Talent Watch: Fall 2014 SFFS / KRF Grant Finalists

The San Francisco Film Society and Kenneth Rainin Foundation just selected 14 projects for the latest round of SFFS / KRF Filmmaking Grant finalists. At least  $300,000 will be awarded to one or more narrative feature film projects! Get to know the talented finalists and projects below and keep an eye out for the winners in late November.

We are particularly excited by the increasingly international pool of applicants for our flagship grant program, and by the fact that more than half of our finalists in this round are women.
— Michele Turnure-Salleo, director of Filmmaker360


Absence – screenwriting
Cherien Dabis, writer/director/producer

A young Palestinian refugee who unexpectedly becomes head of household must sneak into Israel from the West Bank in order to earn a decent enough living to support his family. It's there, where he's confronted daily with the enemy, that he must come to terms with his own anger or face the same fate as his father. More info at cheriendabis.me.

Dark Forest  – screenwriting
Elena Greenlee, writer/director

A hipster millennial—equally versed in neuroscience and party drugs—steps out of her depths into the complex world of Amazonian shamanism. She finds herself in the crossfire of an intense battle for power being waged in a magical dimension she's not even sure she believes in.


Everything Else (Todo Lo Demás) – production
Natalia Almada, writer/director/producer

Doña Flor awakens to find her cat dead at the foot of her bed. Denying the loss of her sole companion, she continues her routine as she has for the past 35 years, donning her grey skirt and practical heels and taking the women's subway car to work in Mexico City. Memories are unleashed from the morning's tragedy as old wounds begin to bleed and she recalls the drowning of her child. More info at altamurafilms.com.


Durham Pic.jpg

Fairyland  – screenwriting
Andrew Durham, writer/director

After the sudden death of her mother, a young girl is uprooted from her home and taken to San Francisco in the 1970s to be raised by her bisexual hippy father. Inhabited by poets, artists and drag queens, her free-spirited upbringing feels like a fairytale, until she reaches adolescence and begins to question the environment in which she was raised and some of the choices her father made. 


Five Nights in Maine  – postproduction
Maris Curran, writer/director/producer; Carly Hugo, producer

A young African American man, reeling from the tragic loss of his wife, travels to rural Maine to seek answers from his estranged mother-in-law, who is herself confronting guilt and grief over her daughter’s death.


The Future – screenwriting
Fabio Mollo, writer/director

Paolo is a 35-year-old single gay craftsman raised in an orphanage. His journey from the north to the south of Italy is an on-the-road story about the meaning of fatherhood and the pursuit of the future. More info at vimeo.com/fabiomollo


God Bless the Child – postproduction 
Robert Machoian, writer/codirector; Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck, codirector; Robert Thomas, producer; Laura Heberton, producer

Five siblings spend a summer day on their own. Only the eldest—the one girl, 13—knows their mother may never be coming back, and while looking after her brothers she lets them just be little kids, drawing them closer to herself as the day goes by. More info at 433pictures.com.


Mediterranea – postproduction
Jonas Carpignano, writer/director

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. 


The Messenger – screenwriting
Marilia Hughes, co-writer/director; Cláudio Marques, co-writer/director

As an official of the justice system, Iris, 27 years old, is responsible for transmitting what is mostly bad news. The young woman tries to keep her distance from people, but violence makes Iris experience a feeling of revolt that she has previously tried to ignore. More info at coisadecinema.com.br.


Morris From America – screenwriting
Chad Hartigan, writer/director; Sara Murphy, producer

Morris is a 13-year-old, overweight, African American living in Heidelberg, Germany with his father, Curtis. The kids there make fun of him for being fat, for being black and for being American so he’s having a difficult entrance into adolescence. That is until he meets 14-year-old Katrin, and immediately falls head over heels in love. As they strike up an odd friendship, Morris pulls further away from Curtis, but closer to accepting himself as he is. More info at chadhartigan.com.


Radio Dreams – production
Babak Jalali, writer/director; Marjaneh Moghimi, producer

A brilliant and misunderstood Iranian musician lands in San Francisco to pursue his lifelong dream of recording with Metallica, while a mysterious beautiful woman takes over his radio show. 



Skunk – screenwriting
Annie Silverstein, writer/director

Long-lying tensions erupt in a small watershed town east of Houston after a sexual prank by a group of teenage boys is linked to a local girl’s suicide. 14-year-old Laney, riddled with guilt and grief over the loss of her friend, begins her own investigation which has unforeseen consequences. More info at anniesilverstein.com.


Songs My Brother Taught Mepostproduction
Chloe Zaho, writer/director/producer

Johnny, a restless Lakota teen, fights to escape his life on the reservation but soon realizes that it’s far more complicated than he thought to leave the only place he has ever known. 



Kris Swanberg, writer/director 

An inner-city high school teacher discovers she is pregnant at the same time as one of her most promising students, and the two develop an unlikely friendship while struggling to navigate their unexpected pregnancies.

Past SFFS / KRF Filmmaking Grant winners include Kat Candler’s Hellion and Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange, both of which premiered to strong reviews at Sundance 2014; Short Term 12, Destin Cretton’s sophomore feature which won both the Narrative Grand Jury Award and Audience Award at South by Southwest 2013; Ryan Coogler’s debut feature Fruitvale Station, which won the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, the Un Certain Regard Avenir Prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the narrative category at Sundance 2013; and Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin’s debut phenomenon which won Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize and Cannes’ Camera d’Or in 2012, and earned four Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture).