Latest SFFS/KRF Grant Finalists Announced

San Francisco Film Society and Kenneth Rainin Foundation have announced the 12 finalists for the latest round of SFFS / Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grants; more than $300,000 will be awarded to one or more narrative feature films at any stage of production! SFFS/KRF Filmmaking Grants are awarded twice annually to film projects that will have significant economic or professional impact on the Bay Area filmmaking community. Winners of the spring 2013 SFFS/KRF Grants will be announced in mid-April.

Past winners  include: Destin Daniel Cretton's sophmore feature Short Term 12 (Winner of the Narrative Grand Jury Award and Audience Award at SXSW); Ryan Coogler’s debut feature Fruitvale, (Winner of the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the narrative category at Sundance 2013); and Benh Zeitlin’s debut phenomenon and indie box office smash, Beasts of the Southern Wild (Winner of Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize and Cannes’ Camera d’Or in 2012, and four-time Academy Award nominee -including Best Picture).

Mercy Road by Ian Hendrie and Jyson McLean (in development)


Rod Blackhurst, director and Josh Murphy, producer — North (production)
Rack is a 38-year-old recently released ex-convict, struggling with his return to a neglectful society. Emotionally discarded by his family and caught in a flawed parole system, he embarks on a bicycle journey to northern California to find Rebecca, the girl he left behind. With his criminal past threatening to resurface at every turn, Rack discovers what it means to be truly free and how fragile his newly gained freedom can be.

Jonas Carpignano, writer/director — A Chjana (preproduction)
After leaving his native Burkina Faso, Ayiva makes the perilous journey across the Sahara and Mediterranean in search of a better life in Europe. Once in Italy, he must balance his desire to provide for his family in Africa with the intolerance and harsh working conditions he finds in his newly claimed home.

Grainger David, writer/director — Nocturne (working title) (screenwriting)
Nocturne is the story of a white South Carolina cop on the verge of retirement who accidentally kills a young black teenager he suspects of a recent robbery and murder. In a moment of extreme weakness, he hides the boy's body in a woodshed—only to return a day later to discover it has disappeared.

Ian Hendrie and Jyson McLean, co-writers/directors/producers — Mercy Road (development)
Based on true events, Mercy Road traces the political and spiritual odyssey of a small town housewife as she turns from a peaceful pro-life activist to an underground militant willing to commit violence and murder in the name of God.

Dan Kern, writer/director and Jay Van Hoy, producer — Relapse (screenwriting)
Relapse is a sci-fi thriller about an amnesia patient accused of murder who goes on the run in an attempt to prove his innocence and save the woman he loves.

Maryam Keshavarz and Paolo Marinou-Blanco, cowriters — The Last Harem (screenwriting)
The Last Harem follows the battle between Jayran, a young musician girl, and Malik Jahan, the mother of the newly-ascended boy-king, for the affection of the new monarch and control of the palace's extensive harem. Whoever wins becomes the most powerful woman in the Persian empire...

Richard Levien, writer/director and Chad Burris, producer — La Migra (development)
Twelve-year-old Itan's life in San Francisco is turned upside down when she comes home from school to find her apartment ransacked and her mother missing. Suddenly she must rely on her estranged uncle Eevencio, who she suspects is a criminal. They cross the country in Eevencio's dilapidated truck, through the labyrinth of immigration detention, trying to find Itan's mother and prevent her from being deported.

Zeresenay Mehari, writer/director and Leelai Demoz, producer — Dare (postproduction)
Dare is the story of a young lawyer who operates under the government's radar until one young girl's legal case exposes everything and threatens the survival of her work and life. 

Tommy Oliver, writer/director/producer — 1982 (postproduction)
Semi-autobiographical and inspired by true events, 1982 tells the story of a black father whose wife succumbs to a crack cocaine addiction and his efforts to shield his young daughter from the ill effects of having a drug-addicted mother. Set at the very onset of the crack epidemic, the film is about a father doing whatever he can to protect his family.

Vendela Vida, cowriter and Eva Weber, cowriter/director — Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name (screenwriting)
28-year-old Clarissa discovers on the day of her father's funeral that everything she believed about her life was a lie. She flees New York and travels to the Artic Circle to find her real father, but instead is reunited with her mother who abandoned her when Clarissa was only 14.

Caroline von Kuhn, producer — The Fixer (development)
An Afghan journalist is exiled from his war-torn country to a small bohemian community in Northern California. When he attempts to turn his menial job on the local police blotter into "Afghan-style" coverage of local crime, he gets drawn into the backwoods of this small town—a shadow Northern California where sex is casual, true friendship is hard to come by and an unfamiliar form of violence emerges all around him.

Josef Wladyka, cowriter/director — Manos Sucias (production)
A desperate fisherman and a naive young man embark on a dangerous journey trafficking drugs up the Pacific coast of Colombia. Hidden beneath the waves, they tow a narco-torpedo filled with millions of dollars worth of cocaine. Together they must brave the war-torn region while navigating the growing tension between them.

Lookin' Good: New Fruitvale Poster

See what's new?  The laurels!  We're still beaming with smiles that Fruitvale won this year's Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award and anticipate a huge reception for it's first Bay Area premiere (TBD, as far as we know).  Once again, we can't help to remind and inspire you that Fruitvale was funded by two SFFS/KRF Filmmaking grants.  The final deadline for applying to our Spring 2013 round is TODAY!

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:

Read More

An Interview with Ryan Coogler

by Michele Turnure-Salleo, Director, Filmmaker360

It's clear when you meet Ryan Coogler that he is something special.

I met Ryan in January 2012 at Sundance Film Festival. Soon after the festival, we met again back in San Francisco and began talking about living in the Bay Area, filmmaking and his film, Fruitvale, which follows the true story of Oscar Grant, who was killed in a police shooting in Oakland on New Year’s Eve 2008.

He shared his script with me and it was clear that he was a natural fit for our recently launched Off the Page program, where we bring actors to the Bay Area to workshop scripts with writer/directors involved with us in various ways. Ryan had actors Melonie Diaz and Michael B. Jordan attached and it looked likely that they were going to start shooting in July. We thought it would be an incredible experience for them all to get to know one another in the Bay Area where the film would be shot, and to meet Oscar Grant’s family prior to beginning production.

Ryan was already a finalist for the SFFS/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grant, but it was during the months leading up to and during Off the Page that we really got to know him, his producing team (Nina Yang, Sev Ohanian and Gerard McMurray) and his project. He had recently graduated from USC and had returned to the Bay Area determined to make films here. We introduced him to Bay Area crew and then in late spring 2012 awarded him a $100,000 SFFS/KRF grant for production. The grant review panel was incredibly moved by this very timely and poignant story of Oscar Grant, and its exploration of the contemporary issue of the police shooting and killing of young unarmed African American men. And while we are committed to working with filmmakers from all over the country, finding someone local who so perfectly fit our mandate to support filmmakers and films that uplift the Bay Area professionally and economically . . . was like hitting the jackpot.  

But to be honest, a big reason the film was funded is because we were so taken by Ryan as an individual. He is talented, passionate, creative, collaborative and yet very humble . . . Every interaction with Ryan has been a pleasure. He is the heart and soul of his film and that really came out in the way we’ve worked together this past year.  Hard to believe it’s only been a year.

I wonder who I’ll meet next year . . .


Ryan Coogler is currently a finalist for the Fall 2012 SFFS/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grant. Winners will be announced in early December.