SFIFF56 In-Depth: Golden Gate Awards Documentary Feature Competition

Yesterday the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 25–May 9) announced 22 films in competition for the New Directors Prize and the Golden Gate Award nominees for documentary feature (in-depth look about the New Directors Prize were posted yesterday). The International will award $20,000 to the GGA documentary feature winner and $15,000 to the Bay Area documentary feature winner. Independent juries will select the winners, which will be announced at the Golden Gate AwardsWednesday, May 8.

View this year's documentaries below and remember the best value to watch them all is to purchase an Early Bird CineVoucher 10-pack!

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After Tiller
Martha Shane and Lana Wilson
USA

After the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas in 2009, there are now only four doctors left in the country who provide third-trimester abortions for women. After Tiller moves between the rapidly unfolding stories of these doctors, all of whom were close colleagues of Dr. Tiller and are fighting to keep this service available in the wake of his death.


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Before You Know It
PJ Raval
USA

Before You Know It explores the fascinating, but until now, rarely seen world of aging gay men. This provocative, poignant and life-affirming documentary details the lives of three different and remarkable individuals, the joys and hardships they experience, the difficulties of aging and being overlooked and also the support and uplift they find in their particular communities.


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Chimeras
Mika Mattila
Finland

This revelatory and visually striking documentary follows a pair of political pop artists—the hugely successful middle-aged painter and sculptor Wang Guangyi and the gifted young photographer Liu Gang—as they grapple with their place and purpose in a new China of pervasive materialism and Western influence.


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Cutie and the Boxer
Zachary Heinzerling
USA

After 39 years of marriage, painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko, have weathered many storms of creative conflict. Clearly the nurturer in the relationship, Noriko endeavors to support her fiery partner while also endeavoring to find space for her own artistic efforts. Capturing them both, at work and at play, the result is a skillfully crafted portrait of art and long-term companionship.


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God Loves Uganda
Roger Ross Williams
USA/Uganda

A powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right, the film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow Biblical law.


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Inori
Pedro González-Rubio
Japan

In the small mountain community of Kannogawa, Japan, the laws of nature reshape the human blueprint of what used to be a lively town. While the younger generations have gone to the cities, the few people who remain perform the everyday activities with a brave perspective on their history and the cycles of life.


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The Kill Team
Dan Krauss
USA

In this chilling documentary, Bay Area–based Dan Krauss (The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club, Golden Gate Award winner, SFIFF 2005) explores the deeply disturbing story of U.S. soldiers, stationed in Afghanistan in 2009, who were convicted of murdering innocent civilians. Their motives, and the culture that enabled their crimes, are as complex as they are nightmarish.


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Let the Fire Burn
Jason Osder
USA

In 1985, the Philadelphia Police Department dropped two pounds of military explosives on the house belonging to the radical black liberation group known as MOVE. Constructed entirely of archival materials and judicious intertitles, the film cannily juxtaposes startling images from the bombing, the resulting fire—left to burn for over an hour—and their aftermath to create a vivid portrait of a tragic injustice. 


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Rent a Family Inc.
Kaspar Astrup Schröder
Denmark

Filmmaker Kaspar Astrup Schröder’s (The Invention of Dr. Nakamats, SFIFF 2009) alternately fetching, absorbing and offbeat documentary revolves around a 44-year-old Japanese family man who owns and operates a professional stand-in business that rents out fake relatives, spouses, friends and parents to a rapidly growing Japanese customer base “desperate…to cover up a secret.”


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A River Changes Course
Kalyanee Mam
Cambodia/USA

Bay Area filmmaker Kalyanee Mam presents an intimate and moving portrait of the vanishing world of rural farmers and fishermen in Cambodia.  Focusing on three families in vivid cinéma vérité style, Mam reveals how the encroaching modern world is destroying the rich and sustaining cultures of the past and forcing the young to seek work in factories or plantations. 


