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ATLANTA, GA (May 14, 2021) — The 45th annual Atlanta Film Festival + Creative Conference (ATLFF) is proud to announce the award winners for the 2021 festival, which took place from April 22, 2021 – May 2, 2021. Additionally, ATLFF is pleased to share event facts and figures resulting from its unique hybrid blend of both virtual and in-person presentations throughout this year’s festival. Today’s announcement recognizes filmmakers in 12 categories for their achievements and cinematic excellence. Winners of the Narrative Short, Animated Short, and Documentary Short Jury Awards not only proudly took home their awards, but now also qualify for the 2022 Academy Awards®. ATLFF is one of less than twenty U.S. film festivals that is Academy Award®-qualifying in all three shorts categories: Narrative Short, Documentary Short, and Animated Short. Most award winners were chosen by distinguished jurors from all backgrounds across the film industry. They include Ali Kareem, a screenwriter, and director whose first short film, “Hassan in Wonderland,” has been screened at many film festivals all around the world; Jason Orr, an award-winning documentary filmmaker most notably known as the director, writer, and producer of the award-winning documentary film, “FunkJazz Kafé: Diary Of A Decade;” Keisha Rae Witherspoon, a Jamaican-American independent filmmaker who was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film 2020;” Gabriela Díaz Arp, an independent producer, and filmmaker whose most recently virtual reality film premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and screened at Cannes NEXT and the Sheffield Doc Fest; among over a dozen others. The Audience Awards were determined by both virtual and in-person attendees.

Best Documentary Feature: CARTERLAND directed by Jim Pattiz & Will Pattiz

Special Jury Award for Artistic Spirit and Ingenuity - Documentary Feature: SOCKS ON FIRE directed by Bo McGuire

Best Narrative Feature: CULPA directed by Ulrike Grote

Special Jury Award for Rising Director and Lead Actor - Narrative Feature: LUDI directed by Edson Jean, starring Shein Mompremier

Best Animated Short: UN DIABLE DANS LA POCHE, directed by Antoine Bonnet & Mathilde Loubes

Best Documentary Short: SEAHORSE directed by Nele Dehnenkamp

Honorable Mention - Documentary Short: SCARLET MEDUSA directed by Spencer MacDonald

Best Narrative Short:

THE DRESS directed by Tadeusz Lysiak

  • Honorable Mention - Narrative Short: ANITA directed by Sushma Khadepaun

  • Honorable Mention - Narrative Short: BORN AGAIN directed by Candice Onyeama

  • Honorable Mention - Narrative Short: GEORGIA directed by Jayil Pak

Best Cinematography (Sponsored by Panavision and Light Iron):

  • OFF THE ROAD cinematography by Ernesto Trujillo

  • Honorable Mention - Cinematography: SOCKS ON FIRE cinematography by Matt Clegg

Georgia Film Award:

  • bustitOpen directed by Danielle Deadwyler

Filmmaker-to-Watch Award:

  • Justice Jamal Jones ("How to Raise a Black Boy”)

Southern Documentary Fund Filmmaker Award (Presented by the SDF):

  • SOCKS ON FIRE directed by Bo McGuire

  • TEN LEAVES DILATED directed by Kate E. Hinshaw, co-directed by Ebony Blanding

Audience Award Winners:

  • SOCKS ON FIRE directed by Bo McGuire

  • A FIRE WITHIN directed by Christopher Chambers

  • JUST THE TWO OF US directed by Grasie Mercedes, co-directed by Nathan Caywood

  • GEORGIA directed by Jayil Pak




Claire Cifelli is a marketing manager at IFC Films, where she leads theatrical and home entertainment campaigns for award-winning independent cinema. She collaborates with filmmakers, artists, exhibitors, and grassroots organizations to help support dozens of releases a year. In 2019, she served as IFC Film's creative lead for The Nightingale's "Breathtaking" trailer, which earned a gold award from Clio Entertainment. Her current and upcoming projects include Moffie, The Dry, and The Nowhere Inn.

