A Historic First for the SCAD Savannah Film Festival

On October 24, 2020, SCAD made history with the 23rd annual SCAD Savannah Film Festival — the university’s first all-virtual film festival. The SCAD Savannah Film Festival is the largest festival at any university in the U.S. It is a weeklong celebration of movie magic, technical mastery, and storytelling excellence. The festival honors both professional and student filmmakers and welcomes major industry luminaries, including award-winning directors, writers and actors across the big screen.

“This is a historic moment for SCAD!” said President and Founder Paula Wallace of SCAD. “What we love about this year’s festival is the removal of all barriers to access. No lines! No waiting to get inside! We have limitless capacity for the movies and panels that make this the most inclusive and student-focused film festival in the world. More access means more learning and more films enjoyed by more people than ever before.”

For decades, this festival — a favorite of professional filmmakers, due to the energy and exchange of ideas among the students in attendance — has made its mark as an unforgettable stop on the Academy Awards circuit. This year’s SCAD Savannah Film Festival featured nearly 150 films, including 14 world premieres, four U.S. premieres, four North American premieres, 17 documentaries, 20 narrative films, and 111 shorts.

Wallace, who created the SCAD Savannah Film Festival in 1998, said, “SCAD screens the stories that matter to our students and to viewers around the globe. This year, everybody’s got the best seat in the house!”

The festivities opened up on Saturday, October 24, with the Gala Screening of I’m Your Woman, featuring Rachel Brosnahan, recent SCAD Commencement speaker and Spotlight Award recipient, and concluded a week later on Saturday, October 31, with the Gala Screening of One Night in Miami.

The 2020 schedule included Gala and Signature Screenings, professional and student competition films, Docs to Watch, Shorts Spotlight, Global Shorts Forum, and the Wonder Women and Below the Line panel series. The SCAD Savannah Film Festival has screened more than 125 Academy Award-nominated films and has honored more than 90 legendary actors, directors, producers, writers and filmmakers from around the world. Entertainment Weekly returned as a media partner to help curate this year’s programming and moderate select talent panels.

“Through laughter and wonder, films bind us together in ways we’re only beginning to understand,” Wallace said. “We already know that watching films increases oxytocin, which generates greater empathy and resilience. Movies literally make us kinder and stronger. Research shows that viewing films with others actually synchronizes our thinking, visual and auditory systems falling into rhythm with those around us. In a year when we are all a little farther apart than we’d like to be, it’s a comfort to know that great films truly do build unity and community.”

“We are still so excited for the virtual program we put together this year, from our film screenings to our amazing guests and panelists,” said SCAD Savannah Film Festival Executive Director Christina Routhier. “I am even more proud that the festival screened films from more than 64 women filmmakers and hosted our annual Wonder Women panels, making us one of the few festivals that continues to highlight the work of women artists from around the world.”

The SCAD Savannah Film Festival is celebrated for shining a light on films that go on to win Oscars, loved by critics and audiences alike. In recent years, dozens of Best Picture winners and nominees have screened at the festival before theatrical release. Categories included Gala Screenings (ten films in all, followed by panels with the directors and select cast members), Signature Screenings, Docs to Watch, TV Sidebar, Animation Corner, and After Dark.

Honorees included Samuel L. Jackson (The Banker), Legend of Cinema Award; Billy Crystal (Standing Up, Falling Down), Lifetime Achievement Award; Millie Bobby Brown (Enola Holmes), Maverick Award; Jennifer Hudson (Respect), Virtuoso Award; Ethan Hawke (The Good Lord Bird), Outstanding Achievement in Entertainment Award; Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods), Spotlight Award; Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (The Trial of the Chicago 7), Distinguished Performance Award; Rachel Brosnahan (I’m Your Woman), Spotlight Award; and Glen Keane (Over the Moon), Lifetime Achievement in Animation Award.