CONTACT:                                                                                 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wendy Milette
Director MY HERO International Film Festival
[email protected]


DECEMBER 1, 2022 - LAGUNA BEACH, CA - The 18th Annual MY HERO International Film Festival Special Awards Ceremony showcased filmmakers and heroes from around the world. The event, which was held online, Saturday November 19, 2022, honored this year’s special award winners in categories of narrative, documentary, animation, music video and experimental work. Winners include all levels and abilities, from student through professional filmmakers. Film Festival Director, Wendy Milette, and Assistant Director, Kitty Richardson, were the masters of ceremony for the event.


Animated Film Andy wins Best of Fest, 1st PLACE Animation and Young Audience Favorite

150267Director Jamy Wheless with Olivia and her service dogMY HERO (Click image above to see acceptance speech)

Along with the hearts of viewers, the short film Andy, directed by Jamy Wheless, captured three festival awards — The Best of Fest Award, 1st Place in Animation and the Young Audience Favorite. The animated film follows the journey of Andy, a brave and persistent pup, who dreams of becoming a service dog.  Andy’s person is young Olivia, who has been in a wheelchair all of her life. The real Olivia, and her service dog, were present at the virtual film fest. She told the crowd that she hopes, “more kids who are disabled can feel this, too.”

Wheless, formerly with George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic, is the founder of Ignite Animation Studios (USA). The film was animated by Brendon Gottlieb and produced by Jean Schultz, the wife of the late Charles Schultz of Peanuts fame. 


Eva Haller Women Transforming Media Award

150271Eva Haller and Lucy SchacherMY HERO  (Click image above to see acceptance speech)

Eva Haller, champion for women's rights, world-renown philanthropist and host of the weekly Eva Haller Salon Series presented The Women Transforming Media Award to two inspiring films.

Lucy Schacher, from Swinburne University in Australia, won this year’s College Documentary category and MY HERO’s Emerging Artist Award for her film Hello Anna! The short documentary explores the work of children’s illustrator and author Anna Walker. Eva Haller spoke to how Walker’s books give courage and inner strength to young people, helping to liberate them, and all of us, from fear.

This year’s Youth Winner is Inclusion on the Air, by Boston University student Eli Canter. The film honors the work of Emily Kingsley, who has provided “huge visibility for people with disabilities on screen” through her work on Sesame Street. 


MY HERO Global Educator Award

150270Mandeep RaiMY HERO (Click image above to see acceptance speech)

Dr. Mandeep Rai, the UK author of The Values Compass, received the Global Educator Award for her outstanding work in education. Rai has worked in over 100 countries, helping people to find their purpose in life and enhance leadership qualities. He joined the virtual festival from a tree planting retreat. 


Environmental Hero Award 

This year, two short films received the prestigious MY HERO Environmental Hero Award:

Who Should Decide the Future of the Amazon?, directed by Martin Kingman and produced by Amazon Frontlines (Ecuador), highlights the fight for the future of the Amazon Forest, and our planet, by the Indigenous peoples who have been safeguarding and preserving the forest for hundreds of years. (Click to see acceptance speech)

The Sustainability Laboratory, produced by Michael Ben-Eli and The Sustainability Laboratory (Israel), is an informative film about how we are living on a planet in distress that threatens every aspect of our biosphere and offers some solutions. 


MY HERO Media Award

Butterfly in the Sky, by Brett WhitcombBradford Thomason and Sidestilt Films (USA), tells the story of the beloved PBS children’s series Reading Rainbow, its iconic host LeVar Burton, and the challenges its creators faced in cultivating a love of reading through the medium of television. (Click to see acceptance speech)


People’s Choice Award

The experimental film The Future INNU is the winner of two awards this year — The People’s Choice and Experimental Award. The film was directed by Stéphane Nepton and produced by Wapikoni Mobile(Canada), Nepton calls the film, “an ode to the land in relation to my double identity as an urban Indigenous person.”  


