Mar 19, 2019
Juried Awards Champion Emerging Artists and Global Cinema with a Selection of Narrative and Documentary Features from 23 Countries Around the Globe
San Francisco, CA — SFFILM today announced the films in competition for the Golden Gate Awards (GGAs), which will distribute nearly $40,000 in total prizes this year in various narrative and documentary categories. Among the most significant awards for emerging global film artists in the United States, the Golden Gate Awards, first presented at the San Francisco International Film Festival in its inaugural year in 1957 represent a signature feature of SFFILM’s commitment to global filmmaking and storytelling. Films are selected with an emphasis on bringing attention to innovative and quality filmmaking regardless of participation in other festivals.
The New Directors Prize winner will receive a cash prize of $10,000, the McBaine Documentary Feature winner will receive $10,000 and the McBaine Bay Area Documentary Feature winner will receive $5,000. In addition to the narrative and documentary features in contention, the Golden Gate Awards will include competitors in six short film categories. These films will be announced at the Festival press conference on Wednesday, March 20, and screen April 10–23. Independent juries will select the winners in all categories, which will be announced at the Golden Gate Awards event on Sunday, April 21.
2018 GGA NEW DIRECTORS (NARRATIVE FEATURE) COMPETITION
The Chambermaid, Lila Avilés, Mexico/USA
Twenty-four-year-old Evelia cleans rooms at an upscale Mexico City hotel while taking advantage of its adult education program in her off hours. Though introverted and task-focused, she becomes drawn into the lives of several guests and coworkers, trading duties with Minitoy, an outgoing and ribald woman, and shyly flirting through glass with a handsome window washer. Set exclusively within the hotel, its rooms (both before and after Evelia’s handiwork) and back corridors, The Chambermaid perfectly and poignantly details its protagonist’s life and work with deft cinematography and a script that makes every word count.
Debt, Vuslat Saraçoglu, Turkey
The travails of a duty-bound husband and father who works in an economically struggling print shop are conveyed with humor and pathos in this beautifully performed Turkish film. Tufan is basically a kindhearted fellow who takes in a neighbor with emphysema and helps his daughter nurse a wounded crow. But as tensions at work rise and the increasingly sickly houseguest begins to strain his marriage, Tufan begins to wonder if trying to live a life that is just and good is worth the trouble. Winner Best Film, Istanbul Film Festival.
The Harvesters, Etienne Kallos, France/South Africa
Sensitive teenager Janno’s parents are deeply invested in religion, Afrikaner solidarity, and their farm, while the boy’s interests lie elsewhere. When his parents bring a troubled but charismatic kid named Pieter into the household, a struggle for dominance ensues, and the film powerfully examines masculinity in white South African culture. As Pieter slyly draws various family members under his spell, Janno begins to sense possibilities in his displacement as favored son. Etienne Kallos’s debut is a strong and pitiless drama about the intersection of familial and cultural dynamics.
The Little Comrade, Moonika Siimets, Estonia
In 1950 Estonia, the Soviets are working to suppress a fledgling resistance movement that has arisen in the countryside. Six-year-old Leelo can’t quite understand exactly why her mom has been arrested or why her father is disappointed to hear her championing the “young pioneers” she sees marching at school. With a deft balance of humor, tension, and empathy, Siimets’s debut shows how the evils of authoritarianism can come cloaked in appealing guise for those too young or gullible to know better.
The Load, Ognjen Glavonić, Serbia/France/Croatia/Iran/Qatar
Though rarely spoken of, the unseen contents of a plain, white cargo van are at the center of Ognjen Glavonić’s tense and moving political drama about circles of moral responsibility during times of war and conflict. Leon Lucev plays Vlada, a driver for hire for the Serbian government, transporting a vehicle from Kosovo to Belgrade, whose journey takes him into unexpected territory, both physical and ethical. Glavonić’s absorbing film occasionally departs from Vlada’s trip, following secondary characters and moments, details that subtly underline the omnipresent circles of moral culpability and their impact.
