The RiverRun International Film Festival today announced the Audience and Jury Awards for the 2018 Festival. The 20th annual Festival ran April 19-29 and presented 165 films, representing 40 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 2,000 submissions for our 2018 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.


Best Narrative Feature Award :  Angels Wear White / China (Director: Vivian Qu)

Jury statement: “In giving the narrative feature award to Angels Wear White we were enthralled by the thematic resonance and poignancy of the film as well as the brutality of the subject matter. Shot against a backdrop of natural beauty it drove a remarkable narrative that straddled the line between hope and devastation.”

The Peter Brunette Award for Best Director – Narrative Feature was presented to: Vivian Qu, Angels Wear White / China

Best Actor / Thomas Gioria / Custody

Best Actress / Meijun Zhou / Angels Wear White

Jury Statement:  “Additionally, in giving out the acting awards we were particularly impressed with the magnetic performances of young actors who brought a harsh reality to the plight of their characters.”

Best Screenplay / Laurent Cantet & Robin Campillo / The Workshop

RiverRun’s 2018 Narrative Features jurors included: Amman Abbasi, Benjamin Crossley-Marra, Neil Soffer and Lauren Vilchik.


Best Documentary Feature: Minding the Gap / USA (Director: Bing Liu)

Jury Statement: “For the Best Documentary prize, told with deep dedication and investment – both in terms of time and of heart – Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap is an astonishingly accomplished film that explores race, class, and masculinity, transcending cliches for a deeply honest and moving coming-of-age portrait of three young men.”

Best Director / Mila Turajlic / The Other Side of Everything

Jury Statement: “Mira Turajlic deftly mines the political for the personal in this complex double-portrait of her mother, Sribijanka—a university professor and activist—and the war-torn Serbia she has fought to call home. It’s a stunning directorial balancing act: too complicated to be a mere fawning portrait, it nevertheless gives life to Sribijanka’s fiery ideas with depth, rigor, and love.”

Best Editing / Kieran Gosney & Dino Jonsäter / Time Trial

Jury Statement: “With precise and commanding technique, the editors take us on a ride into the middle of a sporting event most of us never watch or even understand… and into the experience of a rider on the ride of his life.”

Best Cinematography / Julian Schwanitz / Donkeyote

Jury Statement:  “Lush, grounded, and patient. These words best describe the cinematography of Julian Schwanitz in Donkeyote. His gorgeous renderings of Southern Spain, his crisp capturing of sound, and the intimacy in which he portrays the film’s two main characters – Manolo, and his donkey, Gorrión, provide a tenderness and poetry that help this film soar.”

RiverRun’s 2018 Documentary Features Competition jurors included: K. Austin Collins, Tom Haneke, Sierra Pettengill and Stan Wright.


Best Documentary ShortXavier Corbero: Portrait of an Artist in Winter / Spain / Director: Nathalie Biancheri

Jury Statement: “The film is so funny, its central character so outrageous, that it’s easy to miss the meticulousness of the filmmaker’s work – the slowly circular camera movements that perfectly match the rounded forms of  Corbero’s architecture and sculpture. It’s what a short film should be: an immersion into character without an extraneous moment.”

Special Jury Prize:  While I Yet Live / USA / Director:  Maris Curran

Jury Statement:  “A group of women so unpretentious that they might not think to describe themselves as artists yet who unarguably are.  We are grateful for a film that has perfectly captured this precious American artistic movement before it vanishes.”

Best Student Documentary Short: The Sandman / USA / Director: Lauren Knapp / Stanford University

Jury Statement:  “No film can do justice to an issue as fraught as the death penalty.  This short film adds an unexpected and valuable contrarian voice.”

RiverRun’s 2018 Documentary Shorts jurors included: Laura Coxson, Peter Gilbert, Thomas Lennon and Xiao Xiao.

Best Narrative Short :   Garage at Night / Canada / Director: Daniel Daigle

Jury Statement: “With innovative uses of the cut, off-camera action, silence, and truly alive performances, our selection for Best Narrative Short tells the story of a brotherhood without ever leaving one room. Never making a false choice, we believe this film exemplifies what’s possible in the form, and we’re delighted to present the award to Garage at Night, directed by Daniel Daigle.”

Special Jury Prize:  Welcome Home / Norway / Director:  Armita Keyani

Jury Statement: “We chose to give an honorable mention to a charming and refreshing comedy about an Iranian couple who take an unconventional route to making friends in their new Scandinavian neighborhood. With super charismatic performances from leads Ashkan Ghorbani and Elnaz Asghari, we can see this short as the first chapter of a series about these two funny lovebirds. Our Special Jury Mention goes to Welcome Home by Armita Keyani.” 

Best Animated Short Sog / Germany / Director: Jonatan Schwenk

Jury Statement: “We give the Best Animated Short Award to Sog for its nuanced exploration of the conflicts that arise between neighboring groups, and its innovative blending of techniques.”

Special Jury Prize:  Weekends / USA / Director: Trevor Jimenez

Jury Statement: “As Honorable Mention, we would like to acknowledge Weekends for its elegant storytelling, beautiful production design, and its ability to portray the subject of divorce from a child’s perspective in a non-judgemental way.”

Special Jury Prize: Carlotta’s Face / Germany / Directors: Valentin Riedl & Frédéric Schuld

Jury Statement:  “As Honorable Mention, we would like to acknowledge Carlotta’s Face for its poetic use of animation to help visualize the condition of face blindness and showcase it as an artistic tool to overcome adversity.”

RiverRun’s 2018 Animated Shorts jurors included: Lizzi Akana, Joel Frenzer and Andy Kennedy.


Overall Audience Award:  In Pursuit of Justice / USA / Director: Gregg Jamback

Kilpatrick Townsend Stockton Narrative Feature Audience Award:  Bye Bye Germany / Germany / Luxembourg / Belgium / Director: Sam Garbarski

Documentary Feature Audience Award:  Silas / Canada / South Africa / Kenya / Directors: Hawa Essuman and Anjali Nayar

Altered States Audience Award: Saints Rest / USA / Director: Noga Ashkenazi


In an effort to further promote the development of new filmmaking talent, RiverRun partnered with universities around the state to present the fifth annual PitchFest competition. Pre-selected student filmmakers from The Documentary Film Program at Wake Forest University, Elon University, 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. The Piedmont Federal Savings Bank 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.

Piedmont Federal Savings Bank First Place:  No Sanctuary / UNCSA / Directors: Moriah Hall & Nathan Knox

Second Place: Dead in the Water / UNC – Wilmington / Director: Lizzie Bankowski

RiverRun PitchFest 2018 jurors included: Celia Weston, Brett Ingram and Nick Price.