Emerging and Student Filmmaker Competition

Debuting in 2016, the competition gives emerging and student filmmakers the opportunity to use cinematic storytelling to answer important themes like “what’s your civil right?” and “speaking truth to power.” The yearly short film competition receives over 150 submissions from across the world. An esteemed panel of civil rights, industry leaders and established filmmakers, select the winners, and the films are screened during the festival.

Now in its fourth year, the emerging and student filmmakers competition is growing exponentially thanks to a diverse portfolio of funders. We are seeking to continue this expansion by introducing our first-ever Impact Lab. We will invite our winners to experience a two-day Impact Lab series of master-classes, training’s, and conversations with industry leaders during the 2019 Festival.

Our judges review both narrative and documentary short films that focus on civil rights movements, the civil rights era and, social justice issues.

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2019 Shortlist: Emerging Films


Take Me To Prom (Canada, 21 min, Andrew Moir)
Featuring intimate, charming interviews with queer Canadians ranging in age from 88 to 17, Take Me To Prom invites audiences to revisit an adolescent milestone while telling a story of social change spanning over 70 years.

Watch the Take Me To Prom trailer here.

Osama & Ayman (US, 8 min, Sam Price-Waldman, Ben Mullinkosson, Chris Cresci)
Osama and Ayman Abdeldayem are brothers, skateboarders, entrepreneurs, Americans, and Muslims. As they skate through the streets of DC, they navigate growing Islamophobia with characteristic style and humor.

St. Louis Superman (US, 28 min, Smriti Mundhra, Sami Khan)
Bruce Franks Jr. is a 33-year-old battle rapper, Ferguson activist and state representative from St. Louis, Missouri.


No Traveler Returns (US, 13 min, Ellie Foumbi)
A young African immigrant's struggles to adjust to life in America push him towards an existential crisis.

Rodgers and Tilden (US, 10 min, Henry Hayes)

An ex-con works to re-enter society after being locked up for an accidental shooting

Towards the Sun (US, 20 min, Monica Santis)

A 12 year old girl confronts her scarring past when she is placed at an immigrant children's shelter for unaccompanied minors in Texas.

2019 Shortlist: Student Films


After the Silence (Belgium, 23 min, Sonam Larcin)
Having fled his country, David had to leave behind the man he loves. In order to obtain refugee status, he faces having to speak about his secret life

On Mother's Day (USA, 6 min, Ellie Wen)
An intimate look at how mass incarceration impacts a mother on Mother’s Day.

What Happened To Dujuan Armstrong? (USA, 26 min, Lucas Guilkey)
In the summer of 2018, 23-year-old Dujuan Armstrong was serving weekends for a burglary conviction; one weekend he never came home, beginning his mother’s quest for justice.


Tree #3 (US, 20 min. Omer Ben-Shachar)
After being cast as a background tree in his annual school play, an ambitious and imaginative immigrant boy leads a revolution.

Green (US, 12 min, Suzanne Andrews Correa)
Green, an undocumented Turkish pedicab driver unwittingly draws police attention, endangering his community and himself.

Watch the Green trailer here.

Esta Es Tu Cuba ‘This is Your Cuba’ (US, 20 min, Brian Robau)
Inspired by the true stories of the children involved in Operation Pedro Pan, the mass exodus of over 14,000 unaccompanied minors from Cuba to America, Esta Es Tu Cuba tells their story through the eyes of one boy, Anton.

Past Winners

Emerging Documentaries
An Act of Worship | Directors: Nausheen  Dadabhoy, Sofian Kahn | GRAND PRIZE WINNER, 2018
A Space For Growth (and Cuts) | Directors: Conduet (Maritza Navarro and Devon Thompson) |SPECIAL MENTION, 2018
The Petition in Boots | Director: gleichenhaus, 2018

They Took Them Alive, directed by Emily Pederson | GRAND PRIZE WINNER, 2017
Honk: A Festival of Activist Street Bands, directed by Patrick Johnson, 2017
Seven Dates With Death, directed by Mike Holland | SPECIAL MENTION, 2017

Emerging Narratives
Interference | Directors: Robin Rose Singer, Ruya Koman , 2018
Our Nation | Director: David Mallin | SPECIAL MENTION, 2018
Pagg | Director: Nardeep Khurmi | GRAND PRIZE, 2018

LA OPOSICION, directed by Zoey Martinson | GRAND PRIZE WINNER, 2017
Heterodox HDS, directed by Michaux Muanda, 2017
Honor Council, directed by Scott Simonsen | SPECIAL MENTION, 2017

Student Documentaries
Born to Stay | Directors: Daniela Cruzat, Farrah Lopez  | GRAND PRIZE, 2018
Two Steps Back | DirectorR. Kayeen Thomas   | SPECIAL MENTION, 2018
When Mother Goes to Work| Director: Azar Kafaei, 2018

A Life Before This, directed by Steffie van Rhee | SPECIAL MENTION, 2017
Unheard, directed by Erin Kokdil, 2017
FEARLESS, directed by Jasmine Cannon, Branden Hampton, and Yingxu Hao | GRAND PRIZE WINNER, 2017

Student Narratives
Crick in the Holler | Director: Ursula Kay Ellis  | SPECIAL MENTION, 2018
Life After| Director: Ria Tobaccowala, 2018
Riverment| Director: Shayla Racquel -- GRAND PRIZE, 2018

LAWMAN, directed by Matthew Gentile set in 1875, Oklahoma Territory | SPECIAL MENTION, 2017
Vitiligo, directed by Cliff Notez | GRAND PRIZE WINNER, 2017
Time is the Longest Distance, directed by Bryan Powers, 2017