Moments, Beata Parkanová, Czech Republic/Slovakia
Anezka has some serious family issues – her mom is relentlessly judgmental, her dad’s a know-it-all, and her grandmother has cancer – but tries to remain sanguine about the resulting demands placed on her. Lovely and down to earth, she seems to offer everyone in her life, including her married lover, what they need from her, but what is she doing about her own future? This journey of self-discovery becomes the pivot for the small points of reckoning that Parkanová’s film depicts with such tenderness and nuance, abetted by Jenovéfa Boková’s gracious and generous performance in the lead role.
Paper Flags, Nathan Ambrosioni, France
Displaying a mature style and sensibility despite his age, Paper Flags director Ambrosioni (at 19, one of cinema’s youngest directors of a full-length feature ever) offers a complex and compelling story of sibling tensions. Vincent (shape-shifting character actor Guillaume Gouix), recently released from prison, immediately heads to his sister Charlie’s (Noémie Merlant) modest home. The film carefully tracks Charlie’s sense of unease around her brother’s return – she pretends he’s just an acquaintance when she’s out with friends – until a visit from their father causes their simmering resentments to boil over.
The Sound of Silence, Michael Tyburski, USA
Peter Lucian (Peter Sarsgaard) holds the keys to Manhattan – at least to how it sounds. He is a house tuner, hiring himself out to people who are uneasy in their apartments, but his real life’s project is mapping the city according to the note each neighborhood possesses. Unfortunately, his need for scientific recognition threatens to further ostracize him into the realm of crackpot. Sarsgaard is quietly commanding as the obsessive Peter, and he’s surrounded by an impressive Dolby Atmos soundscape in which a toaster’s hum can be the linchpin to a good night’s sleep.
Suburban Birds, Qiu Sheng, China/Taiwan
Repeating motifs – sleep, birdwatching, buildings in decay – weave together two distinct storylines in Qiu Sheng’s mysterious, atmospheric debut. In one story, land surveyors investigate a tilting building, while in the other a group of kids searches for their friend who has vanished from school. Though both feature a character named Xiahao, the narratives intersect in ways that only deepen the mystery of what is taking place and when. With nods to the work of Hong Sang-soo and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Suburban Birds crafts a tale where the past seems to literally invade the present.
2018 GOLDEN GATE AWARDS MCBAINE DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION
Always in Season, Jacqueline Olive, USA
Juxtaposing an investigation of the recent mysterious death of teenager Lennon Lacy, found hanging from a swing set in North Carolina, against the little-known ritual of present-day lynching reenactments, first-time feature director Jacqueline Olive presents harrowing proof of how little has changed in terms of justice and jeopardy for Black men and women. Narrated by Danny Glover and featuring Osei Essed’s haunting score, Always in Season is a forceful, unforgettable investigative documentary that shatters the notion that racial violence is a thing of the past.
The Hidden City, Víctor Moreno, Spain/France
Prepare to journey underground, where darkness drapes the screen and only slivers of light from machines and headlamps lead the way. Cavernous, damp, and mesmerizing, Victor Moreno’s The Hidden City observes a world being built underneath Madrid’s feet, one that immerses the viewer in blackness, where the only interactions are between the powerful machines that are working their way through dense rock, builders working in complete solitude, and the creatures that dare to venture that far underneath the surface.
Honeyland, Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov, Macedonia
The surprise hit at Sundance, where it won three awards, including the World Cinema Documentary Grand Prize, Honeyland is a visually stunning human portrait that has something sweet for everyone. Hatidze lives with her ailing mother in the mountains of Macedonia, making a living cultivating honey using ancient beekeeping traditions. When an unruly family moves in next door, what at first seems like a balm for her solitude, becomes a source of tension when they, too, want to practice beekeeping, while disregarding her advice.
Kabul, City in the Wind, Aboozar Amini, Netherlands/Afghanistan/Japan/Germany
The deep-seated effects of decades of conflict in Afghanistan are memorably revealed through the lives of three Kabul residents in Aboozar Amini’s mesmerizing observational documentary.In this deeply personal and resonant film, the resilience of Abas, a sensitive yet oppressed bus driver whose meager livelihood is jeopardized when his vehicle breaks down, is juxtaposed with two young brothers, Afshin and Benjamin, who are thrust into assuming the roles of providers when their father flees to Iran. Winner of the Special Jury Award at IDFA.
