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Filmmakers from Around the World Take Home Top Honors from GI Film Festival San Diego

All films shown in the festival are available for video on demand rentals until May 26


SAN DIEGO – May 24, 2021 An evening filled with excitement, appreciation and community, the GI Film Festival San Diego’s virtual Awards Celebration recognized local, national and international filmmakers for their work. Films about healing, resiliency, caregiving, and WWII and post 9/11 experiences were the big winners of the night.

Professional and student filmmakers won top honors in the latest edition of the GI Film Festival San Diego, the largest and most comprehensive military film festival in the United States. Organizers held their virtual Awards Celebration on Saturday, May 22, which was hosted by Thom Tran, a Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian, musician, radio broadcaster, and U.S. military veteran and advocate. 

This year’s festival featured a record 38 films with countless opportunities to celebrate military history, talent, and dedication. The six-day virtual festival brought together filmmakers, active duty service members, and veterans from across the United States and around the world to experience and share compelling and authentic storytelling. The awards program honored filmmaking excellence produced by international, national, and local filmmakers.

All films — including this year’s award winners — in the festival are available as a video on demand rental through May 26. This gives festival goers the flexibility to participate and enjoy the films whenever they choose within the rental window. To access the films, visit

“Although we couldn’t celebrate in person, our virtual Awards Celebration was still filled with the camaraderie and support that we’ve built over the last seven years,” says Nancy Worlie, interim general manager, KPBS. “The GI Film Festival San Diego is a family of military service members, veterans, allies and filmmakers, and continues to grow each year. We’re excited to continue telling great untold stories to bring together our military and civilian communities through cinema.”

The 2021 GI Film Festival San Diego Award Winners are:

Best Actress

Nina Brissey

“Amazing Grace”

Best Actor

Cristian Valle 

“Fort Irwin”

Best Documentary Short 

“Liberation Heroes: The Last Eyewitnesses in association with USC Shoah Foundation”

Directed by Vanessa Roth

Best Narrative Short 

“Amazing Grace”

Directed by Nina Brissey

Local Film Showcase – Best Short 


Directed by Shawn Efran

Best Student Film

“Fort Irwin”

Directed by Quinn Else

Best First-Time Filmmaker

Christian Taylor

“The Girl Who Wore Freedom”

Best Film Made By Military or Veterans 

“The Long River Home”

Directed by Seth Dahl

Best International Film

“The Final Stand”

Directed by Vadim Shmelyov

Local Film Showcase – Best Film Made By or Starring Military or Veterans 

“The 11th Order”

Directed by Joshua DeFour

Best Film Starring Military or Veterans

“Fort Irwin”

Starring Cristian Valle

Directed by Quinn Else

Best Documentary Feature 

“The Girl Who Wore Freedom”

Directed by Christian Taylor

Founders Choice Award

“Sky Blossom: Diaries of the Next Greatest Generation”

Directed by Richard Lui


The 2022 GI Film Festival San Diego is scheduled next May. For up-to-date information on the festival and to be notified of the film submission process for 2022, visit

About GI Film Festival San Diego

The festival presents films and events for, by, and about military and veterans. The event is organized by KPBS and partners with the Film Consortium San Diego to present the Local Film Showcase. The festival is funded in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and is sponsored by National University and Scatena Daniels Communications. Additional support is provided by Task & Purpose and the San Diego International Airport Arts Program. The GI Film Festival San Diego is an active member of the San Diego Veterans Coalition and the San Diego Military Family Collaborative. 

About KPBS

KPBS serves San Diego and Imperial counties with trusted news and programs that tell the stories of our time. KPBS delivers this content to more than one million audience members weekly via multiple outlets, including television, radio, and digital media. As a public service of San Diego State University, education is a core value – from our children’s programming to our local news coverage. KPBS provides stories that make us think, help us dream, and keep us connected. For more information, visit

About Film Consortium San Diego

The Film Consortium San Diego is a social venture that stimulates film and television production in the region and increases networking, employment, education, funding and distribution opportunities in film, television and new media. The Film Consortium hosts and organizes the San Diego Film Awards, San Diego Film Week, and various screening and networking events.