Directors and cast of Audience Choice Award Best of Fest – Purple Dreams


The RiverRun International Film Festival today announced the Jury and Audience Choice Awards for the 2017 Festival. The 19th annual Festival ran March 30 – April 9 and presented 151 films, representing 49 countries.

“The films showcased in this year’s Festival reflected diverse stories from around the world from both emerging filmmakers and established directors. We had more than 1,700 submissions for our 2017 Festival and we had many difficult choices to make in completing the program. The juries were very impressed with our competition films and agreed it was difficult to make their final decisions,” said Rob Davis, RiverRun Executive Director.


The Best Narrative Feature Award was presented to AFTER LOVE / France / Belgium (Director: Joachim Lafosse) — After Love is an astute, intelligent and moving examination of modern relationships starring Cédric Kahn and Oscar®-nominated actress Bérénice Bejo (The Artist). After 15 years of living together, Marie and Boris no longer see eye to eye and decide to get a divorce—but with two young daughters and deeply intertwined finances, the separation proves far from simple.

Jury statement: “After Love was chosen because it acutely depicts the emotional complexity of separation and divorce with a particular and penetrating focus on how class difference and financial status can impact the dynamics of coupledom.”

The Peter Brunette Award for Best Director – Narrative Feature was presented to: João Pedro Rodrigues, THE ORNITHOLOGIST / Portugal / France / Brazil

Outstanding Performance – Bérénice Bejo (AFTER LOVE)

Best Screenplay – Raja Amari (FOREIGN BODY)

Best Cinematography – Pablo Paniagua (DARK SKULL)

Visionary Award – DAYVEON / USA (Director: Amman Abbasi)

Human Rights Award – WINDOW HORSES / Canada (Director: Ann Marie Fleming)

RiverRun’s 2017 Narrative Features jurors included: Brian Belovarac, Clint Bowie, Lisa Lucas, and Epiphany Huffman.

Previous winners of RiverRun’s Best Narrative Feature Jury Award include: The Fits (2016), Memories on Stone (2015), Ida (2014), In the House (2013), Found Memories (2012), Bal (2011), Katalin Varga” (2010), Three Monkeys (2009), The Edge of Heaven (2008), For the Living and the Dead (2007), A Wonderful Night in Split (2006), and Innocent Voices (2005).


Best Documentary Feature: QUEST / USA (Director: Jonathan Olshefski) — Filmed with vérité intimacy for close to a decade, this film follows Christopher “Quest” Rainey and his wife Christine’a (aka “Ma Quest”) as they open the door to their home music studio, which serves as a creative sanctuary from the strife and inequality that grips their North Philadelphia neighborhood. What began as a simple photography project in 2006 turned into a documentary film project eighteen months later when director Jonathan Olshefski decided that cinema was a better medium to truly capture the complexity of the Rainey family.

Jury statement: “A stunning portrayal of a North Philly family is brought to life with uncharacteristic honesty, this ambitious, profound work is startling in its authenticity and groundbreaking in its scope, shattering expectations while feeling as intimate as a family dinner and as grand as any epic. The Jury awards the best documentary feature for the 2017 RiverRun International Film Festival to QUEST.

Honorable Mentions — Documentary Features were presented to:

SACRED (Director: Thomas Lennon)

Jury statement: “For its beautiful portrayal of spirituality in its myriad forms, the wonder inherent in our unique ambition to strive for the transcendent, and how our traditions and disparate practices each reflect the multiplicity of paths taken on a shared journey of faith, the Jury gives a special mention to Sacred.”

FOREVER PURE / UK / Israel / Russia (Director: Maya Zinshtein)

Jury statement: “For its nuanced look at a soccer season, with politics and passions often at odds with our preconceptions, where hooliganism and the Holocaust cast shadow over a dark and disturbing aspect of Israeli society as a community comes to terms with its own complexities, the Jury gives special mention to Forever Pure.”


Jury statement: “For its unsettling and intimate look at how our interaction with a changing environment and changing culture is anything but simple, where an indigenous population of Viking ancestors in the most remote of areas are at the forefront of a global transformation, and for its demonstration that answers to these deep questions are anything but simple, the Jury gives special mention to The Islands and the Whales.”

RiverRun’s 2017 Documentary Features Competition jurors included: Caroline Breder-Watts, Jason Gorber and Dolly Turner.

Previous winners of RiverRun’s Best Documentary Feature Jury Award include: Salero (2016), The Chinese Mayor (2015), The Case Against 8 (2014), I Am Breathing (2013), The Boy Who Was a King (2012), Armadillo (2011), Last Train Home (2010), Unmistaken Child (2009), Up the Yangtze (2008), Manufactured Landscapes (2007), Taimagura Grandma (2006) and Parallel Lines (2005).


Best Documentary Short was presented to: WAITING FOR HASSANA / Nigeria (Director: Ifunanya Maduka) — In 2014, 276 teenage girls came together for exams in Chibok, Nigeria – by dawn, nearly all had disappeared and their school was burned to the ground. Jessica, an escapee, shares her haunting account of a friendship violently interrupted by Boka Haram.

Jury statement: “Filmmaker Maduka and her team took great artistic and personal risk to give voice to a story that is still unfolding but largely forgotten. Waiting for Hassana is compelling and sensitive. We want to see more from this filmmaker.”