Midnight Family, Luke Lorentzen, USA/Mexico
The Ochoa family runs a hair-raisingly frenetic private ambulance service in Mexico City. Director Luke Lorentzen captures the madness of curbside negotiations – the service they provide is an add-on to Mexico’s under-resourced public health system – and the truly life-and-death drama of their everyday existence in a thrilling vérité style. Most of all, we become part of the remarkable Ochoa clan, with their big hearts, business savvy, and a remarkable sense of humor in the face of their chosen harrowing profession.
Midnight Traveler, Hassan Fazili, USA/Qatar/Canada/UK
When the Taliban forces filmmakers and married couple Hassan Fazili and Fatima Hussaini to flee Afghanistan with their two daughters, they begin filming their time on the road, which includes running across borders, sleeping on roadsides, interacting with smugglers, and staying at multiple refugee camps along the way. Poetically shot entirely on three cell phones, Midnight Traveler immerses viewers in the ongoing and heartbreaking refugee crisis, as it captures the family at their most desperate and yet most loving, as they try to stay hopeful without a place to call home.
Over the Rainbow, Jeffrey Peixoto, USA
“Easy to criticize a religion when you’re outside it,” says one of the subjects in Jeffrey Peixoto’s mesmerizing debut film, a poetic examination of the Church of Scientology that focuses on its fringes. Weaving together accounts of alien abductions, art dealing, E-meters, and the Sea Organization with interviews from active and inactive members of the Church, Over the Rainbow is a moody and absorbing film that, without passing judgment, approaches the religion thoughtfully and with care, revealing unexpected nuances of the relationship of humans to their faith.
Pahokee, Patrick Bresnan, Ivete Lucas, USA
In their feature debut, award-winning documentarians Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan intimately share the lives and aspirations of four high-school seniors of color as they anxiously prepare for life outside Pahokee High School. In a rural, tight-knit town in Southern Florida, their high school is like none other, with an undefeated football team uniting the community and a prom that brims with gowns, tuxedos, and vintage cars. Bresnan and Lucas employ a graceful, poetic approach to their material that grants the many emotional moments in the film great authenticity.
The Seer and the Unseen, Sara Dosa, USA/Iceland (Bay Area)
The volcanic rock that covers most of Iceland is not just beautiful and protected in the Nature Conservation register, it is also purportedly the home to elves, trolls, and other hidden people. When a new road is set to be built through a lava field, environmentalists including Ragnhildur “Ragga” Jónsdóttir – a “Seer” who can communicate with the elves – must fight to preserve the sacred rock while combating Iceland’s push to grow economically in this magically real fable by Sara Dosa (The Last Season, Festival 2014).
Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America, Tom Shepard, USA (Bay Area)
Powerfully and heartbreakingly detailing the challenging process that LGBTQ refugees must go through to find safety and security while starting over in the US, Tom Shepard’s (Scout’s Honor, 2001) inspiring new documentary profiles four people who have come to San Francisco to save their own lives. Over the course of this unforgettable group portrait, Subhi (from Syria), Junior (from Congo), and Mari and Cheyenne (from Angola) experience roadblocks and triumphs as they reflect on their respective histories and try to create a home for themselves in an environment that is not always welcoming.
For general information visit sffilm.org/festival.
For photos and press materials visit sffilm.org/press.
2019 San Francisco International Film Festival
The longest-running film festival in the Americas, the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM Festival) is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in one of the country’s most beautiful cities. The 62nd edition runs April 10–23 at venues across the Bay Area and features nearly 200 films and live events, 14 juried awards with close to $40,000 in cash prizes, and upwards of 100 participating filmmaker guests.
SFFILM is a nonprofit organization with a mission to champion the world’s finest films and filmmakers through programs anchored in and inspired by the spirit and values of the San Francisco Bay Area. Presenter of the San Francisco International Film Festival, SFFILM is a year-round organization delivering screenings and events to more than 75,000 film lovers and media education programs to more than 12,000 students and teachers annually. In addition to its public programs, SFFILM supports the careers of independent filmmakers from the Bay Area and beyond with grants, residencies, and other creative development services.
For more information visit sffilm.org.
This press release is available online at sffilm.org/press/releases.