Heather Young’s Drama ‘Murmur’ Wins Top Award at Slamdance Festival

Heather Young’s drama “Murmur” has been selected as the winner of the narrative feature  grand jury prize at the Slamdance Film festival.

The movie, which won the Fipresci Discovery Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, stars Shan MacDonald as an older woman who, while performing community service at an animal shelter, begins compulsively adopting pets to ease her loneliness. Merawi Gerima’s  first feature, “Residue,” won an Honorable mention from the jury and the Audience Award for Narrative Feature.

“The Grand Jury Award for Narrative Feature goes to Murmur, the quietly devastating debut feature from Canadian filmmaker Heather Young,” the jury said. “This richly detailed and deeply humane drama offers an insightful and sympathetic portrait of a lonely woman — affectingly portrayed by newcomer Shan McDonald — who goes to self-destructive extremes while attempting to fill the gaping void in her life. An Honorable Mention goes to Merawi Gerima’s mesmerizing first feature, ‘Residue’, which is at once inventive, poetic and angry about issues of identity, gentrification and the difficulty of returning home.”

Slamdance’s feature competition is limited to films made by first-time directors with budgets under $1 million and without U.S. distribution.

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Brian Morrison’s “Bastards’ Road” won the Audience Award for Documentary Feature and “Shoot to Marry,” directed by Steve Markle, walked away with this year’s Best of Breakouts Audience Award.

“We congratulate the winners of Slamdance 2020 and we celebrate all of our new filmmakers who have shown us that the art of filmmaking is brilliantly alive,” said Slamdance co-founder Peter Baxter. “This next generation collectively brings us art formed in risk taking, bravery and the unexpected. It’s not just their characters who are on an adventure. It’s the filmmakers as well and Slamdance will continue to be their companion.”

The Documentary Feature Grand Jury Prize went to “Higher Love,” directed by Hasan Oswald, and an Honorable Mention was awarded to “Maxima,” directed by Claudia Sparrow. The Documentary Short Grand Jury Prize went to””To Calm the Pig Inside,” directed by Joanna Vasquez Arong. “Umbilical,” directed by Danski Tang and “My Favorite Food is Indian Tacos, my Favorite Drink is Iced Tea and my Favorite Thing is Drumming,” directed by Derius Matchewan were awarded the Honorable Mention.

The AGBO Fellowship, presented by Slamdance alumni Joe and Anthony Russo along with their colleagues at their AGBO production company, was awarded to Carlota Pereda, director of “Piggy” with a $25,000 prize designed to enable a deserving filmmaker the opportunity to continue their journey with mentorship from the Russo brothers as well as development support from their studio.

The 2020 CreativeFuture Innovation Award went to “The Little Soul,” directed by Barbara Rupik. The George Starks Spirit of Slamdance Award, voted on by filmmakers and given to the filmmaker who best embodies the spirit of the Festival, went to Yani Gellman of “Greetings, from the Planet Krog!.”

The festival’s Outstanding Acting Award, which is curated by the Slamdance team, went to Obinna Nwachukwu from the film “Residue.” An honorable mention was given to Maya Harman from “Chubby.”

The festival, launched in 1995 as an alternative to Sundance, has included showings of such notable titles as Oren Peli’s “Paranormal Activity.” The fest, which takes place at the Treasure Mountain Inn in Park City, Utah, from Jan. 24 to Jan. 30, will screen 23 movies including 10 world premieres, five North American premieres, and one U.S. premiere.

Slamdance alumni include Joe and Anthony Russo, Christopher Nolan, Marc Forster, Jared Hess, Lena Dunham, Benh Zeitlin, Seth Gordon, and Lynn Shelton. Titles that have debuted at Slamdance include “Mad Hot Ballroom” and Gordon’s “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.”

A full list of winners is below:

Jury Awards | Narrative Features

Narrative Feature Grand Jury Prize – Murmur (Dir.: Heather Young)

Honorable Mentions: Residue (Dir.: Merawi Gerima)


Jury Awards | Documentary Features, Documentary Shorts

Documentary Feature Grand Jury Prize – Higher Love (Dir.: Hasan Oswald)

Honorable Mention – Maxima (Dir.: Claudia Sparrow)

Documentary Short Grand Jury Prize – To Calm the Pig Inside (Dir.: Joanna Vasquez Arong)

Honorable Mention: Umbilical (Dir.: Danski Tang) and My Favorite Food is Indian Tacos, my Favorite Drink is Iced Tea and my Favorite Thing is Drumming (Dir.: Derius Matchewan)


Jury Awards – Narrative Shorts

Narrative Shorts Grand Jury Prize:  Moving (Dir.: Adinah Dancyger)

Honorable Mention: Proof (Dir.: Nishtha Jain, Deepti Gupta)


Jury Awards – Experimental Shorts/ Animated Shorts

Experimental Shorts Grand Jury Prize: Shooting Stars (Dir.: Magda Jaroszewicz)

Honorable Mention: Meteorite (Dir.: Mauricio Saenz)


Animated Shorts Grand Jury Prize: The Little Soul (Dir.: Barbara Rupik)

Honorable Mention: Symbiosis (Dir.: Nadja Andrasev)


Slamdance Acting Award:

Obinna Nwachukwu (Residue)


Slamdance Acting Award Honorable Mention:

Maya Harman (Chubby)


George Starks Spirit of Slamdance Award Winner:

Yani Gellman of Greetings, from the Planet Krog!


CreativeFuture Innovation Award:

The Little Soul (Dir.: Barbara Rupik)


The  AGBO Fellowship, presented by Joe and Anthony Russo, Award Winner:

Carlota Pereda, (Dir.:PIGGY)


Audience Awards:

Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature: Residue (Dir.: Merawi Gerima)


Audience Award for Documentary Feature: Bastards’ Road (Dir.: Brian Morrison)


Best of Breakouts Audience Award: Shoot to Marry (Dir.: Steve Markle)

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