AWFJ EDA Awards @ Tallgrass Film Fest: The Winners – Jennifer Merin reports

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The Alliance of Women film Journalists partnered with Tallgrass Film Festival to present EDA Awards for Best Female Directed Films at the festival’s 19th edition, held in Wichita, Kansas from October 20 – 24, 2921.

Tallgrass Film Festival, one of the nation’s leading regional film festivals, founded in 2003, dubs itself as stubbornly independent and aims to foster an appreciation of the cinematic arts by creating shared experiences around the international medium of film. Women in film are high priority on the festival’s agenda. This year, the festival presented 44 features and 128 shorts for in-person screenings. The list of screenings and Events is available online.

In this, the first year of the AWFJ-Tallgrass partnership, AWFJ presented EDA Awards in two categories:

  • Best Female-Directed Feature Film (Narrative or Documentary)
  • Best Female-Directed Short Film(Narrative or Documentary)

Two jury panels of AWFJ members selected the winners from films nominated by the festival, including four narrative films and ten short films.

The winner of the EDA Award for Best Female-Diredted Film is This is Not A War Story, directed by Talia Lugacy.

AWFJ’s features jury included

  • Margaret Barton-Fumo
  • Karen Martin
  • Jennifer Merin
  • Danielle Solzman

Jury Statement: Devastating without being sensational, brutal without being violent, compelling without being overt, Talia Lugacy’s quietly insistent, elliptical drama explores the trauma that can compel combat veterans to take their own lives. Set in a ramshackle urban studio where veterans-turned-artists make handcrafted paper out of military uniforms on which they express their heaving emotions, the film drifts like a slow-moving stream of natural dialogue laden with memories and experiences that have the capacity to destroy many who have run out of options to cope. The best way to express the torrent of reactions this film generates is to say that whatever project co-writer/producer/editor/director/star Talia Lugacy takes on next, don’t miss it.

Other feature films nominated for the EDA Award

  • We Burn Like This, directed by Alana Waksman
  • Moon Manor, directed by Erin Granat, Machete Bang Bang
  • I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking), directed by Kelley Kali & Angelique Molina

The winner of the EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Short is 1-800-D-DIRECT, directed by Claire Macdonald.

AWFJ’s shorts jury included

  • Kristen Page-Kirby
  • Brandy McDonnell
  • Sharronda Williams
  • Susan Wloszczyna

    Jury Statement: Who could resist Clare Macdonald’s clever, inventive and stylishly over the top comedy that so successfully subverts patriarchal ideas about what women want and need? We love the 60s setting that transports us back to another era and creates context for the smartly badass behavior of working women who fool their stodgy and entitled male boss into thinking he’s running a phone center to service kitchen appliances, when the gals are really in charge and are cooking up services of a more salacious sort for their call in clients’ satisfaction. Sign us up for a streaming series featuring co-writers and featured players Haley Bishop and Gemma Yates-Round and the gang as they maneuver to keep the women of 1960s Manhattan serviced while keeping the boss man in the dark about their side hustle.

    The Shorts Jury also presented a Special Mention Award to Myrtle, directed by Patricia McCormick.

    Jury Statement: We’re in a kitchen and are introduced to Myrtle who is making a special meal for someone special in her life. She describes her actions as she slices onions and heats them in a pan that will soon hold homemade tomato sauce and some rather estimable meatballs. But she becomes increasingly distracted and the meatballs are overcooked. so she must prepare a new batch. As she samples canned sausages that will serve as an appetizer, and prepares lemon pie for desser. her increasing agitation signals that we’re not watching a cooking show and we understand that this is not just an ordinary repast. The denouement is a shock — but no spoilers here. Actor/director Patricia McCormack’s short is absolutely riveting. with writer Megan Barker mixing plenty of sage social commentary into Myrtle’s recipe for meatballs.

    Other short films nominated for the EDA Award include

    • Al-Si, directed by Suzannah Mirghani
    • And Then, directed by Jenn Ravenna Tran
    • Eureka, directed by Mida Chu
    • Gabriela, directed by Natalia Kaniasty
    • I AM NORMAL, directed by Olia Oparina
    • Missing First Period, directed by Chassidy David
    • The Summer Of Snakes, directed by Lara Panah-Izadi
    • The Young King, directed by Larin Sullivan

    The AWFJ EDA Awards were presented to their worthy winners at the Tallgrass Film Festival’s awards ceremony on Saturday, October 23, 2021. For a full list of awards presented at Tallgrass Film Festival 2021, visit the festival website

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    Jennifer Merin

    Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).