The Kovic Peace Prize

150269Ron Kovic with David Berez and David WrightMY HERO  (Click image above to see acceptance speech)

New York Times bestselling author and peace activist Ron Kovic presented the Kovic Peace Prize to David Berez and David Wright (USA), for their documentary Alan Magee: Art is not a Solace. The film features artist Alan Magee, known for his realist paintings about corporate greed, cruelty, and gun violence. Shot on location, from Pemaquid Point, Maine, to the streets of Berlin, the film examines the ways in which art can address the great challenges we face as a society. 


Dan Eldon Activist Award

150273Kathy Eldon and granddaughter ArabellaMY HERO  (Click image above to see acceptance speech)

Kathy Eldon, author and co-founder of Creative Visions Foundation, presented two awards in honor of her late son Dan Eldon, a journalist killed on assignment, in Somalia, in 1993. She described the two winning films as, “stories that need to be told.” 

Little Big Steve, by Tiziana Caminada (Switzerland, Nairobi), is a portrait of Steve Arodi, a man who returns to his birthplace — the shanty town of Mathare, in Nairobi, Kenya — to defend the rights of children living in the slums.

The Youth winner is Racism Must Stop, by Axomali Obisakin and In-Progress (USA), a documentary short that explores the impact of racism on the lives of both children and adults. The film’s powerful words, spoken by young children, offer a glimpse into what racism feels like for a child.

Relationships First Award

150272Gabriel DiamondMY HERO  (Click image above to see acceptance speech)

Judith Anderson, Ph.D., founder of The Foundation for the Contemporary Family, presented two awards for 2022. 

The Space Between Usby Gabriel Diamond and Outside Films (USA), is a radical experiment in the power of bearing witness, inviting vulnerability, and sharing movement, in a time of social distancing and racial reckoning. The film is a testament to bearing witness, being vulnerable, and asking the tough questions.

Ukwati // The Wedding, by Sean William Economou and Watts of Love (Malawi), is a deep and evocative film about child marriage in Malawi, where girls as young as age ten are being stripped of their innocence and thrown into the responsibilities of marriage. 


WOJ Youth Reporter Award

150274Esther WojcickiMY HERO  (Click image above to see acceptance speech)

Esther Wojcicki, Global Educator and co-founder of Tract, presented the WOJ Youth reporter award to three winning filmmakers. 

The Story of José Rizal, by Providence High School student Ben Caloza (RI, USA), is a short biographical film about the life and death of José Rizal, who is considered a national hero in the Philippines.

The Forgotten Hero - Carl Lutz, by Daniel Joseph Taylor and Lora Batchelor Middle School (Indiana, USA), took top honors in the Middle School division. The film tells the story of Palestinian Holocaust hero Carl Lutz, who saved 62,000 Jews during his lifetime.

Amelia Earhart, by Annika Smith, Quinn Reynolds and Lora Batchelor Middle School (Indiana, USA), also won in the Middle School division. Wojcicki praised the film, calling it incredible for a middle school student and adding that her teacher Jeffrey Rudkin should be praised as an example for the world. 


MY HERO Teacher Award

That teacher, Jeffrey Rudkin, of Lora Batchelor Middle School in Indiana, was indeed praised, when he received the 2022 MY HERO Teacher Award. Beloved by his students, Rudkin guides them to create short documentary films about “ordinary people doing heroic things,” adding that “The study of heroes gives the students role models to look up to.” 

Humanitarian Hero Award

In the film, Building a Shower Trailer for Chico's Houseless on a Budget of Love!, by Gerard Ungerman and Respectful Revolution (USA), we meet Charles Withuhn, who spearheaded an effort to build a shower trailer for the unhoused in Chico, Upon accepting his award, Ungerman thanked MY HERO and said, “MY HERO Film Festival is an awesome, awesome festival that […] inspires youth and children around the world with examples of what can be done — it’s priceless.” 

Special Hero Award

This year’s Special Hero Award goes to Super Ruby, by Dean Saffron (Australia), which tells the story of a 8-year-old Ruby, a proud Aboriginal girl and sports champion. Despite having Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Ruby endeavors to lead her best life every day. Her positive attitude radiates throughout this short film.


View all winning films online

View the 2022 MY HERO International Film Festival Program

Page created on 12/1/2022 10:23:04 PM

Last edited 12/1/2022 11:54:13 PM