SLIFF 2020 announces award winners and attendance results

The 29th edition of the annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival worked a little differently this year, but if anything, the move to digital made it even easier to take part in the festivities. The festival is now complete after eighteen movie-packed days, and now the festival’s award winners have been announced. See below for the press release with the full list of winners, and click here to check out all of our SLIFF 2020 coverage here on The Arts STL.


The 29th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival announces award winners and attendance results

The 29th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) was held virtually from Nov. 5-22. The fest had a total estimated viewership of 26,100, including 10,400 St. Louis-area students who participated in our free Cinema for Students program. A note on methodology: Because most programs were watched at home by more than a single person, public viewership was estimated by multiplying the number of total programs streamed (8,942) by 1.75.

Because of the virtual nature of this year’s fest, viewers from outside the St. Louis area also participated in many programs, with 45 states and 32 countries represented.

SLIFF screened 374 films in 149 virtual screenings: 64 narrative features, 49 documentary features, 153 narrative shorts, and 108 documentary shorts. There were an additional three film programs exclusive to Cinema for Students. The fest also featured nine livestreamed special events, including six master classes and a New Filmmakers Forum roundtable. A total of 56 programs were offered for free. This year’s festival featured films from 64 countries in 46 languages.

The festival kicked off with a free opening-night special event featuring the documentary short “8:46” — which records a powerful performance by comedian Dave Chappelle in response to the killing of George Floyd — and a livestreamed conversation with Chappelle and the film’s Oscar-winning directors, Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert.

SLIFF concluded with the livestreamed closing-night awards presentation on the evening of Nov. 22. The following juried-competition and audience-choice awards were presented:

Shorts Awards 

Juries choose the winners of six awards from among the shorts in competition. 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.

  • Best Documentary Short: Colette, directed by Anthony Giacchino
  • Best Short Short: R.A.S., directed by Lucas Durkheim
  • Best International Short: The Cut, directed by Chloé Cinq-Mars
  • Best Animated Short: To the Dusty Sea, directed by Héloïse Ferlay
  • Best Live Action Short: Black Goat, directed by Yi Tang
  • Best of Fest Short: Josiah, directed by Kyle Laursen

Interfaith Awards 

Juries give Interfaith Awards to both a documentary and a narrative, choosing from among 16 competition films (eight 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.

  • Best Documentary Feature: A Place to Breathe, directed by Michelle Grace Steinberg
  • Best Narrative Feature: I Am You, directed by Sonia Nassery Cole

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.

  • Best Documentary Feature: 9to5: The Story of a Movement, directed by Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert
  • Best Narrative Feature: Beasts Clawing at Straws, directed by Kim Yong-Hoon

Essy Awards for Best St. Louis Films

Sponsored by the Chellappa-Vedavalli Foundation

SLIFF inaugurated a new juried competition at this year’s festival: The Essy Awards, which honor works either made in St. Louis or by a filmmaker with ties to the area. The awards — for Best Documentary Short, Best Narrative Short, Best Documentary Feature, and Best Narrative Feature — are accompanied by $250 prizes.

  • Best Documentary Short: I Want to Make a Film About Women, directed by Karen Pearlman
  • Best Narrative Short: Augustus, directed by Jon Alston
  • Best Documentary Feature: Zappa, directed by Alex Winter
  • Best Narrative Feature: Test Pattern, directed by Shatara Michelle Ford

New Filmmakers Forum Emerging Director Award (The Bobbie) 

Sponsored by Barry & Jackie Albrecht and Pat Scallet

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 as the Bobbie. Five works by first-time feature filmmakers competed for the prize, which includes a $500 cash award.

  • Small Time, directed by Niav Conty

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 Road Up, directed by Greg Jacobs & Jon Siskel

Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Documentary Award 

Sponsored by Zoe Dawn Peterson and Brian Woodman

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

  • Transhood, directed by Sharon Liese 

Best of Fest Audience Choice Awards 

Online audience voting determined the winner of five awards from among the films in competition.

  • Best Documentary Short: Always Coming Back, directed by Nate Townsend
  • Best Narrative Short: The Mirror, directed by Joel Kohn
  • Leon Award for Best Documentary Feature: God Save the Wings, directed by Adam Knapp & Kenneth Linn
  • TV5MONDE Award for Best International Feature: Beasts Clawing at Straws, directed by Kim Yong-Hoon
  • Best Narrative Feature: Asia, directed by Ruthy Pribar

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