2016 SLIFF Awards

25th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival Awards

Presented Nov. 13, 2016


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

Best Film Award

“Tim Timmerman, Hope of America” directed by Cameron Sawyer

Leon Award for Best Documentary

(named in memory of the late civic leader Leon Strauss)

“Nana” directed by Serena Dykman

TV5MONDE Award for Best International Film

“The Fencer” directed by Klaus Härö


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: Bogdan's Journey, The Children of the Noon, Germans & Jews, Maya Angelou, The Peacemaker

Narratives: Apprentice, Cloudy Sunday, Kapo in Jerusalem, The Measure of a Man, Sabina K.

Best Documentary Feature

“Bogdan’s Journey” directed by Michal Jaskulski & Lawrence Loewinger

Best Narrative Feature

“Apprentice” directed by Junfeng Boo

 The selection committee was Pat Scallet (head), filmmaker and editor; Delcia Corlew, 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 Betty White, retired professor of English.

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

The feature jury is Sandra Olmstead, Ph.D. candidate at Saint Louis University and 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; and Betty White.

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.

Midrash St. Louis Film Award

"Gentlemen of Vision” directed by Jim Kirchherr & Frank Popper

The Midrash jury is Tim Ezell, media personality, pastor, and film lover; 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.

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: 42 Seconds of Happiness, Comfort, Creedmoria, To Keep the Light, The Wedding Party

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.

Technical Brilliance Award

“The Wedding Party” directed by Thane Economou

Emerging Director Award (“The Bobbie”)

“To Keep the Light” directed by Erica Fae

The NFF jury is Michael Beugg (chair), producer of such acclaimed films as “Up in the Air,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” and the upcoming “La La Land,” and former Cinema St. Louis Award winner; Kathy Corley, documentarian and professor of film studies in Webster U.’s Electronic and Photographic Media Department; Brian Jun, director of past NFF winner “Steel City”; Stefene Russell, culture editor of St. Louis Magazine; and Sam Smucker, former director of home entertainment, acquisitions, and sales for Strand Releasing.

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

Documentary Short Honorable Mention

“Urban Cowboys” directed by Paweł Ziemilski

Documentary Short Honorable Mention

“The Diver” directed by Esteban Arrangoiz

Best Documentary Short

“The Mute’s House” directed by Tamar Kay

Local Short Honorable Mention

“Black Brunch” directed by Dennis Desai

Best Local Short

“Talk Radio” directed by Jay Kanzler

Best Short Short

“Women’s Christmas Night” directed by Oonagh Kearney

Best International Short

“Home” directed by Daniel Mulloy

Animated Short Honorable Mention

“Lilou” directed by Rawan Rahim

Best Animated Short

“The Itching” directed by Dianne Bellino

Best Live-Action Short

“Litterbugs” directed by Peter Stanley-Ward

Best of Fest

“Speechless” directed by Robin Polak

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 James Harrison, director of the Webster University Film Series; Melissa Howland, LA editor for We Are Movie Geeks; Kathy Kaiser, editor-critic of Matinee Chat with Kathy Kaiser and film critic for “She Said, He Said Show” on 590 The Fan; Chris Sagovac, associate professor of animation at Webster University; Steph Scupham, Kansas City Film Commissioner; Christina Steenz Stewart, comics programmer for St. Louis Public Library's Comics University, SLPL’s Comic Con, and SLPL’s zine collection; Andy Triefenbach, owner and editor-in-chief of DestroytheBrain.com and programmer of the Late Nite Grindhouse series; Kenya Vaughn, journalist with St. Louis American and stlamerican.com.

The documentary-shorts jury is Angie Driscoll (head), shorts programmer of Toronto’s Hot Docs; Leigh Kolb, film critic for New York Magazine’s Vulture website; and Ben Scholle, documentarian and assistant professor of communication at Lindenwood University.

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: Among Wolves, Art of the Prank, Family Affair, Hotel Dallas, Legs, The Liberators, My Life as a Film, The Nine

Narratives: Apprentice, Celestial Camel, Coming Through the Rye, Demimonde, Despite the Falling Snow, The Fencer, Home Care, Sila Samayangalil

Best Documentary Feature

“A Family Affair” directed by Tom Fassaert

Best Narrative Feature

"Celestial Camel" directed by Yuriy Feting

The documentary jury is Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News-Democrat and Y98; Martha Baker, KDHX; Diane Carson, KDHX; and Colin Jeffery, KTRS.

The narrative jury is Jim Batts (chair), We Are Movie Geeks; Robert Hunt, Riverfront Times; Cate Marquis, We Are Movie Geeks and St. Louis Jewish Light; Tom Stockman, editor and creative director of the We Are Movie Geeks; and Jim Tudor, TwitchFilm.com and ZekeFilm.org.


