2021 Winners

The 52nd Nashville Film Festival took place from Sept. 30 - Oct. 6, 2021 in a series of in-person and online events. The festival featured more than 150 films, live music performances, film and music industry panels, Q&As and other exclusive content.

A special thanks to all participating filmmakers, screenwriters, industry leaders, film fans and supporting partners that made this festival such a smashing success.

Congratulations to all the winners of the 52nd Nashville Film Festival!

52nd Nashville Film Festival – 2021 WINNERS

Best Narrative Feature:  Poser

Directed by Ori Segev & Noah Dixon

Lennon Gates is a quiet and observant podcaster, but when she meets the charismatic musician Bobbi Kitten, her deceptive intentions surface. As their friendship forms, Lennon quickly spirals into obsession as she struggles with an unchecked search for creative identity.

Best Music Documentary Feature:  Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road

Directed by Brent Wilson

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road is a deeply personal documentary that explores the life and career of the legendary songwriter, composer and producer through a literal and metaphorical road trip exploring Brian’s hometown. With Rolling Stone editor Jason Fine behind the wheel and Brian selecting the music, the two revisit many of the periods and locations integral in shaping Brian’s life. The feature length film artfully weaves fascinating anecdotes throughout an impressionistic love letter to both Brian’s music and Los Angeles.

Best Documentary Feature:  Socks on Fire

Directed by Bo McGuire

SOCKS ON FIRE is Bo McGuire’s lyrical testament to Southern women couched in the familial battle for his beloved grandmother’s throne. McGuire returned home from New York City to Hokes Bluff, Alabama to find that his Aunt Sharon—his favorite childhood relative—had locked her gay, drag-queen brother, his Uncle John, out of the family home. As a queer Southerner who is both protective and skeptical of the South, this family rupture stoked a fire within McGuire to document the place and the people he calls home. Through a series of stylized reenactments spun in with family VHS footage, SOCKS ON FIRE documents the fluidity of identity, personality and performance in his hometown among his kin and the many women who’ve been a force in Bo’s life.

Best New Directors Feature:  Clara Sola

Directed by Nathalie Alvarez Mesén

CLARA, 40, is believed to have a special connection to God. As a «healer», she sustains a family and a village in need of hope, while she finds solace in her relationship with the natural world. After years of being controlled by her mother’s repressive care, Clara’s sexual desires are stirred by her attraction to her niece’s new boyfriend. This newly awakened force takes Clara to unexplored territory, allowing her to cross boundaries, both physical and mystical. Empowered by her self-discovery, Clara gradually frees herself from her role as “saint” and begins to heal herself.

Best Tennessee Feature:  Thistle

Directed by: Ryan Camp 

Authentic and inspiring, “Thistle” dives into the complexity of a Nashville, TN based recovery community for women survivors, as both individuals and the organization grapple to find hope and healing in the midst of change.

Best Graveyard Shift Feature:  Woodland Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror     

Directed by: Kier-La Janisse

WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED explores the folk horror phenomenon from its beginnings in a trilogy of films – Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968), Piers Haggard’s Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973) – through its proliferation on British television in the 1970s and its culturally specific manifestations in American, Asian, Australian and European horror, to the genre’s revival over the last decade. Touching on over 200 films and featuring over 50 interviewees, WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED investigates the many ways that we alternately celebrate, conceal and manipulate our own histories in an attempt to find spiritual resonance in our surroundings.

Best Narrative Short:  Like The Ones I Used to Know

Directed by: Annie St-Pierre

December 24, 1983, 10:50 p.m.; Julie and her cousins ate too much sugar, Santa Claus is late and Denis, alone in his car, is anxious at the idea of setting foot in his ex-in-laws’ house to pick up his children.

Best Documentary Short: Águilas/ Eagles  

Directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Maite Zubiaurre

Along the southern desert border in Arizona, it is estimated that only one out of every five missing migrants are ever found. Águilas is the story of one group of searchers, the Aguilas del Desierto. Once a month these volunteers—construction workers, gardeners, domestic laborers by trade—set out to recover the missing, reported to them by loved ones often thousands of miles away. Amidst rising political repression and cartel violence, as well as the eternal difficulties of travel in the Sonoran Desert, the Aguilas carry out their solemn task. Águilas lays bare the tragic reality of migrant death by venturing deep into the wilderness of the borderlands. The desert is a vast cemetery where the bodies and dried bones of migrants lie exposed under the scorching sun. In a world where efforts to humanize the migrant experience often get lost within the statistics and headlines, this documentary provides an observational and poetic response to one of the most pressing issues of our time, undocumented immigration and the hardships of the border crossing experience.

Best Animated Short:  Navozande, The Musician 

Directed by Reza Riahi

During a vicious attack, a young musician and the love of his life are brutally separated from one another. Fifty years later, the musician is summoned to play at the Mongol castle where his beloved has been held.

