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The 21st Annual New Hampshire Film Festival Announces Award Recipients

Maggie Contreras holding the 2023 NHFF Best Documentary Feature Award for her film Maestra (Photo Credit: Jason Corkum)

PORTSMOUTH, NH (October 15, 2023) – That’s a wrap! New Hampshire’s largest film festival has announced the recipients of the New Hampshire Film Festival’s (NHFF) prestigious awards after four packed days of screenings, panels, and parties. The city of Portsmouth was abuzz as the 21st annual New Hampshire Film Festival attracted an estimated ten thousand film enthusiasts, filmmakers, writers, and students, who gathered to celebrate and discuss cinema and view more than 100 independent films that were selected from thousands of submissions.

This is the second year the NHFF is an Academy Awards qualifying festival for short films, making live action and animated shorts jury award recipients eligible to submit for Oscar consideration. NHFF Executive Director Nicole Gregg says, “We are so energized that once again, the New Hampshire Film Festival distinguished itself as an important opportunity for filmmakers who come from near and far, and for audiences, who not only get to see the films, but are encouraged to interact with directors, writers, producers, actors, and cinematographers.”

The awards, affectionately called “Granny Awards” for the solid granite trophy – a nod to the Granite State, can help filmmakers build visibility and potentially secure a distribution deal.

The documentary film Maestra captured the coveted Best Feature Documentary award. It’s the story of five women from around the world who boldly break glass ceilings in the male dominated world of orchestral conducting. Producer/Director Maggie Contreras says, “The New Hampshire Film Festival has awarded some of my favorite docs in its 21 year history so joining that list is humbling. The gorgeous Music Hall, the passionate audiences, this magical city, and the generous staff and volunteers make for a truly winning experience.”

The documentary entitled In The Whale tells the story of the Provincetown fisherman who was trapped in the mouth of a humpback whale. At its world premiere at the NHFF, the film won Audience Choice/Documentary. Says Abel, “We were thrilled to bring In The Whale to the New Hampshire Film Festival. It always has such an engaged audience and great venues, such as the historic Music Hall, which is one of the most beautiful theaters in New England. We look forward to bringing the film back to Portsmouth soon.”

This is the first year The Music Hall in downtown Portsmouth co-produced the festival, providing technical support, marketing expertise and ticketing services. It’s a collaborative effort with two nonprofit organizations that Music Hall Executive Director Tina Sawtelle calls, “A perfect fit.” Sawtelle went on to say, “We have enjoyed bringing our expertise to this important partnership. The Music Hall recognizes what a tremendous contribution the New Hampshire Film Festival is to our community and we are excited to be a more integral part of it.”

The bulk of the awards honoring excellence in filmmaking and screenwriting were presented on Sunday night, including the Live Action Shorts Jury Award and Animation Shorts Jury Award:

  • Best Screenplay: Imogene’s Tornado (written by Andrew Braunbhar)
  • Best Student Film: Homing (directed by Ricardo Varona)
  • Best Short Comedy: Catherine & Michael (directed by Kathy Fusco)
  • Best Short Drama: Mandarins (directed by Chelsie Pennello)
  • Audience Choice, Documentary: In the Whale (directed by David Abel)
  • Audience Choice, Narrative: Hangdog (directed by Matt Cascella)
  • Grand Jury Award, Documentary: Hummingbirds (directed by Silvia Del Carmen Castaños & Estefanía “Beba” Contreras)
  • Grand Jury Award, Narrative: Mountains (directed by Monica Sorelle)
  • Shorts Jury Award, Documentary: Denial (directed by Paul Moakley and Daniel Lombroso)
  • Shorts Jury Award, Animation (Academy-Qualifying): Aikāne (directed by Daniel Sousa, Dean Hamer & Joe Wilson)
  • Shorts Jury Award, Live Action (Academy-Qualifying): The Fuse (directed by Kevin Haefelin)
  • Best Documentary Feature: Maestra (directed by Maggie Contreras)
  • Best Narrative Feature: Our Son (directed by Bill Oliver)

The festival’s New Hampshire Day & Night, which showcased films with ties to the Granite State on Thursday, concluded with presentation of this year’s New Hampshire Awards:

On Saturday, the festival’s Van McLeod Award was presented in a special ceremony preceding the Annual Comedy Panel. Recognizing New Hampshire natives and residents who have made significant contributions in film and television, this year’s recipient was legendary producer Marcy Carsey.

  • Van McLeod Award: Marcy Carsey

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