San Luis Obispo International Film Festival 2023 Announces Award Winners

Judd Hirsch SLO Film Fest 2023


The 2023 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival announced this year’s filmmaker award winners during ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday night, which concluded the popular film festival’s first weekend of in-person screenings and events. Winners of their jury awards included

Ellie Foumbi’s Our Father, the Devil (Best Narrative Feature) and Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb’s Butterfly in the Sky (Best Documentary Feature) led the jury awards. Audience Award winners were topped by Nardeep Khurmi’s Land of Gold, chosen as Best Narrative Feature, Jesse Rudoy’s Dusty and Stones, Best Documentary Feature, with Matt Johnson’s BlackBerry taking the Audience Best of Fest award.

While this year’s hybrid edition of the popular film festival winds down with encore screenings of the award winners concluding on Sunday, May 7, SLO Film Fest’s first weekend was another successful edition as the film festival continues to see its audience numbers grow each year from the pandemic all-virtual editions.

In addition, this year saw a huge turnout to its signature Surf Nite surfing movies presentation – which returned to the historic Fremont Theater for the first time in three years, the first presentation of its I WANT MY SLO MTV! night of music videos on the big screen combined with live performances on the Fremont Theater stage. King Vidor Award honoree, and two-time Academy Award winning production designer Rick Carter gave, what amounted to, a master class on filmmaking during his Conversation on Film with Turner Classic Movies’ Ben Mankiewicz, and Closing Night featured two-time Academy Award nominee and TV legend Judd Hirsch receiving SLO Film Fest’s Spotlight Award prior to the screening of the popular dramatic comedy I Mordecai, in which he stars in the title role. And there might have been a Back to the Future DeLorean parked outside the Fremont Theater on Filmmaker Awards night as well.

San Luis Obispo International Film Festival Director Skye McLennan, said, “During a year in which we brought back some SLO Film Fest favorites (being back at the Fremont with Surf Nite) and added some new highlights (I WANT MY SLO MTV!), we were thrilled to see audiences responding by coming back to the theaters in greater numbers to enjoy our films and meet our filmmakers and immerse themselves in cinema SLO Film fest style. As always, celebrating the work of our winning films and filmmakers is always the cherry on top of the whole thing.”

Additional winners in the George Sidney Independent Film Awards category included an Honorable Mention in the Narrative category for Katharina Woll’s Everybody Wants to be Loved, a Special Mention for Performance for Caroline Valencia in Land of Gold, and an Honorable Mention in the Documentary category for Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s The Grab. Best Narrative Short Film went to Bernard Badion’s The Van, Best Documentary Short Film went to Lauren Tyler Brimeyer and Jack Bushell’s Until the Rain Comes Back, Best Animated Short Film was Jan Gadermann Sebastian Gadow’s Laika and Nemo, and Robin Wang’s Wei-Lei was cited as Best Student Film.

Additional films anointed by the Audience members as their favorites of the film festival, included Portlynn Tagavi’s Out of Tune (Best Narrative Short Film), Russell Chadwick’s Good Boy (Best Documentary Short Film), Maria Juranic’s A Feast That Never Comes (Best Music Video), and Leonard Manzella’s Shoe Shine Caddy (Best Central Coast Film). Central Coast Filmmaker jury awards included Bradley Berman’s Jack Has a Plan (Best Feature Length Film), Eliot Peters’ Woodsman (Best Narrative Short Film), and Whale-Roads (Best Documentary Short Film), which was directed by Ethan Takekawa, Michael Lee, Meg Kievman, and Emma Holm-Olsen. The jury winners in the Music Video category were Jill Sachs and Angeline Armstrong’s Bones (Best Overall), and Kate Neville’s Ramon (Best SLO County).

The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival also continued its traditional support of the development of student filmmakers with SLO’s Filmmakers of Tomorrow Showcase. Award winners included Amira Kopeyeva’s Pistachio Ice Cream (Best High School Narrative Film), Jiayang Liu’s A Piece of Ranch (Best High School Documentary Film), and Extra Cheese (Best Middle School Film), directed by Benny Eldridge, Maggie Cross, Otto Nixon, and Phoebe Cross. Sean Kang’s Badminton Journey was named Best Elementary School Film, Coleman Howe’s Lost: A Backyard Adventure was named Best SLO County Film, and Eva Bounds’ Beth won Best International Film.

More information on the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival can be found at


The 2023 San Luis Obispo Film Festival Award Winners:

OUR FATHER, THE DEVIL – Best Narrative Feature
Director: Ellie Foumbi

EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE LOVED – Narrative Feature Honorable Mention
Director: Katharina Woll

LAND OF GOLD – Narrative Feature Special Mention for Performance
Caroline Valencia

BUTTERFLY IN THE SKY – Best Documentary Feature
Directors: Bradford Thomason, Brett Whitcomb

THE GRAB – Documentary Feature Honorable Mention
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

THE VAN – Best Narrative Short Film 
Director: Bernard Badion

UNTIL THE RAIN COMES BACK – Best Documentary Short Film
Directors: Lauren Tyler Brimeyer, Jack Bushell

LAIKA AND NEMO – Best Animated Short Film
Director: Jan Gadermann Sebastian Gadow

WEI-LEI – Best Student Film
Director: Robin Wang

BLACKBERRY – Best in Fest (Highest Score)
Director: Matt Johnson

LAND OF GOLD – Best Narrative Feature
Director: Nardeep Khurmi

DUSTY AND STONES – Best Documentary Feature
Director: Jesse Rudoy

OUT OF TUNE – Best Narrative Short Film
Director: Portlynn Tagavi

GOOD BOY – Best Documentary Short Film
Director: Russell Chadwick

Director: Maria Juranic

SHOE SHINE CADDIE – Best Central Coast Film
Director: Leonard Manzella

JACK HAS A PLAN – Best Feature Length Film
Director: Bradley Berman

WOODSMAN – Best Narrative Short Film
Director: Elliot Peters

WHALE-ROADS – Best Documentary Short Film
Director: Ethan Takekawa, Michael Lee, Meg Kievman, Emma Holm-Olsen

BONES – Best Overall
Director: Jill Sachs, Angeline Armstrong

RAMON – Best SLO County
Director: Katie Neville

PISTACHIO ICE CREAM – Best High School Narrative Film
Director: Amira Kopeyeva

A PIECE OF RANCH – Best High School Documentary Film
Director: Jiayang Liu

EXTRA CHEESE – Best Middle School Film
Director: Benny Eldridge, Maggie Cross, Otto Nixon, Phoebe Cross

BADMINTON JOURNEY – Best Elementary School Film
Director: Sean Kang

Director: Coleman Howe

BETH – Best International Film
Director: Eva Bounds

Written By
More from Dev Shapiro
DFW SAFF Unveils Opening Night Film & Shorts Programming For 2017 Festival
  Now in its third year, the Dallas/Fort Worth South Asian Film...
Read More
0 replies on “San Luis Obispo International Film Festival 2023 Announces Award Winners”