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‘Wolfwalkers,’ ‘Tiger and Ox,’ and ‘Umbilical’ Snag Wins at AFI Fest 2020

Tom Moore’s new animated feature took home the Audience Award for Narrative Feature; Seunghee Kim and Danski Tang films awarded Grand Jury Prize – Animation and Special Mention, respectively.

AFI FEST 2020 has just presented the films that received this year’s Jury and Audience awards. The Grand Jury Award winners for Animated Short will be eligible for the Best Animated Short Academy Awards. Three animated films were honored at this year’s event: Wolfwalkers, winning the Audience Award – Narrative Feature; Tiger and Ox, awarded the Grand Jury Prize – Animation; and Umbilical which received a Special Mention.

Audience Award - Narrative Feature

Wolfwalkers – directed by Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart

Robyn befriends wild girl Mebh while exploring the magical forest outside an Irish town’s walls and undergoes a transformation in this adventurous animated film from The Secret of Kells creators, Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart.

Grand Jury Prize – Animation

Tiger and Ox (호랑이와 소) – directed by Seunghee Kim

What does divorce mean to women in Korean patriarchal society? Is a fatherless family a failure? In order to find the answer to these questions, a single mother and her daughter start a conversation.

Jury Statement: 

  • “With its economical, yet powerful use of the animated medium, this film tells a tender intergenerational story of the layered relationship between a mother and a daughter and invites us to engage in necessary conversations around gender and trauma.”

Special Mention

Umbilical - director Danski Tang

An animated documentary exploring how the filmmaker’s mother’s abusive relationship with her father shaped her own experiences in a boarding school in China.

Jury Statement:

  • “Poignant and eye-popping, this animated vision speaks to the importance of understanding one’s family history and the inextricable connection between a mother and a daughter. Through beautifully abstract animation, the filmmaker expresses these complex themes in an affecting manner.”

“With an audience more than double from last year, we welcomed over 200 filmmakers and guests from around the world for Q&As and panels,” commented AFI Festival director. “This year’s festival was truly a celebration of film across the country with festival goers joining us online from all 50 states.”

Other winners included:

Audience Award - Documentary Feature

76 DAYS - director Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous

January 23, 2020: Wuhan, China, a city of 11 million, goes on complete lockdown to combat COVID-19. Filming inside Wuhan’s hospitals, 76 DAYS provides an unforgettable look at a city’s fight for survival.

Audience Award - Short Film

Lonely Blue Night - director Johnson Cheng

The consequences of a mother’s decision to leave her daughter in the care of an American homestay family are unearthed when they reunite for a dinner on one lonely blue night.

Grand Jury Prize – Live Action

One Sunday at church, 12-year-old Amber experiences her first kiss, a moment of innocence that triggers a series of awakenings: sexual, emotional, and religious.

Pillars - director Haley Elizabeth Anderson

Jury Statement: 

  • “The filmmaker navigates the coming-of-age terrain with a mesmerizing point of view anchored in stunning performances by its young cast. The nuanced showcased in explored Black girlhood in today’s America resonated strongly with us.”

Special Mention

Black Goat - director Yi Tang)

Pasang, a new girl at a nunnery, has her first period after hearing a late-night ghost story. She keeps it secret until she bleeds at a prayer session. She believes that she has been cursed and needs to sacrifice a black goat to avoid further misfortune.

Jury Statement: 

  • “Gifted with an original cinematic voice, the filmmaker reclaims the often-taboo transformation of a young girl’s body in a singular context. Harnessing magical realism to enhance this journey from shame to acceptance, this film both enchants and empowers.”

Maalbeek - director Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis)

Sabine is looking for a missing image: a day that has left its mark forever and that everyone remembers but her. But maybe this absence is what allows her to move on with her life?

Jury Statement: 

“Departing from a tragic event, the director created a hybrid piece that is as immersive as it is moving and haunting. The reconstruction of a traumatic memory, both the personal and the collective, come to life in vibrant form.”

The complete AFI FEST program included 125 titles (55 features, 3 episodic, 33 shorts, 19 Meet the Press Film Festival at AFI FEST shorts and 15 AFI Conservatory Showcase shorts) of which 53% were directed by women, 39% were directed by BIPOC and 17% were directed by LGBTQ+. This year's program represented 35 countries and included 7 World Premieres. The total film breakdown by section was: Special Presentations (8), Centerpiece Drive-in (1), Tributes (4), World Cinema (16) New Auteurs (14), Documentary (15), Cinema’s Legacy (4), Short Film Competition (33), Meet the Press Film Festival at AFI FEST (19) and AFI Conservatory Showcase (15).  

Source: AFI Fest