16 AUGUST 2022


A still of the late Sally Gearhart and her dog from Deborah Craig’s 2018 documentary short A Great Ride about radical, queer women’s experience of aging. Craig is working on the film Sally, which focuses solely Gearhart and recently received the prestigious Saul Zaentz Award from the Berkeley Film Foundation.

The Berkeley Film Foundation honored filmmaker Deborah Craig (A Great Ride, 2018) with the prestigious Saul Zaentz Award for her new film Sallya biopic about lesbian feminist activist, writer and professor Sally Gearhart, who passed away a little over a year ago. SDFF audiences know Sally from her show-stopping appearance in Craig’s short,  A Great Ride (Deborah Craig, 2018), which documented radical, queer women’s experiences of aging. The doc is a portrait of this extraordinary woman, a tremendous thinker and activist, and explores some of the ways in which she has been written out of history. The Saul Zaentz Award is given out annually to honor the legacy of renowned filmmaker and BFF founder Saul Zaentz. The $25,000 award goes to films in post-production, giving films a cash infusion at a time when most productions really need it. The award was announced along with a spate of 2022 grants, gifting 20 films with a total of $207,000. Since its founding in 2009, BFF has awarded more than $2.3 million to 222 film projects that continuously push boundaries and inspire change. See the full story on this year’s Film Foundation grants here.

Still from Free Renty: Lanier v. Harvard (David Grubin, 2021). Tamara Lanier looks at an item from a racist Harvard collection commissioned to “prove” white supremacy in 1850. Lanier sued the university for pictures of her grandfather that were included in the collection. Free Renty was selected for the 4th Annual Morehouse College Human Rights Festival

Free Renty: Lanier v. Harvard (David Grubin, 2021) was among the 26 films selected for the 4th Annual Morehouse College Human Rights Film Festival, which has both live/in-person and virtual components this year. Theatrical screenings will take place on the Morehouse campus Sept. 20-24, with a virtual fest running Sept. 20-30. The film selections are meant to provoke discussions about immigration, race, gender identity, politics, health care and law enforcement, along with many other human rights and social justice topics. Badges are now on sale at a 50 percent discount. Free Renty tells the story of Tamara Lanier, an African American woman determined to force Harvard University to cede possession of daguerreotypes of her great-great-great grandfather, an enslaved man named Renty. The daguerreotypes were commissioned in 1850 by a Harvard professor to “prove” the superiority of the white race. The images remain emblematic of America’s failure to acknowledge the cruelty of slavery, the racist science that supported it and the white supremacy that continues to infect our society today. The film focuses on Lanier and tracks her lawsuit against Harvard, and features attorney Benjamin Crump, author Ta-Nehisi Coates and scholars Ariella Azoulay and Tina Campt. The film showed as part of SDFF 2022.

Still from produced Michael-David McKernan’s How To Fall In Love in a Pandemic, which is one of nine shorts showing as part of the Ridgefield Film Festival Shorts Fest.

Michael-David McKernan’s How To Fall In Love in a Pandemic (2021) is one of nine shorts selected for the Ridgefield Independent Film Festival Shorts Fest screening focused on children and cinema. The screening will be followed by a panel on the history and language of youth in cinema, from Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, to Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause to Netflix’s Stranger Things. How To Fall In Love in a Pandemic is about a romance between two filmmakers that accelerates after the duo is forced to move in together during the pandemic, having known eachother for just two weeks. The  film streamed as part of SDFF 2021.


Still of LGBTQIA protestors crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge – a flashpoint during Bloody Sunday – from Gay Chorus, Deep South (David Charles Rodrigues, SDFF 2020). Rodrigues has turned his talents towards sports as an industry in the time since, making the three part docuseries Neymar: Perfect Chaos, and recently signed on to make a film about vintage high-scoring NBA trio Run TMC.

