Nov 30, 2017
San Francisco, CA – SFFILM has announced the latest group of individuals and institutions to be added to Essential SF, the organization’s ongoing compendium of the Bay Area film community’s most vital figures. Each fall, a new group of local cinematic luminaries is added to the growing list of diverse talent, and this year’s inductees—filmmaker Cheryl Dunye, film publicist and festival veteran Hilary Hart, distributor Marcus Hu, documentary producer and distributor ITVS, sound designer James LeBrecht, and writer and exhibitor Eddie Muller—will be feted by special guest presenters and SFFILM staff at a special private reception on December 7.
“It’s an immense privilege to be a part of the wonderful Bay Area film community,” said Rachel Rosen, SFFILM Director of Programming. “Essential SF is a way for SFFILM to acknowledge the richness of innovation and talent that makes this community so brilliant and unique, and to call attention to the amazing individuals and organizations we think have really made a difference in local film culture.”
A key event in SFFILM’s year-round appreciation of local talent, Essential SF was inaugurated in 2010 to shine a light on the region’s exciting and diverse contributions to the filmmaking world. Those honored previously at Essential SF include: Craig Baldwin, Richard Beggs, Les Blank, Peter Bratt, California Newsreel, Canyon Cinema, the Center for Asian American Media, Joan Chen, Ninfa Dawson, Nathaniel Dorsky, Cheryl Eddy, Zoë Elton, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, Michael Fox, Pamela Gentile, Susan Gerhard, Joshua Grannell, David Hegarty, Liz Keim, Kontent Films, Karen Larsen, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Allie Light and Irving Saraf, Carrie Lozano, Anne McGuire, H.P. Mendoza, Anita Monga, Jenni Olson, Jennifer Phang, Rick Prelinger, B. Ruby Rich, Marlon Riggs (posthumously), ro•co films, George Rush, Joel Shepard, Gail Silva, Kent Sparling, Judy Stone, Wholphin, and Terry Zwigoff.
2017 ESSENTIAL SF INDUCTEES
Cheryl Dunye emerged as part of the 1990s’ “queer new wave” of young film and video makers. Dunye’s work is defined by her distinctive narrative voice. Often set within a personal or domestic context, her stories foreground issues of race, sexuality, and identity. Dunye has made over 15 films including Mommy is Coming, The Owls, My Baby’s Daddy, and HBO’s Stranger Inside, which garnered her an Independent Spirit award nomination for best director. Her debut film, The Watermelon Woman, was awarded the Teddy at the Berlinale in 1996 and was recently restored by Outfest’s UCLA Legacy Project and screened at the 2016 SFFILM Festival for the films’ 20th anniversary. Dunye has received numerous awards and honors for her work including a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship. Presently Dunye is a Professor in the School of Cinema at San Francisco State University, is working on episodic work including Queen Sugar, The Fosters, and Claws, and is at work on her next feature film Black is Blue.
After attending college, Hilary Hart landed her ideal job at Palo Alto’s New Varsity Theatre, which led to a position overseeing Landmark’s five Peninsula theaters. She joined the San Francisco Film Society publicity staff in 1993 and was the organization’s Director of Publicity from 1998–2012. Her proudest accomplishment was recognizing talent and mentoring interns and publicists, many of whom moved on to subsequent positions at Pixar, Telluride, Larsen Associates, and the Berkeley Repertory Theater, film professorships, and more. Hart expanded her love for the Bay Area film community by working at Frameline and Cinequest, as well as serving as a Doc Feature juror at Frameline, a filmmaker host at Mill Valley, and a festival pre-screener and volunteer at the SF Jewish Film Festival. Her passion for film festivals is demonstrated by 17 years of work for Sundance and a 25-year run at Telluride.
Marcus Hu is co-founder of Strand Releasing, a theatrical distribution company that has been honored with two retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Strand has distributed over 400 films in the past 28 years, with notable releases from such filmmakers as Lucrecia Martel, Francois Ozon, Jean Luc Godard, Catherine Breillat, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Most recently, Strand has Alain Gomis’s Félicité and Lucrecia Martel’s Zama on its slate, representing their countries’ official Oscar entries for Best Foreign Language Film. Hu has also served as a producer on Gregg Araki’s The Living End, Dennis Cooper’s Frisk, and Tommy O’Haver’s Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss, and is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Locally, Hu is on the advisory board for the Frameline – Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
For more than 25 years, ITVS has incubated, funded, and co-produced over 1,400 documentaries made by independent filmmakers who take creative risks, tackle complex issues, and express points of view seldom explored in the mass media. ITVS is the nonprofit engine behind much of the award-winning programming—40 or more television hours per year—that fuels the prime-time lineups of PBS’s iconic nonfiction series: Independent Lens, POV, Frontline, American Masters, and American Experience. Sally Jo Fifer is President and CEO at ITVS and oversees a staff of 70 and the funding, production, and public television launch of more than 75 programs each year. During her tenure, ITVS has been recognized by the Peabody Awards and the Television Academy for it’s transformative approach to diversity and creative risks in documentary film.
James LeBrecht has more than 40 years of experience as a film and theater sound designer and mixer, an author, a disability rights activist, and a filmmaker. LeBrecht started his career in the theater, working as the resident sound designer at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre for 10 years. LeBrecht founded Berkeley Sound Artists (BSA), an audio postproduction house, in 1996. LeBrecht’s and BSA’s credits include many Bay Area projects, such as Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon’s The Blood of Yingzhou District, which won the Academy Award for short documentary in 2006; Pete Nicks’s The Force and The Waiting Room; Gail Dolgin and Vicente Franco’s Daughter From Danang; David Weissman and Bill Weber’s The Cockettes and We Were Here; and Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s Audrie and Daisy.
Eddie Muller, a native San Franciscan, is a writer, cinema historian, and film preservationist. As founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation, he has rescued and restored dozens of at-risk films. For 16 years he has produced and hosted the Noir City film festival, flagship of a network of annual festivals now in nine US cities. Muller programs, writes, and hosts the weekly Noir Alley series on Turner Classic Movies. In addition to numerous non-fiction books, including the national bestseller Tab Hunter Confidential, Muller also writes crime fiction; his 2002 book The Distance was named Best First Novel by the Private Eye Writers of America.
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SFFILM produces a robust slate of public programs throughout the year, including red carpet premiere events, advance member screenings, and in-depth film series. With diverse offerings and a commitment to excellence in world cinema, SFFILM is the home of great film in the Bay Area all year long. For more information visit sffilm.org/presents.
SFFILM 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. Presenter of the San Francisco International Film Festival, SFFILM is a year-round nonprofit organization delivering screenings and events to more than 100,000 film lovers and media education programs to more than 10,000 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.