Slamdance Awards 2023: ‘Waiting for the Light to Change,’ ‘Where the Road Leads’ Win Narrative Feature Prizes

Waiting for the Light to Change
Screenshot courtesy Vimeo/Linh Tran

Slamdance Film Festival has revealed the winners of its annual Sparky Awards, with “Waiting for the Light to Change” and “Where the Road Leads” taking home the narrative feature grand jury prize and audience award, respectively.

Directed by Linh Tran, narrative feature grand jury prize winner “Waiting for the Light to Change” is an “exceptional act of patience, restraint, courage and authenticity,” according to the jury. “Filmmaker Linh Tran paints a remarkably honest portrait of vulnerability that breaks open the heart of its audience, demanding sincerity and drawing deep reflection of the fractured nature of ourselves and the complex, human spaces between each of us.”

The AGBO Fellowship, which includes a $25,000 scholarship and mentorship from Slamdance alumni Joe and Anthony Russo, was awarded to Tij D’Oyen. He presented his narrative short film, “Lollygag,” during the festival.

“Tij expertly crafted a bold and original cinematic piece, showcasing himself as a unique visionary with a bright future ahead. Equally inspiring to us is his work ethic, and we look forward to championing him as he continues on his exciting filmmaking journey,” said Angela Russo-Otstot, chief creative officer at AGBO.

The winners were announced in an in-person ceremony on Thursday night in Park City, Utah. The 2023 edition of the festival marked the first in-person screenings of the Unstoppable program — which spotlights creators with visible and non-visible disabilities — since its inception in 2021. The fest’s Unstoppable slate was screened in a fully accessible environment, with captions and interpreters on hand at the University of Utah.

“Slamdance ‘23 has showcased an incredible array of new independent work that pushes the boundaries of cinematic language while expressing what it means to be alive in today’s world. We celebrate our winners, and crucially, the overall strength of this year’s program that elevates the art of filmmaking,” stated Slamdance president and founder Peter Baxter.

Added Unstoppable co-founder Taylor Miller, “It’s an honor to collaborate with the University of Utah and their commitment to accessibility and inclusion is eye to eye with Slamdance Unstoppable. The Center for Disability and Access was a major component to the success of Unstoppable this year and we could not have shared this experience without their help and guidance.”

See all of this year’s winners below.

Grand Jury Awards — Features

Narrative Feature: “Waiting for the Light to Change” (Dir. Linh Tran)
Honorable Mention: “Where the Road Leads” (Dir. Nina Ognjanović)

Documentary Feature: “Starring Jerry as Himself” (Dir. Law Chen)
Honorable Mention: “Silent Love” (Dir. Mark Kozakiewicz)

Breakouts Feature: “The Underbug” (Dir. Shujaat Saudagar)
Honorable Mention: “Onlookers” (Dir. Kimi Takesue)

Episodes: “Palookaville” (Dir. Theodore Collatos)
Honorable Mention: “Off Fairfax” (Dir. Erica Eng)

Unstoppable Grand Jury Prize: “Millstone” (Dir. Peter Hoffman Kimball)
Honorable Mention: “My Eyes Are Up Here” (Dir. Nathan Morris)

Jury Awards — Shorts

Narrative Short: “The Sidewalk Artist” (Dir. David Velez and Brandon Rivera)
Honorable Mention: “Gwendoline” (Dir Joaquim Bayle)

Documentary Short: “The Unicorn in Snowpants Suddenly Ran Off” (Dir. Philipp
Honorable Mention: “Moomin” (Dir. Zach Dorn)

Experimental Short: “Red Threads” (Dir. Yuchi Ma)
Honorable Mention: “Grillz & Mirrors” (Dir. Michael U. Olowu)

Animated Short: “Hot Dogs!” (Dir. Frank Volk)
Honorable Mention: “Silver Cave” (Dir. Caibei Cai)

Festival Wide Awards

The AGBO Fellowship, presented by Joe and Anthony Russo: Tij D’Oyen, director of

Slamdance Acting Award: Jerry Hsu for “Starring Jerry as Himself”

George Starks Spirit of Slamdance: Aaron David Harris, director of “H-Squad: The
Interactive Experience”

Audience Awards

Best Narrative Feature: “Where the Road Leads” (Dir. Nina Ognjanović)

Documentary Feature: “Starring Jerry as Himself” (Dir. Law Chen)

Episodes: “Honeycomb” (Dir. Sam Roden)

Unstoppable: “American Pot Story: Oaksterdam” (Dir. Dan Katzir & Ravit Markus)