2016 Doc Film Fund Finalists

We're pleased to reveal the ten finalists for this year's SF Film Society Documentary Film Fund awards—which total $75,000 and support feature-length documentaries in postproduction. This prize recognizes singular nonfiction film work that is distinguished by compelling stories, intriguing characters and innovative visual styles. Finalists in this round were selected from more than 200 applications, and winners will be announced in mid-September.

Since its launch in 2011, the Doc Film Fund has distributed more than $450,000 to advance new work by filmmakers nationwide. The grant has championed a number of notable films, including Zachary Heinzerling’s Cutie and the Boxer, which won Sundance’s Directing Award for documentary and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2014.

We're expecting nothing less from this year's round of talented and creative finalists:

By a Thread — Rina Castelnuovo & Tamir Elterman, directors; Hilla Medalia, producer
By A Thread tells the story of Muhammad (Muhi), a Palestinian child from Gaza who is transferred at birth to a hospital in Israel where he lives out his entire life, confined for security restrictions. The film explores Muhi’s contradictory world in which he is treated, raised and saved by his people’s enemy.

For Ahkeem — Jeremy Levine and Landon Van Soest, codirectors
For Ahkeem follows Daje Shelton, a 17-year-old Black girl from north St. Louis, Missouri as she strives to graduate from the nation’s only court-supervised public high school. Daje fights for her future as close friends are killed, her sixteen-year-old boyfriend Antonio is sent to jail and nearby Ferguson erupts after the police shooting of Michael Brown. Through Daje’s intimate first-person account, For Ahkeem explores the complex web between juvenile justice, education and race in America today. 

Greywater — Jeff Unay, director
A blue-collar family man breaks the promise he’d made years ago to never fight again. Now 40 years old, with a wife and four children who need him, Joe Carman risks everything—his marriage, his family, his financial security—to go back into the fighting cage and come to terms with his past. 

Mudflow — Sasha Friedlander, director
Indonesian villagers fight for justice in the wake of a massive exploding mud volcano resulting from gas drilling gone wrong. The film unfolds against the backdrop of Indonesia’s historic 2014 presidential election as the world’s third largest democracy is put to the test. The election offers hope, but will real change happen?

PC594: The Art of Rebellion — Libby Spears, director
PC594 is the portrait of Lydia Emily, a uniquely challenged artist, activist and single mother, and her inspiring struggle for creative expression, political insurrection and domestic fulfillment. Fighting a degenerative disease while raising a daughter with autism, Lydia dares the world to stop her from painting the murals of beauty and dissent that give her life voice.

Photographer of War — State of Emergency — Boris Bertram, director; Katrine Sahlstrøm, producer
Photographer of War portrays the life of Jan Grarup, a photographer who tries to balance life in war zones with being a father of four.

The Rescue List  Alyssa Fedele and Zachary Fink, codirectors
The Rescue List follows the incredible journey of two boys in Ghana as they escape from slavery, spend a year in a hidden rehabilitation shelter, and are eventually reunited with their families. Meanwhile, the man who rescued them goes back on a covert rescue mission to liberate more children. For him, the work is personal. 

United Skates  Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler, co-director/producers
United Skates follows an underground subculture growing inside our country’s last standing roller rinks. The story is told through the eyes of two unassuming leaders as they battle in a racially charged environment to save a community and culture still undiscovered by the American mainstream, before it disappears.

Whose Streets? — Damon Davis and Sabaah Folayan, codirectors; Jennifer MacArthur, producer
Whose Streets? chronicles the lives of Ferguson activists who remain part of a movement for racial justice long after Mike Brown’s killer goes free. Personal and dynamic, this is a protest film that goes beyond the sensational tropes of local news. The directors use a combination of interview and vérité footage in the streets and homes of activists leading the charge against police brutality in the United States. 

Woman in Motion — Peter Bratt, writer/director/producer
A fiercely passionate and equally courageous Latina woman, young Dolores Huerta completely transforms her life when she embraces the spirit of revolt in 1950’s California, and goes on to cofound the country’s first farm worker’s union with the legendary Cesar Chavez. Introspective yet sweeping, both personal and political, Woman In Motion defines how precarious success can be, as impossible choices are made between motherhood and political advancement.


SF Film Society Documentary Film Fund grants are awarded once each year. As with all Film Society grants, in addition to the cash awards, recipients will gain access to numerous benefits through Filmmaker360, the Film Society’s filmmaker services program.

A leader in the field of nonprofit support of cinema, Filmmaker360 offers unparalleled assistance and opportunities designed to further the careers of independent filmmakers. Filmmaker360 oversees one of the largest film grant programs in the country, which disperses nearly $1 million annually to support innovative and exceptional films at every stage of production.

The 2016 Documentary Film Fund is made possible thanks to a generous gift from Jennifer Battat and the Jenerosity Foundation.