2021 SLIFF Awards


Charles Guggenheim Cinema St. Louis Award

Previous winners of the Charles Guggenheim Cinema St. Louis Award — which honors St. Louisans making significant contributions to the art of film — include Josh Aronson, Michael Beugg, Cedric the Entertainer, Jim Finn, Jenna Fischer, Bob Gale, Jane Gillooly, the Charles Guggenheim family, James Gunn, George Hickenlooper, Brian Hohlfeld, Ken Kwapis, Jeremy Lasky, Dan Mirvish, AJ Schnack, Timothy J. Sexton, Brad Schiff, Marlon West, Beau Willimon, and Alex Winter.

Nina Gilden Seavey

Nina SeaveyNina Gilden Seavey is an Emmy Award-winning documentarian with a 30-year career in the nonfiction world. Her media projects can be seen in theaters, on television, in ancillary media, and in museum exhibitions, and heard in podcasts across the globe. She is the president of Seavey Media (seaveymedia.com). Her program “My Fugitive” — based on her podcast — is a special event at this year’s SLIFF

Nina is a St. Louis native and graduate of University City High School. She attended Washington University, earning a B.A. in history and French literature. Before moving to the East Coast to become a documentarian, Nina worked in Missouri politics. As office manager for the Missouri State Headquarters, she was the youngest paid staff member of the McGovern for President Campaign in 1972. She later worked in St. Louis for the United Farm Workers Union, Tom Eagleton for Senate, and Morris Udall for President.

Nina is the founding director of the Documentary Center in the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University. She holds the academic rank of full research professor of history and media and public affairs, with appointments both in the Department of History and in the School of Media and Public Affairs.

Nina’s documentaries — which include “Parables of War” (2015), “4th and Goal” (2010), “The Ballad of Bering Strait” (2003), and “A Paralyzing Fear: The Story of Polio in America” (1998) — have won numerous awards, including five National Emmy nominations (one statue awarded), the Erik Barnouw Prize for Best Historical Film of the Year, the Golden Hugo, the Cine Special Jury Prize, the Telly Award, the Italian National Olympic Cup for Best Sports Film, and the Peter C. Rollins Prize for Best Film in American Culture.   

Nina has received a number of professional accolades, including being named one of the top 50 professors of journalism in the U.S. Among other industry awards, she received a commendation for “Outstanding Service to the Industry” by Discovery Communications and was named a “Woman of Vision” by Women in Film and Video.

In addition to her numerous film and media productions and work as an educator, in 2002, Nina became the founding director of Silverdocs: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival (now AFI Docs). She built the festival into the largest documentary festival in the U.S.

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, Marco Williams, and Terry Zwigoff.

Robert Greene

Robert GreeneRobert Greene’s latest film, “Procession” — which opens this year’s SLIFF — premiered at the 2021 Telluride Film Festival and will be distributed by Netflix. His previous critically acclaimed film, “Bisbee ’17” (2018), premiered at Sundance, aired on PBS’s “P.O.V.,” and was nominated for Best Documentary at the Gotham Awards.

His films include the Sundance award-winning “Kate Plays Christine” (2016), the Gotham Awards-nominated “Actress” (2014) and the Gotham Awards-nominated “Kati with an I” (2010).

Robert was an inaugural Sundance Art of Nonfiction fellow in 2015 and has been thrice nominated for Best Director at the Cinema Eye Honors. The Independent named Robert one of their 10 Filmmakers to Watch in 2014, and he received the 2014 Vanguard Artist Award from the San Francisco DocFest. His first documentary, “Owning the Weather” (2009), was screened at the COP15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Robert has edited more than a dozen features, including “Her Smell” (2018), “Golden Exits” (2017), “Queen of Earth” (2015), and “Listen up Philip” (2014) by Alex Ross Perry; Nick Berardini’s “Killing Them Safely” (2015); Amanda Rose Wilder’s award-winning “Approaching the Elephant” (2014); Charles Poekel’s Independent Spirit Awards-nominated “Christmas, Again” (2015); and Douglas Tirola’s “Hey Bartender” (2013).

He has served as a Sundance Edit Lab Advisor and was on the U.S. Documentary Jury for the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Robert co-created the Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the University of Missouri and serves as its filmmaker-in-chief.

