Lifetime Achievement Award

Previous SLIFF Lifetime Achievement Award winners include directors Michael Apted, Charles Burnett, Joe Dante, Paul Schrader, and Oliver Stone; acting legends Tony Curtis, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Stacy Keach, Kevin Kline, Marsha Mason, and Kathleen Turner; independent filmmakers Jon Jost, Rob Nilsson, and John Sayles and Maggie Renzi; documentarians Joe Berlinger, Les Blank, Ken Burns, Steve James, Albert Maysles, Ross McElwee, and Gordon Quinn; comedians Jerry Lewis and Harry Shearer; animators Bill Plympton and Michael Sporn; and longtime Cinema St. Louis chair Kim Tucci.

Sam Pollard

Sam Pollard is an accomplished documentary producer/director and film and television editor whose work spans more than 40 years.

Pollard’s feature career as an editor started in the mid-1970s with films such as “Body and Soul” and “Style Wars.” During the 1980s, he also edited for the highly acclaimed children’s television programs “Vegetable Soup” and “3-2-1-Contact,” receiving two Emmys.

Pollard began his directorial career in 1990 with Henry Hampton’s Blackside Productions and its “Eyes on the Prize II,” sharing an Emmy for one of his two episodes. Eight years later, he returned to Blackside as a co-producer of Hampton’s last documentary series, “I’ll Make Me a World: Stories of African-American Artists and Community,” which received the George Foster Peabody Award.

Between 1990 and 2010, Pollard edited a number of Spike Lee’s films: “Mo’ Better Blues,” “Jungle Fever,” “Girl 6,” “Clockers,” and “Bamboozled.” With Lee, he also collaborated as a producer and/or editor on a trio of significant documentaries: “Four Little Girls,” about the 1963 Birmingham church bombings, which was nominated for an Academy Award®; “When the Levees Broke,” a four-part documentary that won numerous awards, including a Peabody and three Emmys; and “If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise,” a five-year follow-up to “When The Levees Broke.”

Among his documentaries as a director are “Slavery by Another Name” (2012), episodes of the PBS series “American Masters” (including works on Marvin Gaye, Zora Neale Hurston, and August Wilson), and “Two Trains Runnin’,” which screened at SLIFF last year.

Pollard also serves as a professor of film production at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

The fest features two of Pollard’s new works: “ACORN and the Firestorm” (co-directed with Rueben Atlas) and “Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me.”

Charles Guggenheim Cinema St. Louis Award

Previous winners of the Charles Guggenheim Cinema St. Louis Award — which honors filmmakers with St. Louis connections making significant contributions to the art of cinema — include Michael Beugg, Cedric the Entertainer, Jenna Fischer, Bob Gale, the Charles Guggenheim family, James Gunn, George Hickenlooper, Brian Hohlfeld, Ken Kwapis, Jeremy Lasky, AJ Schnack, Timothy J. Sexton, Marlon West, Beau Willimon, and Alex Winter.

Dan Mirvish

Dan Mirvish is a director, screenwriter, producer, and author.

He graduated from Washington University and received a master's degree from USC film school.

Mirvish was mentored by Robert Altman on his first film, “Omaha (the movie),” which led him to co-found the upstart Slamdance Film Festival. His film “Open House” prompted the Academy Awards® to controversially rewrite their rules on the Best Original Musical category. His film “Between Us,” an award-winning feature starring Julia Stiles and Taye Diggs, played in 23 festivals in seven countries, received a 50-plus-city theatrical release in the U.S., and sold to 144 countries. It is currently airing on Showtime, Starz, Netflix, and all digital outlets.

Mirvish is the author of the bestselling nonfiction book “The Cheerful Subversive's Guide to Independent Filmmaking” from Focal Press/Routledge, and he co-wrote the bestselling, critically acclaimed novel “I Am Martin Eisenstadt,” based on the fake John McCain advisor who took credit for Sarah Palin not knowing Africa was a continent. Mirvish is also a former speechwriter for U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin.

