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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, mento