Best “The Edge” Short:  Point and Line to Plane

Directed by: Sofia Bohdanowicz

Devastated after the death of a friend, a young woman (Deragh Campbell) attempts to extract meaning from this intense loss as she discovers signs in her daily life and through encounters with the art of Hilma af Klint and Wassily Kandinsky. Borrowing its title from Kandinsky’s 1926 book, Point and Line to Plane portrays the phenomenon of magical thinking endured during an individual’s journey to process, heal and document a period of mourning. As the woman peers deeper into the invisible, the resurrecting potential of perception helps illuminate the power of how we choose to look and, moreover, how we see.

Best Graveyard Shift Short:  Stuffed

Directed by Theo Rhys, Joss Holden-Rea

Stuffed is a short musical about a taxidermist who dreams of stuffing a human and the man she meets online, so afraid of aging he volunteers to be her specimen. An unexpected romantic spark between them complicates their plans.

Best Tennessee Short:  Carthage House of Beauty

Directed by: Allison Inman

Styles change, but one generation of women still gets their hair done once a week. This poetic portrait captures an unhurried ritual that’s as much about human connection as it is about looking your best for church on Sunday. It bottles a process that will pass with a generation.

Best Tennessee Student Short:  Muggy

Directed by: Phynley Joel

Newly moved to the US from New Zealand, 12 year old Muggy struggles to feel truly at home in a place so different from what she’s always known. She misses the land, the rugby, the trees – everything. Unbeknownst to her dad (who thinks she’s in school) Muggy sets off into the snow-covered wilderness, experiencing winter as she never has, and finally is able to return ‘home’ with a new sense of belonging.

NextGen Short:  Strike

Directed by: Olivier Côté

Hoping to impress a group of rowdy classmates, 17-year-old Jules invites them to his family’s bowling alley. But when the debauchery descends into chaos, he must find the courage to defy them.

Best Episodic Pilot:  Cary in Retrograde

Directed by Priya & Philipp Yaw Domfeh

Cary In Retrograde is a musical dramedy that follows its titular character, Cary, as he trudges through a surrealist Los Angeles while coping with Millennial burnout, disappointment, and life in your 30s as a failed artist.

Best Episodic Series:  If I’m Alive Next Week

Created by Jennifer Morris, Robbie Sublett

When a foul-mouthed, 80-year-old grandma gets dumped and booted from her boyfriend’s brownstone, she’s forced to return to the rent-stabilized apartment housing her broke-ass, ungrateful kids. Overnight she finds herself navigating preschool politics, negotiating roommate contracts, and bunking with a six-year-old all while staring down the barrel of her own mortality. A loosely autobiographical digital series that asks — can you really reimagine your life on the cusp of its twilight?

Best Virtual Reality Film:   A Promise Kept

Directed by Ken Winikur, Director; Ariel Efron, Creative Director; Chris Healer, VR Director

In 1944, during the Second World War, thirteen-year-old Fritzie Fritzshall, her mother, and her two younger brothers were arrested at gunpoint and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center. Separated from her mother and brothers during selection, never to see them again, Fritzie survived for months inside one of the Nazi’s most notorious camps. Working as a slave laborer in a nearby factory, Fritzie was imprisoned with 599 other women. Each night the women would share with Fritzie a precious crumb of their bread in the hope that the youngest among them might survive to tell the world what had happened to them. In turn, Fritzie promised that if she survived, she would tell their story. From her darkest memories to the sparks of humanity that allowed her and others to survive, it is a story that will captivate, move, and inspire you, ensuring Fritzie’s promise is kept for generations to come.

Audience Choice Winner:  The Fable Of A Song

Directed by Andy Strohl

Where do songs come from? How does a song get written? Laurel Wright and Wes Lunsford are songwriters determined to make it big in Nashville, Tennessee alongside thousands of talented musicians. Manager Patryk Larney decides to shoot some footage of Laurel, Wes and cowriter Dean Fields to use for a short social media video and entrusts the editing process to good friend and filmmaker, Andy Strohl. Before one frame can be edited, Wes and Laurel’s lives change in the blink of an eye.

Three years later the entire tragic story is finally told by weaving the footage from the cowriting sessions, archival film and interviews with songwriters, musicians and thinkers. A song can become something much more different than the writer’s intent. This is the story of The Young Fables and this is The Fable of a Song.

The Nashville Film Festival Screenplay Competition winners:

  • Best Drama Feature Script LONG WAY HOME, written by Jamaal Pittman
  • Best Comedy Feature Script RAT BASTARDS, written by Keri Lee
  • Best Horror Feature Script EREBUS, written by Martin Aguilera
  • Best Genre Feature Script GUACAMOLE YESTERDAYS, written by Hudson Phillips
  • Best Short Script I AM A GENTLEMAN, written by Nicky Calloway
  • Best Hour Pilot Script CUFFING SEASON, written by Jon Bershad
  • Best Hour Pilot Script HARD RICE, written by Mary Nguyen
  • Best Tennessee Writer LEG, written by Kd Amond and Sarah Zanotti




Narrative Feature Competition:

10 films will be selected to compete for the Grand Jury Prize.

