Shining a spotlight on filmmakers who exhibit excellence in artistry and craftsmanship, the Washington West Film Festival announced the 2017 award winners. The recipients were chosen by jury out of 30 films in-competition featured at Washington West’s annual festival in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region on October 25-30, 2017.

“A well-told story captures our imagination, makes us laugh, forces us to reflect, and inspires transformation,” said Washington West Founder Brad Russell. “We extend a very warm congratulations to these award winners who have positively shaped the world of film and storytelling.”

Jury Award Best Short Documentary: Run Mama Run

This ESPN series, from Daniele Anastasion, follows elite runner Sarah Brown. After her IUD fails, Brown becomes pregnant and must race against time through pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum training to get back to her pre-pregnancy racing time records before the Olympic trials.

Jury Award Best Short Narrative: Letter to the Free

Directed by Academy Award-nominated Cinematographer Bradford Young (Arrival, Selma, Solo: A Star Wars Story) and featuring Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe Award-winning rapper, actor, and activist Common, this film addresses the cruel legacy of slavery, Jim Crowe, and mass incarceration in America.

Jury Award Best Short Film Director: Game, Jeannie Donohoe

Award-winning filmmaker Jeannie Donohoe addresses gender equality in sports in her short film Game, which she was selected, out of 4,600 applicants, to write and direct through the Lexus Short Films program. Donohoe’s other films include Public and Lambing Season, selected as one of Indiewire’s “Best Short Films of 2014”.

Jury Award Best Feature Documentary: Corridor Four

This feature-length documentary follows Pentagon K9 Unit Officer Isaac Ho’opi’i, who is responsible for saving countless lives during the the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. After news of the events fades, Isaac is left battling the horrific images of that day, and the memory of those he was unable to save.

Jury Award Best Feature Documentary Director: What Haunts Us, Paige Goldberg Tolmach

When Paige Goldberg Tolmach uncovers the horrific truth behind a series of suicides from the 1979 graduating class of her almamater Porter-Gaud High School, she delves into the difficult topic of sexual predators in What Haunts Us, produced by Frank Marshall.

Jury Award Best Feature Narrative: King of Peking

Directed by Sam Voutas, King of Peking follows the relationship between a father and son who start their own pirate movie company when home entertainment enters the market in the 1990s.

Jury Award Best Feature Narrative Director: King of Peking, Sam Voutas

Sam Voutas is an Australian director is known for his award-winning films, which often center on life in Beijing. His work Red Light Revolution was included on the British Film Institute’s list of “10 Great Films Set in Beijing” and won the People’s choice award at the 2011 Singapore Film Festival.

Audience Award Best Short Film:Under An Arctic Sky

A film project directed by photographer Chris Burkard that documents the journey to the most remote corner if Iceland in the middle of winter in search of the perfect surf.

Metropolitan Award: Bradford Young

The festival’s Metropolitan Award recognizes a world class filmmaker from greater Washington, D.C., whose exceptional artistry and influence earned Baltimore’s Bradford Young the second annual award. Young’s exceptional work in cinematography, storytelling, and his passion for conversation about race in America made him the unanimous choice by the festival’s 2017 programming team.

Laura Hillenbrand Outstanding Literary Award: Ernest Cline

The Laura Hillenbrand Outstanding Literary Award recognizes an author whose exceptional book is turned into an influential film. Uniquely, this award recognizes not only the quality of the book but also the screen adaptation. This year, the Washington West programming team is pleased to award Ernest Cline, author of the New York Times Best Selling novel, Ready Player One. The film adaptation, directed by Steven Spielberg, will hit movie screens worldwide in 2018.
The annual award is named in honor of longtime DC-resident and bestselling author, Laura Hillenbrand, whose incredibly inspiring novels Seabiscuit: An American Legend and Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption both became major motion pictures.

Sun City Storyteller Of Hope Award: Mariska Hargitay

We passionately believe in and revere examples of people who not only tell incredible stories on screen, but do so in everyday life off screen. The Sun City Storyteller Of Hope Award honors an individual who embodies the ethos of our festival, someone who truly lives our core philosophy: Story Can Change The World.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’s actress and advocate Mariska Hargitay founded in 2004 The Joyful Heart Foundation, a non-profit organization created to help survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse heal and reclaim joy in their lives. Hargitay is paving the way for innovative approaches to treating trauma, reforming and advocating policies and legislation at the city, state, and federal levels to ensure justice for all survivors.

The annual Sun City Storyteller Of Hope Award is named after the Washington West FIlm Festival’s inaugural Closing Night Film in 2011, Sun City Picture House, made by Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award-winning director David Darg, and produced by Olivia Wilde and Bryn Mooser.

About the Washington West Film Festival

The Washington West Film Festival brings together film and philanthropy in the D.C. area, directing 100% of its annual box office net proceeds to disadvantaged communities. For information visit


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