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MARICOPA — “Ralph Parr: Fighter Ace of the Twentieth Century,” a film honoring military veterans, was the winner of the fourth annual Copa Shorts Film Fest.

The film was written and directed by Daniel Bernardi, director of the Veterans Documentary Corps at San Francisco State University. A military veteran, Bernardi is active in the military reserve, a press release from festival organizers said.

Taking the top screenplay award was a first-time screenwriter from Gilbert, Sixa Monmarché, with a script entitled “Graveyard Girl.” The screenplay is a paranormal thriller that creates an engaging story with fully realized characters in 12 pages, according to the press release.

The fourth annual Copa Shorts Film Fest was held virtually this year in early November.

It featured more than 50 short films as well as workshop on writing comedy, “Creating Comedy from the Ordinary” by Pat Battistini, the Audience Choice winner from the 2019 festival.

“Our films were very well-received,” said Shelley Gillespie, executive director of the event. “We had the capability of receiving audience feedback.”

Gillespie and her husband, Roger, are both film buffs who started the festival in 2017 to create opportunities for professional and student filmmakers to show their work, mingle and learn.

As well as films, the festival features a screenwriting competition and workshops led by industry experts.

This year’s Audience Choice winner was a comedy with puppets, “Moving Day,” which viewers described as hilarious.

Mesa residents Jonason Pauley and Jesse Perrotta directed the film.

The Best High School Film, “Hackers: The Misfit Superheroes,” written and directed by Ethan Wilk from Scottsdale, provided insights into who hackers are and how they operate. The film explains how hackers counterattack malicious large-scale hacking.

The Best College Film, “Sami” directed by Eden Bailey, is a sci-fi film that creates a believable future world with a sidekick robot to a scientist living on a desolate planet.

With “Sami” named Best College Film, Bailey won a Canon EOS RP camera with lens package, contributed by sponsor Canon USA.

Ryan Durant was awarded Best Documentary for “First in Man” and Best New Filmmaker for his film that showed a new medical procedure and the bravery of the patient. For a first-time filmmaker, Durant was challenged by having only one-take shots. Any aspects of the medical procedure could not be repeated, as it would harm the patient.

For the first-time virtual festival, Copa Shorts Film Fest partnered with as a streaming channel, which is particularly attuned to not-for-profit film festivals.

CSFF is planning to offer spring 2021 filmmaker workshops, possibly virtually. To learn more, visit the organization’s website at


Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at

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