Honorable Mention: SOURTOE: THE STORY OF THE SORRY CANNIBAL / Canada (Director: Daniel Roher) – One dude swallows another dude’s toe, and that dude hates him forever. If you’re in the mood for a strange story, this hilarious documentary foots the bill.

Jury statement: “A joyful parable about how one sophomoric act can impact a whole community and teach us the importance of making amends for our mistakes.”

RiverRun’s 2017 Documentary Shorts jurors included: Sara Giustini, Rosemary Rotondi and Andy Smith.

Best Narrative Short was a tie and presented to:

APOLO81 / Spain (Director: Óscar Bernàcer) — Apolo81 throws the dice and choose his rival: Caperucita_Love. The name of the game is love, and beating his opponent means winning her over;

Jury statement: “Apolo81 is innovative with a perfect film script and production elements that keep the audience engaged.”

WEG MET WILLEM / Netherlands (Director Willem Bosch) – Six year-old Willem’s parents drop him off in a strange village, leaving him with two unhygienic strangers. Hours later, Willem still hasn’t been collected. He realizes he has been abandoned and will have to make his own way home on foot, as far as his little legs will carry him.

Jury statement: “Weg Met Willem is a confident film with a committed vision and a committed leading performance by child actor Kai Hofstra.”

Best Student Narrative Short: THE DAM / Australia / (Director: Brendon McDonall) —
A lifelong friendship is under siege when two mature Australian men visit the monolithic dam that defined their young lives and are confronted by feelings that were impounded long ago, but cannot be contained any longer.

Jury statement: “The Dam is an emotional and moving film, with phenomenal performances depicting a subtle story of love. This student director is one to watch and produced engaging, subtle performances.”

RiverRun’s 2017 Narrative Shorts jurors included: Gregory Von Hausch, James E. Duff, Summer Shelton and Andrew Mirmanesh.

Best Animated Short was presented to: LOVE / Hungary / France (Director: Réka Bucsi) — This inventive animated short describes affection in three different chapters, beginning with an impact on a distant solar system. Abstract Haiku-like situations reveal atmospheric changes on one planet, caused by the change of gravity and light.

Jury statement: “We chose Love for best animated short film for its excellent style, humor and exceptional visual storytelling.”

Best Student Animated Short was presented to: LETHE / UK (Director: Kat Michaelides – Damia and Eris are childhood friends who have spent their lives together in their small town, but the time has come for Eris to move. On their last day together, they come across a pool of water in a nearby forest that has a strange effect on them.

Jury statement: “We felt it was important to give an award for Best Student Animated Short Film to Lethe for its captivating design and animation, as well as its strong emotional through-line.”

RiverRun’s 2017 Animated Shorts jurors included: Jake Armstrong, Joy Buran and Noelle Melody.

Audience Choice Awards by Festival section were as follows:

Best of Fest Audience Choice Award – PURPLE DREAMS / USA (Directed by Joanne Hock scored 4.97 out of 5.0!

Altered States Audience Choice Award for Best American Independent Feature – 11:55 / USA (Co-directors Ari Issler and Ben Snyder)

Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary Feature – UNREST / USA / UK (Director Jennifer Brea

Audience Choice Award for Best Narrative Feature – LITTLE WING / Finland / Denmark (Director Selma Vilhunen)


THE ORIGINAL RICHARD MCMAHAN / USA (Directed by Olympia Stone)

REEL SOUTH is an anthology documentary series highlighting the best non-fiction storytelling from the region. The series is distributed to public television stations nationally, bringing diverse Southern voices, topics, and points of view into millions of homes. The winning filmmaker will be awarded a cash prize of $500, a non-exclusive licensing agreement for public media distribution (mostly over PBS platforms), and captioning and E&O insurance.

Reel South statement: “The Original Richard McMahan is an incredible portrait of a self taught artist who is the creator and curator of the mini museum in Florida. Interesting characters from the south are a perfect fit for the REEL SOUTH shorts.”


In an effort to further promote the development of new filmmaking talent, RiverRun partnered with universities around the state to present the third annual PitchFest competition. Pre-selected student filmmakers from The Documentary Film Program at Wake Forest University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington pitched their documentary shorts projects to a panel of industry experts, received advice on how to proceed, and vied for prizes and industry recognition. First Place winner received a $500 prize and the Runner Up received a $250 prize to assist in the production and completion of their films.

First Place: “Gays for Trump?” (Director: Aaron Lovett of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) —
In the 2016 general election, 14 percent of LGBTQ Americans voted for Donald Trump. This revealing film follows Peter Boykin and David Smith, an interracial gay couple, and their friend Scott Presler as the unlikely trio campaigning for the polarizing businessman-turned-President. A portrait of a country in the midst of uncertain change, Gays for Trump? exposes the complicated ways identity intersects with politics, and provides a unique glimpse into a turning point in modern U.S. history.

Runner Up: “Mother“ (Director: Stan Wright of the Documentary Film Program at Wake Forest University) — As an opioid crisis ravages our nation, its most vulnerable victims suffer in silence. For families dealing with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (which affects babies born to mothers addicted to opioids) judgment is everywhere, but help is hard to find. Mother captures the highs and lows of motherhood for women struggling with addiction and all its demons, and follows one nurse’s attempt to make a dent in a population with an unrelenting need for her help.

RiverRun PitchFest 2017 jurors included: Jeff Reichert, Amy Shumaker and Jeremy Workman.