Previous SLIFF Lifetime Achievement Award winners include directors Michael Apted, 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, Ken Burns, Steve James, Albert Maysles, and Stanley Nelson; comedian Harry Shearer; and animators Bill Plympton and Michael Sporn.

Charles Burnett

Called "the nation's least-known great filmmaker and most gifted black director" by the New York Times, Charles Burnett received even less qualified praise from the Chicago Tribune, which simply declared him "one of America's very best filmmakers." A multi-hyphenate — director, producer, writer, editor, actor, photographer, and cinematographer — Burnett has worked and excelled in virtually every form of motion media: feature narratives and documentaries, shorts, and TV movies and series.

Born in Mississippi, Burnett grew up in LA’s Watts, a background that  continues to inform his work. While pursuing an M.F.A. at UCLA’s film school, he became a member of the Black Independent Movement — sometimes called the LA Rebellion — and worked with such fellow students as Julie Dash, Haile Gerima, and Billy Woodberry on groudbreaking projects. Burnett’s key fiction films include “Killer of Sheep” (1978), “My Brother's Wedding” (1983), “To Sleep with Anger” (1990), and “The Glass Shield” (1994), but he’s equally adept in nonfiction. Among his documentaries are “America Becoming” (1991), “Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property” (2003), and “Warming by the Devil's Fire” (2003), which was part of the Martin Scorsese-produced TV series “The Blues.”

Burnett has won numerous awards for his film and TV work, including the AFI’s Maya Deren Independent Film and Video Artists Award, a pair of Independent Spirit Awards, and a Special Jury Recognition at the Sundance Film Festival. Howard University presented him with its Paul Robeson Award for achievement in cinema.

With the St. Louis Public Library, SLIFF co-presents free screenings on Nov. 6 of two Burnett masterpieces: “Killer of Sheep” in the afternoon at the Central Library and a new restoration of “To Sleep with Anger” in the evening at the Tivoli. 

Jerry Lewis

A Hollywood legend, a consummate entertainer, and a world-renowned humanitarian, Jerry Lewis is one of “The Most Recognized Personalities on the Planet,” according to Newsweek magazine. Lewis has received global acclaim for his comedy, earning deserved comparisons with the great silent comedians Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

First appearing on stage at age 5, Lewis performed alongside his parents in vaudeville and began performing stand-up at the age of 15. His rise to fame began in 1946, at the age of 20, when he teamed with Dean Martin to form a wildy popular duo act. Still performing at the age of 85, Lewis has appeared in more than 50 films and directed a dozen movies, including such classics as “The Ladies Man” (1961) and “The Nutty Professor” (1963). Among Lewis’ numerous awards are two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (one for film and the other for television) and a Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy at the American Comedy Awards.

SLIFF serves as a co-presenter of the Family Arena’s “An Evening with Jerry Lewis” on the evening of Nov. 12. Earlier the same day, at Webster U., the fest presents a free double bill: the documentary “Jerry Lewis: The Man Behind the Clown” and one of the director’s most iconic comedies, “The Nutty Professor.”

Gordon Quinn

Artistic director and founding member of Chicago’s Kartemquin Films — which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year — Gordon Quinn is the consummate documentary filmmaker. Roger Ebert called his first film, “Home for Life” (1966), "an extraordinarily moving documentary." The film  established the direction Quinn would take for the next five decades, making cinéma vérité films that investigate and critique society by documenting the unfolding lives of real people.

Kartemquin’s best-known film, “Hoop Dreams” (1994), was executive-produced by Quinn. His directorial work includes “Prisoner of Her Past” and “A Good Man,” about the dancer Bill T. Jones. Quinn’s recent films as executive producer include “The Interrupters” (2011), “The Trials of Muhammad Ali” (2013), “Life Itself” (2014), “The Homestretch” (2014), and the six-part series “Hard Earned” (2015).

Quinn has won numerous awards throughout his career, including the International Documentary Association’s  2015 Career Achievement Award.

As part of SLIFF’s “Mean Streets” programming, the fest screens a trio of Quinn’s shorts — including a new work-in-progress, “’63 Boycott” — at Washington U.’s Brown Hall on Nov. 6. The fest also features two other Kartemquin films: “No Crossover” by Steve James, a former Lifetime Achievement Award winner, and Margaret Byrne’s “Raising Bertie.”

Kim Tucci

Kim Tucci’s service to the St. Louis region includes investing in the community, raising funds to fight disease, and enabling projects of civic pride. And still, somehow, he finds time to enjoy the movies. While many cinephiles would be content with outings to the local multiplex, Tucci has put his love of film to greater use by serving on the board of Cinema St. Louis for the past decade, chairing the organization since 2008. He also served for many years as chair of the Missouri Film Commission.