BRETT ROGALSKY (Gravitas Ventures) Brett is the Manager of Acquisitions at Gravitas Ventures. A massive cinephile, he strives to bring strong independent content to a wide audience. He’s proudly a Pittsburgh native and graduated from the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College with a degree in Cinema and Photography.

ALI KAREEM (Filmmaker) Ali Kareem, born in 1984, is an Iraqi / German screenwriter and director. In 2011, he graduated as theater director from the Academy of Fine Arts, Baghdad University. In 2016, he completed his master "Choreography and Performance" at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies, at Gießen University (Germany). His first short film HASSAN IN WONDERLAND has been screened on many film festivals all around the world including Palm Springs Film Festival and Short Short Film Festival. Ali Kareem works as program advisor for Film Festivals and he is part of the selection committee of the Arab Festival San Francisco.


CHRIS CAMPBELL (Film School Rejects) Christopher Campbell is a Senior Editor at Film School Rejects and the founding editor of Nonfics as well as a regular contributor to Fandango, Rotten Tomatoes, Oz Magazine, and others. A transplant from the Northeast, he has been writing film criticism and covering entertainment news since the early 2000s and has specialized in documentaries for the past decade. In addition to being a member of the AFCC, he is the President of the Documentary Branch of the Critics Choice Association, for which he leads the annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards.

CAMERON SWANAGON (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Cameron has been an Oscilloscope Laboratories loyalist since his days slinging DVDs at a video rental shop, and as an employee for the last six years, most recently coordinating with festivals. He sustains mainly on top-ramen and drinks his coffee black.

JASON ORR (Filmmaker, ATLFF Alum) Jason Orr is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, marketing consultant, cultural arts curator, and festival producer, most notably, FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival and Life Arts Documentary Film Festival + Music Conference. He's the director, writer, and producer of the award-winning documentary film, "FunkJazz Kafé: Diary Of A Decade", producer of the award-winning "Maynard" documentary on former Atlanta mayor and visionary, Maynard Jackson, producer/director of "Stepping Into Tomorrow' and director of "Hoodwinked: The Nigga Factory", a web series produced by Speech of Arrested Development. Orr has also produced and directed short films and music videos with several mainstream artists such as Meshell Ndegeocello, UK artist Omar Lye-Fook, Dionne Farris, and Van Hunt. On-screen, Orr has appeared as himself on TV One's hit series, "Unsung" and Centric's "Leading Ladies - India Arie", providing expertise commentary on music and social history. In 2014, he received a proclamation from the City Of Atlanta for his contributions to the city's music, film, and cultural arts communities.


KEISHA RAE WITHERSPOON (Filmmaker, ATLFF Alum) Keisha Rae Witherspoon is a Jamaican-American independent filmmaker currently based in South Florida, her birthplace. Her work is driven by interests in science, speculative fiction, and fantasy, as well as documenting the unseen and unheralded nuances of diasporic people. She was named one of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film 2020". Her most recent film T has screened at BlackStar, Sundance, and Berlinale, where it won the Golden Bear. It closed its festival run at New Directors/New Films and is currently streaming on The Criterion Channel. She is currently writing a Black sci-fi set in Opa-Locka, Florida. This will be her feature directorial debut.

BOB MONDELLO (NPR) Bob Mondello has reviewed movies and reported on arts and culture for NPR’s All Things Considered since 1984. Before becoming a critic, he headed the public relations department for a Washington DC cinema chain.

SHIRA ROCKOWITZ As Director of Creative Producing and Artist Support in the Feature Film Program at Sundance Institute, Shira leads the organization’s strategy for supporting emerging independent fiction producers, screenwriters, and directors. Prioritizing inclusion and underrepresented voices, she devises programs that encompass creative/professional development, granting, mentorship, and industry engagement to help artists advance their work and build enduring careers. Recently supported films include The 40-Year-Old Version, Farewell Amor, Nine Days, The Farewell, and Sorry to Bother You. Previously, Shira was Director of Development and Production at Exclusive Media and a co-producer on John Carney’s Begin Again. She has also held positions at New Regency, Paramount Vantage, and Fine Line Features / New Line Cinema. Shira is a graduate of Northwestern University and holds an MFA from the Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California, where she is an adjunct lecturer.