Director David Charles Rodrigues (Gay Chorus, Deep South2019) has been tapped for a new feature-length doc about high-scoring NBA trio of yore, Run TMC, which was comprised of players Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin, who set the stage for the present day dynasty of  Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who lead the world champion Golden State Warriors. While Rodrigues may seem like an odd choice for people who know him solely through Gay Chorus, Deep South, which showed at SDFF 2020, he recently directed the three-part docuseries, Neymar: The Perfect Chaos, which profiles soccer star Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, one of the most famous and highest paid athletes in history. The project is being coproduced by RTG Features (Alaskan Nets) and MSM (The Last Dance). The doc is currently in pre-production, with shooting scheduled for later this year, when Hardaway is inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame—joining Mullin and Richmond, who were inducted in 2011 and 2014, respectively. For more on this story, check out this more in depth article on Deadline.

Still from Ben Masters’ The River And The Wall (2019). Masters new doc Deep In The Heart also takes place in the Texas wilds, celebrating the state’s eco-diversity through the eyes of native wildlife species. The film just became available to stream VOD. In addition, Masters and producers Katy Baldock and Jay Kleberg have released a companion book full of images taken during the filming.

Director Ben Masters and producers Katy Baldock and Jay Kleberg have just released a 250-page, illustrated coffee table book, Deep In The Heart: A Texas Wildlife Story, to accompany the eponymous documentary film, which premiered in late May and is currently streaming on demand. The trio cowrote the book, which is a visual journey through Texas’ diverse eco-regions, using stunning images captured during the three years of production. The book is meant to supplement the film, a celebration of Texas’s diverse landscapes and wildlife, told through the eyes of wildlife species and narrated by actor Matthew McConaughey. Masters’ film with Hillary Pierce, The River and The Wall (2019), which was an official selection of SDFF 2020, is similarly focused on conservation and follows five friends who set out to document the borderlands and explore the potential impacts of a U.S.-Mexico border wall on the natural environment. The film version of Deep In The Heart is also available to stream VOD on PrimeVideo, GooglePlayAppleTV and Vudu. This is the second SDFF documentary project this year that has grown to include an illustrated book, the other is Kapaemahu (Joe Wilson, Dean Hamer, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, 2021), about the hidden history of 15th century dual-gender Mahu healers. The Kapaemahu project began as animated short and has grown into a multi-media documentary project, including a feature film, illustrated children’s book, audio book, and most recently, museum exhibit

Still of a youthful Maya Angelous from Maya Angelou And Still I Rise (Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack, 2016). The film’s producer Steve Sarowitz’s production company Wayfarer Studios is overseeing a project from a very different corner of American pop culture, a feature-length adaptation of beloved 1980s video game Pac Man.

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack, 2016) producer Steve Sarowitz’s production company with Justin Baldoni (Five Feet ApartClouds), Wayfarer Studios, is overseeing a live-action Pac-Man film with Bandai Namco Entertainment, the company which published the original game in the 80s. This isn’t Pac-Man’s first rodeo as far as media adaptations go. It spawned a Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon series in 1982, as well as a 2013 CG-animated series, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film comes from original idea from Sonic the Hedgehog associate producer Chuck Williams of Lightbeam Entertainment. The much-maligned Sonic film, apparently helped spark interest in the Pacman adaptation. Although both projects are focused on significant elements of American popular culture, that’s more ore less where the similarities seem to end. The new video game project feels like a significant change from documentary projects like Maya Angelou and Still I Rise, which showed at SDFF 2017 and is available to stream via American Masters via PBS on YouTube.


Image of an escort outside of one of the last abortion clinics operating along the Texas-Mexico border before the fall of Roe v. Wade. The film continues to be played by various nonprofits and other groups to raise awareness and spur community conversation.

Maya Cueva and Leah Galant’s abortion doc On The Divide (SDFF 2022) was screened on Saturday as part of Cineola’s  “Cuerpos Libres” film series, with Cueva in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. Cineola is a platform for Latinoamérican film, which programmed the Cuerpos Libres series in response to the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, rendering abortion care illegal across half the states in the country. Filmed before the decision, On The Divide tracks the intersection of three lives at what was, at the time, the last abortion clinic on the U.S./Mexico border. The Cineola series also included a screening of Celina Escher’s “cautionary tale” about a woman who was imprisoned for 10 years in El Salvador for a miscarriage that almost cost took her life.   

