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.