After one of the toughest grant rounds in the history of the Film Society, we pleased to reveal the 15 finalists in competition for spring 2015 SFFS / KRF Filmmaking Grants. These stellar narrative features — all of which advanced this far because of their vibrant, compelling and original stories — are in contention for up to $300,000. Winners will be announced in May.
In the meantime, get acquainted with all of these remarkable finalist projects. Selecting winners will be incredibly difficult — read further to understand just why.
Blustar — Stella Kyriakopoulos, cowriter/director and Margaret Shin, cowriter — screenwriting
Two lovelorn cleaning ladies become friends and find hope while working on the Blue Star Ithaki, one of the fleet of ferries that shuttle myth-seeking tourists to the Greek islands. When the friends learn their Blue Star will be sold to Canada, they are forced to confront their own myths about Greece and each other.
Chickenshit — Jessica dela Merced, writer/director — screenwriting
11-year-old Phoe enlists the help of a group of neighborhood boys to track down the culprits behind a recent string of fires in Detroit, including the one that claimed her father's life.
San Francisco native Jessica dela Merced is a writer/director with a recent MFA from the New York University Graduate Film Program where she received the 2012 Spike Lee Fellowship as well as the Lorraine Hansberry Arts, Performance and Media Award. A current FilmHouse resident, you can learn more about her project Chickenshit here.
The Fixer — Ian Olds, writer/director and Caroline von Kuhn, producer — production
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 burbles up all around him.
Freeland — Mario Furloni and Kate McLean, co-writer/directors — screenwriting
In the last season of black market marijuana growing before legalization, a mother and a daughter must reconcile their differences in order to survive in an increasingly inhospitable world.
Jones — Sally El Hosaini, writer/director — screenwriting
When his father abandons him deep in the Guyanese jungle, the rebellious son of a narcissistic church leader discovers a new life of freedom. His utopia is soon shattered when "Dad" arrives with hundreds of followers. Driven by the universal need for a father's love he becomes complicit in the depravity he previously rejected. Can he escape following in his father's footsteps? Based on Stephan Jones's true-life story.
Welsh-Egyptian filmmaker Sally El Hosaini was our Winter 2015 Artist in Residence. Learn more about her Bay Area visit with us here.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco — Joseph Talbot, writer/director and Rolla Selbak, producer — preproduction
Jimmie Fails is a young African American who dreams of buying back the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Now living in the city's last, dwindling black neighborhood with his oddball best friend, Prentice, they search for belonging in the rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind.
The Last Prairie — Chloé Zhao, writer/director — screenwriting
A young ecologist moves to the Sandhills of Nebraska trying to stop the building of the Keystone Pipeline XL and soon finds herself caught between a small town's fight for survival and the debate over the future habitability of our planet.
Mustang — Laure de Clermont Tonnerre, writer/director — screenwriting
Roman Coleman is halfway through serving an 11-year sentence for attempted murder when he is offered the chance to participate in an ongoing rehabilitation therapy program involving the training of recently captured wild mustangs. Through his struggle to communicate with the animals, trainers, and other inmates he is forced to face his past and must learn confront his inner demons.
Oscillate Wildly — Travis Mathews, writer/director — production
When a first love challenges his guarded sense of what's possible, a hot-headed young gay man with mild cerebral palsy is forced to confront the disability he's let consume and define him.
Since 2000, Travis Mathews has been working as a producer, editor, cinematographer, screenwriter and director. Most recently, Mathews collaborated with James Franco to make the docufiction Interior. Leather Bar., which has screened at over 75 festivals internationally and was released theatrically by Strand Releasing in 2014. Mathews is a current FilmHouse resident. Learn more about his project Oscillate Wildly here. Photo by Erin Lubin.
Patti Cake$ — Geremy Jasper, writer/director and Michael Gottwald, producer — preproduction
Patti Dombrowski, a heavy-set white girl, struggles to break out of her blue collar New Jersey town and become a legitimate rap superstar, all on her own terms.
Reza and the Refugee — Aaron Douglas Johnston, writer/director — screenwriting
A ragtag team of Middle Eastern political refugees in Holland enters the Eurovision song contest in an effort to save their friend from deportation and certain death.
Sorry To Bother You — Boots Riley, writer/director and George Rush, producer — screenwriting
A Black telemarketer discovers a magical way to make his voice overdubbed by a White actor, propelling him into the upper echelon of a macabre universe where he is selected to lead a species of genetically manipulated horse-people, called the Equisapiens.
Boots Riley is an American poet, rapper, songwriter, producer, screenwriter, humorist, political organizer, community activist, lecturer, and public speaker. Originally from Chicago, he now lives in Oakland and is resident in our FilmHouse program. Learn more about his project Sorry To Bother You here. Photo by Amelia Kennedy.
Staring at the Sun — Ryan Piers Williams, writer/director — screenwriting
After a massive solar event knocks out the world's technological infrastructure, healthcare becomes a vital commodity. An elite group of United Nations aid workers given access to the best healthcare are tasked to isolate the sick from the healthy and privileged. When a young aid worker finds himself in a forbidden love, he must choose between a life of solitude or an uncertain fate with the woman he loves.
Untitled Whaling Project — Jesse Moss, writer/director — screenwriting
A feature-length fiction film, based on a true story, about America's last commercial whaling vessel and its final, fateful voyage in 1971.
What Waits For Them In Darkness — Stephen Dunn, writer/director — screenwriting
11-year-old Skipper gets separated from her family during the Newfoundland resettlement and stranded alone in her floating house on the high seas of the Atlantic where reality mixes with the rich folklore of Newfoundland for a dark fantasy adventure.
SFFS / KRF Filmmaking Grants are made possible by the vision and generosity of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. In addition to being awarded funds from the country's leading granting organization, recipients will receive various benefits through Filmmaker360, the San Francisco Film Society's comprehensive and dynamic filmmaker services program. These benefits, customized to every individual production, can include one-on-one project consultations and project feedback, additional fundraising assistance, resource and service recommendations, and networking opportunities, among many others.