BendFilm tonight awarded twenty films across its competition slate, including Academy-qualifying short films and the newly-juried Spotlight category, and capping four days of film premieres, panels, parties and performances. 22 feature films vied for prizes across six main competition categories, curated by programmers from a record-high 2,830 submissions, originating from over 50 countries. The 21 jurors, across ten categories, included film festival industry professionals and filmmakers alongside journalists, talent representatives and distribution executives. Many jurors also appeared on offscreen panels throughout the four-day Festival. Other 2023 BendFilm award recipients include Nicole Holofcener, BendFilm’s Indie Filmmaker of the Year, and Ryan RedCorn and Cara Jade Myers, this year’s Indigenous Honorees.

“These honorees and award winners are celebrating both their accomplishments in our Festival program and their bright creative futures,” said Selin Sevinç, BendFilm’s Programming Director. “I can’t wait to see what’s next, for both these stories and their talented tellers.”

Alongside laurels and trophies, many awards include direct filmmaker financial support: over $16,500 in prize money will be distributed across competition categories. Audience Award winners will be announced in the coming weeks.

Award-winner screenings unspool throughout Sunday, October 16, as the Festival’s final in-person programming. Selections from the program will be available online through October 22.

Without further ado, the prizewinners of the 2023 Bend Film Festival, presented alongside select citations from their respective jurors, are…

The Narrative Features Competition section comprised seven outstanding fiction films, which present deeply personal stories with unique directorial vision.

Best Narrative Feature: America
“An expertly crafted work that pays tribute to the universal challenges and great beauties of the human experience. We applaud this film’s tender portrayal of connection amidst tragedy, and would like to award Ofir Raul Graizer’s America BendFilm’s Best Narrative Feature award.”

Dir. Ofir Raul Graizer
Israel, Germany, Czech Republic
An Israeli man returns to Israel after 10 years in America. An encounter with a childhood friend and his future wife will change everyone’s lives. Writer/director Ofir Raul Graizer (The Cakemaker) returns with an affectionate tribute to 60s and 70s cinema in a film full of emotion, color, and fragrance that pays homage to values such as friendship, love, and moral responsibility.
Oregon premiere

Best Cinematography: Dustin Lane, Sometimes I Think About Dying
“With a curious camera that emphasizes the protagonist’s isolation and daydreams, this cinematographer’s grasp on visual language and stunning camera work stood out to the jury. We’d like to extend BendFilm’s Best Cinematography award to Dustin Lane for his work on Sometimes I Think About Dying.”

Sometimes I Think About Dying
Dir. Rachel Lambert
Lost on the dreary Oregon coast, Fran finds solace in her cubicle, listening to the constant hum of officemates and occasionally daydreaming to pass the time. She is ghosting through life, unable to pop her bubble of isolation, when a friendly new coworker, Robert, persistently tries to connect with her.
Northwest premiere

Best Directing, Narrative Feature: Talia’s Journey
“For its authentic and complex exploration of identity, one that is not romanticized but keenly observed through a collection of shrewd, naturalistic performances form a remarkable cast, we want to present the Best Director award to Christophe Rolin for “Talia’s Journey.”

Talia’s Journey
Dir. Christophe Rolin
Talia is a 19-year-old Belgian girl, with Senegalese roots, visiting her country of origin for the first time. She starts off in Dakar in the luxurious villa of her cousin’s family, hoping to meet her grandmother. But her grandmother is nowhere to be found and the villa quickly becomes a gilded cage. Until she meets Malika, a mysterious street vendor who sells birds.
Northwest premiere

The 2023 Documentary Feature Competition section comprised eight bold nonfiction films which present their subjects in unflinching detail and formal innovation.

Best Documentary Feature: Anima: My Father’s Dresses
“For its whimsical and heart-shattering storytelling that from the most intimate family story expands to the universal—deepening our understanding of the impact of gender constructs on our human souls—the jury would like to recognize ANIMA: My Father’s Dresses by Uli Decker with the award for Best Documentary Feature.”

Anima: My Father’s Dresses
Dir. Uli Decker
Shortly before his sudden death, Uli learns that she and her father Helmut were driven by the same questions and apparently missed each other tragically throughout their lives. With her autobiographical film, the director traces the family secret, opens old diaries and herself for the first completely honest conversation. A touching and reconciling post-mortem encounter between father and daughter.
US premiere

Best Directing, Documentary Feature: Q

Dir. Jude Chehab
Lebanon, USA
An intimate portrayal of a quest for love and acceptance at any cost, Q depicts the influence of a secretive matriarchal religious order on filmmaker Jude Chehab’s family and the unspoken ties and consequences of loyalty that have bonded her mother, grandmother, and herself to the mysterious organization. A love story of a different kind, Q is a multigenerational tale of the eternal search for meaning.
West Coast premiere

