Award Winners at the 49th Annual Seattle International Film Festival

SEATTLESIFF closed out its 49th Seattle International Film Festival today, announcing the winners of the 2023 Golden Space Needle Audience and Juried Competition Awards. The awards were presented at a ceremony and brunch held at Grand Hyatt in downtown Seattle on May 21, 2023.

The 11-day festival, which began May 11, screened 264 films representing 74 countries, including 94 narrative features, 45 documentaries, four archival films, two secret screenings, and 125 short films. The lineup includes 23 world premieres (six features/17 short films), 30 North American premieres (24 features/six short films), and 13 U.S. premieres (nine features/four short films). 

Nearly 70% of the feature films were created by first- or second-time filmmakers, the highest percentage in the Festival’s nearly 50 year history; 52% were created by women or nonbinary filmmakers; and 73% currently without U.S. distribution and may not screen commercially in the United States. 

“This year, and every year, SIFF celebrates films, filmmakers and communities from all over the world gathering around the joy of discovering new worlds through cinema” said Beth Barrett, SIFF Artistic Director, “The past 10 days have been such a beautiful example of what SIFF is all about, with over 300 filmmakers and thousands of patrons coming together around film. We’re thrilled to be celebrating and honoring many of those filmmakers and their work today.”

The Festival holds two forms of competitions during its run, both juries and audience based. Juried competitions evaluate films selected by Festival programmers and represent the best in their category from all over the world. Winners are chosen by a carefully selected jury of industry professionals and film lovers. The winner in each feature category is awarded $5,000 in cash, and $2,500 in each short film category.

SIFF holds five feature juried competition categories: The Official Competition, the New American Cinema Competition, the New Directors Competition, the Ibero-American Competition, and the Documentary Competition. The short film categories are: Live Action, Animation, and Documentary.

In addition to juried competitions, SIFF also hosts the Golden Space Needle Audience Awards (GSNA). Films evaluated through the GSNAs are selected by all audience members through post-screening ballots. Categories for the GSNAs are Best Film, Best Documentary, Best Director, Best Performance, and Best Short Film. This year, over 27,000 ballots were submitted.

The Golden Space Needle Audience Award design has been created by artist Piper O’Neill since 2013. O’Neill is Principal & Creative Director of Idlewild Union, where each award is forged in glass by a team of artisan glassblowers. Inspired by the metamorphic process of a crystal formation, the design celebrates the creative cycle in its most innate and organic form.


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