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The Search for Emak Bakia
Oskar Alegria
Spain

In 1926, avant garde artist Man Ray shot a film titled Emak Bakia, a Basque expression that means “Leave me alone.” Intrigued by the fanciful conundrums and coincidences of Ray and his art, filmmaker Oskar Alegría ignores Ray’s dictum and sets out to plumb the mysteries of Emak Bakia, leading to an unforgettable journey of whimsical discoveries and charming surprises


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Sofia’s Last Ambulance
Ilian Metev
Germany/Bulgaria/Croatia

On the front lines of a degraded emergency-care system in Sofia, Bulgaria, an over-extended, yet emphatically humane, paramedic crew hurtles frantically from one call to the next in a dilapidated ambulance. Filmed primarily through the lenses of three dashboard-mounted cameras, Sofia’s Last Ambulance unfolds in a series of unflinching, real-time vignettes shot over the course of two years. 

Sundance Proves A Filmmaking Renaissance Is Happening In The Bay Area

What would Variety, Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, The Wrap, MovieCityNews, Filmmaker Magazine & Deadline report if a single film company took the following awards at Sundance this year?

  1. Narrative Grand Jury Prize
  2. Audience Award For Narrative Film
  3. Best Directing of a Narrative Film
  4. Best Directing of a Documentary Film
  5. Special Jury Award For Documentary Film #1
  6. Special Jury Award For Documentary Film #2

I can't help but think they would announce the arrival of a powerhouse.

Well, allow me the pleasure of breaking such an announcement.  In case you missed it: a filmmaking renaissance is happening in The Bay Area.  All of the following films that premiered at Sundance and won an award there had a major Bay Area connection: Fruitvale, Afternoon Delight, Cutie and the Boxer, Inequality For All, and American Promise.

I don't know when was the last time a film won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance as Fruitvale did this year.  Not only is director Ryan Coogler from Oakland, not only was the story and subject from The Bay Area, not only was the film shot in The Bay Area, and not only was it mixed at Skywalker, but the San Francisco Film Society & The Kenneth Rainin Foundation granted the film $200,000.

If that wasn't enough to crow about, allow me the thrill of mentioning that this is the second year in a row that a film supported by the San Francisco Film Society & The Kenneth Rainin Foundation won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.  Yup, Beasts Of The Southern Wild received similar support last year as Fruitvale did this year.  Do we need non-profit support in order to make ambitious socially relevant cinema in America?  It sure damn looks that way, and if it is not necessary, it sure helps!  A market-driven entertainment economy encourages one thing; if we want diversity we must support our cultural institutions (and build new ones!).

But allow me to go on with the glory that this year's Sundance has bestowed upon the cities by The Bay...  I don't know when the last time a producer had both a documentary film and a narrative film in each of the Sundance competition.  I definitely don't think a producer who managed that feat ever won awards for both films (okay, I once had a film in each section, but only one of them one an award).  Winning an award for each of their films is exactly what 72 Productions accomplished with Afternoon Delight's Best Directing of a narrative film award (directed by Jill Soloway) and Inequality For All's U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award (directed by Jacob Kornbluth).  And did you know that 72 Productions' Jen Chaiken sits on the San Francisco Film Society's Board of Directors? And that the SFFS was Inequality For All's fiscal sponsor?  Surely you know that I4A's incredibly inspiring subject, Robert Reich, teaches and lives in Berkeley, and yup, that is in The Bay Area. I imagine your collective head is now reeling in wonder about what is happening here; I know I am impressed, verily.

Yes, it's true that the Directing Award at Sundance is one of the great honors.  Yes, the aforementioned Afternoon Delight won that award for Narrative, and Cutie and the Boxer, directed by Zachary Heinzerling, won for Documentary. The San Francisco Film Society's Doc Film Fund gave Cutie and the Boxer's $50,000...  That ain't chicken feed.  And that's a Bay Area connection for both sections' Directing Award.  It must be something in the water!

But The Bay Area's dominance continues on from there. It kind of takes your breathe away, doesn't it?  The other winner of a Special Jury Prize For Documentary Film, Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson's American Promise,  also received funding from The San Francisco Film Society. How great is it to give money  away to films that lift our culture up?  I suppose you don't know that feeling until you've done it, but know what?  You too can do it and I will tell you how below...

Yup. Five films.  Count 'em and tells what it all adds up to...

That is five films, six awards, at Sundance 2013 with Bay Area connections.  Pretty awesome.  In addition to all of that, the Bay Area was represented by other filmmakers at Sundance too; Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman were there with TWO films, one narrative, one doc: Lovelace and The Battle For AmFar. The list goes on and on and on.

