2016 Golden Gate & Audience Award Winners

Last night, the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, presented by the San Francisco Film Society, announced the winners of the juried Golden Gate Award (GGA) competitions at an event held at Gray Area. This year the Festival awarded nearly $40,000 in prizes to emerging and established filmmakers.  

For nearly 60 years, SFIFF’s Golden Gate Awards have honored deserving filmmakers and their projects, heralding unsung excellence and exposing local and international audiences to unique and innovative filmmaking. Among the most significant awards for emerging global film artists in the United States, the Golden Gate Awards embody the Film Society’s commitment to global storytelling independent filmmaking. 

The Golden Gate Awards New Directors jury was composed of film critic Justin Chang, producer Benjamin Domenech, and IFP’s Executive Director Joana Vicente.

Winner: The Demons, Philippe Lesage, Canada $10,000 cash prize

In a statement, the jury noted: “The Demons is an extraordinarily perceptive and structurally daring exploration of childhood in all its terrors and anxieties, both real and imagined.

Special Jury Prize: Mountain, Yaelle Kayam, Israel/Denmark
The jury noted: “The film provides a rigorous and multifaceted character study that becomes a bold statement about the role of women in physical and psychological confinement.

The GGA Documentary The feature competitions jury was comprised of journalist, film critic and programmer Eric Hynes; Sundance Institute’s Director of the Documentary Film Program Tabitha Jackson; and documentarian Jeff Malmberg.

Documentary Feature Winner: Cameraperson, Kirsten Johnson, USA $10,000 cash prize
The jury noted in a statement: “We honor Cameraperson for its compassion and curiosity; for its almost tangible connection to subjects and humble acknowledgment of its own subjectivity; for its singular enfolding of memoir, essay and collage; for its perfect expression of the vital collaboration between director and editor; and for its disarming invitation for us to participate in the meaning and construction of the work, and by extension the meaning and construction of documentary cinema itself. 

Special Jury Prize: Notes on Blindness, Peter Middleton, James Spinney, UK/France 
The jury noted: “We extend a special mention to Notes on Blindness, in recognition of an audaciously ambitious, formally inventive and yet fully realized film that somehow manages to translate an intensely interior experience into compelling, even revelatory cinema, ingeniously articulating what it means to see and be seen. 

Bay Area Documentary Winner: The Return, Kelly Duane de la Vega & Katie Galloway, USA $5,000 cash prize 
The jury noted: “We are honoring a film that starts where others would stop, that addresses the inhumanity of America's criminal justice system through patient and humane observation, handling the complexities of its subjects not as matters to work around, but to embrace as a pathway to deeper feeling and understanding.”

The SFIFF59 Audience Awards gave Festival-goers the opportunity to select their favorite narrative and documentary features.

Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature: Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Taika Waititi, New Zealand
(Matthew Brown's The Man Who Knew Infinity (UK) and Babak Jalali's Radio Dreams (USA/Iran) were close runners up)

Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature: Life, Animated, Roger Ross Williams, USA
(Barbara Kopple's Miss Sharon Jones! (USA) and The Return (USA) by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway also scored high marks with SFIFF audiences)

The GGA Short Film jury consisted of festival programmer Laura Thielen; Fandor’s Vice President of Film Acquisitions Amanda Salazar; and independent media writer, producer and creative consultant Santhosh Daniel.

Narrative Short Winner:
Night Without Distance, Lois Patiño, Portugal/Spain $2,000 cash prize
Documentary Short Winner: The Send-Off, Patrick Bresnan, Ivete Lucas, USA $2,000 cash prize
Animated Short Winner: Manoman, Simon Cartwright, UK $2,000 cash prize 
Special Jury Prize: Glove, Alexa Lim Haas, Bernardo Britto, USA 
New Visions Short Winner: My Aleppo, Melissa Langer, USA $1,500 cash prize
Bay Area Short First Prize Winner: Extremis, Dan Krauss, USA $1,500 cash prize
Bay Area Short Second Prize Winner: In Attla’s Tracks, Catharine Axley, USA $1,000 cash prize

The shorts jury noted: “These well-wrought miniatures connected us to the world and our own humanity in urgent and unexpected ways. We were impressed by the 29 storytellers in competition, and we thank them for sharing their visions with San Francisco audiences. We look forward to seeing what they do next.” 

The Family Film jury consisted of Betsy Bozdech, Executive Editor, Ratings & Reviews at Common Sense Media; animator and filmmaker Jim Capobianco; and animation director Simon J. Smith.

Winner: Bunny New Girl, Natalie van den Dungen, Australia $500 cash prize 
The jury noted: “Bunny New Girl  was recognized for its great, relatable message of acceptance and solidarity in a new community—as well as technical achievement, strong talent direction, and able storytelling that builds to a powerful and entertaining ending.”

Special Jury Prize: Simon’s Cat: Off to the Vet, Simon Tofield, UK
The jury noted: “We recognize this film for its pure entertainment value, great observational comedy, laugh-out loud jokes, and clear cat knowledge.”

The Youth Works jury was comprised of bay area high school students Sophia Anderson, Karla Mandujano and Kyle Wolfe, with adult supervisor Aldo Mora-Blanco of Film School Shorts at KQED.

Winner: Elliot, Dennis Kim (South Korea/USA)
$1,000 cash prize—including $500 donated by Vancouver Film School. The winner will also receive a one week scholarship, including tuition and accommodation, to one of the Vancouver Film School’s Summer Intensive Programs.

The jury noted: “In another filmmaker’s hands, the story may have been an old hat. But in this filmmaker’s craft, what emerges is a meticulously crafted, well thought-out narrative that is engaging and beautiful to look at.” 

Special Jury Prize:  Lucky Numbers, Chester Milton, USA $500 cash prize donated by Vancouver Film School
The jury noted: “Lucky Numbers is a crowd pleasing black comedy that managed to balance humor and morbidity perfectly.”

The Google Breakthrough in Technology Award jury was comprised of members of Google's Computer Science in Media and Industry Relations teams, including: Courtney McCarthy, Strategist in Computer Science in Media and Julia Hamilton Trost, Account Executive, Google Media Sales.

Winner: From My Head to Hers, Maria Alvarez, USA $500 cash prize donated by Google
Google presents the Breakthrough in Technology Award for the best use or display of technology and innovation. The award honors filmmakers who go the extra mile to highlight the use of technology to solve a problem and make the world a better place, and aspires to promote diversity in tech while disrupting negative stereotypes in STEM fields.  

59th San Francisco International Film Festival
The 59th San Francisco International Film Festival runs April 21–May 5 at the Castro Theatre, the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, the Roxie Theater and the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco and BAMPFA in Berkeley. Held each spring for 15 days, SFIFF is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in one of the country’s most beautiful cities, featuring nearly 200 films and live events, 14 juried awards with nearly $40,000 in cash prizes and upwards of 100 participating filmmaker guests.

San Francisco Film Society
The San Francisco Film Society champions the world’s finest films and filmmakers through programs anchored in and inspired by the spirit and values of the San Francisco Bay Area. Building on a legacy of nearly 60 years of bringing the best in world cinema to the local audiences, SFFS is now a national leader in film exhibition, media education and filmmaker services.