An in-person ceremony was held at ACMI on Saturday evening with seven out of the 75 films in the program accoladed by a jury consisting of filmmaker Alena Lodkina (Petrol, MIFF Premiere Fund 2022; Strange Colours); curator and artist Kate ten Buuren; and Head of Production and Partner from Good Thing Productions, Virginia Whitwell.

Traversing a mammoth 42 countries, and including a special suite of Canadian films, the 11 packages in this year’s MIFF Shorts program span animation, documentary, experimental, Australian and international fiction shorts, and the works of famed auteurs, while the MIFF Accelerator short film programs feature exciting works by emerging local filmmakers from Australia and New Zealand.

One of the most highly regarded short-film competitions in both the Asia Pacific region and theSouthern Hemisphere, the 2023 MIFF Shorts Awards recognised diverse works from Australia, Iran, USA, France, Qatar and beyond. This year’s winning shorts explored a range of themes including connections to homeland and ancestral heritage, the dynamics of multi-racial families and the perspective of children, the emotional impact of migration and displacement, and the intertwining of pleasure, tragedy, and history.

Winners of the 2023 MIFF Shorts Awards include:

Fox Maxy’s F1ghting Looks Different 2 Me Now (USA); John Harvey’s Katele (Mudskipper) (Australia); Annelise Hickey’s Hafekasi (Australia); Morad Mostafa’s I Promise You Paradise (Egypt, France, Qatar), Matthew Thorne and Derik Lynch’s Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black) (Australia), Flóra Anna Buda’s 27 (France, Hungary) and Maryam Tafakory’s Mast-del (Iran, UK).

“MIFF is indebted to these filmmakers for challenging the expectations of the format to produce wholly original but opposite narratives,” said MIFF Program Coordinator Liam Carter. “A commonality amongst the winners is a search for belonging and comfort, which I believe is indicative of what we’re all yearning for in increasingly uncertain times.”

2023 MIFF Shorts Awards Winners

City of Melbourne Grand Prix for Best Short Film
($12,500 cash prize)

F1ghting Looks Different 2 Me Now
(USA | 17 mins)
Director and Producer: Fox Maxy

Jury statement: Fox Maxy’s fast-paced composition of self-recorded footage mixed with found materials and animations is packed full of emotion and pop-culture references, and is uplifted by a killer soundtrack. F1ghting Looks Different 2 Me Now invites us on the filmmaker’s road trip home, encountering both conflict and moments of joy along the journey. Landscape shots, treetops, birds in flight and paddocks of cows, frame disputes on the right to access traditional lands and heated accusations of trespassing. The film’s originality, upbeat energy, bravery and playful experimentation with personal and political themes excited us as judges and made this a standout piece.

VicScreen Erwin Rado Award for Best Australian Short Film
($7,500 cash prize)

Katele (Mudskipper)
(Australia | 13 mins)
Director: John Harvey
Producers: Gillian Moody, John Harvey

Jury Statement: Katele (Mudskipper) is a story about the power and pull of Country, which enables us to transcend everyday realities. The film follows Martha, who works in a laundromat, as she is guided through an alternate reality by an unexpected visitor and delivered back home. Martha’s world comes alive in vibrant colour when she steps on her homeland, lovingly enveloped in traditional song and dance – performed by Walter Waia and the Saibai Island community. The thoughtful use of lighting, sound and colour, matched with the film’s unique scifi themes, tells the story of one’s unbreakable connection to place and the ancestral power within.

Award for Emerging Australian Filmmaker
($6,000 cash prize)

(Australia | 16 mins)
Director: Annelise Hickey
Producer: Josie Baynes

Jury statement: The key part of an emerging talent award is finding a recipient who shows strong potential across many measures – Annelise Hickey’s work really excited us as a showcase for her sensitive and skilled consideration of her characters, story world and narrative. Hafekasi explores the dynamics of multiracial families and a child’s point of view – which must be handled carefully. Hickey succeeds in portraying Mona’s reality with tenderness and addresses challenging moments with a delicate touch – while still speaking volumes to the audience.

Award for Best Fiction Short Film
($6,000 cash prize)

I Promise You Paradise
(Egypt, France | 25 mins)
Director: Morad Mostafa
Producers: Margaux Lorier, Sawsan Yusuf

Jury statement: Morad Mostafa’s film introduces us to Eissa, a 17-year-old African migrant living in Egypt. We see his world through his point of view. I Promise You Paradise delivers such a powerful story that, after a brief glimpse, the viewer feels completely changed by what they have seen. Beautifully shot, the film is driven by an exceptional and restrained performance by its lead, Kenyi Marcellino – compelling you to never look away as the film traces his character’s impossible journey. Distinctly thought-provoking and heartbreaking, it is cinema that stays with you long after watching.

Award for Best Documentary Short Film
($6,000 cash prize)

Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black)
(Australia | 24 mins)
Directors: Matthew Thorne, Derik Lynch
Producers: Matthew Thorne, Patrick Graham

Jury statement: In Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black), filmmakers Matthew Thorne and Derik Lynch discovered an approach to biography wholly their own. Sensitive to the exciting and at times excitingly treacherous territory between fact, memory and story they have created a deeply moving cinematic portrait. It was a privilege to follow Derik Lynch’s journey to Aputula, and to glimpse his past along the way, the generosity, courage and imagination with which he navigates tradition, belonging and individuality. Marungka Tjalatjunu (Dipped in Black) impressed us with the focus and frankness with which the filmmakers grapple with Australia’s colonial and political landscape, in which a bold and brave individual creates self.

Award for Best Animation Short Film
($6,000 cash prize)

(France, Hungary | 11 mins)
Director: Flóra Anna Buda
Producers: Emmanuel-Alain Raynal, Gábor Osváth, Pierre Baussaron Media

Jury statement: 27 is an effusive, wonderfully sensual exploration of the frustrations and fantasies of a young woman. Flóra Anna Buda plunges us into a flurry of exciting images as her hilarious, droll protagonist Alice confronts the humiliation of millennial malaise against the backdrop of thrilling and somewhat sinister Budapest. Pace, colour and sound are all used with boisterous energy to collide the banality of the everyday with the wild erotic imaginings that lurk within. Imagination in this work runs wild, but the filmmaker keeps her feet on the ground with sobering concern for precarity, the housing crisis and the anxiety that engulfs young people everywhere today – an endeavour we are delighted to commend.

Award for Best Experimental Short Film
($6,000 cash prize)

(Iran, UK | 17 mins)
Director and Producer: Maryam Tafakory

Jury statement: By turns tender, funny, melancholic and disturbing, Mast-del careers in unexpected directions with simplicity and grace. This delicate work took us on a moving and surprising journey, where pleasure, tragedy and violence, history and the present, sound, cinema and poetry somehow coexist – all these elements in complex dialogue with each other. We were impressed by the great care that went into researching this film, and the attention paid to texture and rhythm. Maryam Tafakory created a true dialogue with history, and through this dialogue, an insight into the tragedy of the present. We are very glad to honour this achievement.