William W. Warner Beautiful Swimmers Award

Established in memory of William Warner by the Warner/Kaempfer family for the 2015 Festival, the William W. Warner Beautiful Swimmers Award recognizes a film that reflects a spirit of reverence for the natural world. William Warner was the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Beautiful Swimmers, a study of crabs and watermen in the Chesapeake Bay. The award includes a $10,000 cash prize.


2019 Winner


In a Kenyan town bordering wildlife conservation land, a small-time ivory dealer fights to stay on top while forces mobilize to destroy his trade. When he turns to his younger cousin, a conflicted wildlife ranger who hasn’t been paid in months, they both see a possible lifeline. For the poachers, conservationists are not only winning their campaign to value elephant life over its ivory, but over human life as well. Who are these hunters who will risk death, arrest, and the moral outrage of the world to provide for their families? Director Jon Kasbe followed the film’s subjects over a three-year period, gaining an extraordinary level of access and trust as he became part of their everyday lives. The result is a rare and visually arresting look through the perspectives and motives of the people at the epicenter of the conservation divide.



(USA, 2018, 76 min.)


Past Winners


2018. Silas (CAN, 2017, 80 min.), Directed by Anjali Nayar

2017. The Lost City of Z, (USA, 2017, 142 min.), Directed by James Gray.

2016. The Seer, (USA, 2016, 76 min), Directed by Laura Dunn.

2015. Tiger Tiger, (USA, 2015, 90 min.), Directed by George Butler.