November 11-12

2022 BitterSweet

Invitational Story Festival

A Celebration of the Anti-Blockbuster

An invitation to create and a festival of story, the BSISF asks photographers and filmmakers to submit a narrative of monumentally ordinary proportions. These works should offer fresh and artful interpretations of BitterSweet’s credo: Reject Cynicism, Defy Apathy, Celebrate Good. In our second year we're welcoming both film (up to 12 minutes in length) and photo essay (including 3 to 5 photographs) entries. Submissions will be judged against the credo.

As a community seeking to center the margins in our work, we invite both amateurs and professionals to submit. From concept to format, we are engineering this festival to see what we can learn from the unlikely.

On November 11 and 12, we will come together in Washington, DC at Autoshop @ Union Market to celebrate and honor the official selections for the festival. Programming for the in-person event will be announced at a later date.

Awards & Prizes

  • 1 grand prize winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000.00.
  • Films selected for screening and photography essays selected for display will be featured in an online showcase on BitterSweetMonthly.com following the festival.
  • 1 gift/swag bag will be given to filmmakers or photographers for each selected entry.

Rules and Terms

  • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Submissions must have been completed after January 1, 2021, and ready for screening during the festival dates.
  • Films must be 12 minutes or less to qualify for the festival.
  • Films and photographs must be submitted through https://filmfreeway.com/ with necessary details including a password (if applicable). If the work is not accessible to the jury it will be disqualified.
  • Films or photographs that have been shown previously to a public audience or have been publicly streamed online are still eligible for the festival.
  • Submissions must be the original work of the filmmaker or photographer. The festival does not investigate the authenticity of an applicant’s statement of authorship or rights secured. By entering your work in the festival, you represent that you have secured all necessary rights.
  • Applicants are solely responsible for obtaining all necessary rights and permissions for third-party materials included in their submission, including but not limited to music, trademarks, logos, copyrights, and other intellectual property rights. BISF is not responsible for any violations of the foregoing.
  • There are no technology restrictions on "how" you create your submission (it can be made on a mobile device or with the latest and greatest technology). That said, it must be submitted in a digital format.
  • Applicants will be notified if they have been selected for screening or display at the festival in late October 2022.

Check Our Last Years Invitational Winners!

2022 Judges

Erica Baker

Erica Baker is an independent photographer whose work is inspired by human stories and she shoots every assignment through that lens of storytelling. She is equally comfortable shooting commercial images for brands in a studio as she is shooting images for non-profit organizations in remote hospitals in the Himalayas foothills.

Erica is committed to creating photographs that humanize and dignify the people in front of her camera and she makes it her mission to give every person in front of her lens – from senators to business owners to survivors of human trafficking – her full attention, collaborative spirit, and respect. Erica has worked with both small and large organizations around the globe and her variety of projects have made her the rare photographer that can float between commercial and humanitarian projects – and she would argue it’s what makes her work stand out.

Othello Banaci

Othello Banaci is a Liberian-American director, cinematographer, and photographer based in Washington, DC. He grew up in the D.C metro suburbs of Silver Spring, Maryland. His work is emotional, vibrant while creating space for beauty in the midst of chaos with compassion and grace. He has a bedside manner approach to his art which allows him to create genuine connection and organic imagery. As a documentary & commercial director + cinematographer, Othello has created visuals for Meta, Google, Amazon, Hilton, Marriott, YouTube Music, Under Armour, Porsche, Soundcloud, Universal Music group, and MGM. Recent cinematography documentary credits include HBO’s 38 at the Garden making its Festival premiere at Tribeca Film Festival June 2022 and Paramount +’s Lynching Postcards ‘Token of a great day” (which received official selections to AFI and DOC NYC as well as being selected for the Oscar shortlist for 2022). Photography credits include Aaptiv, Apple, Essence, Google, Hanifa, Niantic, Youtube and Bevel . Most importantly, he is grateful for the connections with the PEOPLE behind all the brands and to god for his grace.

Brandon Bray

As a script-to-screen documentary and commercial director, DP, and editor, Brandon Bray continues to blur the lines between documentary and narrative storytelling. SHOOT Magazine and Saatchi & Saatchi Directors’ Showcase recently named Bray one of the best new directors of 2017. Based in Washington, D.C., Bray has worked for clients including Facebook, Verizon, The New York Times, Ford, DuPont, and UPS. Brandon’s award-winning work has gathered over 40 industry accolades over the past five years, including four Webby Awards, and four ONE Club Pencils, and four Vimeo Staff Picks. He was given the NAMIC Vision Award for work with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and named a D.C., Commission on the Arts and Humanities Fellow. Bray’s latest film, EROSION, picked up Best Documentary Short at the 2016 Lower East Side Film Festival in New York City, and screened at SIFF Seattle International Film Festival.

Joshua Cogan

Joshua Cogan is an Emmy Award-winning photographer and anthropologist whose work has taken him to 65 countries to produce his unique brand of ethnographic storytelling. Using his deep love and curiosity for culture, ecology, and imagery, Cogan has consistently produced work across print, motion and digital platforms. Recognition for those projects has come from standard bearers of journalism such as National Academy of Television and Sciences as well SXSW and Webby Awards for his partnerships creating new approaches to storytelling and cultural exchange. His feature-length documentary of New Delhi’s last magicians settlement “Tomorrow we Disappear” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and Hot Docs in Toronto. His work has been displayed at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Eye Film Institute of the Netherlands.

Joshua specializes in telling stories of culture and ecology and the relationships between humans and the earth. Whether it be 10th generation Totem carvers from Alaska or hip-hop pioneers in his hometown of DC. He looks to bring people closer to that which they see as "the other" through intimate and personal imagery. His Clients include the National Geographic, The Smithsonian Institution, The World Health Organization, The United Nations, Puma, New Balance, Newsweek, ESPN, The New Yorker, HBO, The Discovery Channel and many others.

Anne Snyder

Anne Snyder is the editor-in-chief of Comment magazine and oversees our partner project, Breaking Ground. She is the host of The Whole Person Revolution podcast and co-editor of Breaking Ground: Charting Our Future in a Pandemic Year, published in January 2022. Prior to leading Comment, she directed The Philanthropy Roundtable‘s Character Initiative, a program seeking to help foundations and business leaders strengthen “the middle ring” of morally formative institutions. Her path-breaking guidebook, The Fabric of Character: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Renewing our Social and Moral Landscape, was published in 2019. From 2014 to 2017 Anne worked for Laity Lodge and the H.E. Butt Foundation in Texas, and before that, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, World Affairs Journal and The New York Times. She is a Senior Fellow of The Trinity Forum and a Fellow at the Urban Reform Institute, a Houston-based think tank that explores how cities can drive opportunity for the bulk of their citizens. She has published widely, including The Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, Bittersweet Monthly and of course Comment, and now serves as a trustee for Nyack College. Anne spent the formative years of her childhood overseas before earning a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College (IL) and a master’s degree from Georgetown University. She currently lives in Washington, D.C.