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SFFILM Announces Winners of Significantly Expanded Documentary Film Fund.


Significantly Expanded Fund Awards a Total of $125,000 to Six Projects for Postproduction


San Francisco, CASFFILM today announced the six winners of the 2017 SFFILM Documentary Film Fund awards totaling $125,000, which support feature-length documentaries in postproduction. Created to support singular nonfiction film work that is distinguished by compelling stories, intriguing characters and an innovative visual approach, the SFFILM Documentary Film Fund has expanded significantly in 2017, doubling the number of supported projects to six. Assia Boundaoui’s The Feeling of Being Watched, RaMell Ross’ Hale County, This Morning, This Evening, Leslie Tai’s How to Have an American Baby, Luke Lorentzen’s Midnight Family, Heaven Through the Back Door by Anna Fitch and Banker White, and A Machine to Live In by Yoni Goldstein and Meredith Zielke, were each awarded significant funding that will help push them towards completion.
The SFFILM Documentary Film Fund has an excellent track record for championing important films that have gone on to earn great acclaim. Previous DFF winners include Peter Nicks’s The Force, which won the 2017 Sundance Film Festival Directing Award for documentary and SFFILM Festival’s Bay Area Documentary Award, and will be released this fall by Kino Lorber; Peter Bratt’s Dolores, which won the 2017 SFFILM Festival Audience Award for Documentary Feature following its Sundance premiere; Jamie Meltzer’s True Conviction, which won a Special Jury Mention for Documentary Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival; and Zachary Heinzerling’s Cutie and the Boxer, which won Sundance’s Directing Award for documentary and was nominated for the 2014 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature; among many others.
Since its launch in 2011, the SFFILM Documentary Film Fund has distributed nearly half a million dollars to advance new work by filmmakers nationwide. The 2017 Documentary Film Fund is made possible thanks to an expanded gift from the Jenerosity Foundation.
The panelists who reviewed the ten finalists’ submissions are Jennifer Battat, founder of the Jenerosity Foundation; Noah Cowan, SFFILM Executive Director; Caroline von Kühn, Director of Artist Development at SFFILM; Jenny Slattery, Associate Director of Foundations and Artist Development at SFFILM and independent producer Corey Tong.
“We are thrilled to support these six filmmaking teams, each of which is telling an important story with boldness and passion,” remarked the jury. “This group of projects represents a wide range of artistic visions, subjects, and approaches to nonfiction filmmaking—from the intimate portrayal of an independent woman’s last days to an arresting journey into the surreal, futuristic city of Brasilia. We very much look forward to supporting these films as they evolve, make their way into the world, and leave their imprint on audiences, fellow filmmakers, and our collective sense of what can be achieved through the documentary form.”
The Feeling of Being Watched – Assia Boundaoui, director/producer; Jessica Devaney, producer – $25,000
When a filmmaker investigates rumors of surveillance in her Arab-American neighborhood in Chicago, she uncovers one of the largest FBI terrorism probes conducted before 9/11 and reveals its enduring impact on the community.
Hale County, This Morning, This Evening – RaMell Ross, director; Joslyn Barnes and Su Kim, producers –  $15,000
What is the experience of coming-of-age in the Black Belt region of the US? This film presents the lives of two young men in a series of visual movements that replace narrative arc with orchestral form. 
Heaven Through the Back Door – Anna Fitch and Banker White, co-director/producers; Sara Dosa, producer – $20,000
Heaven Through the Backdoor is a contemplative documentary that tells the story of Yo (Yolanda Shae), a fiercely independent 88-year old woman whose unique brand of individualist feminism impacts how she chooses to live in the final years of her life. (Former SFFILM FilmHouse resident; Bay Area-based project)
How to Have an American Baby – Leslie Tai, director/producer; Jillian Schultz, co-producer – $20,000
There is a city in Southern California that abounds with pregnant women from China. Told through multiple perspectives, How to Have an American Baby is a kaleidoscopic voyage behind the closed doors of the Chinese birth tourism industry. (SFFILM FilmHouse resident; SFFILM fiscally sponsored filmmaker; Bay Area-based project)

A Machine to Live In – Yoni Goldstein and Meredith Zielke, co-directors; Sebastian Alvarez, producer; Andrew Benz, co-producer – $20,000
Hovering over what remains of Brazil's modernist future, this film looks at how social control, rational design, and space-age architecture gave rise to a vast landscape of transcendental and mystical utopias. (Bay Area-based project)
Midnight Family – Luke Lorentzen, director; Kellen Quinn, producer; Daniela Alatorre,and Elena Fortes, co-producers – $25,000
In Mexico City, 16-year-old Juan Ochoa struggles to legitimize his family's unlicensed ambulance business, as corrupt police in the neighborhood begin to target this cutthroat industry.
For more information on the Documentary Film Fund and the other SFFILM Makers documentary support programs visit
SFFILM Documentary Film Fund grants are awarded once each year. The exact amounts of individual grants and the total number of grants are determined on an annual basis. As with all SFFILM grants, in addition to the cash awards, recipients will gain access to numerous benefits through SFFILM Makers, the organization’s comprehensive and dynamic artist development program. These benefits, customized to every individual production, can include one-on-one project consultations, creative development, additional fundraising assistance, resource and service recommendations, and networking opportunities, among many others. For more information visit


SFFILM Makers (formerly "Filmmaker360"), the organization’s artist development program, provides significant financial and creative resources to independent filmmakers through grants, fellowships, residencies, fiscal sponsorship, and more. Since 2009, more than $5 million has been disbursed to more than 150 film projects in various stages of production. Highlights include the SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grant; a joint effort with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to cultivate stories rooted in science and technology; and the Documentary Film Fund, a partnership with the Jenerosity Foundation. For more information, visit
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 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
This press release is available online at





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