If we added in all the films that did sound or mixed at Skywalker (Ain't Them Bodies Saints among others) or did that AND had a key crew person from the Bay Area, like World Cinema Grand Jury Prize Winner, A River Changes Course (with editor Chris Brown), our list could be even longer.  When you combine what is happening here and what is going down in Texas (Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Before Midnight, A Teacher, & Upstream Color), it sure seems like the regions are rising over the center.  And this may just be the wave before the flood...

That is not a rumbling you are feeling underground, that is the roar of a community's heart beating as one, and quite rapidly at that mind you.  You don't just have to be from Poland to have that flutter (if you watched the Awards, you will understand the reference).

I think it is now abundantly clear that if you love independent film, if you want diverse, ambitious film to prosper, you have to act now.  You must not delay.  You can either pack your bags and get the hell out of town and arrive in Fog City or one of it's many surrounding communities, or you can show your love for such cinema by helping to support the San Francisco Film Society.  Either one will do.  Just take some action.  The momentum will carry you forward.

I am investing my time, labor, & mind to help building a better infrastructure for such cinema through the SFFS.  But it takes more.  Money almost always helps.  Please consider doing what you can to keep this exciting time alive.  Join SFFS & become a member. Support SFFS here.  It takes more than a village if we are going to build it better.  We can only do it together.

The San Francisco International Film Festival is the longest running film festival in the Americas.  I hope to see you there this year  (April 25- May 9th); we have some great stuff planned for you.  The San Francisco Film Society was founded 56 years ago.  It was built by the passion and commitment of several key individuals.  We lost one of those individuals just as the Sundance Film Festival began this year.  George Gund's love and knowledge of cinema was as legendary as his great spirit and generosity.  I can not help but think of how wide his grin would be now in knowing the legacy his support has helped build.  Thank you, George.

 

Festival Preview: SFFS-Supported Films at Sundance 2013

We're are getting so antsy to see the premieres of these five films that the San Francisco Film Society has supported through Filmmaker360 grants and fiscal sponsorship at Sundance 2013's U.S. and World Cinema Dramatic and Documentary Competitions! For those who will be making the snowy trek and for those of us who won't, watch interviews and previews below.

AMERICAN PROMISE

directed by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson
2011 SFFS Documentary Film Fund grant winner:  $25,000 for postproduction

Sundance 2013, U.S. Documentary

This intimate documentary follows the 12-year journey of two African-American families pursuing the promise of opportunity through the education of their sons.

CUTIE AND THE BOXER

directed by Zachary Heinzerling
2011 SFFS Documentary Film Fund grant winner: $50,000 for postproduction

Sundance 2013, U.S. Documentary

This candid New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role as her overbearing husband's assistant, Noriko finds an identity of her own.

FRUITVALE

directed by Ryan Coogler
Spring 2012 SFFS/KRF Grant winner: $100,000 for production
Fall 2012 SFFS/KRF Grant winner: $100,000 for postproduction
SFFS Off the Page script workshop, April 2012

Sundance 2013, U.S. Dramatic

Fruitvale is the true story of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family and strangers on the last day of 2008.

INEQUALITY FOR ALL

Transient

directed by Jacob Kornbluth
Currently enrolled in SFFS Project Development program

Sundance 2013, U.S. Documentary

In this timely and entertaining documentary, noted economic-policy expert Robert Reich distills the topic of widening income inequality, and addresses the question of what effects this increasing gap has on our economy and our democracy.

NARCO CULTURA

directed by Shaul Schwarz
2012 SFFS Documentary Film Fund grant winner: $20,000 for postproduction

Sundance 2013, U.S. Documentary

An examination of Mexican drug cartels’ influence in pop culture on both sides of the border as experienced by an LA narcocorrido singer dreaming of stardom and a Juarez crime scene investigator on the front line of Mexico’s Drug War.

Sundance 2013 Roundup

Sundance 2013 Roundup

By now, you've probably heard—the official selections are in for Sundance 2013's U.S. and World Cinema Dramatic and Documentary Competitions. Among them are five films that the Film Society has supported through grants and fiscal sponsorships as they've developed into feature-length, fully-formed films:

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