2021 Award Winners


    Sponsored by The Reva and David Logan Foundation

    The Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award was presented to Faya Dayi, directed by Jessica Beshir.

    2021 Jurors: Jesse Moss, Christine Turner, and Stephanie Wang-Breal


    Jury Statement:

    “The Reva and David Logan Grand Jury award goes towards Faya Dayi, a film that takes us on a dreamlike journey into the highlands of Ethiopia where we follow the cultivation, production, and consumption of the country’s cash crop, khat. The jury applauds Jessica Beshir’s debut feature and her bold, cinematic choices full of intrigue, poetry, and meticulously composed black-and-white images. Her stunning cinematography coupled with her deep commitment to the indigenous population and land, shatters our expectations of the structural possibilities for the nonfiction art form. The jury’s only regret is that they were unable to experience Faya Dayi in its deserved home: the cinema, where they could truly lose themselves in the natural and subtle soundscape and landscape of the director’s motherland, Ethiopia.”


    Provided by Drs. Barbra and Andrew Rothschild

    The Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short was presented to Three Songs for Benazir, directed by Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei.

    2021 Jurors: Eric Hynes, Carlos Sandoval, and Deborah Stratman


    Jury Statement:

    “The jury honors a film that exemplifies the power and beauty of observational filmmaking. Deeply situated and attentively witnessed, Three Songs for Benazir is a concisely constructed character study that also implicitly evokes structural, societal, psychological, and political realities—centered in a camp in Kabul yet echoing far beyond—without need for exposition or over-emphasis. The specifics of Shaista’s struggle, the totality of his confinement, are clearly and evocatively conveyed through an elliptical structure, and extended to an expertly edited finale that haunted us and kept us talking long after the film had ended.”


    Provided by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

    The Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award was presented to Faya Dayi, directed by Jessica Beshir.

    The CDS Filmmaker Award recognizes documentary films that combine originality and creativity with firsthand experience in examining central issues of contemporary life and culture. In keeping with the Center’s mission, the award was created to honor and support documentary artists whose works are potential catalysts for education and change.

    For the Center for Documentary Studies: Eric Barstow, Kelsey Favret, Wesley Hogan, Jasmine Huff, Quadiriah McCullough, Lynn McKnight, and Elena Rue


    Jury Statement:

    “Lyrically edited, yet balanced with an unflinching eye, this year’s award-winning film reveals hard truths and intimate moments. It demands meditative patience from us as an audience. To respond to its bold challenge, we as an audience found ourselves continually giving it what it deserved, despite the difficulty in today’s extreme-pace, distractive, and overbearing cultural norms. 

    Tonally vibrant in rich black and white, we are enriched by this cinematographic achievement. We found the filmmaker’s use of the black and white form as a means to subvert colonial gazes and to highlight the care of her treatment of this community. She refuses binaries—showing us a nearly infinite and luminous range of shades in black. We see, for instance, a sumptuousness of color in her exposure of light on khat that mirrors the richness of life and variation of humanity she makes as a conscious choice to edit into our visual and mental frames. 

    If her range of tonality is such a striking achievement, it is no less so than her representation of Ethiopia, suffused with a loving, nurturing imagery infused by her connections and ties to the community she grew up within. Her work thus innately confronts western biases with her careful construction of people working to survive, her stark honesty about their dire circumstances, yet she never objectifies the circumstances or the people in this film. Further, her recording inside cultural spaces where women aren’t traditionally allowed also shows her undeniable power as a trusted artist and storyteller. 

    As with any great work of nonfiction, it left us as a jury wanting to learn more. Her artistic and technical virtuosity allows audiences to appreciate the universality of themes explored in the film: an ongoing thread reveals people facing dire economic situations who find ways to survive and sometimes thrive. Given that this is her first feature-length film, we can’t imagine a filmmaker we’d like to support with greater enthusiasm. As one jury member said, ‘I can’t wait to see what else she does in her career!’

    The 2021 CDS Filmmaker Award goes to Jessica Beshir, for her extraordinary film Faya Dayi.”


