SCAD Savannah Film Festival 2023 Award Winners Include At the Gates and Bad Press
A still from Bad Press courtesy of SCAD

The Savannah College of Art and Design has announced the award winners from the 26th annual SCAD Savannah Film Festival, including At the Gates and Bad Press.

In total 167 films — including 51 narrative features, 16 documentary features, and 100 short films — are being screened at the 2023 festival, which is taking place from Oct. 21-28 in Savannah, Georgia.

Of the 99 professional and student shorts and feature films that were chosen to compete in the competition categories, 19 received awards.

Augustus Meleo Bernstein’s At The Gates won Best Narrative Feature. The thriller, which screened on Sunday at the Trustees Theater, follows Ana, a housekeeper from El Salvador who brings her teenage son Nico to help her clean an affluent family’s Los Angeles home. Things take a drastic turn when Ana’s employers inform her that immigration officers are after her and her son, imploring them to hide in their basement.

Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler’s Bad Press won Best Documentary Feature. The doc screened on Friday at the Trustees Theater.

Here is the film’s logline: “When the Muscogee Nation government abruptly repeals its landmark Free Press Act to muzzle the tribe’s hard-hitting news outlet, defiant and foul-mouthed journalist Angel Ellis charges headfirst into a historic (and surprisingly funny) battle to restore her tribe’s press freedoms.”

A new addition to this year’s festival is the SAVFF LGBTQIA+ Short Film Competition presented by Amazon MGM Studios, which donated $10,000 for the overall winner and $5,000 for the Audience Award. Films eligible for that competition were under 40 minutes and represented “excellence in storytelling and execution in narrative or documentary formats, reflecting unique insight into LGBTQIA+ themes, issues, or ideas.”

Gbenga Komolafe’s short “100% USDA Certified Organic Homemade Tofu” won the overall prize, while Taran Killam’s “Fanatic” won the audience award.

Other winners include So Young Shelly Yo, who won Best Director for Smoking Tigers, and Kevin Haefelin’s “The Fuse” which won Best Narrative Student Short.

Update on Nov. 1: Emerald Fennell’s Salbturn was the winner and Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction was the runner up for this year’s inaugural SCAD Savannah Film Festival audience awards. The audience awards are chosen by festival attendees. Fennell also received the Spotlight Director Award and Jefferson received the Breakthrough Director Award.

See the full list of winners below.

Here Are All the SCAD Savannah Film Festival Award Winners

Professional Competition

Best Animated Short – “Slow Light” directed by Katarzyna Kijek and Przemysław Adamski

Best Director – Smoking Tigers, directed by So Young Shelly Yo

Best Documentary Feature – Bad Press, directed by Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler

Best Documentary Short: Unique Courage – “Mayan Softball Revolution” directed by Michael Zimbalist

Best Documentary Short: Lessons of Hope – “Seeds of Change” directed by Maximilian Armstrong

Best Narrative Short – “The Old Young Crow” directed by Liam LoPinto

Best Narrative Feature – At The Gates, directed by Augustus Meleo Bernstein

Documentary Shorts: Best of Show – “Mayan Softball Revolution” directed by Michael Zimbalist 

Student Competition

Best Narrative Student Short – “The Fuse” directed by Kevin Haefelin

Best Student Animation – “Close Your Eyes” directed by Manon Bérardengo, Audrey Defonte, Léo Depoix, Denis Koessler, Clémentine Laurent, Pierre Guislain, and Chloé Boursier

Best Student Documentary Short – “Just Jacob.” directed by Halle Losordo *SCAD Student Film

Documentary Shorts Jury Award – The Local Hero Award: Lessons of Hope – “God’s Love Split” *SCAD Student Film

Student Animated Shorts Jury Award – Excellence in 2D Animation: “The Sun Is Bad” directed by Rachel Mow *SCAD Student Film

Student Narrative Shorts Jury Award – Excellence in Directing and Acting: “Blue Hour” directed by J.D. Shields

Global Shorts Forum

Global Shorts Forum Best of Show – “Our Males and Females” directed by Ahmad Alyaseer

Best Global Short: Beyond Identity – “Hafekasi” directed by Annelise Hickey

Best Global Short: Rocking the Cradle of Civilization – “In the Garden of Tulips” directed by Julia Elihu

Shorts Spotlight

Shorts Spotlight Best of Show – “Mira” directed by Eva Louise Hall

Best Shorts Spotlight: A Kaleidoscope of Connections – “Tom & Cinda” directed by Eva Neuwirth

Best Shorts Spotlight: Horrors in Plain Sight – “Mira” directed byEva Louise Hall

Best Shorts Spotlight: Family Fun – “Morning Joy” directed by John Henry Hinkel

Shorts Spotlight Jury Award: Excellence in Craftsmanship – “Lovebugs” directed by Teddy Alvarez-Nissen

SAVFF LGBTQIA+ Short Film Competition Presented by Amazon MGM Studios

“100% USDA Certified Organic Homemade Tofu” directed by Gbenga Komolafe

Audience Award Winner

“Fanatic” directed by Taran Killam

Also Read: The Bikeriders Director Jeff Nichols Says You Don’t Need Talent to Become a Writer-Director, Just Practice

Main Image: A still from Bad Press courtesy of SCAD.