Statement from Sara Gunn Smith on behalf of all the judges:

We had a really hard job judging the competition shorts. Every single film deserved to be on this shortlist, and we discussed all of them in detail over Zoom, with cups of tea and copious notes.

It was so hard in fact, that we couldn’t even pick just one winner! So for the first time in the competition’s history, we have chosen two films to be joint winner.

The 2020 Belfast Film Festival Best Short Film Award is presented to:

The Shift, for its confident tone, it’s brilliant pacing and sense of comedy, clever use of the Irish and English languages, constantly surprising narrative turns and hilarious performances in a well-judged script.

AND Ciunas/Silence, for its subtle sense of a difficult and complex issue where the silences between dialogue were grippingly performed, the visual aesthetic perfectly framed and enhancing the drama of its narrative, and its keen understanding of the underlying emotions and motivation of its characters.


A few more of the judges comments:

“Ciunas is a beautifully shot and choreographed  film that empathetically deals with the unspoken dynamics of a young persons attempted suicide.  

The Shift an intelligent and knowing comedy that very cleverly and humorously plays with tradition, gender expectations and rebellion.  

As we’re awarding two films it’s interesting to note that one (CIÚNAS/SILENCE) details a state of verbal (or emotional) repression and hiding from the reality of the situation, while the other is absolutely about expression and establishing your place in the world.  

We are particularly excited that the winners, in what has been a very competitive year, are both examples of filmmaking excellence in the Irish language and are thrilled to recognise the outstanding talent of the filmmakers involved.

So there you go, a different competition in many ways. Huge congratulations to the filmmakers of both short films – we can’t wait to see what you do next. To everyone else – there were genuinely so many films in the competition programme worthy of standout recognition we can only say that we hope that being shortlisted into the official competition is itself recognition of the quality of all of the filmmakers’ included.

We are very hopeful that we will be back in QFT next year for Belfast Film Festival 2021 so see you there!”

BFF20 Short Film Competition Judging Panel included:

Sarah Edge– is a professor of Photography and Cultural Studies at Ulster University, where she lectures in feminist film theory and production and the history, theory and practice of photography.

Sara Gunn Smith– Sara joined Film Hub NI in 2014 as Marketing and Audiences Offer, where she developed and delivers initiates to increase and diversify audiences for independent film. These include the early Cinema Day celebration, and the Collective network. She works with a range of film exhibitors across NI to develop and enhance their audience engagement. She also produced The Cursor Project documentary, and is on the board of the NI Science Festival and Belfast Media Festival.

Cian Smyth– has 20 years experience working in the arts and films actors through which he has worked with NI Screen, the UK Film Council and ACNI. He was a Producer at Hull Uk City Of Culture 2017, an Artistic Advisor to 1418Now and Chairperson of Outburst Arts.

Don O’Mahony – Senior Programmer with Cork Film Festival, Don O’Mahony has been involved with the organisation since 1999, mainly programming world cinema features and Irish content. Since 2016, Don has been in charge of the Festival’s extensive short film programme and he has programmed ‘Free Radicals’, the Festival’s experimental film strand, since 2004.