Mirvish’s “Bernard and Huey” — scripted by Oscar®- and Pulitzer-winning Jules Feiffer and starring Jim Rash and David Koechner — screens at SLIFF.

Contemporary Cinema Award

Previous winners of the Contemporary Cinema Award — which honors filmmakers in mid-career doing challenging, innovative work — include Jay and Mark Duplass, Alex Gibney, Trent Harris, Stanley Nelson, Arsen Anton Ostojic, Doug Pray, Jason Reitman, and Terry Zwigoff.

Marco Williams

Marco Williams — whose films have been nominated three times for the Sundance Film Festival grand jury prize — is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and professor of film production at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Williams’ “Two Towns of Jasper” (2002), co-directed by Whitney Dow, was broadcast by PBS on “POV” and received a multitude of honors, including the George Foster Peabody Award and the Alfred I. duPont Silver Baton. His “Freedom Summer” (2006) was part of the primetime Emmy-winning series “Ten Days that Unexpectedly Changed America.” “Banished” (2007), which tells the story of three American communities in which white residents forced thousands of black families to flee their homes 100 years ago, received the Knight Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Features at the Miami International Film Festival and the Full Frame Documentary Festival Spectrum Award. Williams’ “The Undocumented” (2013), a cinéma vérité documentary broadcast on PBS’s “Independent Lens,” addressed the deaths of illegal border crossers in Arizona’s border region. The film screened at SLIFF.

Williams’ other directing credits include “The Black Fives” (2014), “Inside: The New Black Panthers” (2008), “Making Peace: Rebuilding our Communities” (1995), “The Spiritual Deficit and the American Dream” (1994), “In Search of Our Fathers” (1992), “Without a Pass” (1991), and “From Harlem to Harvard” (1982).

In 1994, Williams and six other young filmmakers were featured in the book “What I Really Want to Do Is Direct: Seven Film School Graduates Go to Hollywood” by movie journalist Billy Frolick. The book followed the lives of seven would-be directors over three years as they struggled with the ups-and-downs of the Hollywood world.

Williams received a B.A. in visual and environmental studies from Harvard University. From UCLA, he received both an M.A. in Afro-American studies and an M.F.A. in the school’s Producer’s Program.

SLIFF screens Williams’ “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities,” which was co-directed by former Contemporary Cinema Award honoree Stanley Nelson.

Women in Film Award

Previous winners of the Women in Film Award — which honors women who have made a significant contribution to the film industry — include Karen Allen, Nina Davenport, Barbara Hammer, Marsha Hunt, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Katie Mustard, Rosemary Rodriguez, Ry Russo-Young, Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, Kimberly Steward, Yvonne Welbon, and Pamela Yates.

Pam Grier

The legendary Pam Grier has been called cinema’s first female action star by longtime acolyte Quentin Tarantino.

Because her father was in the U.S. Air Force, Grier’s family moved frequently during her childhood but eventually settled in Denver, where she still lives. Her acting career began in the city, where she appeared in a number of stage productions and participated in beauty contests to raise money for college tuition.

In 1967, Grier moved to LA, where she served as a receptionist at American International Pictures before making her mark in front of the camera with a pair of AIP’s women-in-prison films, “The Big Doll House” (1971) and “The Big Bird Cage” (1972). Under contract at AIP, she became a staple of early-1970s blaxploitation movies, playing unusually bold and assertive women, beginning with Jack Hill’s “Coffy” (1973), whose trailer announced her as the “baddest one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town!” In his review of “Coffy,” Roger Ebert noted that Grier had the requisite “beautiful face and astonishing form” but possessed a “physical life” absent from most other actresses. (Grier actually made her film debut in a tiny part in the Ebert-written “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.”) Over the next several years, she played similarly powerful characters in films such as “Foxy Brown” (1974), “Sheba, Baby” (1975), and “Friday Foster” (1975).

