The announcement of the 2018 Sundance Shorts Awards shows that filmmakers in this section of the festival are taking creative risks in style, subject, and character development. Take a look at the award winners, watch some of these Sundance shorts, and hear from Sundance Programmer Dilcia Barrera on the trends she is seeing in short films from across the world. First up, the awards. 

2018 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Jury Awards

  • Short Film Grand Jury Prize: Matria / Spain (Director and screenwriter: Álvaro Gago)
  • Short Film Jury Award for U.S. Fiction: Hair Wolf / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Mariama Diallo)
  • Short Film Jury Award for International FictionWould You Look at Her / Macedonia (Director and screenwriter: Goran Stolevski)
  • Short Film Jury Award for Non-fiction: The Trader (Sovdagari) / Georgia (Director: Tamta Gabrichidze)
  • Short Film Jury Award for AnimationGLUCOSE / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jeron Braxton)
  • Special Jury AwardEmergency / U.S.A. (Director: Carey Williams, Screenwriter: K.D. Dávila)
  • Special Jury AwardFauve / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Jérémy Comte)
  • Special Jury Award: For Nonna Anna / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Luis De Filippis)

To select this year's lineup, programmers had to sift through 8,740 shorts. From that number, programmers chiseled the final selections down to 69 films. Having seen so many short films, you can imagine that Sundance programmers notice trends in both style and subject matter. Sundance programmer Dilcia Barrera gave No Film School some insight into what she and the rest of the shorts programming team have noticed. “We do watch a lot of films and, tendencies are that we see some trends in filmmaking and narrative,” said Barrera to No Film School. “We don't base our decisions on hot topics or camera choices, but we noticed a few shifts...Overall [these shifts] have led to a wonderful program that is inclusive and features diverse stories on screen and diverse voices behind the camera across all sections.” 

Below are a few highlights of areas in which short filmmakers were pushing the form in style and subject. 

More filmmakers are using any camera they can access

“What we noticed this year is use of iPhones as a primary camera. Technology is getting cheaper, and good quality can be reached with affordable equipment. Maybe Sean Baker's Tangerine had something to do with this experimenting, but overall the trend invites filmmakers of all social economic possibilities to tell their stories.”

The rise of complex female protagonists

Along with advances in more accessible cameras, Barrera was happy to see advances in the complexity of characters being represented onscreen. “Some trend highlights to note in our program include portraits that reject stereotypes and one-note depictions, such as Agua Viva and For Nonna Anna.”

Here is a peak at special jury award winner For Nonna Anna, the story of a trans girl and the bond shared with her grandmother.

A glimpse of some new, exciting voices

“Julie Fliegenspan takes a personal experience and turns it into a comedy by turning it into a two minute claymation,” said Barrera describing Plur.

Hair Wolf by Matiama Diallo plays with genre and employs comedy to discuss gentrification,” said Barrera about the Short Film Jury Award-winner for U.S. Fiction. “This film is also visually vibrant and so fun to watch.”

27037154969_8bbfee9c93_hKara Young appears in Hair Wolf by Mariama Diallo, an official selection of the Shorts Programs at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Charlotte Hornsby.

Careful How You Go explores three stories about three different women that have nothing to do with each other, and does it successfully in 13 minutes,” said Barrera about the film by Emerald Fennell who you meet in the Sundance video below. “It's complex, it's dark, it's honest.”

Race relations continue to interest filmmakers

“Like last year, we are seeing narratives depicting race relations in America like in Emergency, War Paint, A Night at the Garden, LaZercism, but also internationally like in The Turk Shop and The Right Choice.”

Advice for filmmakers

If you're thinking about experimenting with an idea and challenging your storytelling skills with a short film this year, don't forget to take risks. “Authenticity is key,” said Barrera. “Make a short that is authentic to your story, your reality, your style. Anything forced or contrived is obvious to film festival programmers. It's hard to give feedback because we are not looking for specific markers. The stakes for shorts are lower than for features. This is the time to take chances and experiment. Be bold, be independent, be exciting.”

Here are a few more interesting shorts from the 2018 Sundance Short Film lineup. Enjoy!

Short Film Jury Award for Animation, Glucose, directed by Jeron Braxton:

Eye Bags animated short, directed by Jun Ho:

The Violence of a Civilization Without Secrets, directed by Adam Khalil and Zack Khalil:

The trailer for Short Film Grand Jury prize winner Matria, directed by Álvaro Gago:

For more, see our ongoing list of coverage of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.


No Film School's podcast and editorial coverage of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival is sponsored by RODE Microphones and Blackmagic Design.

Featured image: Phoebe Waller-Bridge in 'Careful How You Go' by Emerald Fennell, an official selection of the Shorts Programs at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.