Still of Victor Villa and his daughter from Échale Ganas: The Villa’s Tacos Story. Victor recently became the first person to win the Taco Madness Championship for two consecutive years.

Ulysses Salcido, the cinematographer for Échale Ganas: The Villa’s Tacos Story (Shirley Yumeng He, 2021), penned a piece about the documentary and its subject, Villa’s Tacos, for Culinary Backstreets. The piece comes as Victor Villas became the first person to win the L.A. Taco Madness tournament in back-to-back championships. The film documents Victor’s work and dreams as a young entrepreneur, growing his weekend backyard pop-up into a full-time restaurant, rising up from the challenges of Covid-19 while maintaining his role as a loving family member and community leader, and winning the first Taco Madness Championship. The short doc was an SDFF 2022 official selection.

Still of Richard Shetterly working, from Truth Tellers, Richard Kane’s doc about the political artist. Kane’s film is being made available for Maine teachers to stream in the interest of an expanded curriculum around good citizenship.

Richard Kane’s Truth Tellers (2021), a lesson in what it means to be a good citizen, is being made available to all Maine educators to stream for free Aug. 16-17. A follow-up conference is scheduled for Nov. 5, and will focus on how to bring the film’s messages and the history it tells into the classroom, regardless of discipline. Truth Tellers, which showed at SDFF2022, chronicles the lives of courageous Americans fighting for racial equity, climate justice, and indigenous rights through the eyes of Robert Shetterly, a long-time activist, and Maine artist. Truth Tellers is a story of Shetterly’s art and activism and a history lesson in what it means to be a citizen of a democracy. The project explores the U.S.’s ongoing struggle to live up to our democratic ideals with those who are not afraid to speak the truth nor challenge the status quo.

Still of filmmaker Jennifer Brea, as she copes with M.E. (aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) in the autobiographical doc Unrest, which chronicles how the disease completely alters her life. The film featured an interview with Retha Viviers, a global leader in the battle to get ME recognized by the medical community. She died of cancer in late July at 55 years-old, the mean age of death for people with ME as a comorbidity.

Retha Viviers, a global leader in the protracted battle to get myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) officially recognized as a disease affecting millions of people, died in late July at age 55. While she succumbed to ovarian cancer, 55 is the mean age of death for people with ME. Viviers appeared in Jennifer Brea’s 2017 film  Unrestwhich chronicles the grad student-turned-filmmaker’s experience of ME. A tribute to Viviers by journalist and fellow ME sufferer Sam Pearce regards the film as the start of a sea change in public and medical recognition of the disease. The film was only the second representation of the disease in mass media, the first being a Golden Girls episode titled  “Sick & Tired,” which aired in 1989. The dearth of representation can be seen as an index of its invisibility as a valid medical diagnosis, which is still being revised. For more about Retha Viviers, see Pearce’s tribute, which gives an overview of her activism, the shifting status of the disease, as well as information about its relationship to other diseases, including long covid. Unrest showed at SDFF 2018, and is available to stream via Netflix

A tryptic of stills from Reflection: a walk with water. The doc and one of its featured experts, TreePeople founder Andy Lipkis, were the subject of an LA Times column this week, which also saw the film become available to stream online.

The Los Angeles Times ran an opinion piece from columnist Robin Abcarian featuring TreePeople founder Andy Lipkis, who appeared in Reflection: a walk with water (Emmet Brennan, 2021) on Monday, the same day the film became available to stream on demand. The column describes Lipkis’s work, and the film’s project, tying both to concrete conditions in Los Angeles now, as well as those project for 2040. Part personal meditation on water, part road map for positive change, Reflection: a walk with waterconfronts current environmental and systematic troubles by examining bellwethers for the future, including Los Angeles and other parts of California. The film was an SDFF 2022 selection, and its screening included an environmental stewardship panel, which you can watch right hereReflection: a walk with water is available to rent or buy on Vimeo, and is also streaming on Gaia and Films for Action subscription services.


