About The John Michaels Awards

John Michaels was a cinema student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in the 1980’s and left SIUC with a master’s in the fine arts to become a filmmaker. However, his dream was cut short when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He died during his second surgery to remove the tumor. However, during his time at SIUC he made a big impression. While he was a student, he traveled to Cuba with Professor Emeritus and Big Muddy Film Festival founder, Mike Covell, and Academy Award nominee, Edgar Barens, to document the lives of the people immersed in that living revolution. Closer to home, he worked on a film about a St. Louis church that gave sanctuary to refugees from El Salvador.

He may not be making movies today, his presence touched the lives of those he worked with, especially those of the Big Muddy Film Festival. To memorialize his work, in 2003 the Big Muddy Film Festival added an award category to encourage young filmmakers who focus on creating inspiring stories about the struggles for social justice, peace and environmental issues, both local and internationally.

The award is selected by a jury of members from the community who are peace and justice activists as Michaels was. They spend a day watching documentaries  and select ones that offer the most relevant, impassioned, and engaged perspectives to the troubles of today.

Past Winners

2018 Winner: Susan Rivo, Left on Pearl 

2017 Winner:  Sue Eseem, The Peace Agency

2016 Winner(s) Daniel Schioler, Then, Then, Then | Alison Carrick, C.D. Stelzer, The First Secret City

2015 Winner: Karina EpperleinFinding the Gold Within

2013 Winner: Sarah Kanouse, Around Crab Orchard

2010 Winner:Andrew Friend, Worker’s Republic

2007 Winner: Linda Hattendorf, The Cats of Mirikitani

2006 Winner:  Sufyan Omeish, Abdallah Omeish , Occupation 101