Robert writes about documentary for outlets such as Sight & Sound and Hyperallergic, and he co-programs the Based on a True Story Conference, which runs annually in conjunction with the True/False Film Fest.

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, John Goodman, 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, Sam Pollard, and Gordon Quinn; comedians Jerry Lewis and Harry Shearer; animators Bill Plympton and Michael Sporn; Tivoli Theatre savior Joe Edwards; and longtime Cinema St. Louis chair Kim Tucci.

Mary Strauss

Mary StraussMary Strauss is best known to St. Louis audiences as the woman who — with her late husband, Leon — saved the historic St. Louis Fox Theatre, a 4,500-seat restored movie palace, and helped establish Grand Center, St. Louis' Arts and Entertainment District. Mary served as the director of restoration for the year-long undertaking. Today, Mary is one of the co-owners of the Fox Theatre and Fox Theatricals in New York, which has produced Broadway plays, musicals, West End productions, and national tours. Fox Theatricals’ productions have received 250 Tony Award nominations, winning 68 Tony Awards.

Mary has spent her life promoting and supporting the arts in St. Louis. She underwrites an annual Women in the Arts lecture at the Saint Louis Art Museum. In 2015, Mary created a 24-inch St. Louis skyline die-cut card whose proceeds benefit Landmarks Association of St. Louis. Mary was the underwriter/major contributor for several major exhibits at the Sheldon Art Galleries, including the 2013 exhibit “Glamour: Costumes and Images,” which gave visitors a glimpse into the magical world of showbiz glamour through the decades, and the 2012 exhibit “Al Hirschfeld’s Jazz and Broadway Scrapbook,” which featured more than 100 original drawings, paintings, prints, collages, posters, and ephemera from Hirschfeld’s storied career as an illustrator of film, theater, and jazz figures. Mary was the major underwriter and an active participant in the Sheldon Art Galleries’ Centennial Celebration of Josephine Baker in St. Louis. “Josephine Baker: Image & Icon” was also exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Mary created, produced, and chaired the Titanic Centennial Weekend in St. Louis from April 13-15, 2012, with five sold-out events. She is the creator and producer of the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation’s annual St. Louis Teen Talent Showcase Competition, a bistate metropolitan-area-wide competition that showcases the talents of high-school seniors in the performing arts.

In the 1980s, she created and produced the long-running Monday Night at the Movies at the Fox Theatre. Mary served as president of the St. Louis International Film Festival for seven years. She served as producer of the documentary film “Eroica!,” which aired for three years on the national PBS program “Independent Lens” and screened at film festivals across the country and at American embassies around the world. Mary served as an executive producer of Civil Pictures’ multiple-award-winning documentary film “The Gateway Arch: A Reflection of America” and provided production support for Civil Pictures’ multiple-award-winning documentary “The World’s Greatest Fair.”

Currently, Mary serves as the president of the board of Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation; as president of the board of Cabaret St. Louis; as a member of the National Society of Arts and Letters; and as the president of the board of Art Access, Inc./Stan Kann Scholarship Fund.

Her past board affiliations include the national advisory board of the American Film Institute; the executive committee of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra; the executive committee of Dance St. Louis; the executive committee of Grand Center; the board of the St. Louis Fashion Fund; and, as president, the board of the Tennessee Williams Festival.

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, Lisa Cortés, Nina Davenport, Pam Grier, Barbara Hammer, Marsha Hunt, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Melanie Mayron, Katie Mustard, Rosemary Rodriguez, Ry Russo-Young, Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, Kimberly Steward, Yvonne Welbon, and Pamela Yates.

Deborah Riley Draper

Deborah DraperDeborah Riley Draper is a filmmaker, storyteller, and two-time NAACP Image Award nominee in Outstanding Literary Work — Biography and Outstanding Documentary. Deborah brings a unique perspective to filmmaking forged from her breakthrough ad campaigns with BBDO and Ogilvy and her cultural curiosity as a documentarian.

In September 2021, the Ad Council recognized Deborah as their Champion for Good. Deborah brought her creative lens to their vital Covid-19 Vaccine Education Initiative. Deborah wrote and directed a short-form documentary and commercial campaign highlighting stories from descendants of the U.S. Public Health Services Syphilis Study at Tuskegee to build confidence in public health within Black communities, primarily related to the Covid-19 vaccines.

