Six Films Take Home Honors from Sebastopol's 10th Annual Festival

Highlights from this year’s festival:

  • Keith Maitland wins the Jury Award for his feature “Tower.”
  • Aaron Schock wins the Jury Award for his short “La Laguna.”
  • Tommie Dell Smith wins the Critic’s Award for her feature “The Groove Is Not Trivial.” (Smith is a founding member of SDFF and served as its Artistic Director for several years)
  • Tim Nakashi wins the Critic’s Award for his short “Through the Wall.”
  • Eddie Rosenstein wins the Audience Award for his feature “The Freedom to Marry.” (This is Rosenstein’s 3rd film at SDFF, each time he has won an award from the festival)
  • Jessica Bernstein-Wax wins the Audience Award for her short “Double Talk.”

SEBASTOPOL, Calif., March 27, 2017 — Today, the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival publicly announces its award winners for the 10th Annual Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, which screened 63 films from over 20 countries over the course of four days.

Jury Awards

Top feature documentary honors from the SDFF Jury Award goes to Keith Maitland’s “Tower,” which recounts the University of Texas tower shooting of 1966 in a novel mix of animation and archival footage mixed with interviews of survivors and using their own words to tell the story. Coordinating Producer Hillary Pierce was in attendance to accept the award on behalf of Producer/Director Keith Maitland.

In the shorts category, the SDFF Jury Award goes to Aaron Shock and the riveting “La Laguna,” which tells the story of two young brothers and their struggles as tribal Mayans growing and adapting to a changing world and society, embodying their family’s hope for the future. The screening was sold out and received considerable audience acclaim for it’s bittersweet coming-of-age story and contemplation of the oppression of tribal Mayans to this day.

Critic's Awards

SDFF founding member and North Bay movie critic Gil Mansergh presented his awards for feature and short documentary.

The feature that Mansergh gave top honors to was local filmmaker (and another SDFF founding member) Tommie Dell Smith’s rousing documentary “The Groove Is Not Trivial,” recounting the quest of Scottish fiddler Alasdair Frasier for his musical and cultural identity, along the way discovering the universal “groove” that drives the human capacity for hope. Smith was in attendance to accept the award.

For the short documentary category, Mansergh selected the touching (and brief) bittersweet story of a family divided by a very real obstacle in Tim Nackashi’s “Through the Wall.” Nackashi’s story presents the timely notion of one family’s struggle with the aftermath of deportation, trying to maintain a family unit through a very tight grille of wire fencing.

Audience Awards

This year, as a first for SDFF, the audience balloting was simplified significantly, leading to a swift tally and the ability to announce the winners of the Audience Award during the closing night party festivities as Sebastopol Center for the Arts.

This year, the audience favorite for feature documentary went to Eddie Rosenstein and his very popular “The Freedom to Marry,” which provides the account of the hidden story of how marriage equality became the law of the land. Rosenstein was in attendance throughout the festival, and noted that “Freedom,” his third documentary selected for SDFF, was also the third time he won an award at the festival. Rosenstein had previously brought the feature “School Play” to SDFF 2009 and the short documentary “Miss Shade is Missing” to SDFF 2010. Both of his previous films were featured in this year’s festival program “Spotlight on Filmmakers,” celebrating the achievements of filmmakers who have built their careers in documentary film and grown along with SDFF over the years.

Finally, the audience choice for short documentary was awarded to Jessica Bernstein-Wax for her entertaining short documentary “Double Talk,” which profiles Spanish-language voiceover and dubbing artist Joan Pera, whose voice has portrayed Hollywood stars such as Woody Allen and Jerry Lewis. Bernstein-Wax’s film was programmed as part of the always popular Saturday Shorts program of SDFF, geared toward satisfying the never-ending hunger of the Sebastopol audience for short documentary films.

Sebastopol and North Bay audiences will have additional opportunities to see these award-winners along with several other popular and engaging documentaries during the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival’s “Best of the Fest” summertime encore series. Final selections, along with dates and times, will be announced on or before May 1, 2017.


Peer Pitch West Open for Registrations!

Our partnership with Docs in Progress and the D-Word continues in 2017 with the return of Peer Pitch West, an educational program where filmmakers can bring their documentary project, that is anywhere from idea stage to completion, and get creative feedback from a room of fellow filmmakers and documentary lovers. This program is now in its sixth year with SDFF, and we’re thrilled to once again welcome Docs In Progress Executive Director Erica Ginsberg to Sebastopol to facilitate the session.

We have <s>eight</s>seven pitch slots available at this time! Come get creative feedback on your documentary project in a safe and collaborative environment.

"The Trials of Spring" and "Quiet Title" receive Jury Award at SDFF 2016

Jury Award Winners for 2016

SEBASTOPOL, Calif., April 25, 2016 — The 9th annual Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival announced that Gini Reticker’s “The Trials of Spring received the Jury Award for best feature documentary, and first-time filmmaker Alina Taalman’s “Quiet Title received the Jury Award for best short documentary. Several other films received recognition as well during the festival weekend, held at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts and the Rialto Cinemas® from March 17-20, 2016.

“We are thrilled to recognize the very best of documentary film as part of our program,” said Randy Hall, Festival Director. “All of us at the festival were struck by the power of the story and characters revealed in both of our Jury Award winners, and their achievements put them in the company of some of the best non-fiction films that we’ve had the privilege to present.”

Other Awards Announced

Other films that received awards and special mention during the festival:

  • Ghost Town to Havana (directed by Eugene Corr) won the coveted Audience Award for feature documentary.
  • 50 Feet From Syria (dir. Skye Fitzgerald) received the Audience Award for short documentary.
  • The Amina Profile (dir. Sophie Deraspe) — Critic’s Award for feature documentary.
  • At Midnight (dir. Amber McBride) — Critic’s Award for short documentary.
  • District Zero (dirs. Pablo Iraburu, Jorge Fernández Mayoral, Pablo Tosco) — Programmer’s Award for feature documentary
  • Long Story Short (dir. Natalie Bookchin) received the Programmer’s Award for short documentary
  • Drawing the Tiger (dirs. Amy Benson and Scott Squire) received a Special Jury Mention for their feature documentary.
  • Ben Proudfoot & Breakwater Studios received the first-ever SDFF Innovation in Documentary Award for the groundbreaking “Life’s Work” documentary web series.

Several of these films will enjoy encore presentations at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts from June to October during the “Best of the Fest” series which brings back award winning films and audience favorites from the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival program. The “Best of the Fest” schedule will be unveiled the first week of May when tickets go on sale.

About the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival

Approaching its 10th season, the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival strives to “educate, entertain and inspire” its audiences by presenting cinematic excellence in documentary film projects each year. A well-respected stop on the documentary festival circuit, the city of Sebastopol hosts guests from across the globe and draws audiences from across Northern California to experience the best of independent documentary every March. The 10th Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival is scheduled for March 23-26, 2017.