Announces Audience And Jury Award Winners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Los Angeles, CA, November 15, 2021 — AFI FEST 2021 announced today the films that received this year’s Jury and Audience awards. 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.

“Bringing filmmakers and movie fans together to celebrate the moving image is at the heart of AFI FEST. The excitement of all festivalgoers to be together in the theaters, once again, was electric,” said Sarah Harris, Director of Programming, AFI Festivals. “This year’s festival has truly shown everyone the power of the art form to lift our spirits when it’s needed the most.”


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.


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.”


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The complete AFI FEST 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).

Returning filmmakers to FEST included Hany Abu-Assad (HUDA’S SALON), Andrea Arnold (COW), Jacques Audiard (PARIS, 13TH DISTRICT), Sean Baker (RED ROCKET), Michel Franco (SUNDOWN), Miguel Gomes (THE TSUGUA DIARIES), Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (LINGUI, THE SACRED BONDS), Céline Sciamma (PETITE MAMAN), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (MEMORIA), and Zhang Yimou (ONE SECOND).

Guests at the festival included Awkwafina, Mahershala Ali, Pedro Almodóvar, Shamier Anderson, Nabil Aouch, Sean Baker, Caitríona Balfe, Halle Berry, Jon Bernthal, Nicolas Cage, Jane Campion, Benjamin Cleary, Julie Cohen, Clifton Collins, Jr, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ann Dowd, Colman Domingo, Kirsten Dunst, Ava DuVernay, Bree Elrod, Andrew Garfield, Tony Goldwyn, Reinaldo Marcus Green, Kathryn Hahn, Dwight Howard, Vanessa Hudgens, Antonia Hylton, Sarunas J. Jackson, Garth Jennings, Robin De Jesùs, Dakota Johnson, Rian Johnson, Harvey Keitel, Tori Kelly, Jo Ling Kent, Sarah Kunstler, Judith Light, Megan Maylan, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Alexis Ohanian, Edward James Olmos, Molly Parker, Simon Rex, Jada Pinkett Smith, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Savannah Sellers, Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Willow Smith, Suzanna Son, Chuck Todd, Cole Tucker, Serena Williams and Venus Williams.

Top Sponsors for AFI FEST 2021 included AT&T, Apple Original Films, National Geographic Documentary Films, IMDb, Netflix and Dell Technologies.


About the American Film Institute (AFI)

The American Film Institute (AFI) is a nonprofit organization with a mandate to champion the moving image as an art form. Established in 1967, AFI launched the first comprehensive history of American film and sparked the movement for film preservation in the United States. In 1969, AFI opened the doors of the AFI Conservatory, a graduate-level program to train narrative filmmakers. AFI’s enduring traditions include the AFI Life Achievement Award, which honors the masters for work that has stood the test of time; AFI AWARDS, which celebrates the creative ensembles of the most outstanding screen stories of the year; and scholarly efforts such as the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and the AFI Archive that preserve film history for future generations. AFI exhibition programs include AFI FESTAFI DOCS and year-round exhibition at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Maryland. Other pioneering programs include workshops aimed at increasing diversity in the storytelling community, including the AFI Directing Workshop for Women and the AFI Cinematography Intensive for Women. AFI’s newest program is AFI Movie Club, a daily global engagement for those who love the movies. Read about all of these programs and more at and follow us on social media at,, and


Now in its 35th year, AFI FEST is a world-class event, showcasing the best films from across the globe. With an innovative slate of programming, the five-day festival historically presents screenings, panels and conversations, featuring both master filmmakers and new cinematic voices. This year’s edition takes place in-person and online November 10-14, 2021. The festival includes Special Presentations of high-profile films with Q&As featuring the films’ cast and crew and a robust lineup of fiction and nonfiction features and shorts presented in established AFI FEST sections. Additional information about AFI FEST is available at Connect with AFI FEST at and


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American Film Institute: Shari Mesulam, [email protected]


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