2018 Winners

Living on a Dollar a Day
by Thomas Nazario & The Forgotten International

This film is based on the making of the award-winning book, Living on a Dollar a Day. It follows the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Renée C. Byer as she explores the personal experiences of women, children, and families who live in extreme poverty in ten countries around the world. Her acclaimed images, along with the book’s author, Professor Thomas Nazario’s knowledge of the causes and effects of poverty, as well as other experts in their respective fields, help tell the stories of the daily lives of the poor. The film also highlights the efforts of everyday heroes around the world who work hard to help bring hope to some of those in the greatest need. This film is a must see for everyone who cares about global issues. Bay Area videographer George Rosenfeld accompanied Byer to four continents to capture the stories, the film was edited by Los Angeles-based five-time Emmy Award-winning video editor, Karlo Gharabegian. The film captures the work the extreme poor do in order to simply survive and speaks to their often-unrealized hopes and dreams. It brings into focus the daily struggles of one-sixth of the world’s people who are often forgotten and live on less than a dollar a day.

Director’s Statement:
This documentary offers the viewer an opportunity to visit with and learn more about the lives of nearly 20% of the world’s population who struggle every day to try to eke out a life for themselves and their children. It also tells the stories of those who try to help.

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Dirt McComber
by Ryan White, Joanne Storkan, Brant Davis

Eric “Dirt” McComber is a rugged individualist who provides for his large family by hunting and fishing the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory near Montreal. But he must straddle two worlds to accomplish his many business, family, and societal functions. Adding to this is his passion and dedication to the sport of lacrosse, not just because of its modern-day significance, but also because it is the spiritual practice founded by his ancestors, the Iroquois of North America, who for centuries played the game to honor the Creator as well as for the wellness of their native communities.

Life was running smoothly, and through bartering and selling their food at powwows, the McCombers were able to maintain a good lifestyle. But when disaster struck and struck hard, Dirt’s entire way of living and supporting his family was threatened. The McCombers are now forced to reevaluate their way of living and become even more resilient during a harsh Quebec winter as well as prioritize what is truly important to them.

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Short Film
Curb Service
by Andrew Huggins, John R. Sexton

A long lost cousin returns home to grieve for his departed Aunt Edna.

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Palmetto Prize
37 Ghosts
by Collins Abbott White

A hired gun, haunted by the ghosts of his past kills, and struggling with guilt, goes on his final hit.

Why do I so often do the things I hate? Harvey knows what he is doing is wrong. He tries every day to find forgiveness. Father Andrew grows weary of the hours he spends hearing Harvey talk around the problem without actually confessing what he has done. Harvey is a hit man who wants another job. The problem is, he can’t get away from the ghosts. Everyone, all 36 victims, show up at various, inconvenient times to jibe at him. They are beginning to throw him off his game and distract him from the job at hand. All of them, that is, except the first one. Angelica wasn’t the target, her father was. She got in the way, and now Harvey can’t sleep —her face is always there, her voice in his head. She says she forgives him. Why can’t that be enough?

Harvey decides to quit playing the game and get out of the business. The Boss said he could leave any time. His wife is begging him to take her on a long vacation, and he almost has enough to visit Venice. Just one more time and he will be home free. He promises. A dark night, a single shot to the chest of the victim, collect the cash and take off. It would be simple if the Ghosts would just leave him alone.

Director’s Statement
37 Ghosts was an idea I had several years ago when I was still studying film in college. For various reasons, I never made it as a student project, but the story stuck with me. Years later the time was right, and 37 Ghosts was born.

The story follows Harvey, a devout Christian who goes to confession daily but also murders people for a living. The conflict between what he believes to be true and good, and what he does on a daily basis is tearing apart his marriage, his health, and his faith. Added to that, he’s haunted by the ghosts of everyone he killed, with Angelica, his unintended first victim, a particular source of grief. Her innocence and eagerness to forgive Harvey and see him turn his life around only serve as a further reminder of his guilt.

I think that we as people are not so far away from Harvey. While we might not go around killing people for a living, we have a tendency to do the things that we think are most reprehensible. It doesn’t take much research to find a plethora of high profile people who would condemn things from adultery, drug use, lying, sexual abuse or harassment, stealing, etc, who have also committed those same acts. Why do we do the things we hate? Why can’t we be consistent? These are some of the questions 37 Ghosts raises. From a high vantage point, the entire film can be seen as the interplay between sin/guilt and repentance/forgiveness.

37 Ghosts is a stand-alone short film that tells a complete story. But there’s a lot more to be explored this mythos that can be contained in a 16-minute film. Our ultimate goal would be to make 37 Ghosts into a feature that further explores these themes and shows the evolution of Harvey’s inner struggle.

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Blue Note
by David Donar

A guitarist finds inspiration from above.

Director’s Statement:
I am a visual storyteller. Whether it is a single panel sketch or an animated film my work strives to share a common human trait…to tell a story.

Animation is my preferred medium as the word’s very meaning is “to give life”. I take pleasure in using a traditional medium like a pencil or brush and combining the marks with the latest technology to develop imagery that is vibrant with movement and sound. Satire and irony are the genres I find most effective with my animation. By observing life I discover these ironic twists and turns that offer us lessons and unique story opportunities.

I did extensive on-location studies of the Lake Simcoe region, north of Toronto, Ontario. I am documenting the environments through traditional and digital media using watercolors with tablet touchscreen applications to capture light, color, and seasonal changes. I will ultimately create animation based on these transitions. My goal is to develop a higher awareness of this fragile ecology and to generate funding and conservation opportunities. Within the tradition of the Group of Seven landscape artists, I have a strong desire to capture this dynamic environment by direct contact and observation.

I find that great stories never change but take form in new venues. My goal is to continue to grow and foster new ways of giving life to this unique human trait.

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by William Simmons

A veteran hit man named Leo drives his rusty Chevy through the bleak terrain of Nevada’s desert. He is on a mission that was given to him by his mob boss Hunt, a mission that will end in the death of a young girl. After discovering the young girl was part of Hunt’s underage sex trafficking ring, Leo disobeys his orders in an attempt to atone for past sins.

Director’s Statement:
“Sonora” provides a unique perspective on the American Western. The classic tropes from the past remain guns, outlaws, and a disillusioned cowboy set within a society that is naturally beautiful but morally corrupt. We wanted to modernize the genre and to do so, we shed light on the contemporary issue of sex trafficking that hides in the desolation of the American Southwest.

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Audience Choice
Harvest Season – Short Film
by Daljit Kalsi

A husband learns that his wife of more than three decades has terminal cancer and questions if being so busy making a living all these years was worth it now that the future both Ed and Elsie had dreamed of is being ripped away by an incurable disease.

Director Statement:
Harvest Season is a film that I have been working on for ten years. It’s unlike any film I’ve made before. There are no suspense or action sequences. It’s all character and emotion-driven, and I hope audiences will respond to it and appreciate all the nuances packed into this 31-minute tearjerker.