True-crime thriller sweeps up Slamdance awards |

True-crime thriller sweeps up Slamdance awards

’Starrying Jerry as Himself” among the top winners

The 2023 Slamdance Film Festival ran in-person from Jan. 20-26. It is currenlty running on through Jan. 29 at

The list of the 29th Slamdance Film Festival Awards are as follows:



  • Narrative Feature Grand Jury Prize: “Waiting for the Light to Change” (Dir. Linh Tran)
  • Honorable Mention: “Where the Road Leads” (Dir. Nina Ognjanović)
  • Documentary Feature Grand Jury Prize: “Starring Jerry as Himself” (Dir. Law Chen)
  • Honorable Mention: “Silent Love” (Dir. Mark Kozakiewicz)
  • Breakouts Feature Grand Jury Prize: “The Underbug” (Dir. Shujaat Saudagar)
  • Honorable Mention: “Onlookers” (Dir. Kimi Takesue)
  • Episodes Grand Jury Prize: “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)


  • Narrative Shorts Grand Jury Prize: “The Sidewalk Artist” (Dir. David Velez and Brandon Rivera)
  • Honorable Mention: “Gwendoline” (Dir Joaquim Bayle)
  • Documentary Short Grand Jury Prize: “The Unicorn in Snowpants Suddenly Ran Off” (Dir. Philipp Schaeffer)
  • Honorable Mention: “Moomin'” (Dir. Zach Dorn)
  • Experimental Shorts Grand Jury Prize: “Red Threads” (Dir. Yuchi Ma)
  • Honorable Mention: “Grillz & Mirrors” (Dir. Michael U. Olowu)
  • Animated Shorts Grand Jury Prize: “Hot Dogs!” (Dir. Frank Volk)
  • Honorable Mention: “Silver Cave” (Dir. Caibei Cai)


  • The AGBO Fellowship, presented by Joe and Anthony Russo, Award Winner: Tij D’Oyen director of “Lollygag”
  • Slamdance Acting Award: Jerry Hsu for “Starring Jerry as Himself"
  • George Starks Spirit of Slamdance Award Winner: Aaron David Harris, director of “H-Squad: The Interactive Experience.”


  • Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature: “Where the Road Leads” (Dir. Nina Ognjanović)
  • Audience Award for Documentary Feature: “Starring Jerry as Himself “(Dir. Law Chen)
  • Audience Award for Episodes: “Honeycomb” (Dir. Sam Roden)
  • Audience Award for Unstoppable: “American Pot Story: Oaksterdam” (Dir. Dan Katzir & Ravit Markus)
“Starring Jerry as Himself,” a uniquely filmmed spy-thriller documentary won three Sparky Awards during the 2023 Slamdance FIlm Festivial awards ceremony Thursday night at the Treasure Mountain Inn. From left: Jesse Hsu, filmmaker Law Chen, the film’s subject Jerry Hsu, producer Jonathan Hsu and Kathy Hsu.
David Jackson/Park Record

A true story of espionage thrilled audiences and juries of the 29th Slamdance Film Festival this past week.

And now it has the hardware — three Sparky awards — to prove it.

Law Chen’s “Starring Jerry as Himself,” about how a man, Jerry Hsu, was recruited by the Chinese police to investigate an international money-laundering racket, not only took home the Documentary Feature Audience Award Thursday night. It also won the festival’s Documentary Feature Jury Award.

The documentary’s subject, Jerry Hsu, was also named Outstanding Actor thanks to the way Chen pieced together the film’s unique reenactments.

Slamdance’s jury called “Starring Jerry as Himself” a “provocatively crafted and tightly wound suspense tale that feels like solving a shape-shifting puzzle.”

The film’s producer, Jonathan Hsu, Jerry’s son, was overwhelmed by the love.

“Thank you Slamdance for finding this film and really championing it,” he said as emotion cut him short for a brief spell. “I want to thank Law, who really had the creative vision and the ability to push this through. He had to give this outsider’s perspective to show us who we are, because we were in the thick of it. I’m so happy with this family. I’ll keep them.”

If Hsu showed his emotions through his verbal acceptance speech, Peter Hoffman Kimball conveyed his emotions in American Sign Language upon receiving the Unstoppable Grand Jury Award for “Millstone,” a drama — featuring an entirely Deaf cast and shot in ASL — about a couple who recently lost their child and their therapist who may or may not be helping them cope.

“Wow, this is a huge honor for me,” Kimball said through an interpreter. “This story is so beautiful, but at the same time it’s so touching. And we just feel like this developed a connection with everybody.” 

The night also included the presentation of the AGBO Fellowship to Tij D’Oyen, whose narrative short “Lollygag” is about a woman who remembers her next door neighbor boy.

The fellowship, established by Joe and Anthony Russo in 2018, is given through AGBO Films, the brothers’ independent television and film production company. It includes a $25,000 prize and gives a filmmaker a mentorship with the filmmaking duo.

The award was announced by last year’s AGBO Fellowship winner Ethan Eng.

“This fellowship is really cool,” Eng said before announcing D’Oyen’s name. “It’s changed my life for sure. And someone’s going to have a really good day today.”

D’Oyen was taken aback.

“Thank you so much,” he said before heading back to his seat where he got a little emotional.

Other awards of the evening included Theodore Collatos’s “Palookaville,” which won the Episodes Grand Jury Prize; “The Underbug,” which took home the Breakouts Grand Jury Award; and Aaron David Harris, director of “H-Squad: The Interactive Experience,” was presented the George Starks Spirit of Slamdance Award by Starks’s brother, Jason. (See accompanying list).

Slamdance co-founder Peter Baxter wrapped up the ceremony and told the crowd that this year’s Slamdance, the first in-person festival since 2020, showcased “an array of incredible, new independent films that pushed the boundaries of visual storytelling.”

It also expresses the world today, he said.

“We celebrate the winners, and, crucially, the strength and edge of this overall program,” Baxter said. “Everybody here is elevating, lifting, the art of filmmaking. So we’re just so excited that’s happened here at Slamdance this week.”

Baxter also revealed the origins of the Sparky, the film festival’s award.

“We were looking for an award for Slamdance, but we didn’t want a plaque or an Oscar,” he said. “We wanted something that really fit.”

Baxter saw someone selling toys at a kiosk, and noticed a plastic dog that had fallen into a puddle.

“I thought that’s going to be our award,” he said. “The reason why is because it wasn’t valued at the time. It cost a quarter and we turned it into a bronze that many of you have now. The key for all of this was the physical act of lifting this dog, which became part of the litter we share with our filmmakers. And we’re all its caretakers. We rely on you all to keep moving forward.”

The 2023 Slamdance Film Festival ran in-person from Jan. 20-26. It is currenlty running through Jan. 29 at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.