AFI FEST 2021 Announces Award Winners – American Film Institute


AFI FEST 2021 Announces Award Winners

Congratulations to the AFI FEST 2021 award winners! This year’s hybrid festival heralded a return to theaters – and it was electric. Check out this year’s FEST filmmaker conversations, Q&As, red carpet photos and exclusive interviews with the stars and filmmakers here. And join us in celebrating the following Jury and Audience Award winners:

Audience Award – Narrative Feature

JOCKEY (DIR Clint Bentley)

An aging jockey hopes to win one last title for his longtime trainer who has acquired what appears to be a championship horse. But the years – and injuries – have taken a toll on his body, throwing into question his ability to continue his lifelong passion.

Audience Award – Documentary Feature

JUICE WRLD (DIR Tommy Oliver)

This intimate documentary explores the life and death of the young hip hop star Juice WRLD.

Audience Award – Short Film


Three generations of Chinese women say goodbye to their family ballroom dance studio.


The Grand Jury Award winners for Live Action and Animated Short will be eligible for the 2021 Best Live Action Short and Best Animated Short Academy Awards®. The Jury was comprised of film curator and writer Kiva Reardon; Amanda Salazar, head of programming and acquisitions at Argo; and writer/director Angel Kristi Williams.

Grand Jury Prize – Animation

LOVE, DAD (MILÝ TATI) (DIR Diana Cam Van Nguyen)

Jury Statement: “For its melding of form and content that makes for a deeply vulnerable and personal viewing experience, the Jury would like to award LOVE, DAD as Best Animated Short.”

Grand Jury Prize – Live Action

AL-SIT (DIR Suzannah Mirghani)

Jury Statement: “For going beyond its central story to make a densely layered and truly cinematic experience, the Jury would like to honor AL-SIT the Best Narrative Short.”

Special Mention

BABYBANGZ ( DIR Juliana Kasumu)

Jury Statement: “The Jury would like to award BABYBANGZ with an Honorable Mention for Best Documentary Storytelling for its combination of stunning imagery, important conversations and compelling subjects.”

Special Mention

PLAY IT SAFE (DIR Mitch Kalisa)

Jury Statement: “For the bold formal choices made throughout the film, specifically in the final scene, the Jury would like to give an Honorable Mention for Direction to Mitch Kalisa, the director of PLAY IT SAFE.”

Special Mention


Jury Statement: “For a commanding performance that anchors the film, the Jury would like to give an Honorable Mention for Acting to Leeoz Levy for HER DANCE.”

The complete AFI FEST 2021 program included 118 titles (51 features, 1 episodic, 49 shorts, including 19 Meet the Press Film Festival at AFI FEST shorts and 17 AFI Conservatory Showcase shorts) of which 51% were directed by women, 39% were directed by BIPOC and 13% were directed by LGBTQ+. This year’s program represented 53 countries and included 7 World Premieres.

This year’s Red Carpet Premieres included the World Premieres of BRUISED (DIR Halle Berry), SING 2 (DIR Garth Jennings), SWAN SONG (DIR Benjamin Cleary) and tick, tick…BOOM! (DIR Lin-Manuel Miranda), in addition to KING RICHARD (DIR Reinaldo Marcus Green), PARALLEL MOTHERS (Pedro Almodóvar) and THE POWER OF THE DOG (DIR Jane Campion).

Learn more at

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