Ah, Sundance Film Festival – a cloud nine state of mind for filmmakers and film lovers. It’s a place where both the ingenious filmmaking and high elevation will leave you breathless. Where the “Sundance Sickness” represents the unshakeable itch to be at all of the parties at the same time and the inevitable viral infection that will besiege your bod as a result from shaking all the hands, chatting closely with people in loud rooms, and barely sleeping. 

This year, the festival was back in Park City, Utah for the first time since January 2020. In the 15th year of the Staff Pick program’s existence, we were happier than ever to see the names of SP-badge recipients in both the short and feature film programs, including Laurel Parmet, Savanah Leaf, Laura Moss, Staff Picks Best of the Year 2023 winner Eddie Alcazar, and more. 

The curation team watched all 64 shorts that were programmed in 2023. Curators gonna curate, and culling down our favorite films from a larger collection is what we do best. We do this not to discount the actual award winners (shoutout to alum Crystal Kayiza for her Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction win!), but to highlight stories and filmmaking that we believe are also deserving of special recognition. 

So without further adieu, here are the curation team’s unofficial award recipients…

Grand Jury Prize

“A Folded Ocean” by Ben Brewer 

U.S Fiction

“Troy” by Mike Donahue

International Fiction

“Simo” by Aziz Zoromba


“Will You Look At Me” by Shuli Huang


“Christopher At Sea” by Tom CJ Brown

Special Jury Prize – Acting

Lena Papaligoura in “AirHostess-737,” directed by Thanasis Neofotistos

Special Jury Prize – Directing

Ben Brewer for “A Folded Ocean”

Congratulations are also in order for Staff Pick alumni who won big at this year’s festival. A.V Rockwell, received the U.S Dramatic Competition Grand Jury Prize for her feature film “A Thousand And One”, which Variety described as an “admiring portrait of survivorship, determination and resourcefulness.” 3-time Staff Pick recipient Sing J. Lee took home the Directing Awards in the U.S Dramatic category for “The Accidental Getaway Driver.” And 6-time Staff Pick alum Charlotte Regan won the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition!

We’ll see you on the festival trail in the months to come, and look forward to saluting a fresh batch of shorts at Sundance 2024!

Watch more Sundance Film Festival shorts