Best Editing: Kite Zo A

Kite Zo A
Dir. Kaveh Nabatian
Canada, Haïti
In 1791 Haiti, Dutty Boukman presided over a Vodou ritual in Bois-Caïman that led to the creation of the first Black republic. Since then, rituals of transformation and artistic expression have been at the core of a thriving culture as the country faces oppression, poverty, and natural disasters. Kite Zo A (Leave the Bones) is a sensorial film about rituals in Haiti, from ancient to modern, made in collaboration with poets, dancers, musicians, fishermen, daredevil rollerbladers, and Vodou priests, set to poetry by Haitian author Wood-Jerry Gabriel.
Northwest premiere

Special Jury Award: Patria y Vida: The Power of Music
“For the illuminating and life-affirming way it Illustrates the power of music to inspire change, encourage solidarity, fight censorship and freely proclaim our collective humanity, the Bend Film Festival documentary jury would like to recognize PATRIA Y VIDA: THE POWER OF MUSIC by Beatriz Luengo with a Special Jury Award.”

Patria y Vida: The Power of Music
Dir. Beatriz Luengo
USA, Spain
The powerful story of six Afro-descendant rappers who have rewritten Cuban history and sparked a lyrical battle for human rights through a song called “Patria y Vida”. The song has become a revolution in the streets of Cuba, and it has been banned by the government, which imprisons people for the simple act of listening to it. The protest anthem has won “Song of the Year” and “Best Urban Song” at the Latin Grammy Awards. The lyrics have been immortalized in the Congressional Records of the United States to ensure that future generations will always remember that it was an anthem for freedom.
Northwest premiere

The 2023 Indigenous Features Competition comprised three features centered on Indigenous and Native perspectives and stories from around the world.

Best Indigenous Feature Film: Bad Press
Bad Press
Dir. Rebecca Landsberry-Baker (Muscogee Creek), Joe Peeler
When the Muscogee Nation suddenly begins censoring their free press, a rogue reporter fights to expose her government’s corruption in a historic battle that will have ramifications for all of Indian Country.
Oregon premiere

The 2023 Environmental/Outdoor Features Competition comprised four films centered on the relationships between humans and nature — by turns adversarial, exploitative, mutually beneficial and endlessly evolving.

Best Outdoor/Environmental Feature Film: The Grab

The Grab
Dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Quietly and seemingly out of sight, governments, private investors, and mercenaries are working to seize food and water resources at the expense of entire populations. These groups are establishing themselves as the new OPEC, where the future world powers will be those who control not oil, but food. The Grab is a global thriller combining hard-hitting journalism from The Center for Investigative Reporting with the compelling, character-driven storytelling of director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, taking you around the globe from Arizona to Zambia to reveal one of the world’s biggest and least known threats.
Oregon premiere


Best Animated Short Film: Ana Morphose
“By creating a world that blurs the lines between reality, abstraction and imagination, this filmmaker has pushed the boundaries of visual storytelling to bring a unique point of view to the audience. We’d like to award Joao Rodrigues and his team with BendFilm’s Best Animated Short award for the exceptional use of the craft of stop motion animation in Ana Morphose.”

Ana Morphose
Dir. João Rodrigues | 10 min. | Portugal | West Coast Premiere
A little girl reads herself to sleep. As she dozes off, the physical world starts melting into an alternate reality where the contents of a book rule over the laws of physics.

Best Narrative Short Film: The Vacation
“We found this short film to be a complete work that transforms a singular space into an entertaining trip! As a creator in command of his craft with a keen sense of comedic timing, we recognize Jarreau Carrillo — writer, director and co-star of The Vacation as the winner of BendFilm’s Best Narrative Short award. We are excited to follow Carrillo and curious to watch what comes next.”

The Vacation
Dir. Jarreau Carrillo | 10 min. | USA | Northwest Premiere
A Black man attempts to take a vacation.

Best Documentary Short Film: The Volunteer
“We found this film to be a moving and deeply resonant exploration into the enduring impact of racial trauma, the profound power and bonds of friendship, and the universal quest for identity and a sense of belonging. It skillfully navigates these complex themes with authenticity and grace, making it a powerful and compelling choice for our Best Documentary Short Award. The award goes to The Volunteer by David Brodie.”

The Volunteer
Dir. David Brodie | 35 min. | USA | West Coast Premiere
After being mistaken for the enemy by fellow U.S. forces during the Vietnam War, a Japanese-American veteran struggles to overcome his feelings of guilt and anger, find a sense of belonging, and reunite with the friend who saved his life.

Best Indigenous Short Film: Apayauq

Dir. by Zeppelin Zeerip | 16 min. | USA | Northwest Premiere
Apayauq Reitan’s journey of gender, mental health, and purpose on her way to become the first out transgender woman to complete the legendary Iditarod sled dog race across Alaska.