MORRISA MALTZ (Filmmaker, ATLFF Alum) Morrisa Maltz is an artist and filmmaker. She holds a BA in Fine Art from Columbia University. Her work has been shown at MOCA, MCASB, and galleries internationally. Her first film, THE CARETAKER, won Best Live Action Short at the 2012 LES Film Festival in New York. Her second film, ODYSSEA, premiered at Slamdance in 2014. Morrisa’s first feature documentary, INGRID, premiered on PBS last spring and is distributed by Grasshopper Film. INGRID was a 2018 Festival Gem and featured on Hammer to Nail’s top 20 films of 2018 as well as articles by The Sundance Institute and MovieMaker Magazine. She is currently finishing post-production of her first narrative feature, THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY. Morrisa is a 2018/2019 AFS North Texas Pioneer grant recipient and was included in the IFP Narrative Lab 2019 US in Progress Poland and the 2019 AFS Artist Intensive.

GABRIELA DÍAZ ARP (Filmmaker, ATLFF Alum) Gabriela Díaz Arp is an independent producer and filmmaker passionate about developing films and art that strengthen the human connection. Her most recent virtual reality film, Meeting a Monster, exploring the memories and motivations of former white supremacist Angela King, premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. It has also been shown at Cannes NEXT and the Sheffield Doc Fest. She's currently working on a documentary about a multi-generational family of women in Puerto Rico creating a science fiction film as a way of healing from gender-based violence and abuse.

DREW SCHWARTZ (VICE) Drew Schwartz is a staff writer at VICE, where he covers the music and film industries. While he now lives in New York, he was born and raised in Atlanta.


JANE SAMBORSKI (Animator) Jane Samborski is the Animation Director for Cryptozoo, winner of the Sundance Innovator Award. She is the Lead Animator for My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea, and her work has appeared in multiple documentaries as well as the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. She currently resides in Richmond, VA. with her filmmaking partner and husband, Dash Shaw, and their daughter.

JAK WILMOT (Disrupt, ATLFF Alum) Jak Wilmot is the founder of Disrupt - an internet studio creating YouTube & Virtual Reality content.

ASHLEY KOHLER (Awesome Incorporated) Ashley Kohler is the multi-hyphenate head of motion design and animation studio Awesome Incorporated. Ashley launched Awesome Inc in 2006 after eight years at Cartoon Network, bringing both experience and artistry to the company’s foundation. Supervising both creative and production, Ashley’s hands-on approach can be seen throughout Awesome Inc’s distinctive body of work and visionary team of talent. Ashley’s creativity, attention to detail, and ardor for animation help distinguish Awesome Inc in the crowded field of content creation. Ashley has led teams on over 150 episodes of series animation for networks like Adult Swim, Hulu, and IFC, while also supervising commercial, promo, and packaging projects for clients including FX, Cartoon Network, Wieden+Kennedy, and Nickelodeon. She is passionate about improving diversity in animation and empowering artists throughout the Southeast and serves on the board of directors for ASIFA South.


AMBER L.N. BOURNETT (Cinematographer, ATLFF Alum) Amber L.N. Bournett is an award-winning cinematographer & director based in Atlanta. While studying Fine Art & Film and Video at Georgia State University, Bournett co-founded independent production company House of June. She then served as a videographer under an indie music label. Bournett gained training as a camera prep technician at Commander Lighting and Grip, before joining the union as a camera assistant. As an independent filmmaker, Bournett has served as cinematographer and co-director to several award-winning short narratives. In addition to national festival screenings, several of her narratives have screened internationally. Her ATL Airport Shorts triptych, LEVITATE, LEVITATE, LEVITATE, was selected for Cannes Shorts through the THEA program. Amber has contributed additional photography for feature films, documentaries, and series including BET (“Tales”), HBO (UNITED SKATES OF AMERICA), and independent feature HIS, HERS, AND THE TRUTH. Bournett was also a 2019 participant of the AFI Female Cinematographer Intensive.

