The 31st Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival announces award winners and attendance results

15 November 2022
For additional press information, contact Marla Stoker (314-973-5525 or of Bree Maniscalco (314-289-4154 or

The 31st Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival announces award winners and attendance results
The 31st Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) was held both in person and online from Nov. 3-13, 2022. The fest had a total estimated viewership of 18,923, including 11,627 St. Louis-area students who participated in our free Cinema for Students program. There were 5,745 in-person attendees and 1,551 online viewers. A note on methodology: Because most virtual programs were watched at home by more than a single person, online viewership was estimated by multiplying the number of total programs purchased (886) by 1.75.

SLIFF screened 256 films: 50 documentary features, 55 narrative features, 58 documentary shorts, and 88 narrative shorts. There were an additional 15 film programs exclusive to Cinema for Students. The fest also featured seven special events: three master classes, a tribute to CSL’s former executive director, Cliff Froehlich, two filmmaker receptions, and the closing-night awards presentation.

A total of 32 programs were offered for free and 40 virtual programs were offered at a discounted price of $5. In addition, all in-person screenings of the 21 shorts programs were offered for only $5.

This year’s festival featured films from 42 countries in 35 languages. With films representing 6 continents, the international films delivered memorable moments for SLIFF audiences. Highlights included “Broker,” the latest from Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda (“Shoplifters”), “Corsage,” Austria’s Official Oscar® Entry for Best International Feature Film for the 95th annual awards in 2023, “The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future,” “Holy Spider,” “Mars One,” Brazil’s Official Oscar® Entry for Best International Feature Film for the 95th annual awards in 2023, and “You Resemble Me.”

The festival kicked off with a screening of “Empire of Light,” starring Olivia Colman and Colin Firth, and a screening of Alex Winter’s (“Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure”) latest documentary, “The YouTube Effect.”
On the festival’s final weekend, SLIFF offered a Tribute to Cliff Froehlich for his nearly two decades of service and presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his many contributions to Cinema St. Louis.


The following juried competition and audience-choice awards were presented:
Shorts Awards
Two juries choose the winners of the following seven awards from among the shorts in competition:

  • Best of Fest: “Ice Merchants,” directed by João Gonzalez
  • Best Animated Short: “Rosemary A.D. (After Dad),” directed by Ethan Barrett
  • Best Documentary Short: “Last Days of August,” directed by Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck
  • Best International Short: “All the Crows in the World,” directed by Yi Tang
  • Best Live Action Short: “In the Jam Jar,” directed by Colin Nixon
  • Best Local Short: “World Skin,” directed by Van McElwee
  • Best Short Short (less than 5 minutes): “Who is Syd?”, directed by Gabriel Hunter Sheets

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 consisted of Chris Aaron, filmmaker and assistant professor of film and animation at Webster University; Sarah Baraba, educator, writer, and co-owner of Arkadin Cinema & Bar; Lindsay Berkebile, a stop-motion animator and director for Adult Swim and projects such as “Robot Chicken,” “Super Mansion,” “Crossing Swords,” and “Psycho Psalms”; Drew Edelstein, communications specialist, and contributor to Cinema St. Louis' The Lens; Keith Watson, attorney, film critic, and co-owner of Arkadin Cinema & Bar.

The documentary-shorts jury was Ben Scholle, documentary filmmaker and Senior Professor of Cinema Arts at Lindenwood University; Leigh Kolb, assistant professor of English and journalism and freelance writer for outlets such as Vulture and Women and Hollywood; Darian Wigfall, founder of St. Louis art and music imprint FarFetched.

St. Louis Film Critics Association 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 composed of St. Louis film critics. SLIFF chose eight films to compete in each category.

The narrative jury is Jim Batts (chair), We Are Movie Geeks; Max Foizey, KTRS Radio, and ZekeFilm; Cate Marquis, We Are Movie Geeks and St. Louis Jewish Light; and Alex McPherson,

The documentary jury is Lynn Venhaus (chair), Martha Baker, KDHX Radio; and Jim Tudor, Zekefilm.

  • The Joe Williams Best Documentary Feature: “Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West,” directed by Ashley Avis
  • The Joe Pollack Best Narrative Feature: “Holy Spider,” directed by Ali Abbasi

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

The NFF jury was Andrea Sporcic Klund (chair), Film Commissioner, Missouri Film Office; Joe Bilancio, Director of Programming, OUTshine Film Festival; Veronica Loncar, Artistic Director, Kansas City Film Festival; Katie McCullough, Film Festival Strategist & Founder, Festival Formula; and Lela Meadow-Conner, Creative Producer, Curator & Founder, Mama Film


  • The Bobbie Award: “Land of Gold,” directed by Nardeep Khurmi

The jury gave a special commendation to lead child actress Caroline Valencia for her heartbreaking performance as Elena in “Land of Gold.”
The jury also granted a special ensemble acting award to the film “Freedom’s Path” with special commendation to lead actor RJ Cyler for his powerful performance as Kitch.

Spotlight on Inspiration Documentary Award
Sponsored by the Albrecht Family
This juried competition awards a $5,000 prize to a feature documentary that focuses on people working to make the world a better place and that inspires audience members and leaves them with a sense of hope for the future.

The jury consisted of Barry Albrecht (chair), partner with the Bodley Group and director of the Albrecht Family Foundation; Katie Carter, film critic at; Novotny Lawrence, associate professor in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication and the English Department at Iowa State University, author of Blaxploitation Films of the 1970s: Blackness and Genre, co-editor of Beyond Blaxploitation, and Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Popular Culture; Colin O'Brien, St. Louis-based theater, concert, and event producer; Kenya Vaughn, journalist, film critic, and St. Louis American contributing editor; David Wraith, a Saint Louis native writer, filmmaker, sex educator, activist, and co-founder of Sex Positive St. Louis.


  • The Spotlight on Inspiration Documentary Award: “Of Medicine and Miracles,” directed by Ross Kauffma


Best of Fest Audience Choice Awards

  • Audience voting determines the winner of three awards from among the films in the competition:
  • Best Film Award: “The Pink Lagoon,” directed by Juan Arce and Francisco Gallo
  • Leon Award for Best Documentary (named in memory of the late civic leader Leon Strauss): “Night Life,” directed by Seth Ferranti
  • Best International Film: “Memories of My Father,” directed by Fernando Trueba