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Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Announces 2021 Award Winners

Faya Dayi receives three festival prizes, including the Grand Jury Award

Seven awards for a combined value of $47,500 in cash prizes are announced for the 2021 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. Full Frame is a qualifying event for nominations for the Academy Award® Documentary Short Subject category and the Producers Guild of America Awards.

“We are proud to celebrate the 2021 award-winning films,” said Sadie Tillery, Full Frame Interim Festival Director and Artistic Director. “We are grateful to the award sponsors for their support, and especially wish to thank the jurors who joined us in reviewing the films this year.”

The Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award is presented to Faya Dayi, directed by Jessica Beshir. Faya Dayi takes as its subject the khat trade, borrowing its title from a hymnal chant recited by the stimulant plant’s harvesters. Khat’s pervasive influence is explored in this lyrical and atmospheric portrait of rituals and dreams.

Remarking on the film, the Grand Jury members said, “The jury applauds Jessica Beshir's debut feature and her bold, cinematic choices full of intrigue, poetry, and meticulously composed black-and-white images. Her stunning cinematography coupled with her deep commitment to the indigenous population and land, shatters our expectations of the structural possibilities for the nonfiction art form. The jury's only regret is that they were unable to experience Faya Dayi in its deserved home, the cinema, where they could truly lose themselves in the natural and subtle soundscape and landscape of the director's motherland, Ethiopia.”

The Grand Jury Award is sponsored by the Reva and David Logan Foundation. Jesse Moss, Christine Turner, and Stephanie Wang-Breal participated on the jury.

The Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short is presented to Three Songs for Benazir, directed by Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei. The award is provided by Drs. Barbra and Andrew Rothschild. The jurors were Eric Hynes, Carlos Sandoval, and Deborah Stratman.

The Center for Documentary Studies, of which Full Frame is a program, considers all films in competition for its Filmmaker Award and awards its 2021 prize to Jessica Beshir for Faya Dayi. Representatives for the Center for Documentary Studies juried the prize: Eric Barstow, Kelsey Favret, Wesley Hogan, Jasmine Huff, Quadiriah McCullough, Lynn McKnight, and Elena Rue.


The Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award honors a first-time documentary feature director. The 2021 award is presented to Jessica Beshir for Faya Dayi. The award is provided by the Charles E. Guggenheim Family. Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich, David Osit, and Elyse Steinberg participated on the jury.


The Franklin Humanities Institute Award, which is given to a short film that highlights documentary as a formally inventive artistic medium, is presented to  Spirit never dies, only transitions., directed by Logan L. Burroughs. The award is sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University and was juried by representatives for the institute: Eric Barstow, Franklin Cason Jr., Josh Gibson, Guo-Juin Hong, Shambhavi Kaul, Ranjana Khanna, Sarah Rogers, and Jennifer Zhou.


Representatives on behalf of the President’s Office of Duke University juried the prize for the Full Frame President’s Award, given to the best student film. This year’s award is given to Spirits and Rocks: an Azorean Myth, directed by Aylin Gökmen.


My Name is Pauli Murray, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, received the Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights. Provided by the Julian Price Family Foundation in memory of Melanie Taylor, the award is given to a film that addresses a significant human rights issue in the United States. Representatives from the Kathleen Bryan Edwards family juried the prize: Anne Arwood, Laura Edwards, Clay Farland, Margaret Griffin, and Pricey Harrison.


In addition to the film awards, the 2021 Advocate Award is presented to Eric Johnson, the Senior Vice President of Sound and Engagement at Trailblazer Studios, one of the largest post-production companies in North Carolina, and a member of Full Frame’s Triangle Advisory Board. A trusted advisor of the festival for well over a decade, Johnson has been particularly engaged with Full Frame’s School of Doc program. Johnson  also serves on the Southern Documentary Fund Board of Directors and was appointed to the Governor’s Advisory Council for Film, Television, and Digital Streaming.


“Eric is a remarkable friend to Full Frame,” said Tillery. “His valued insight and expertise, and his presence at screenings and events, have left an enduring imprint on this event. We’re delighted to express our gratitude with this year’s Advocate Award.”

For more information on the award winners and for complete juror statements, please visit

In light of the global pandemic, the 2021 festival took place online, featuring screenings of 21 feature and 15 short films.

The 24th Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is happening now through Sunday, June 6. Tickets are on sale at


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