Esports Insider reveals inaugural ESI Film Festival 2023 shortlist

ESI Film Festival

Esports Insider is proud to announce the 10 shortlisted films for ESI Film Festival 2023, a short film festival taking place during esports industry conference ESI London.

The 10 films will be reviewed by Esports Insider’s panel of judges to decide three winners, which will be announced during a ceremony at BAFTA 195 Piccadilly on Friday 20th October.

ESI London 2024

In addition to the judge’s choice, Esports Insider is also opening up a Community Choice award to the public. The new award provides the esports community with their own say by allowing people to rank all of the shortlisted films and declare a winner. Voting for the Community Choice award can be found here. The vote deadline for the Community Choice award is Midnight (BST) Monday 9th October.

This year’s themes for the inaugural ESI Film Festival are digital inequality, diversity, and mental health, all of which reflect the potential of video games and esports to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. ESI Film Festival 2023 has a £10,000 prize pool, courtesy of non-profit partner ESG Gaming. The split is as follows — 1st place: £5,000, 2nd place: £3,000, 3rd place: £2,000.

Without further ado, here are the 10 shortlisted films for ESI Film Festival 2023, complete with a short description and video link.

AFK: Changing the Narrative – Chew Productions (UK)

Description: Jacob ‘Pimp’ Winneche is a former pro gamer, now turned CS:GO host hailing from Aalborg, Denmark. This film explores his past struggles with his physical and mental health, which happened behind the scenes when his career was at an all-time high. 

In this documentary, which was created in partnership with Novo Nordisk and BLAST, Jacob shares his story and how his now active lifestyle saved his life.

Emzii: It’s for Everyone – Christopher William Sellers (Great Britain)

Description: In 2020, amidst wedding planning, Emma ‘Emzii’ Rose confronted the underlying weight of dysphoria and came to a life-changing realisation — she was transgender. Embracing her true identity, she faced challenges and setbacks, usually from people hiding behind screens. 

As she began representing Northern Ireland in esports competitions, Emzii used her platform to advocate for diversity and inclusion in an industry often dominated by cisgender, heterosexual men. She aimed to shatter the barriers hindering marginalised groups from embracing esports and to pave the way for LGBTQIA+ gamers.

Exploring esports for recovery – Samuel Newell (UK)

Description: The Invictus Games is an adaptive sporting competition for service personnel and veterans who have been injured or fallen ill during or as a consequence of service. This film explores how esports can play a similar role, in reaching more people and having a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of these men and women post-trauma. 

When the emphasis of the sporting competition is not on medals won, but the journey and the process taken, then what are the ways esports can slot in and bring together a global community of people healing post-serving in the armed forces?

Game Flow – Emily Crawford (USA)

Description: This documentary follows three people with mood and anxiety disorders who find that playing games can be a powerful tool for self-care. 

These vignettes of daily life are punctuated by insights from experts in the fields of game studies, game design and psychology. In a world where mental health care is underfunded and often inadequate, and mental illness is still heavily stigmatised, people need more alternative strategies for self-care than ever. Gaming has the potential to be part of the solution. 

Gamer Hunter – Melda Dogan (Turkey)

Description: In the heart of Cizre, in a small Kurdish border town located in Southeastern Turkey, a fervent aspiration thrives. Here, amidst the bordering lands of Syria and Iraq, gifted gamers yearn to ascend to the pinnacle of esports.

A visionary academic calling himself a ‘Gamer Hunter’, has gone on a mission to unearth the latent talents hidden within underdeveloped regions. Yet, the gamers of Cizre grapple with formidable adversaries. Lacking the luxury of swift internet connections and essential technical gear, they strive against the odds.

GG Legends: Sheever – Chew Productions (UK)

Description: The first episode of the Gucci: GG Legends series follows how Dota 2 host, Jorien van der Heijden, went from a young gamer in the Netherlands to one of the most respected Esports broadcasters on the international scene. 

She was plagued by haters and trolls throughout her early career, which shook her confidence and mental health. In 2017, her life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with cancer. As a pioneer for women in the gaming world, she shares how she defines her journey on her own terms rather than letting the significant hurdles she’s faced do so. 

Meet Veno: An FNCS Documentary – Story Mode (UK)

Description: This documentary follows the extraordinary journey of Harry ‘Veno’ Pearson, a top-ranked Fortnite player in the world.

Meet Veno: An FNCS Documentary joins Harry in a finals weekend where he and his teammate ‘Queasy’’ enter as favourites to win the tournament which is played over two days. The film speaks to his close family and friends, capturing the behind-the-scenes of what happens during this incredibly high-pressured moment as he attempts to retain his number 1 spot and explore his upbringing as a mixed-race child moving around due to his father’s work.

Live to Win – Jacques Lockwood (UK)

Description: Live to Win offers an intimate and behind-the-scenes look at the exhilarating world of esports, centred around the final Counter-Strike Major held in Paris. The film focuses on three pivotal players, each representing a different view that captures the essence of perseverance, leadership and the pursuit of greatness. 

Sanguine – Subnation Media (USA)

Description: Entering into the Smite Minors League under the brand Sanguine Esports, Blaine Ball was looking for a team to play under the Sanguine title when he was reached out to by Oxiledeon, the coach of a little known, but exciting team from Latin America. After Blaine saw their record, he couldn’t believe it. How could players competing with inferior hardware and slower internet speeds regularly beat Pro Smite League teams? He signed them within 48 hours.

What happened next was the quintessential American story for a modern age, putting Sanguine Esports into the same breath as the Bad News Bears and the Mighty Ducks, an underdog tale for the esports generation.

Virtually Home – University of Kentucky Media Depot (USA)

Description: A man delves deep into VR Chat affecting the people around him, but funny.

ESI Film Festival 2023 is part of Esports Insider’s wider industry spectacle ESI London 2023. Tickets are still available here for the industry conference, which features networking opportunities with prominent stakeholders in esports as well as a wide array of panel discussions. 

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