Festivals, Film
Oct 31, 2023


The American Film Institute announced today the AFI FEST 2023 Grand Jury Award winners and Special Mentions. The Grand Jury Award winners for Live Action Short, Documentary Short and Animated Short will be eligible for the 2023 Best Live Action Short, Best Documentary Short and Best Animated Short Academy Awards®.

The jury was comprised of BAFTA-winning and Emmy®-nominated director and writer Sindha Agha, film critic Ryan Swen and writer, producer and film programmer Imani Davis.

“By smashing attendance records this year, AFI FEST proves the power of cinema to bring us together in difficult times,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO. “For 37 years, AFI has been proud to bring the very best of world cinema to the heart of Hollywood, and we look forward to welcoming even more people to the movies next year.”

Grand Jury Prize – Live Action Short


Jury Statement: “Absorbed us completely in a very different New York City – told through the perspective of an enterprising little girl. The expert blend of humor and pain in the writing paired with stunning cinematography blew us away.”

Grand Jury Prize – Documentary Short

NǍI NAI & WÀI PÓ (GRANDMA & GRANDMA) (奶奶跟外婆) (DIR Sean Wang)

Jury Statement: “A tender, comedic portrait of an unconventional family dynamic told with a pronounced sensitivity to quotidian rhythms and the wry perspectives of elders.”

Grand Jury Prize – Animated Short

CHUTES (DIR Kenzie Sutton)

Jury Statement: “A delightful, bizarre rollercoaster of clever visual metaphors that deftly captures the interplay between social relationships and wanton materialism.”

Special Mentions

Special Jury Mention for Editing – Live Action Short

SÈT LAM (DIR Vincent Fontana)

Jury Statement: “A lyrical, deeply affecting edit that transported us into a trancelike state with its rhythmic evocations of dance and community.”

Special Jury Mention for Experimentation – Documentary Short


Jury Statement: “Continually expands its exploration of Black femininity via the works of Toni Morrison and TikTok, burrowing into myriad historical and cultural associations with hypnotic manipulations of sound and image.”

Special Jury Mention for Social Commentary – Documentary Short

ALPHA KINGS (DIR Enrique Pedráza Botero, Faye Tsakas)

Jury Statement: “A striking, observational character portrait of a fascinating, typically invisible world captured with a refreshingly nonjudgmental yet incisive eye.”

Special Jury Mention for Stop Motion – Animated Short  

THE MIRACLE (DIR Nienke Deutz)

Jury Statement: “Vivid construction of a unique, hilarious and unsettling world – this animation felt unlike anything we’d seen before and stuck with us.”

Special Jury Mention for 2D Animation – Animated Short

MIISUFY (DIR Liisi Grünberg)

Jury Statement: “It comes out of the gate swinging with its unique and distinct illustrations – it took us through a journey in its world.”

Special Jury Mention for Cinematography – Live Action Short


Jury Statement: “The unforgettable cinematography added a layer of humor and vibrancy to heavy emotional material, making the most of wide-open landscapes and bright carnivalesque lights and colors.”

Special Jury Mention for Lead Acting – Live Action Short

MADDEN (DIR Malin Ingrid Johansson)

Jury Statement: “A beautifully tender and subtle performance from the lead actor that had us entirely invested in her world.”

Special Jury Mention for Hybrid Storytelling – Documentary Short 


Jury Statement: “Blending two separate sexual explorations (one documentary, one quasi-fanciful reenactment) across the years, this delves into physical and political alternatives to heteronormativity with an offhand, fluid brilliance.”

AFI FEST 2023 featured more than 140 titles for the public to enjoy across five days. The program included 3 Red Carpet Premieres, 11 Special Screenings, 15 Luminaries, 12 Discovery, 16 World Cinema, 14 Documentary, 42 Short Film Competition, 30 films in the AFI Conservatory Showcase presented by AMC Networks, and 5 Guest Artistic Director selections. Of the official selections, 43% were directed by women, 36% were directed by BIPOC filmmakers and 17% were directed by LGBTQIA+ filmmakers. 

