And the Winner Is...

Although we here at Milwaukee Film fully believe in the egalitarian value of participation trophies and constant positive reinforcement, we also like to honor and celebrate the filmmakers who have exceeded expectations and whose films have defied imaginations.

Here's a roundup of awards given out in recent years, but please check out the Film Finder to see all the fantastic films that have graced the MFF's screens in past years.

Festival Awards & Past Winners

Abele Catalyst Award (Founders Award)

The Abele Catalyst Award, inspired by Milwaukee Film founder Chris Abele’s interest in having a catalytic and long-lasting positive impact on our community through film, is given annually to the person or organization whose generous support embodies that enthusiasm. The award recognizes a person (or persons) for their generous support of the nonprofit’s mission while honoring their efforts to think big, aim high, and understand we can always do better. 


  • 2021: Geraud Blanks
  • 2020: Allan H. "Bud" and Suzanne Selig
  • 2019: Alec Fraser
  • 2018: Christine Symchych
  • 2017: Brico Fund
  • 2016: Katie Heil
  • 2015: Donald & Donna Baumgartner
  • 2014: Marianne Lubar
  • 2013: Chris Abele
Allan H. (Bud) And Suzanne L. Selig Audience Awards

Thanks to the continued visionary support of Allan H. (Bud) and Suzanne L. Selig, Milwaukee Film is able to provide the city of Milwaukee with a vibrant, year-round cultural institution as well as the premier film festival in the Midwest. The Allan H. (Bud) and Suzanne L. Selig Audience Awards are awarded annually to the best feature and short films of the entire festival.


  • 2020: Us Kids
  • 2019: Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
  • 2018: Science Fair
  • 2017: The Blood is at the Doorstep
  • 2016: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
  • 2015: Romeo is Bleeding
  • 2014: Alive Inside
  • 2013: The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete
  • 2012: Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
  • 2011: Louder Than A Bomb
  • 2010: Waiting for “Superman”
  • 2009: Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire


  • 2020 (Tie): Selfish and The Quintet of the Sunset
  • 2019: Tree #3
  • 2018: Liberty Hill
  • 2017: The Tables
  • 2016: Joe’s Violin
  • 2015: Grounded (Au Sol)
  • 2014: The Numberlys
  • 2013: Eddie Adams: Saigon ’68
  • 2012: Magic Piano
  • 2011: The Wheel
  • 2010: Drunk History: Tesla & Edison
  • 2009: The Violinist
Black Lens Jury Awards

An esteemed jury will award $4,000 to the standout feature-length selection and $1,000 to the best short film from our Black Lens program.


  • 2019: Feature: The Remix: Hip Hop X FashionShort: Evelyn X Evelyn
  • 2018: A Boy. A Girl. A Dream. 
  • 2017: Dear Mr. Shakespeare
  • 2016: Can You Dig This
Brico Forward Fund Award

The Brico Forward Fund returns for its fourth year to support local film projects in production or development with cash and donated production services. An external jury divvies the rewards from a pool of $50,000 cash and more than $75,000 in donated rentals and services.

Presented by Brico Fund, with thanks to Steinhafels, The Electric Sun Corporation, Independent, North American Camera, and Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c. for offering production rentals and other services in support of this program.

Cream City Cinema College Filmmaker Award

This $2,500 cash prize—sponsored by Major League Baseball pitcher and Milwaukee Film programmer and supporter John Axford—is awarded to the standout film made by a student filmmaker from our Cream City Cinema program.


  • 2019: Ms. Hart's School for Young Women
  • 2018: The Water Will Carry Us Home
  • 2017: ANGELAAA
  • 2016: Sterile
Cream City Cinema Jury Award

This $5,000 prize is awarded by a jury to the standout short or feature film selection from our local Cream City Cinema program.


  • 2020: Growing Up MilwaukeeI've Been AfraidRay Nitti Presents "Champion Style: A Jade Charon Dance Film" 
  • 2019: Garden City Beautiful
  • 2018: Pet Names
  • 2017: Scott Road
  • 2016: Twin Sister (Jimagua)
  • 2015: Lemon
  • 2014: New Planet
  • 2013: Before You
  • 2012: The Jeffrey Dahmer Files
  • 2011: Don’t Go
  • 2010: Mickey Burgermeister
  • 2009: Mary’s Friend
Documentary Jury Award

This $5,000 prize, supported by Christine Symchych & Jim McNulty, is awarded by a jury of film industry members to the standout selection by an emerging director from our Documentary Festival Favorites program.


  • 2020: Landfall
  • 2019: For Sama
  • 2018: Minding The Gap
  • 2017: Quest
  • 2016: NUTS!
  • 2015: The Look of Silence
Herzfeld Competition Award (Founders Award)

Under the guidance of Milwaukee Film founders Carmen and Bill Haberman, the Herzfeld Foundation has provided boundless support to innovative arts and education programs here in Milwaukee. This $10,000 prize is awarded annually by a jury of film industry members to one filmmaker from our Competition program whose film best exemplifies the same spirit of innovation so championed by the Herzfeld Foundation.


  • 2019: The Hottest August
  • 2018: Hale Country, The Morning This Evening
  • 2017: Rat Film
  • 2016: The Fits
  • 2015: No One’s Child
  • 2014: The Tribe
  • 2013: War Witch
  • 2012: Crulic–The Path to Beyond
  • 2011: Nothing’s All Bad
  • 2011: Somewhere Between
  • 2010: A Brand New Life
  • 2010: My Perestroika
  • 2009: Munyurangabo
Kids Choice Short Film Award

This $1,000 cash prize is awarded by a jury of kids (ages 9–12) from the greater Milwaukee area to the standout short film from our Rated K: For Kids shorts programs.


  • 2019: Tree #3
  • 2018: Two Balloons
  • 2017: Litterbugs
  • 2016: MOOM
  • 2015: A Place in the Middle
  • 2014: Sweet Love
Milwaukee Music Video Award

This annual $5,000 prize is awarded by a jury of music and/or film industry members to the local filmmaker and musical artist who collaborated on the standout selection from The Milwaukee Music Video Show.


  • 2019: Saebra & Carlyle - "Rabbit Hole"
  • 2018: Amanda Huff - "Gravetalking"
  • 2017: IshDARR - “Locals”
  • 2016: WebsterX – "Lately"
Mohamed Amin Courage in Filmmaking Award

Presented with support from The Duncan Group, Salim Amin, and Karen Ellenbecker.

New in 2019, this $2,500 award is awarded by an international jury to recognize short and feature films from across our Festival program that exemplify courageous filmmaking, in front of or behind the camera, whether on the frontlines of global conflict or in national or local contexts.


2019: For Sama

Shorter Is Better Award

This $1,000 cash prize is awarded by a jury of film industry members to the standout short film from our Shorter Is Better program.


  • 2019: After You Left
  • 2018: Caroline
  • 2017: The Burden
  • 2016: Bird Hearts (Fuglehjerter)
  • 2015: Giovanni and the Water Ballet
  • 2014: Love. Love. Love.
Women in Film Audience Award

New in 2018! We are thrilled to have Livewire Productions underwrite a $2,500 cash prize for the top-rated film directed (or co-directed) by a woman based on audience voting. Be sure to cast your ballots and check in after the festival to learn whose career you are helping sustain!


2019: Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins
2018: Science Fair