Special Jury Award, Narrative Short Film: Yellow
“This two-character film impressed us in the way it humanized a country’s sudden political transformation and how the change impacts individuals from both a male and female perspective. For its nuanced and subtle depiction of this situation using one location through an intimate lens, we present a Special Jury Award to YELLOW by Elham Ehsas.”

Dir. Elham Ehsas | 12 min. | Afghanistan, UK | Northwest Premiere
Presented in Dari with English subtitles
After the Taliban takeover, an Afghan woman must face a new future.

Special Jury Award, Documentary Short Film: Earthbound: Nzambi Matee
“For its complex and compelling portrayal of human ingenuity and perseverance, the jury would like to present Earthbound: Nzambi Matee with a Special Jury Award.”

Earthbound: Nzambi Matee
Dir. Farhoud Meybodi | 48 min. | USA, Japan, Kenya | Oregon Premiere
Presented in English and Swahili with English subtitles
Earthbound: Nzambi Matee explores the life and achievements of a Kenyan innovator and entrepreneur who is tackling the plastic waste epidemic in her hometown of Nairobi. The film emphasizes the boundless potential of human ingenuity and serves as an optimistic reminder of the impact that each of us can have on our local communities.

Best Student Short Film: We Were Meant To
“First, we’d like to congratulate all of the nominees in the best student short film category. Every single one of these films showed skill and imagination. This award goes to the one that excelled in every category. Cinematography, storytelling, character, production, effects, and entertainment. Best Student Short award goes to We Were Meant To by Tari Wariebi.”

We Were Meant To
Dir. Tari Wariebi | 27 min. | USA | Oregon Premiere
Akil, an African American teen, has wings and one goal: to take his first flight.

Best NW Short Film: Range Rider
“BendFilm’s Best NW Short award goes to a film that in essence captures both the natural forces of the region and the human struggle within it. We’d like to present the award to Range Rider by Colin Arisman, who’s not here tonight. We invite Daniel Curry, the Range Rider himself, to the stage to accept the award.”

Range Rider
Dir. Colin Arisman | 29 min. | USA | Oregon Premiere
As wolves repopulate Washington State, conflict is heating up with rural ranching communities. Range rider Daniel Curry’s job is to patrol wild areas on horseback, creating a buffer between wolves and the cattle herds that graze on public lands. Can he keep the peace between ranchers and wolves?


Best Music Video: (Please Don’t) Leave Me Now

“(Please Don’t) Leave Me Now” by Madison McFerrin
Dir. Kemp Baldwin | 3 min. | USA | World Premiere
Madison McFerrin tries to convince herself to hold onto life.


Best Spotlight Narrative Film: The Anatomy of a Fall

Anatomy of a Fall
Dir. Justine Triet
Presented in French, English, and German with English subtitles.
For the past year, Sandra, her husband Samuel, and their eleven-year-old son Daniel have lived a secluded life in a remote town in the French Alps. When Samuel is found dead in the snow below their chalet, the police question whether he was murdered or committed suicide. Samuel’s suspicious death is presumed murder, and Sandra becomes the main suspect. What follows is not just an investigation into the circumstances of Samuel’s death but an unsettling psychological journey into the depths of Sandra and Samuel’s conflicted relationship.
Oregon Premiere

Best Spotlight Documentary Film: The Eternal Memory

The Eternal Memory
Dir. Maite Alberdi
Presented in Spanish with English subtitles.
Augusto and Paulina have been together and in love for 25 years. Eight years ago, their lives were forever changed by Augusto’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. As one of Chile’s most prominent cultural commentators and television presenters, Augusto is no stranger to building an archive of memory. Now he turns that work to his own life, trying to hold on to his identity with the help of his beloved wife. Paulina, whose own pre-eminence as a famous actress and Chilean Minister of Culture, predates her ceaselessly inventive manner of engaging with her husband. Day by day, the couple faces this challenge head-on, relying on the tender affection and sense of humor shared between them that remains, remarkably, fully intact.
Central Oregon Premiere


Best Feature: The Grab 

The Grab
Dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite
United States
Quietly and seemingly out of sight, governments, private investors, and mercenaries are working to seize food and water resources at the expense of entire populations. These groups are establishing themselves as the new OPEC, where the future world powers will be those who control not oil, but food. The Grab is a global thriller combining hard-hitting journalism from The Center for Investigative Reporting with the compelling, character-driven storytelling of director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, taking you around the globe from Arizona to Zambia to reveal one of the world’s biggest and least known threats.
Oregon Premier

Best Short: Knight of Fortune

Knight of Fortune
Dir. Lasse Lyskjær Noer
Presented in Danish and Swedish with English Subtitles
The loss of a loved one, the grief, the risk of yellow skin, and a coffin, that is too much for Karl to face.
Then it’s much easier to fix a broken lamp. Karl meets Torben – a destined brother. An absurd, humorous, and melodic meeting between two old men captured by grief.
Northwest Premier


The 2024 Bend Film Festival will take place October 10-13, 2024.