A lifelong St. Louisan, Tucci earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Saint Louis University. He later served on the university’s Board of Trustees and remains as chair of the SLU Billiken Club. After a 13-year career as a teacher and coach at both the high-school and college levels, Tucci — with partners Joe Fresta and John Ferrara — founded the Pasta House Co. restaurant chain. Still going strong more than 40 years ago, the Pasta House has become a St. Louis institution. Among the innumerable organizations he’s helped lead as chair or president are the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, Missouri Athletic Club, and St. Louis Ambassadors. Tucci’s lengthy list of honors includes more that 25 Man of the Year awards from civic organizations.

SLIFF pays homage at “Tribute to Kim Tucci” — which includes a screening of “Harold and Maude,” one of his favorite films — at the new Delmar Hall on Nov. 9. 

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

Brian Hohlfeld

Native St. Louisan Brian Hohlfeld has worked in the film industry for more than 30 years. After a successful stint as an actor and director in local theater, Hohlfeld  headed to LA to establish himself as a screenwriter.

Hohlfeld’s best-known screenplay remains “He Said, She Said” (1991), but he also wrote the TV movie “On the 2nd Day of Christmas” (1997) and was responsible for numerous uncredited feature rewrites, including work on “The Mighty Ducks.” Taking a break from Hollywood, Hohlfeld returned to St. Louis, where he directed the documentary “A Magical Life: Circus Flora” (2004) and “Abdul Loves Cleopatra” (2005).

Hohlfeld’s career took another turn when he wrote “Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year” (2002), and he soon became Disney’s go-to Pooh specialist. His other Milne-inspired works include “Piglet's Big Movie” (2003), “Pooh's Heffalump Movie” (2005), “Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie” (2005), and the TV series “My Friends Tigger & Pooh.” For his work on the latter, Hohlfeld received the 2008 Humanitas Prize for children’s animation. Now back in LA, Hohlfeld continues to specialize in animation, and his series as writer and producer have included Disney’s “A Poem Is …” and “Transformers: Rescue Bots.”

SLIFF screens the Hohlfeld-written “He Said, She Said” — co-directed by the husband-and-wife team of Ken Kwapis (a former Cinema St. Louis Award honoree) and Marisa Silver — at a free event at Webster U. on the fest’s closing night, Nov. 13.

Marlon West

Marlon West, a native St. Louisan, co-leads the Walt Disney Animation Studio’s effects department in both creative and technical direction. His latest work is “Moana,” which has an enormous scope of effects, including water and lava at an epic scale.

West has been with Disney since 1993, when he came aboard as a trainee effects animator. His credits include “The Lion King,” “Pocahontas,” and “Chicken Little” as effects animator; “Tarzan” as visual effects animator; “Fantasia/2000” as assistant effects supervisor; “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” and “Winnie the Pooh” as visual effects supervisor; the short “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater” as effects supervisor; and “The Princess and the Frog” as effects animation supervisor. West served alongside fellow head of effects Dale Mayedaas as effects supervisor for 2013’s Oscar®-winning “Frozen,” and he also worked on the Oscar®-winning short “Feast.”

West presents the free program “Behind the Scenes of Disney’s ‘Moana’” at Webster U. on Nov. 10.

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

Karen Allen

Born in Carrollton, Ill., Karen Allen moved to New York City to study art and design at the Fashion Institute of Technology (an early interest that later manifested in her own textile company, Karen Allen Fiber Arts). In 1974, she joined Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts, but moved back to New York three years later to study at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute.

Allen made her major-film debut in “National Lampoon's Animal House” (1978) and acted in such films as “The Wanderers” (1979) and “Cruising” (1980). She then did a star-making turn as Marion Ravenwood, Indiana Jones’ fiercely independent love interest and sparring partner in Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981). Subsequent credits include “Shoot the Moon” (1982), “Starman” (1984), “The Glass Menagerie” (1987), “Scrooged” (1988), the St. Louis-shot “King of the Hill” (1993), “The Perfect Storm” (2000), and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008).

SLIFF screens Allen’s newest work, “Year by the Sea,” at the Tivoli on Nov. 12. Her performance in the film has already earned Allen a quartet of acting awards on the festival circuit.

Kimberly Steward

Native St. Louisan Kimberly Steward is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and producer. In 2013, she formed K Period Media, a company that develops, finances, and produces story-driven, commercially viable, and thought-provoking content. K Period Media’s releases to date include the noted documentaries “Opposite Fields” and “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People,” and the forthcoming “Looking for Terry.”

Steward inherited both a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a gift for philanthropy from parents David and Thelma Steward. Her father founded the highly successful systems-integration firm World Wide Technology. Steward gained an appreciation for movies from her mother, a film buff who introduced her to master moviemakers such as Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, and Alfred Hitchcock.

The much-lauded “Manchester by the Sea,” which Steward co-produced, plays at the Tivoli on Nov. 5.