bunch of filmmakers who were tired of relying on a large, oblique system to showcase their work, Slamdance has proven, year after year, that when it comes to recognizing talent and launching careers, independent and grassroots communities can do it themselves.

Over 100 Slamdance alums are responsible for the programming and organization of the festival. With a variety of backgrounds, interests, and talents, but with no individual filmmaker’s vote meaning more than any others, Slamdance’s programming and organizing committees have been able to stay close to the heart of low budget and do-it-yourself filmmaking. In this way, Slamdance continues to grow and exemplify its mantra: By Filmmakers, For Filmmakers.

The 2018 Slamdance Film Festival took place from January 19-25  in Park City, Utah.