Deborah produced and directed the two-part docu-series “The Legacy of Black Wall Street” on OWN to elevate awareness of the Greenwood community on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre. Her “Twenty Pearls” — which screens at SLIFF —  is a documentary homage to the 113 years of history and sisterhood of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and is the first original documentary to premiere on Comcast Xfinity's Black Experience platform. The film, which received the HBO Max Best Documentary Award at the 2021 Martha’s Vineyards African American Film Festival, features Vice President Kamala Harris.

Deborah co-wrote “Force of Beauty,” a memoir about three Black matriarchs in Newark, released in February 2021. Draper will direct her screen adaptation of the classic coming-of-age novel “Coffee Will Make You Black” in late 2022. In 2019, Deborah directed television icon Jasmine Guy in “Illegal Rose,” an award-winning short film about immigration.

Draper was a 2016 Film Independent Lab Fellow and was named one of Variety’s “2016 Top 10 Documakers to Watch.” Her NAACP Image Award-nominated documentary “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice,” the untold story of 18 African Americans who defied Hitler and Jim Crow at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games, was one of only three nominees for the 2017 Peace and Sport Award in Monaco, presented by HRH Prince Albert.

While working full-time as a vice president at Madison Avenue’s stalwart BBDO, Deborah wrote, directed, and financed her debut film, “Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution.” The film has become a fashion cult classic after opening New York Fashion Week and Toronto Fashion Week and enjoying a coveted broadcast premiere spot on Logo TV, following “Ru-Paul’s Drag Race.” MOMA, SCAD, Guggenheim Bilboa, and the de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco integrated the film with significant fashion exhibitions. Fox Searchlight optioned the feature rights to the film.

A TEDx speaker, Facebook Seen Initiative alum, and active member of the WGA Black Committee of Writers, Deborah is an Atlanta resident and FSU alumna who recently completed the 2020 inaugural cohort of the Georgetown University Law Center Executive Certificate Program in Arts and Cultural Heritage.


Audience Choice Awards

Online and in-person audience voting determined the winner of seven awards from among the films in competition. 

Online (for films offered virtually):

  • Best Documentary Short: Hammond’s Books, directed by Joshua Mullins
  • Best Narrative Short: Mila, directed by Cinzia Angelini
  • Best Documentary Feature: And So I Stayed, directed by Natalie Pattillo & Daniel A. Nelson
  • Best Narrative Feature: Gossamer Folds, directed by Lisa Donato

In Person (for films offered at in-person screenings):

  • Leon Award for Best Documentary Feature: Twenty Pearls: The Story of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, directed by Deborah Riley Draper 
  • TV5MONDE Award for Best International Feature: Belfast, directed by Kenneth Branagh
  • Best Narrative Feature: After We’re Over, directed by Nate Myers
      Essy Award for Best St. Louis Film 

      Sponsored by the Chellappa-Vedavalli Foundation

      The Essy Award 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: After We're Over, All Gone Wrong, Alumination, Babes in the Woods, By the Sea, Castle Hill, Cave, Delicate State, DesMotivaciones, Ephemeral, every.single.one (karuna), Face Mask, Ghostbusters: South-Side (A Fan Film), The Final 19, Hammond’s Books, I Am Kinloch, The Kinloch Doc, Lake Loch Pond Monster, Magic in the Mountains, Martyrs, Badgers & Other Rodents, Maxi, Monument, New Year, Once a Hero, Postcards, Sleepwalker, Target: St. Louis Vol. 1, Try Harder!, Woolgathering, Zig Zag

      The jury was Ryan Eslinger (chair), former St. Louis-area resident and director of “Madness and Genius,” “When a Man Falls in the Forest,” “Daniel and Abraham,” and “UFO”; Kayla McCulloch, contributor to Cinema St. Louis’ The Lens film blog; 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”; and Andrew Wyatt, editor of and film critic for the Cinema St. Louis blog The Lens.