With the demise of blaxploitation later in the 1970s, Grier’s star briefly waned, though she was featured in Michael Schultz’s “Greased Lightning” in 1977. Grier eventually landed significant character parts in films such as “Fort Apache, The Bronx” (1981), “Something Wicked This Way Comes” (1983), and “Above the Law” (1988), and she appeared frequently on television, with recurring roles on both “Miami Vice” and “Crime Story.” In the 1990s, Grier was a cast member of the Showtime series “Linc's” and co-starred in John Carpenter's “Escape from L.A.” (1996).

In 1997, Grier memorably re-emerged as a lead, starring as the title character of Tarantino's “Jackie Brown” and receiving Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for best actress. On the British Film Institute website, critic Paul O’Callaghan wrote of Grier: “In ‘Jackie Brown,’ she retains the most appealing aspects of her established screen persona — her unapologetic sexuality, her unwavering cool in the face of major adversity — but Tarantino’s depiction of a drab, down-at-heel Los Angeles is immeasurably more complex and convincing than the caricaturish netherworld of pimps, hustlers and addicts she inhabits in those early films.”

Grier starred as one of the principals on Showtime's “The L Word,” which ran for six seasons, from 2004-2009, and appeared in a recurring role on the series “Smallville” in 2010. In 2011, she released a memoir, “Foxy: My Life in Three Acts,” written with Andrea Cagan, and received honorary doctorates from both the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Langston University.

Grier participates in SLIFF’s opening-night world premiere of the locally shot “Bad Grandmas” — in which she co-stars — and the fest honors her with a Nov. 3 tribute that includes a career-spanning interview and a screening of “Jackie Brown.”


Audience voting determines the winner of three awards from among the films in competition:

  • Best Film Award
  • Leon Award for Best Documentary (named in memory of the late civic leader Leon Strauss)
  • TV5MONDE Award for Best International Film


Interfaith Awards

A jury gives Interfaith Awards to both a documentary and a narrative, choosing from among 10 competition films (five in each category), which were selected for their artistic merit; contribution to the understanding of the human condition; and recognition of ethical, social, and spiritual values. The selected films:

Documentaries: The Field, The Smuggler and Her Charges, Street Fighting Men, True Conviction, and Voices Beyond the Wall

Narratives: Fanny's Journey, In Between, Mawlana, Tanna, and The Testament

The selection committee was Delcia Corlew (head), Cinema St. Louis board member; Janet Herrmann, former Cinema St. Louis board member; Paul Marsh, retired architect; Pier Marton, artist/filmmaker and former university professor; Alma Merabet, intellectual-property manager for media-related issues; and Emre Şarbak, VP of technology and operations at LaunchCode.

The documentary jury is Janet Herrmann; Jane Hoeltzel, former drama teacher, actor, and artist; and Pat Scallet, filmmaker and editor.

The narrative jury is Greg Hoeltzel, Cinema St. Louis board member, orthodontist, and musician; Dr. Sandra Olmsted, Ph.D., freelance producer and editor for HEC-TV; Joya Uraizee, associate chair of the Department of English and associate professor of English and international studies at Saint Louis University.

Midrash St. Louis Film Award

Midrash St. Louis engages myriad aspects of American culture — hot topics, deep subjects, music, arts, and film — and seeks to give and receive commentary on the subjects and issues that matter to people in St. Louis and that form and shape our views and lives.

The Midrash St. Louis Film Award celebrates St. Louis-related films of honesty and artistry that portray the need or the hope for reconciliation or redemption. These are among the most powerful and worthy themes that films should explore. Eligible work for the Midrash St. Louis Film Award includes feature and short films largely shot in St. Louis or directed by filmmakers with strong local ties. The award comes with a cash prize of $500.

The Midrash jury is Michael Leary, research ethicist, professor of biblical studies, and writer and editor of many books and publications on global cinema; Bob Oesch, attorney at law and leader of Midrash St. Louis; Michele Oesch, film aficionado and nonprofit fundraiser; and Aditya Siram, SLIFF volunteer and pop-culture gadfly.

