The Social Justice Film Festival has announced the winners of its Gold Jury Prize, Director’s Choice Award, and Youth Visions Showcase. The 11-day festival, held October 7-17, featured 60 films from around the world, with a special focus on prisoner justice.
Director’s Choice Award: Mothers of Bedford, directed by Jennifer McShane
Is it possible to become a better mother while serving time in a maximum-security prison? A feature-length documentary, Mothers of Bedford looks at the lives of five women in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility through the lens of motherhood. The film is a wrenching exploration of the struggles and joys these five women face as prisoners and mothers. It opened the festival as part of a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the festival’s founding sponsor, Books to Prisoners.Director’s Choice Award
Gold Jury Prize (tie) – Feature – The Other Side of Silence, directed by Claudia Johnson
This film follows Pulitzer Prize nominee Claudia Johnson’s 19-year quest to penetrate the mysterious silence surrounding the story of Ruby McCollum, the richest African-American woman in Live Oak, Florida, who was sentenced to the electric chair for the 1952 murder of her white doctor and alleged lover. But did Ruby commit murder? A multi-layered detective story from within the twists and turns of the Suwanee River, the film is a testament to Johnson’s determination to uncover the truth long suppressed by the town’s corrupt white power structure.
Gold Jury Prize (tie) – Feature – Il Rosa Nudo, directed by Giovanni Coda
Il Rosa Nudo (The Naked Rose) is a starkly beautiful experimental film inspired by the life of Pierre Seel, who was arrested at 17 by the Nazis on charges of homosexuality and sent to a concentration camp. In 1982, Seel decided to publicly reveal what he and other homosexuals branded with the Pink Triangle underwent during the Nazi regime. He was the first homocaust survivor to denounce the atrocities he witnessed. Focusing on the discredited theories of homosexuality that paved the way for Nazi persecution, Il Rosa Nudo evocatively depicts the anguish gay men endured during the war years and afterward.
Bronze Jury Prize – Feature – American Heart, directed by Chris Newberry
A primary care clinic in Minnesota becomes a crossroads for refugees and their devoted doctors, hosting hundreds of new arrivals from around the world as they navigate the healthcare system in their adopted homeland. Weaving together the personal stories of three of the patients,American Heart packs an emotional wallop as it portrays the lasting legacy of commitment, caring, and hope that the clinic provides.
Gold Jury Prize – Shorts – The Last Supper, directed by Ira Chute
This film powerfully tells the story of an artist who becomes obsessed with her local newspaper’s detailed description of an executed prisoner’s final meal request, leading her on a personal crusade to see the death penalty abolished through her artistic protest of painting more than 500 meal requests on ceramic plates.
Silver Jury Prize – Shorts – RU: Water is Life, directed by Shawn Small
This expertly-shot film chronicles a day in the life of a remarkable 12-year-old girl, Jina Teji, whose world revolves around walking a mile each way to fill a jerry can with water three times a day to sustain her family, for whom she is the primary caretaker.
Bronze Jury Prize – Shorts – Real Change, directed by Adam Becker
Real Change provides low-income and homeless people in Seattle with opportunities and a voice for economic justice. This film compellingly draws the viewer into the lives of four homeless individuals as they navigate the demands of daily life at the margins, and consider what homelessness in America means today.
Gold Jury Prize – Youth Visions
Poetic Justice Project, directed by Matthew Evans
Silver Jury Prize – Youth Visions
Ultramarine, directed by Matthew Earl
Bronze Jury Prize – Youth Visions
Unreasonable Suspicion, directed by William Herasme
Youth Visions Honorable Mentions
The Dogmatic, directed by Lance Oppenheim
Tribute to Trayvon Martin, directed by William Herasme