SXSW 2017 Award Winners: ‘Most Beautiful Island’ and ‘The Work’ Win Jury Competition Prizes

At a packed Paramount Theater this evening, the SXSW Film Festival, now at the halfway mark, handed out their big film awards. The fest’s two big competition jury prizes went to director Ana Asensio’s “Most Beautiful Island” (Best Narrative Feature) and directors Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous’s “The Work” (Best Narrative Feature).

READ MORE: Terrence Malick Makes a Rare Appearance at SXSW 2017 and Digs Deep On His Process

Asensio, a Spanish actress and filmmaker living in New York, first adapted the best selling novel “Most Beautiful Island” into a one-woman show. Shot in super 16mm, it tells the story of undocumented female immigrants struggling to start a life in New York. It is a feature film debut for Asensio, who also stars and wrote the screenplay. “Island” is being billed as a dramatic thriller and was produced by the New York horror master Larry Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix.

The Doc Prize winner, “The Work,” is an intense look at therapy sessions at the Folsom State Prison. IndieWire’s Eric Kohn described the film as a “Tony Robbins session with a bunch of testosterone-fueled convicts.” The real-life psychological thriller was one of a handful of SXSW documentaries that received a number of positive reviews throughout the festival.

READ MORE: ‘The Work’ Is the Most Powerful Group Therapy Session Ever Caught on Camera — SXSW 2017 Review

The jury also singled out a handful films for special recognition prizes. On the narrative side, actor James Freedson-Jackson from “The Strange Ones” won Breakthrough Performance, while “A Bad Idea Gone Wrong” was awarded for having the Best Ensemble Cast.

On the nonfiction side, the jury recognized director Miao Wang (“Maineland”) for Excellence in Observational Cinema and director Nanfu Wang for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling.

One of the many unique aspects of SXSW is the special recognition it pays to often ignored aspects of the filmmaking process, such as best Poster and Title Design, along with singling out films made in its home state of Texas.

The Awards were presented by FilmStruck and hosted by Sasheer Zamata. SXSW Audience Awards will be handed out this weekend.

Check out the complete winners list below.

The 2017 SXSW Film Festival Awards

Feature Film Grand Jury Awards

Winner: “Most Beautiful Island”
Director: Ana Asensio

Special Jury Recognition for Breakthrough Performance: James Freedson-Jackson, “The Strange Ones”

Special Jury Recognition for Best Ensemble: “A Bad Idea Gone Wrong”
Cast: Matt Jones, Eleanore Pienta, Will Rogers, Jonny Mars, Sam Eidson, Jennymarie Jemison

Winner: “The Work”
Directors: Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous

Special Jury Recognition for Excellence in Observational Cinema: “Maineland”
Director: Miao Wang

Special Jury Recognition for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling: “I Am Another You”
Director: Nanfu Wang

Short Film Grand Jury Awards

Winner: “Forever Now”
Director: Kristian Håskjold

Special Jury Recognition for Acting: Tarra Riggs, “DeKalb Elementary”

Winner: “Little Potato”
Director: Wes Hurley & Nathan M. Miller

Winner: “The Suplex Duplex Complex”
Director: Todd Rohal

Winner: “Wednesday with Goddard”
Directors: Nicolas Menard

Special Jury Recognition: “Pussy”
Director: Renata Gasiorowska

Winner: Leon Bridges, “RIVER”
Director: Miles Jay

Special Jury Recognition: Tame Impala, “The Less I Know The Better”

Winner: “The Rabbit Hunt”
Director: Patrick Bresnan

Winner: “Better Late Than Never”
Director: Atheena Frizzell

Special Jury Recognition: “Darcy’s Quinceañera”
Director: Sam Cooper

SXSW Film Design Awards

Winner: “Fry Day”
Designer: Caspar Newbolt

Special Jury Recognition: “Like Me”
Designer: Jeremy Enecio

Winner: “Into The Current”
Directors: Chris R. Moberg and Jared Young

SXSW LUNA® Gamechanger Award: Narrative
Winner: “INFLAME”
Director: Ceylan Ozgun Ozcelik

SXSW LUNA® Chicken & Egg Award: Documentary
Winner: “I Am Another You”
Director: Nanfu Wang

SXSW Louis Black “Lone Star” Award
To honor SXSW co-founder/director Louis Black, a jury prize was created in 2011 called the Louis Black “Lone Star” Award, to be awarded to a Texas film in content, filmmaker residency, or primary shooting location.

Winner: “Mr. Roosevelt”
Director: Noël Wells

SXSW Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award
Presented to: “Assholes,” directed by Peter Vack

SXSW Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship Presentation
The Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship is a year-long experience that encourages and champions the talent of an emerging documentary editor. Awarded annually, the fellowship was created to honor the memory of gifted editor Karen Schmeer.

Presented to: Leigh Johnson

READ MORE: The 2017 IndieWire SXSW Bible: Every Review, Interview and News Item Posted During the Festival

Related stories

'Muppet Guys Talking' Review: Frank Oz's Doc Is a Loving Tribute to the Creative Spirit (And Muppets) -- SXSW 2017

Noël Wells Reflects on Her Buzzy SXSW Debut and Career Post-'Saturday Night Live': 'It's Actually More Rock 'N' Roll'

'The Relationtrip' Review: In This Modestly Clever Comedy, The Rom-Com Gets Weird -- SXSW 2017