Documentary Feature Competition:

Documentaries about music or musicians should enter the Music Films/Music City Competition. 10 non-fiction films will be selected to compete for the Grand Jury Prize.

Music Films/Music City Feature Competition:

10 non-fiction films about music, musicians or the impact of music will be selected to compete for the Grand Jury Prize.

New Directors Feature Competition:

6 films by first time feature fiction filmmakers will be selected to compete for the Grand Jury Prize. Please note that this is for first-time NARRATIVE features, not documentaries.

Graveyard Shift Feature Competition:

4 films will be selected to compete in this category for the best in “genre cinema.” This category includes horror, sci-fi, action and films that are generally over-the-top, shocking and strange.

Animated Feature Competition:

At least 3 Animated Feature Films will be selected for competition. To qualify for this category a minimum of 75% of the film’s running time must be animated.

Tennessee Feature Competition:

The Tennessee First Competition is open to feature films (over 40 minutes) that meet two of the three following criteria: 1 – The Director is a Tennessee Resident 2 – The Producer or Screenwriter is a Tennessee Resident 3 – At least 65% of the film is shot in Tennessee. Films submitted in this category MUST be Tennessee Premieres. STRONG preference will be given to World Premieres.

U.S. Independents:

A selection of 6 narrative feature films made in the U.S.


Narrative Shorts Competition:

International competition for Live Action narrative films under 40 minutes in length. The Grand Jury Prize-winning film will be eligible for Academy Award™ consideration, assuming it meets all other eligibility requirements.

Animated Shorts Competition:

International competition for animated films under 40 minutes in length. The winning film will be eligible for Academy Award™ consideration, assuming it meets all other eligibility requirements.

Documentary Shorts Competition:

International competition for non-fiction films under 40 minutes in length. The winning film will be eligible for Academy Award™ consideration, assuming it meets all other eligibility requirements.

Experimental Shorts Competition:

International competition for experimental non-narrative films under 40 minutes in length. The winning film receives a $500 cash prize.

Graveyard Shift Shorts Competition:

International competition for live action or animated horror, sci-fi, shocking and otherwise offensive, over-the-top films under 40 minutes in length.

Tennessee Shorts Competition:

A competition for narrative, non-fiction and animated films under 40 minutes in length that meet at least two of the three following criteria: 1 – The Director is a Tennessee Resident 2 – The Producer or Screenwriter is a Tennessee Resident 3 – At least 65% of the film is shot in Tennessee.

NextGen Competition:

An international Junior and Senior division competition for narrative, non-fiction and animated films under 40 minutes in length created by student filmmakers.

Tennessee Student Shorts Competition:

A competition for narrative, non-fiction and animated student films under 40 minutes in length made by students at a Tennessee college or university.

A competition for material created for any medium including television, streaming and internet. The pilot must not have been aired in the US and must not be published on the internet at the time of the 2020 Nashville Film Festival. It must be intended to be serialized. Submissions must be a single episode (even if additional episodes have been created) and must be under 60 minutes in length.

Episodic Competition – Series:

A competition for material created for any medium including television, streaming and internet. The maximum runtime of the submission is 180 minutes AND a maximum of three episodes may be submitted. Materials should not have been published or aired prior to January 1, 2019 and should be currently airing and/or in production.



Screenplay categories include Shorts, Features and Pilots.


Comedy. This includes blended genres, such as action-comedy or dramedy. If you script is intended to make people laugh as it’s primary element, it will compete best as a comedy. Examples of comedy scripts: Bridesmaids, Stuber, Blockers, Shaun of the Dead, Bad Boys.

Drama. These are scripts that primarily aim to tell a serious story. Parts of it may contain humor or other genre-related elements, but the main thrust is dramatic tension during the hero’s journey. Example of drama scripts: Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight, Roma, Hidden Figures.

Horror. This includes blended genres like horror-thriller or any other blend except comedy. The primary aim of a horror is to entertain the audience through tapping into their fears. Examples of horror scripts: Us, Child’s Play, A Quiet Place, Crawl.

Genre. These include films that are not included in any of the above primary genres. Films that would compete best in genre would include fantasy, science fiction, action, mystery, adventure, family, animation, musical, historical, Western, mockumentary, or any blended genres that are not included in the three main categories above, such as action-adventure. Examples of genre scripts: John Wick, Captain Marvel, The Hateful Eight, Toy Story, Star Wars, Lala Land.

Genre scripts are also invited to enter the genre specific-prize category. While all scripts will be considered together in genre for quarterfinal, semifinal and finalist announcements, only scripts that also enter the genre-specific element will be considered for recognition in that category.

Diversity. This category is for writers with an under-represented voice in the marketplace telling the stories of under-represented or marginalized people. Diversity entries can be for any of the categories above. The highest rated scripts will move forward in the competition for award under this category. Diversity scripts can also be entered in any of the main categories for consideration. Our finalists last year represented a very diverse set of voices, but this category ensures that there is a diverse winner. There is also a discounted rate for this category.