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Vail Film Festival announces 2022 award winners

Three independent films, six screenplays and three TV pilots took away awards at this year's virtual festival

The Cave of Adullam, a film about a martial arts program in Detroit, won Best Documentary at this year's Vail Film Festival.
The Cave of Adullam/Courtesy photo

The 19th annual Vail Film Festival took place in a virtual format on Dec. 1-4, allowing festival-goers to screen 34 independent films from the comfort of their homes. This week, the organizers announced the official award recipients of the festival in six categories, including Best Narrative Feature, Best Documentary and Best Short Film.

Brothers Scott and Sean Cross started the festival together to help bring exposure to emerging filmmakers. Since 2016, the festival has focused on spotlighting female filmmakers, and all of the selections this year were either filmed, directed or produced by a woman.

“The goal was not to make it an entirely female film festival, but to give women a platform for their work,” Scott Cross said. “You can have a film that is directed by a man, as long as there is a woman in one of the major roles of power.”



“Hannah HaHa” won Best Narrative Feature.
Vail Film Festival/Courtesy photo

The annual award winners are selected by an experienced panel of jurors. Festivals are the launch point for small films to grow audiences and catch the attention of larger distributors, and a number of this year’s winners have been receiving widespread recognition in the industry.

For example, the winner for Best Documentary went to the “The Cave of Adullam,” which also won best documentary feature at the Tribeca Film Festival and is now streaming on ESPN after being picked up by the network in October.

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“It’s something that they can use as a calling card for future films, it is something that can help with their current film if it’s on the festival circuit, it’s something they can use to help sell the film,” Scott Cross said. “There are a lot of meaningful things that can come out of a film festival. It matters in the industry, and we certainly take it very seriously.”

The film festival has been operating in a virtual format since the pandemic, but the Cross brothers said that they will be bringing back the in-person experience in 2023. While they did what they could to bring interactive elements into the virtual format, they said that nothing compares to the immersive experience of attending a festival, and it is fitting that their 20th anniversary will usher in the physical return of the Vail Film Festival.

“Be Somebody” was awarded Best Short Film.
Vail Film Festival/Courtesy photo

“These last couple of years, doing it online, we’re still happy that people are able to see the films but we’re really excited about next year, the 20th edition, to be back in person and have that magic of people sitting in the theater and the filmmakers being present, able to do Q&A and talk about the process,” Scott Cross said.



“We are thankful to the many innovative and groundbreaking artists who joined us for this year’s festival, and to our audience who continues to support our vision and our mission,” Sean Cross said. “We are also grateful to all of the sponsors, patrons, and our team, who have all supported the festival over the years, and we’re looking forward to returning to the in-person event next year.”

2022 Vail Film Festival award winners

Best Narrative Feature: “Hannah Ha Ha

  • Directed by: Jordan Tetewsky, Joshua Pikovsky
  • Written by: Jordan Tetewsky, Joshua Pikovsky
  • Produced by: Roger Mancusi, Emily Freire
  • Starring: Hannah Lee Thompson, Roger Mancusi, Avram Tetewsky
  • Synopsis: Hannah lives a content, hard-working life in the small town where she grew up. To her visiting older brother, she’s just wasting her time. As their summer together winds down, Hannah gets what wasting time really means.

Best Documentary: “The Cave of Adullam

  • Directed by: Laura Checkoway
  • Produced by: Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland, Laura Checkoway, Roy Bank, Joe Plummer
  • Cast: Jason Wilson, Kevin L. Collins Jr., Gabriel Davenport, Daniel White, Tamarkus Williams
  • Synopsis: Living by the mantra ‘it’s easier to raise boys than to repair broken men’, martial arts sensei Jason Wilson tenderly guides his often-troubled young Detroit students with a beautifully effective blend of compassion and tough love.

Best Short Film: “Be Somebody

  • Written and Directed by: Edelawit Hussien
  • Starring: Matios Asdenaki, Eyuel Berhanu, Ruel Desta
  • Synopsis: Be Somebody is a meditation on culture, society, and self-exploration set against a backdrop of a metropolitan city experiencing a renaissance. The short narrative film follows three Addis Ababa-based teenage boys as they embark on a road trip to Lake Langano. 

Feature Screenplay winners:

1st Place: “Nexus” by Shelagh McLeod

2nd Place (Tie): “Perfect Flowe”r by Brent Delaney

2nd Place (Tie): “A8450, M.D.” by Shia LaBeouf

Short Screenplay winners:

1st Place: “The Peregrine” by Justin Giddings

2nd Place: “Heartstrings” by Matt Dushkes, J.D. Zelman

3rd Place: “Sourdough” by Rachel Rios 

TV Pilot winners:

1st Place: “Be Bold!” by Ruby Mainieri

2nd Place: “Storme” by John Lowe

3rd Place: “Fire Camp” by Steven Holleran


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