NFF Emerging Director Award: The Bobbie

The New Filmmakers Forum (NFF) annually presents the Emerging Director Award. Five works by first-time feature filmmakers compete for the prize, which includes a $500 cash award. The selected films:

NFF Films: Beauty Mark, Becks, Different Flowers, Palacios, and Title VII

Since its inception, NFF was co-curated by Bobbie Lautenschlager. Bobbie died in the summer of 2012, and SLIFF honors her memory by nicknaming the NFF Emerging Director Award as the Bobbie.

The NFF jury is Mike Steinberg (chair), executive director of Missoula’s Roxy Theater, Montana Film Festival, and International Wildlife Film Festival, director of “Old Dog, New Trick” and “How It Is with Phooie,” and former head of the Webster U. Film Series and Big Sky Documentary Film Festival; Cate Marquis, film critic for We Are Movie Geeks and the St. Louis Jewish Light; Stefene Russell, culture editor of St. Louis Magazine; Sam Smucker, former director of home entertainment, acquisitions, and sales for Strand Releasing; and Pete Timmermann, adjunct film-studies professor at Webster University and St. Louis Community College.

Shorts Awards

Two juries choose the winners of the following seven awards from among the shorts in competition:

  • Best of Fest
  • Best Animated Short
  • Best Documentary Short
  • Best International Short
  • Best Live Action Short
  • Best Local Short
  • Best Short Short (less than 5 minutes)

The SLIFF shorts competition is officially sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, making the winners in the Best of Fest, Best Animated, Best Live Action, and Best Documentary categories eligible to submit for Oscar® consideration.

The narrative-shorts jury is Chris Aaron, assistant professor of film, television, & video production and animation at Webster University, owner of, and filmmaker; James Harrison, director of the Webster University Film Series; Melissa Howland, LA editor for We Are Movie Geeks; Kenny Kinds, comedian, filmmaker, and co-host of the live storytelling show and podcast “Sorry, Please Continue”; Christina Steenz Stewart, social media community manager for Lion Forge Comics and artist of “Archival Quality” (to be published by Oni Press in 2018); Andy Triefenbach, owner and editor-in-chief of and programmer of the Late Nite Grindhouse series; Lynelle White, television writer for “Army Wives” and “Z Nation,” and winner of the 2016 NAACP/NBC Universal television writing fellowship; and David Wraith, writer, filmmaker, activist, and co-founder of Sex Positive St. Louis.

The documentary-shorts jury is Kelly Bouma, director, actor, interdisciplinary artist, director of the contemporary dance-theater company Bare Bait Dance, and teacher of performance and practice at University of Montana in Missoula; Lisa Marie Evans, documentary filmmaker, animator, programmer of feature documentaries for the Kansas International Film Festival, and facilitator of professional development programs with Artist INC; and Leigh Kolb, film critic for New York Magazine’s Vulture website.

St. Louis Film Critics’ Joe Pollack and Joe Williams Awards

In conjunction with the St. Louis Film Critics organization, SLIFF holds juried competitions for documentary and narrative features. The awards are named in honor of the late St. Louis Post-Dispatch critics Joe Pollack (narrative) and Joe Williams (documentary). The winners are picked by two juries of St. Louis film critics. SLIFF chose eight films to compete in each category:

Documentaries: 1917: The Real October, All the Rage, AlphaGo, Ask the Sexpert, The Cinema Travellers, For Ahkeem, Voices Beyond the Wall, When I Was 6, I Killed a Dragon

Narratives: Bernard and Huey, Black Cop, Dalida, The Divine Order, The Hippopotamus, Slack Bay, The Teacher, The Woman Who Left

The documentary jury is Robert Hunt (chair), Riverfront Times; Martha Baker, KDHX; Diane Carson, KDHX; and Cate Marquis, We Are Movie Geeks and St. Louis Jewish Light.

The narrative jury is Jim Batts (chair), We Are Movie Geeks; Tom Stockman, editor and creative director of We Are Movie Geeks; Jim Tudor, and; and Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News-Democrat and Y98.