Still of Leonard Cohen from Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song (Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, 2022), which examines the music icon’s life and career through his influential song Hallelujah. The new doc is playing at the Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol through Thursday, Aug. 18.

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song (Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, 2022), a unique music doc about the beloved singer-songwriter, will continue its run at the Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol through Aug. 18. The film explores Cohen’s work and life through the prism of his hymn Hallelujah, a touchstone for many other recording artists, and most of the rest of the population who has heard it played. The doc was approved by Cohen a couple of years before he passed away, and as a result includes never-before-seen materials from the Cohen Trust including Cohen’s personal notebooks, journals and photographs, performance footage and extremely rare audio recordings and interviews. Tickets are available here. You can also catch interviews with filmmakers Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller at NorCal Public Media and KSRO.

Image from above of Megan Bell’s Santa Cruz vineyard from Lori Miller’s Living Wine, about the Northern California natural wine movement, which will show at the Rialto, beginning this Friday.

The Rialto® will  be screening Living Wine (Lori Miller, 2022), starting Aug. 19. The film’s run at the theater includes a special 4 p.m. showing on Aug. 21, which will be followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Lori Miller and winemaker Darek Trowbridge. The film is about the nascent, but growing Northern California natural wine movement. It focuses on three main subjects—Sonoma County’s Darek Trowbridge, who comes from a legacy winemaking family but rejects their corporate winemaking; Santa Cruz’s Megan Bell, who was formally educated at UC Davis and came up in the conventional wine industry before forging her own path with a natural wine business; and Gideon Beinstock, a master winemaker farming his vineyards in the Sierra foothills with techniques he learned from French artisan winemakers. Tickets are available here

Patricia Highsmith around 1955, as seen in Loving Highsmith, a film by Eva Vitija. Photo by Ellen Rifkin Hill, courtesy Swiss Social Archives.

The highly anticipated biographical doc about celebrated American author Patricia Highsmith (Strangers On A Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Price Of Salt), Loving Highsmith (Eva Vitija, 2022), begins showing at Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol on September 9, with some screenings shown as part of OUTwatch’s 2022 film series. Based on Highsmith’s diaries, notebooks, and other personal writings, which reflect on her lovers, friends and family, the film casts new light on the famous thriller writer’s life and work, permeated by themes of love and its defining influence on identity. Tickets are available through the Rialto®, here.

Still from Belly Of The Beast (Erika Cohn, 2020), an expose of modern day eugenics and reproductive injustice in California prisons. The doc will kick off the Fall 2022 Doc Nights Season

Doc Night will return on September 12 with a screening of Emmy®-winner Belly Of The Beast at 7 p.m., followed by a discussion with director Erika Cohn, and a casual gathering at Fern Bar. Filmed over seven years with extraordinary access and intimate accounts from currently and formerly incarcerated people, Belly of the Beast exposes modern day eugenics and reproductive injustice in California prisons. Doc Night is a collaboration between Trim Tab, SDFF and Rialto Cinemas®. See Belly Of The Beast and Doc Night details here. Buy Tickets here.


Animated rendering of a Cultural Revolution-era Chinese theater from Drew Leung’s The Chemical Factory, an official selection of the 18th Annual HollyShorts Festival, which will be streaming through Aug. 20.

