Best Film Award

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

TV5MONDE Award for Best International Film

In addition to SLIFF’s annual audience awards, the fest is partnering with the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality to present a new award. Attendees of the organization’s virtual conference, which coincides with SLIFF, have viewed the three films — “Cured,” “The Dilemma of Desire,” and “Transhood” — in the program that SSSS is co-presenting with the fest. They have voted on the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Documentary Film Award, which is accompanied by a $500 cash prize.

Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Documentary Film Award

Sponsored by Zoe Dawn Peterson and Brian Woodman


Essy Award for Best St. Louis Film

Sponsored by the Chellappa-Vedavalli Foundation

SLIFF inaugurates a new juried competition at this year’s festival: The Essy Award, which honors a work — short or feature — either made in St. Louis or by a filmmaker with ties to the area. The award is accompanied by a $500 prize underwritten by the Chellappa-Vedavalli Foundation.

Films: 33 and Counting, 46 Years, Always Coming Back, America’s Last Little Italy, The Annotated Field Guide of Ulysses S. Grant, Are You Alright?, Augustus, The Ballad of John Henry, The Black Artists’ Group, Dear Leo, Descend, Diary of a Teenage Zealot, Driving Louise, Easy-Bake, Encounters, Flannery, For Ismet, For Plant’s Sake, Green Cheese Moon, Growing for Good, The Hat, The Honest Work of Farming, The King and the Pawn, The Lineman, Momma’s Boy, Natchez, Not Suitable, On Task, One Brick Shy: Episode One, One Cold Morning, The Oratorio, Orville + Bob, Queen of Hearts, Taboo Teaching, Test Pattern, Thoughts and Prayers, A Threat to Justice, Tin Box, Turf Nation, Underground, Valley Relics, Wake Up, Within the Silence, Zappa

The jury is Diane Carson, former professor of film at the St. Louis Community College at Meramec, longtime film critic for the Riverfront Times and KDHX, and co-director of “Other People's Footage”; Jody Mitori, former A&E editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and director of development and communication for the True/False film fest, and current managing editor in the Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing for the University of Missouri-Columbia; Jack Snyder, director of the narrative features "Ghost Image" and “Fatal Call” and the TV movie “Family of Lies”; Andrew Wyatt, editor of and film critic for Cinema St. Louis' The Lens film blog; and Sam Zvibleman, co-creator, co-writer, and director of Hulu's “PEN15.”

Interfaith Awards

Juries give Interfaith Awards to both a documentary and a narrative, choosing from among eight films 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: Ask No Questions, Hamtramck, USA, Opeka, The Oratorio, A Place to Breathe, The Rabbi Goes West, The Reunited States, Wake Up

Narratives: 9,75, Here We Are, I Am You, My Name Is Sarah, Oligase, Omar and Us, Papicha, There Is No Evil,

The documentary jury is Delcia Corlew, Janet Herrmann, Bruce MacKenzie, Pier Marton, Dr. Phil Moy, Sandra Olmsted, and Pat Scallet.

The narrative jury is Greg Hoeltzel, Jane Hoeltzel, Paul Marsh, Pier Marton, Alma Merabet, Sandra Olmsted, Saruul Purev, and Joya Uraizee.

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: Easy-Bake, Killing Eleanor, The Last Rafter, A Shot Through the Wall, Small Time

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 David Edelstein (head), contributor to "CBS Sunday Morning" and former film critic for New York magazine, NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Slate, New York Post, Village Voice, and Boston Phoenix. ; Catherine Dudley-Rose, director of “Parallel Chords” (NFF competitor at SLIFF 2018); Andy Friedenberg, founder and director of the Cinema Society of San Diego; Cait Lore, contributor to Cinema St. Louis’ The Lens film blog; and Calvin Wilson, theater critic and former film critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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, filmmaker and assistant professor of film and animation at Webster University; Lindsay Berkebile, a stop-motion animator and director for Adult Swim and projects such as “Robot Chicken,” “Super Mansion,” “Crossing Swords,” and “Psycho Psalms”; Britta Buescher, a member of Women in Animation and a creative director specializing in the development of original animated content; Colin O'Brien, theater, festival, and concert producer; Brad Schiff, head of animation at LAIKA (“Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” “The Missing Link”) and Oscar nominee for “Kubo and the Two Strings”; Kenya Vaughn, journalist, film critic, and St. Louis American contributing editor; Keith Watson, attorney, film critic, and co-owner of Arkadin Cinema & Bar. 

The documentary-shorts jury is Alison Carrick, reference and outreach supervisor for the Department of Special Collections at Washington U. Libraries and co-director of “The First Secret City”; Frank Popper, director of “Gentlemen of Vision” and “Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?”; and Ranell Shubert, awards competition manager at the International Documentary Association (IDA)

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.

Films: The Black Artists’ Group, For the Love of Rutland, Opeka, The Place That Makes Us, The Reunited States, Revival, The Road Up, Waging Change

The jury is Barry Albrecht, partner with the Bodley Group and director of the Albrecht Family Foundation; Kayla McCulloch, contributor to Cinema St. Louis’ The Lens film blog; Joshua Ray, contributor to Cinema St. Louis’ The Lens film blog; Orlando Thompson, filmmaker and SLIFF documentary-shorts programmer; Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo, assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, senior lecturer in African and African-American Studies, and coordinator of the African Film Festival at Washington University.

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: 9to5, Cured, The Dilemma of Desire, Finding Yingying, MLK/FBI, Queen of Hearts, River City Drumbeat, Unapologetic 

Narratives: Aleksi, Beasts Clawing at Straws, Coming Home Again, The Invisible Witness, La Nave, The Night of the Beast, Nina Wu, Test Pattern

The documentary jury is Lynn Venhaus (chair), Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS; Robert Hunt, Riverfront Times; and Carl Middleman, KTRS.

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