Dec 1, 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.
Previous DFF winners include Sarvnik Kaur’s Against the Tide, winner of the Sundance 2023 Vérité Filmmaking Prize; Alejandra Vasquez and Sam Osborne’s Going Varsity in Mariachi, winner of the Sundance 2023 Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award; 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 2023 Documentary Film Fund is made possible thanks to support from Jennifer Hymes Battat and the Jenerosity Foundation along with Katie Hall and Tom Knutsen.
Meet the 2023 Documentary Film Fund Finalists
Company of Steel
Yuliia Hontaruk, Director/Producer; Ivanna Khitsinska, Producer; Alexandra Bratyshchenko, Producer; Uldis Cekulis, Producer; Katarina Krnacova, Producer
After enduring the horrors of the war in eastern Ukraine since 2014, three young veterans return home. As they struggle to find their place in daily life as civilians, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 throws them right back into the trauma they have tried so hard to escape.
Natalie Rae Robison, Director/Producer; Angela Patton, Director/Executive Producer; Lisa Mazzotta, Producer
An intimate portrait of a generation of youth bearing the weight of mass incarceration through the lens of four young girls as they prepare for a special father-daughter dance with their fathers in jail.
The Impossible Dream
Javid Soriano, Director/Producer
A world-class opera singer, now unhoused in San Francisco, embarks on a musical journey into the brightest and darkest regions of his life.
Efraín Mojica, Director/Producer; Rebecca Zweig, Director/Producer; Sarah Strunin, Producer
At the rural rodeos in Michoacán, México, a hypermasculine tradition is rife with hidden queer encounters. In Jaripeo, director Efraín steps into the frame to follow two rancheros as they navigate desire, machismo, and mass migration from one rodeo season to the next.
Patrice the Movie
Ted Passon, Director; Kyla Harris, Producer; Innbo Shim, Producer; Emily Spivack, Producer
Patrice the Movie is a nonfiction rom-com about the next phase of marriage equality – disability. In her late 50s, Patrice has finally found the love of her life, Garry, who is also disabled. They want nothing more than to get married, but if they do—or were even to move in together—the benefits they need to survive would be cut. Despite the scrutiny they’re under, they decide to plan a commitment ceremony that could risk their entire future. Blending verite footage and stylized school play-inspired recreations, the film follows Patrice in the present day while weaving in scripted scenes that reveal events from her past.
Brittany Shyne, Director/Producer; Danielle Varga, Producer; Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, Executive Producer
SEEDS is a portrait of centennial farmers in the geographical south. Using lyrical black-and-white imagery, this meditative film examines the decline of generational black farmers and the significance of owning land.
Ryan Sidhoo, Director/Producer
The Track is a coming-of-age journey of three teenagers chasing their Olympic dreams in post-war Bosnia. Training on their bullet-riddled luge track left over from the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo, the heart of the project is found in the relatable, sometimes humorous and exciting portrayal of friends striving for a better life despite religious strife and a murky economic future. Ultimately, the film begs the question: Where does a generation go after civil-war?
Untitled Mistress Dispeller Project
Elizabeth Lo, Director; Emma D. Miller, Producer; Elizabeth Lo, Producer; Maggie Li, Producer
Wang Zhenxi works as a “mistress dispeller” in China, hired to break up extramarital affairs and save marriages in crisis. Untitled Mistress Dispeller Project follows Wang in her work on an unfolding case, offering extraordinarily intimate access to private lives usually kept hidden. Through a Rashomon approach that allows sympathies to shift between husband, wife, and mistress, the film paints a picture of disconnection and desire that is both specific to China and relatable across cultures.
Untitled Pyrenees Bears Film
Max Keegan, Director/Producer; Amanda McBaine, Producer; Jesse Moss, Producer; Elizabeth Woodward, Producer
Olivier Sarbil, Director/Producer Darren Aronofsky, Producer; Dylan Golden, Producer; Brendan Naylor, Producer; Sigrid Dyekjær, Producer
Viktor is an intimate epic about a Ukrainian searching for purpose in a war he cannot hear.
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