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The Pink Lagoon directed by Juan Arce and Francisco Gallo - 31st Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival award winners
The Pink Lagoon directed by Juan Arce and Francisco Gallo

The Pink Lagoon directed by Juan Arce and Francisco Gallo took the Best of Fest Audience Choice – Best Film Award at the 31st Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF). The film stars actress Monica Arce as Marian, a fiercely independent, twentysomething young woman with Down’s syndrome who loves ballet, art, and living her best life.

In the Oscar qualifying Shorts Award category, Best of Fest went to Ice Merchants directed by João Gonzalez, Best Animated Short went to Rosemary A.D. (After Dad) directed by Ethan Barrett, Best Documentary Short went to Last Days of August directed by Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck; and Best Live Action Short went to In the Jam Jar directed by Colin Nixon. 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.

SLIFF screened 256 films: 50 documentary features, 55 narrative features, 58 documentary shorts, and 88 narrative shorts. This year’s festival featured films from 42 countries in 35 languages. 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 following juried competition and audience-choice awards were presented:

Shorts Awards

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

St. Louis Film Critics Association Joe Pollack and Joe Williams Awards

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 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

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

Best of Fest Audience Choice Awards

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

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