Two SDFF 2022 shorts, Drew Leung’s The Chemical Factory(2021) and Jack Weisman and Gabriela Oslo Vanden’s Nuisance Bear (2021), alongside a trio of shorts from SDDF alumni at the virtual iteration of the 18thAnnual HollyShorts Festival, which streams on Bitpix through Aug. 20. The Chemical Factory is an animated piecein which an immigrant mother retraces her early years during the Chinese Cultural Revolution to her son, the filmmaker. Nuisance Bear isan unconventional and visually arresting study of the polar bears who draw tourists to Churchill, Manitoba. The festival also includes at least three other films from SDFF alumni: Ball And Vase(David Baram/One All The Way) a fiction short about a professor/magician struggling to reconnect with the world on his 90th birthday, How Do You Measure A Year? (Jay Rosenblatt/When We Were Bullies, SDFF) in which the filmmaker’s daughter is asked the same questions on her birthday for 29 years, and MINK!(Ben Proudfoot/A Concerto Is A Conversation) about Patsy Takemoto Mink, a Hawaiian Democrat who became the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. The virtual version of the fest includes shorts and panel events and can be accessed with the purchase of a pass on Bitpix.

Still from Leon Lee’s Letter from Masanjia, which includes a first-hand account from a political prisoner who lived and worked in a Chinese labor camp. The doc is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Paramount +. It is also available to stream VOD on most major platforms.

Peabody Award winning director Leon Lee’s 2018 doc Letter From Masanjia is now available to stream on Amazon Prime and Paramount+, and VOD via iTunesGooglePlay and Vimeo. The documentary feature is an SDFF 2019 selection that tells the story of Sun Yi, a political prisoner at a Chinese labor camp, determined to change the system. Yi’s story became news when an American consumer found his plea for help in a box of Halloween party supplies she ordered online. The film gives a first-hand account of the camps and depicts the restrictions that shaped Yi’s life, and that of his family, even after his release. Lee’s newest film, Unsilenced is an historical drama set in 1999, which deals with very similar issues. It is available to stream VOD on VimeoAmazoniTunes and GooglePlay .

Cell from Keith Maitland’s Tower (2016) an animated account of the University of Texas shootings in 1966, which made a Paste list of films to watch on Sundance Now, where it is now streaming. It is also available VOD on most major platforms.

Keith Maitland’s animated doc Tower (SDFF 2017) a retelling of the 1966 University of Texas Tower shootings, made a recent Paste Magazine list of the 10 best movies to stream on Sundance Now. Tower is an animated reenactment of the massacre, which unfortunately still feels relevant and of-the-moment, given the onslaught of mass shootings that occur with regularity in the U.S. Tower is also available VOD on Amazon, iTunesGoogle Play and Vudu.

Still from Glitter & Dust (Anna Koch and Julia Lemke, 2020) about young girls on the male-dominated rodeo scene. The film just began streaming on the indie documentary platform True Story.

Glitter & Dust (Anna Koch and Julia Lemke, 2020), an SDFF 2021 doc about girls who buck gender norms by competing in the male-dominated world of rodeos, has already gotten new attention from the media after starting to stream online last week. The film, which was released two years ago, was reviewed by The Guardian on July 23, the day after it began streaming on True Story, an independent platform for documentaries.

Hospital workers donning photos of themselves over their PTE talk to a patient at the outset of the pandemic in Yung Chang’s Wuhan Wuhan is available to stream via PBS’s POV series website.

Following its recent nationwide television premiere opening the 35th season of PBS’s POV, Wuhan Wuhan (Yung Chang, 2020) is now available to stream on the series website. The film, which showed at SDFF 2021, is an observational documentary filmed during February and March of 2020, at the height of the pandemic in Wuhan city, where the coronavirus began. With unprecedented access at the peak of the pandemic lockdown, the film focuses on five stories that focus on the human experience of the earliest days of the pandemic, as a mysterious virus began to infect Chinese citizens, and frontline healthcare workers grappled with an invisible, deadly killer. 

Still of men working on an oil derrick from Sydney Bowie Linden’s documentary short Black Gold (SDFF 2022), which is being featured in The New Yorker online. The documentary short is about a California oil town bracing for changes they believe the Biden administration will accelerate.