    Provided by the Charles E. Guggenheim Family

    The Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award was presented to Faya Dayi, directed by Jessica Beshir.

    This prize is awarded to a first-time documentary feature filmmaker as a way to foster the work of new directors, young and old. It recognizes the extraordinary care that Charles Guggenheim took with the filmmakers whom he mentored and counseled throughout the filmmaking process.

    2021 Jurors: Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich, David Osit, and Elyse Steinberg


    Jury Statement:

    “We wanted to award an exceptional work of non-fiction storytelling by a filmmaker deeply in tune with her subject, and who has created a transfixing, almost physical experience in her gorgeous first feature. A meditation on hope and pain, Faya Dayi exudes boldness and confidence while displaying a tonal acumen that transcends its medium. We are honored to award this cinematic work of poetry.”


    Sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University

    The John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Award was presented to Spirit never dies, only transitions., directed by Logan L. Burroughs.

    This award is presented to a short film that highlights documentary as a formally inventive artistic medium. The prize recognizes significant innovation and excellence in areas including cinematography, sound design, style, structure, and other aesthetic dimensions.

    For the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute: Eric Barstow, Franklin Cason, Jr., Josh Gibson, Guo-Juin Hong, Shambhavi Kaul, Ranjana Khanna, Sarah Rogers, and Jennifer Zhou


    Jury Statement:

    “The jury is pleased to present this year’s John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Award for aesthetic excellence and innovation in a documentary short film to Spirit never dies, only transitions.

    Spirit never dies, only transitions. is both a formally coherent film and a visceral viewing experience. The jury selected this film because of what it asks of us: its visual poetry requires our engagement in imagining where the images—and the black spaces that frame and separate those images—might go. Experimental and non-linear, this film opens space for the viewer not only to marvel at its offerings but to participate in conjuring meaning. It exemplifies the potential of the documentary arts to be revelatory without being didactic.”


    Sponsored by Duke University

    The Full Frame President’s Award is presented to Spirits and Rocks: an Azorean Myth, directed by Aylin Gökmen.

    The President’s Award recognizes up-and-coming filmmakers; the prize is awarded to the best student film.

    Selected by representatives on behalf of the President’s office at Duke University.


    Jury Statement:

    “The 2021 Full Frame President’s Award is presented to Spirits and Rocks: an Azorean Myth, directed by Aylin Gökmen. Against the backdrop of an active volcano, this evocative film considers the imprint of trauma on an island’s natural landscape and on the people who call it home. At once rigorous and poetic, the film deftly employs narration, text, and stunning cinematography to reveal the spirituality and strength involved in surviving alongside instability.”


    Sponsored by the Julian Price Family Foundation in memory of Melanie Taylor

    The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights is presented to My Name is Pauli Murray, directed Betsy West and Julie Cohen.

    This award is presented to a film that addresses a significant human rights issue in the United States. By inspiring advocacy, increasing awareness, and promoting equity and justice, the winning film will honor the legacy of Kathleen Bryan Edwards’s passion and activism for human rights.

    For the Kathleen Bryan Edwards Family: Anne Arwood, Laura Edwards, Clay Farland, Margaret Griffin, and Pricey Harrison


    Jury Statement:

    “This year, all of the films were inspiring with moving and powerful personalities advocating for change. We found the momentum amongst our youth particularly compelling—a theme prevalent in most of our nominated films. One film in particular stood out to us, My Name is Pauli Murray. This biopic film featured a pioneering trailblazing woman who was ahead of her time on so many fronts. Pauli’s ‘firsts’ were personal to her. Passionate about the cause and needing answers in her own lived experience, undeterred protester and relentless fighter Pauli Murray is credited for her groundbreaking work with gender, civil, and women’s rights, all issues that our mother/grandmother, Kathleen Bryan Edwards, cared passionately about. Pauli’s legacy and influence lives on today in the struggle for dignity, inclusion, equality, and freedom. Congratulations to Julie Cohen and Betsy West for another outstanding film highlighting a pioneering woman who has had an indelible impact on the way we view civil rights in our country.”