2023 Bend Film Festival

Jury Award Winners

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.

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

– Selin Sevinç, BendFilm’s Programming Director


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

Best Narrative Feature


Directed by 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

“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.”

Best Cinematography

Dustin Lane, Sometimes I Think About Dying

Directed by 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

“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.”

Best Directing, Narrative Feature

Talia’s Journey

Directed by 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

“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.”


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

Directed by 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

“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.”

Best Directing, Documentary Feature


Directed by 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

Directed by 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

Directed by 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

“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.”


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

Directed by 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

Directed by 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

Directed by 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.

“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.”

Best Narrative Short Film

The Vacation

Directed by  Jarreau Carrillo
10 min. | USA | Northwest Premiere

A Black man attempts to take a 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.”

Best Documentary Short Film

The Volunteer

Directed by 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.

“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.”

Best Indigenous Short Film


Directed 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


Directed by Elham Ehsas
12 min. | Afghanistan, UK | Northwest Premiere

After the Taliban takeover, an Afghan woman must face a new future.

“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.”

Special Jury Award, Documentary Short Film

Earthbound: Nzambi Matee

Directed by Farhoud Meybodi
48 min. | USA, Japan, Kenya | Oregon Premiere

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.

“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.”

Best Student Short Film

We Were Meant To

Directed by Tari Wariebi
27 min. | USA | Oregon Premiere

Akil, an African American teen, has wings and one goal: to take his first flight.

“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.”

Best NW Short Film

Range Rider

Directed by 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?

“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.”


Best Music Video

(Please Don’t) Leave Me Now by Madison McFerrin

Directed by 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

Directed by 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

Directed by 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

Directed by 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

Directed by 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

2023 BendFilm Jurors

SPOTLIGHT JURY: Carlos Aguilar, John Cooper & Ann Murphy

NARRATIVE FEATURE FILM JURY: Carlos Aguilar, Rachael Labes and Emma Suits


INDIGENOUS FILM JURY: Miciana Hutcherson, LaRonn Katchia, Ryan RedCorn

NARRATIVE AND ANIMATED SHORT FILM JURY: Sharon Badal, Alexandra Fredricks, and Amanda Miller

DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM JURY: Nekisa Cooper, Elisa Levine, and Michael T. Workman

STUDENT AND NW SHORTS JURY: Oscar Arce, Shannon Hamblin, and Flynn Slicker