Sydney Bowie Linden’s documentary short Black Gold (SDFF 2022), about a California oil town bracing for change, is now featured in The New Yorker. The vaunted publication is streaming the film, accompanied by a short, interview-based article in which Linden talks about her intentions and experiences making the film. Linden filmed in the small town of Taft, near Bakersville, over 6 months in 2020, during the presidential campaign and election. The doc is a compelling artifact of an historic moment and one that challenges national views of California as uniformly progressive. 

Still of Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink at work from Ben Proudfoot’s new doc Mink! Mink was the first woman of color to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Award-winning filmmaker Ben Proudfoot (A Concerto Is A Conversation, The Queen Of Basketball) teamed up with tennis star Naomi Osaka (Hana Kuma production company) for MINK!which tells the story of Patsy Takemoto Mink, a Hawaiian Democrat who became the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representative. The film was the latest in a string of Proudfoot’s films released as a New York Times Op Doc, joining many of Proudfoot’s other shorts on the platform, including The Queen Of Basketball, A Concerto Is A Conversation, The Unchosen One, and The Lost Astronaut.

Still from Gilda Shepherd’s Since I Been Down (Gilda Shepherd, 2021), which casts a critical eye on massive problems in the criminal justice system by recounting the story of Kimonti Carter, who received a sentence of life without the possibility of parole when he was just 18 years old. The film’s release helped spark a movement that changed Washington state sentencing guidelines and may result in Carter’s release in the very near future. The doc is available to stream VOD through most major platforms.

Since I Been Down (Gilda Shepperd, SDFF 2021) recently became available as a VOD streaming release. The feature-length doc, which showed at SDFF 2021, addresses racism in the criminal justice system. Since I Been Down examines a morass of intersecting criminal justice and carceral issues by focusing on victims of the 1980-90s drug war who continue to their lives behind bars, in many cases contributing to the limited community they can make in prison. Since its release, the film has been shown as in various campaigns seeking to transform how justice and criminal law are envisioned. It is now available on demand through most major streaming platforms (iTunesAmazonGoogle PlayYouTube, etc.).

Still from Derek Knowles’ new film with Lawrence Lerew for LA Times Short Docs, Sentinels, which focuses on the Redwood Forest Defense tree-sit. The film shares a deep concern for the environment and its future with After The Fire, the film Knowles made with Spencer Seibert that showed at SDFF 2020.

Sentinelsa new documentary short co-directed by Derek Knowles (After The Fire, SDFF 2020) and Lawrence Lerew, which takes an immersive, observational tack in its presentation of the Redwood Forest Defense tree-sit, is streaming for free via the L.A. Times. The film is an immersive, observational document of the Redwood Forest Defense tree-sit, bearing witness to a “radical” form of protest that, unlike street protests, takes place largely outside of the public eye, and requires a great deal of both physical and mental strength.

SDFF Alumni films focused on abortion: AKA Jane Roe (Nick Sweeney, ed. Mary Manhardt, 2020), Personhood: Policing Pregnant Women In America (Jo Ardinger, SDFF 2020), Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa (Mike Attie, Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater, 2020), Vessel (Diana Whitten, SDFF 2014), and On The Divide (Maya Cueva and Leah Galant, 2021).

The recent  U.S. Supreme Court decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, suspending legal access to vital reproductive health care for woman across the United States and effectively curtailing women’s bodily autonomy, prompted us to look back at our recent selections for films that can give context and dimension to a life experience, which is frequently discussed in abstract terms. The films we selected for this list either showed at the festival or were the work of SDFF alumni and include: On The Divide (Maya Cueva and Leah Galant, 2021), Personhood: Policing Pregnant Women In America (Jo Ardinger, SDFF 2020), AKA Jane Roe (Nick Sweeney, ed. Mary Manhardt, 2020), Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa (Mike Attie, Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater, 2020), and Vessel (Diana Whitten, SDFF 2014). The in-text links above will take you to a streaming version of each film. For a list with more detailed film descriptions and more places to watch, click here.

If you have news about an SDFF alumni, please contact us at so we can broadcast it!

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