There were 4 World Premieres, 3 North American Premieres and 4 U.S. Premieres, and the program represented 49 countries and included 20 Best International Feature Oscar® submissions. The festival opened with the world premiere of LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND, written and directed by Sam Esmail (AFI Class of 2004) and starring Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke and Mahershala Ali, opened AFI FEST, and Bradley Cooper’s MAESTRO, a towering and fearless love story chronicling the lifelong relationship between Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein closed the festival. AFI FEST Guest Artistic Director Greta Gerwig curated five films for this year’s festival and introduce select films including A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, as well as PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE which screened in the TCL Chinese Theatre.

The Hollywood Reporter hosted a panel celebrating the greatest film books of all time moderated by Scott Feinberg, Executive Editor of Awards, with panelists/authors including A. Scott Berg, Cameron Crowe, Nancy Griffin, Aljean Harmetz, Leonard Maltin, Kim Masters, Dennis McDougal, James Andrew Miller, Eddie Muller, John Pierson, George Stevens Jr., Michael Tolkin, Christine Vachon, Mark A. Vierira and Sam Wasson.

AFI Conservatory Alumni with films at AFI FEST included Jonathan Alberts, Leo Behrens, Ilayda Cetinkaya, Alejandra Armijo Cruz, Christos Dervenis, Sabrina Doyle, Jerome Duboz, Sam Esmail, Clarisa Garcia-Fresco, P.J. Germain, Dawn Green, Liz Hannah, Rhianon Jones, Justin Kane, Martin Kukula, Matthew Libatique, Stephen Paar, Jih-E Peng, Elika Rezaee, Thorsten Schumacher, Zofia Sablinska, Maximilian Schmige, Shuchi Talati, Stefan Weinberger and Mojo Wen.

Returning filmmakers to AFI FEST included Nikolaj Arcel, Joanna Arnow, Lila Avilés, Minhal Baig, Kaother Ben Hania, Jessica Bishopp, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Lydia Cornett, Nienke Deutz, Bas Devos, Amat Escalante, Michel Franco, Matteo Garrone, Ja’Tovia M. Gary, Andrew Haigh, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Sterling Hampton IV, Agnieszka Holland, Tatiana Huezo, Corina Schwingruber Ilić, Radu Jude, Aki Kaurismäki, Javier Mariscal, Rosine Mbakam, Steve McQueen, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Christos Nikou, Alice Rohrwacher, Hong Sang-soo, Angela Schanelec, Neo Sora, Fernando Trueba, Sean Wang, Wim Wenders, Roger Ross Williams and Frederick Wiseman.

Guests at the festival included Mara Brock Akil, Rumaan Alam, Debbie Allen, Joanna Arnow, Belén Atienza, Minhal Baig, Sean Baker, Michael Barker, J.A. Bayona, Gelili Bekele, A. Scott Berg, Edward Berger, Tom Bernard, Fred Bernstein, Matthew Brown, Robert Carradine, Ilker Çatak, Robert Colom, Cameron Crowe, Tonia Davis, James Erksine, Martin Escalante, Sam Esmail, Jeff Field, Michel Franco, Greta Gerwig, Nancy Griffin, Andrew Haigh, Liz Hannah, Aljean Harmetz, Anna Hints, Judd Hirsch, Raven Jackson, Cord Jefferson, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Ellen Kuras, Leonard Maltin, Ilinca Manolache, Kim Masters, Dennis McDougal, Kleber Mendonça Filho, James Andrew Miller, Mads Mikkelsen, Janelle Monae, Eddie Muller, Atibon Nazaire, Jeff Nichols, Christos Nikou, Malia Obama, David Oyelowo, Armani Ortiz, Sam Osborn, Marianne Ostrat, Alise Payne, Tyler Perry, John Pierson, Rachel Ramsay, Lonny Ross, Lukasz Rostkowski, Diane Salinger, Peter Sarsgaard, Monica Sorelle, George Stevens Jr., Scott Stuber, Michael Tolkin, Robert Townsend, Christine Vachon, Alejandra Vasquez, Mark A. Vieira, DK Welchman, Hugh Welchman, John Wells, Oprah Winfrey, Marissa Yeres and Sam Wasson.

Top Corporate Partners for AFI FEST 2023 include Apple Original Films, Amazon MGM Studios, AMC Networks, Canva and Netflix.