      The winner:

      • Try Harder!, directed by Debbie Lum
      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: Berrigans: Devout and Dangerous, The Boys Who Said No!, Ferguson Rises, From the Hood to the Holler, Keep the Cameras Rolling, Mission: Joy, The Neutral Ground, Since I Been Down 

      Narratives: 200 Meters, Any Day Now, Confetti, Hive, Neighbours, A Son, The Teacher, Unsilenced

      The documentary jury was Janet Herrmann, Paul Marsh, Pier Marton, Dr. Phil Moy, and Pat Scallet.

      The narrative jury was Delcia Corlew, Greg Hoeltzel, Jane Hoeltzel, Alma Merabet, and Saruul Purev.

      The winners:

      • Best Documentary Feature: Berrigans: Devout and Dangerous, directed by Susan Hagedorn
      • Best Narrative Feature: 200 Meters, directed by Ameen Nayfeh
      NFF Emerging Director Award: The Bobbie

      Sponsored by Barry & Jackie Albrecht and Pat Scallett

      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: Delicate State, Papaw Land, Shellfish, Walk with Me, We Burn Like This

      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 was Catherine Dudley-Rose (chair), director of “Parallel Chords” (NFF competitor at SLIFF 2018); Daniel Gartner, producer of “The Ghost Who Walks” (NFF competitor at SLIFF 2019); Aisha Sultan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist and director of the documentary short “33 and Counting”; Joni Tackette, casting director at Joni Tackette Casting; and Nate Townsend, director of the narrative short “The Lipinski” and the documentary feature “Wake Up.”

      The winner:

      • Shellfish, directed by Hunter Hopewell
      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 was Katie Carter, freelance film critic and owner of katieatthemovies.com; Melissa Howland, film critic, pop culture/horror aficionado, and multiple sclerosis/invisible illness advocate in LA; Michael Long, 2D animator and assistant professor of animation at Webster University; Brandon McKinney, cult/horror film scholar, independent critic at AttackOfTheFeature.com, and associate professor of mass communications at Lindenwood University; Alexandra “Alex” Mitchell, film and TV festival programmer, including Austin Film Festival, SeriesFest, Atlanta Film Festival, and 1261 Film Festival; Kristina Monllos, short filmmaker and senior marketing editor at Digiday; Kristin Pratt, final layout and assembly lead at Animal Logic and member of the Visual Effects Society (VES); Steph Shannon, Kansas City Film Office director and certified film commissioner; and Kenya Vaughn, journalist, film critic, and St. Louis American contributing editor.

      The documentary-shorts jury was 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, producer of the "What’s Up with Docs" podcast and former awards competition manager at the International Documentary Association (IDA).

      The winners:

      • Best Documentary Short: E14, directed by Peiman Zekavat
      • Best Short Short: Autumn Leaves, directed by Wojciech Ostrycharz
      • Best International Short: The Danger in Front, directed by Alexis Chartrand
      • Best Animated Short: Mila, directed by Cinzia Angelini
      • Best Live Action Short: Dana, directed by Lucía Forner Segarra
      • Best of Fest Short: The Letter Room, directed by Elvira Lind
      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: Beijing Spring, A Fire Within, The First Step, For the Left Hand, Medicine Man, A Once and Future Peace, To Which We Belong, Youth v Gov

      The jury was Barry Albrecht (chair), partner with the Bodley Group and director of the Albrecht Family Foundation; 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”; Joshua Ray, contributor to Cinema St. Louis’ The Lens film blog; Orlando Thompson, filmmaker and former SLIFF documentary-shorts programmer; and 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.

      The winner:

      • A Once and Future Peace, directed by Eric Daniel Metzgar
      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: Alien on Stage, Any Given Day, El Father Plays Himself, Hockeyland, Into the Light, North by Current, On the Divide, We Are the Thousand

      Narratives: 18½, All Gone Wrong, Clara Sola, The Falconer, France, Luzzu, The Pink Cloud, The Woman Who Ran

      The documentary jury was Lynn Venhaus (chair), Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio; Martha Baker, KDHX Radio; and Scott Betz, Avatar Studios.

      The narrative jury was 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, PopLifeSTL.com.

      The winners:

      • Best Documentary Feature: We Are the Thousand, directed by Anita Rivaroli
      • Best Narrative Feature: Luzzu, directed by Alex Camilleri