Jan 16, 2023
Since its launch in 2011, the SFFILM Documentary Film Fund (DFF) has supported feature-length documentaries in post-production that are distinguished by compelling stories, intriguing characters, and an innovative visual approach. DFF has distributed nearly $1 million to advance new work by filmmakers worldwide, many of whom go on to premiere at festivals like Sundance, our own San Francisco International Film Festival, Tribeca and more, as well as collect dozens of nominations and awards including the Oscars.
This year’s winners include Alejandra Vasquez and Sam Osborn’s Going Varsity in Mariachi (premiering at Sundance this month), Xinyan Yu and Max Duncan’s Made in Ethiopia, Nadav Kurtz’s Untitled Sam and Omar Project, and Kevin Duncan Wong, Kar Yin Tham, and Todd Still’s Home is a Hotel (Working Title).
“In an incredibly competitive slate of submissions, we are thrilled with the winning selections. All of these films explore the human experience in new and powerful ways that truly moved our jury to tears,“ said Masashi Niwano, Director of Artist Development at SFFILM.
The panelists who reviewed the submissions were Ximena Amescua, Artist Manager at Firelight Media; Jameka Autry, Principal and Producer at Beholden Films; Joshua Moore, Manager of Documentary Programs at SFFILM; Masashi Niwano, Director of Artist Development at SFFILM; Sabrina Sellers, Artist Development Coordinator at SFFILM.
“With over 300 submissions and ten exceptional finalists to choose from, this was one of the most competitive review panels we’ve had for the Doc Film Fund,” remarked the panel. “Ultimately our jury selected four superb and distinct films that we believe will be successful and accessible as they near the end of post-production.”
“We felt these four projects not only presented compelling, compassionate, and timely subject material, but each have a unique and creative approach that sets them apart,” they said. “The winners are all emerging filmmakers making their feature debuts, some having already made award-winning shorts, and we couldn’t be more excited to see the impact this grant will have on their burgeoning careers.”
Previous DFF winners include Sarvnik Kaur’s Against the Tide making its 2023 Sundance debut, Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s Writing With Fire, which won Audience and Special Jury Awards at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska’s Honeyland, which won a record number of juried awards at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for Academy Awards for both Best Documentary Feature and Best Foreign Language Film, RaMell Ross’ Hale County This Morning, This Evening, which won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance 2018 and was nominated for the 2019 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and many others.
The 2022 Documentary Film Fund is made possible thanks to support from Jennifer Hymes Battat and the Jenerosity Foundation along with Tom Knutsen and Katie Hall.
2022 Documentary Film Fund Winners
Going Varsity in Mariachi
Alejandra Vasquez, Director; Sam Osborn, Director; Julia Pontecorvo, Producer; James Lawler, Producer; Luis Miranda, Producer
In the richly competitive world of high school mariachi, the musicians from the borderlands of South Texas reign king. Under the guidance of coach Abel Acuña, the teenage captains of Edinburg North High School’s acclaimed Mariachi Oro must turn a shoestring budget and motley crew of inexperienced musicians into state champions.
Made in Ethiopia
Xinyan Yu, Director/Producer; Max Duncan, Director/Producer/Cinematographer; Tamara Mariam Dawit, Producer
Three pioneering women navigate the bumpy expansion of the biggest Chinese industrial zone in Ethiopia.
Untitled Sam and Omar Project
Nadav Kurtz, Director/Producer; Diane Quon, Producer; Jeremiah Zagar, Executive Producer; Jeremy Yaches, Executive Producer; Abby Lynn Kang Davis, Executive Producer
Omar Bader was only eight years old when his father Sam, a film producer, was arrested and sentenced to a 24-year prison sentence. Now twenty-three, Omar struggles under the weight of his father’s long absence. But through a creative collaboration facilitated by prison visits and phone calls, Sam helps Omar summon the courage to pursue his artistic dreams and begins the process of healing their relationship.
Home is a Hotel (Working Title)
Kevin Duncan Wong, Director/Producer; Kar Yin Tham, Co-Director/Producer; Todd Sills, Co-Director/Producer
Within the walls of their 80-square-foot SRO hotel rooms, five diverse San Francisco residents strive against cyclical forces and a housing crisis in their search for a place to call home.
About SFFILM Makers
SFFILM Makers, SFFILM’s artist development program, provides significant strategic and creative resources to independent filmmakers through grants, fellowships, residencies, and individual consultations. Since 2009, over $8.5 million has been disbursed to more than 250 feature projects. SFFILM’s suite of grants includes the SFFILM Rainin Grant and several programs in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; and the Documentary Film Fund, a partnership with the Jenerosity Foundation.
Notable narrative films and filmmakers that have received support from SFFILM Makers include Rainin Grant recipients Channing Godfrey Peoples’ Miss Juneteenth, Fernando Frias’ I’m No Longer Here, Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Reinaldo Marcus Green’s Monsters and Men, Nia DaCosta’s Little Woods, Nijla Mu’min’s Jinn, and Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station. Supported documentary features include Documentary Film Fund recipients CJ Hunt’s The Neutral Ground, Assia Boundaoui’s The Feeling of Being Watched, Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska’s Honeyland, Liza Mandelup’s Jawline, Luke Lorentzen’s Midnight Family, and RaMell Ross’ Hale County This Morning, This Evening.
Learn more about the SFFILM Makers program here.
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