KRISTIAN ZUNIGA (Cinematographer, ATLFF Alum) Kristian Zuniga came up in Atlanta working on music videos for artists like Future, Migos, Run The Jewels, Young Thug, Young Jeezy, and many other local legends. He quickly found his way into branded docs and commercials. Within the last two years, he's transitioned into the feature world having shot Depeche Modes "Spirits In The Forest", which premiered in theaters in November of 2019 and most recently BEAST BEAST which premiered at Sundance in 2020.

SAM ELLISON (Cinematographer, ATLFF Alum) Sam Ellison is a cinematographer, director, and camera operator based in New York City. He was nominated for the SOC’s Camera Operator of the Year Award for his work on A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019). His debut feature documentary, Chèche Lavi (Looking for Life), premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in January 2019, winning Best Cinematography at the Atlanta Film Festival 2020 and Best Documentary Director at RiverRun 2020. Chèche Lavi has played at more than 40 festivals around the world. Sam’s recent camera credits include work on I Know This Much is True (2020), Academy Award winner Manchester By The Sea (2016), The Devil All The Time (2020), Vox Lux (2018), and the television series Severance (2021). He received his BA from Harvard in 2008 and his MFA from Stanford in 2017.




Directed by Jim Pattiz & Will Pattiz

USA, 2021, English, 122 minutes,

Documentary Feature In their feature film debut, CARTERLAND, the Pattiz Brothers examine the tragic, yet inspiring story of America's most misunderstood president. While leading the nation through a series of unprecedented crises, Jimmy Carter also confronted climate change and championed social justice at home and abroad. This groundbreaking film draws on archival footage, experts, and insiders to reveal how Carter's selfless leadership and moral integrity ultimately cost him the presidency.



Directed by Bo McGuire USA,

2020, English, 93 minutes, Documentary Feature

A poet composes a cinematic love letter to his grandmother as his homophobic aunt and drag queen uncle wage war over her estate in Hokes Bluff, Alabama. [Pink Peach]



Directed by Ulrike Grote

France/Spain/Germany, 2020, German/Spanish, 84 minutes,

Narrative Feature Eight years ago, Hanna and Mads suffered a tragedy that continues to have a profound impact on their lives. Having reached a crucial turning point in their relationship, they must decide if they have a future together or if it's time to go their separate ways. Shot without a script over the course of 11 days, the film acts as both an experiment and testament to the power of improvisational drama in creating a story as real as life itself. [New Mavericks]



Directed by Edson Jean USA, 2021,

English/Haitian Creole/Spanish, 81 minutes,

Narrative Feature Desperate to send money to her family back in Haiti, hardworking and exhausted nurse Ludi Alcidor spends a chaotic day battling coworkers, clients, and an impatient bus driver as she chases the American Dream in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood. [Noire] [CineMás]


UN DIABLE DANS LA POCHE Directed by Antoine Bonnet & Mathilde Loubes

France, 2019, French, 6 minutes, Animated Short

A group of children witnesses a crime and is forced to remain silent. Auguste, the youngest, finds the burden too heavy and decides to reveal this secret. To punish this treason, the rest of the kids plan to get rid of him.


SEAHORSE Directed by Nele Dehnenkamp

Germany, 2020, German, 16 minutes, Documentary

Short Over the course of her little brother's swimming lesson, Yezidi wrestles quietly with her fearsome memories of the Mediterranean Sea. [New Mavericks]



Directed by Spencer MacDonald

Japan/Italy/USA, 2020, Japanese, 19 minutes, Documentary Short

At the edge of Shirahama, a coastal tourist town in Japan, an aging scientist works to unlock the biological secret of immortality held in the life cycle of a tiny jellyfish. At a temple in Kyoto, a Zen priest contemplates the metaphysical immortality held within a single breath.



Directed by Tadeusz Łysiak

Poland, 2020, Polish, 30 minutes, Narrative Short

Lust, sexuality, and physicality. These are the deepest desires virgin Julia suppresses while working at a wayside motel. That is until she crosses paths with a handsome truck driver, who soon becomes the object of her fantasies.


ANITA Directed by Sushma Khadepaun

India/USA, 2020, Gujarati, 18 minutes, Narrative Short

Anita, a young Indian living in the US, returns to India for her sister’s wedding. She counts on her husband’s support to announce some great news. All excited, her family immediately assumes Anita is having a baby, but their joy is short-lived. Anita found a new job.



Directed by Candice Onyeama

UK/Cyprus, 2020, Igbo/English, 11 minutes, Narrative Short

Nwa, a British Nigerian woman, is tormented by her inability to have children until a transformative baptism leads her on a journey of healing and rebirth. [New Mavericks]



Directed by Jayil Pak

South Korea, 2020, Korean, 29 minutes, Narrative Short

When the police refuse to investigate their daughter’s alleged suicide, two computer-illiterate parents decide to design a protest banner.


OFF THE ROAD Directed by José Permar

Mexico/USA, 2020, Spanish, 78 minutes, Documentary Feature

A group of young musicians sings the deeds of three men who live in the most isolated region of the Baja California Sur desert. As the “Baja 1000”, the world's largest annual all-terrain car race, takes place crossing the Mexican-US border, these men look for an opportunity to be a part of it and escape the apparent monotony of their small communities. [CineMás]



Directed by Bo McGuire

USA, 2020, English, 93 minutes

A poet composes a cinematic love letter to his grandmother as his homophobic aunt and drag queen uncle wage war over her estate in Hokes Bluff, Alabama. [Pink Peach]


bustitOpen Directed by Danielle Deadwyler

USA, 2021, English, 40 minutes, Documentary Feature

A foursome of intergenerational black women details the quotidian nature of mother/womanhood. Transfixed by an historical and surrealistic imagery, bustitOpen molds a legacy and a (un)making of the world of their work. [Georgia] [New Mavericks] [Noire]



USA, 2021, English, 14 minutes,

Narrative Short An experimental fairytale dedicated to the modern black boy, in which four boys disappear one night, as many black boys do, and find themselves on a fantastical journey to break the curses of black boyhood. [Noire] [Pink Peach]



Directed by Bo McGuire USA, 2020,

English, 93 minutes

A poet composes a cinematic love letter to his grandmother as his homophobic aunt and drag queen uncle wage war over her estate in Hokes Bluff, Alabama. [Pink Peach]

TEN LEAVES DILATED Directed by Kate E. Hinshaw, co-directed by Ebony Blanding

USA, 2021, English, 14 minutes, Documentary Short

A documentary that uses the make-believe world crafted by Cabbage Patch Kids to examine discourses surrounding childbirth in the South. [Georgia] [New Mavericks] [Noire]



Directed by Bo McGuire USA, 2020,

English, 93 minutes A poet composes a cinematic love letter to his grandmother as his homophobic aunt and drag queen uncle wage war over her estate in Hokes Bluff, Alabama. [Pink Peach]


Directed by Christopher Chambers USA/Canada/Ethiopia,

2021, English, 85 minutes

A FIRE WITHIN chronicles the incredible true story of three Ethiopian women who immigrate to the U.S. after surviving torture in their home country, only to discover that the man responsible for their torture is not only living in the US but is employed at the same midtown Atlanta hotel as one of the women. [Georgia]

JUST THE TWO OF US Directed by Grasie Mercedes (co-directed by Nathan Caywood)

USA, 2020, English, 9 minutes

After weeks of dating, Walton and Jess are back at his place and ready to have sex together for the first time. But first, Jess has to share a secret about her anatomy that may just scare Walton away. [New Mavericks] [Noire]

GEORGIA Directed by Jayil Pak

South Korea, 2020, Korean, 29 minutes

When the police refuse to investigate their daughter’s alleged suicide, two computer-illiterate parents decide to design a protest banner.

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