SDFF NEWS BITS: ALUMNI UPDATES, FESTS, HONORS, NEW DOCS, INDUSTRY HAPPENINGS
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26 APRIL 2022
AWARDS. HONORS. FESTIVALS. SPECIAL SCREENINGS.
A big congratulations to Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth To Power (Abby Ginzberg, 2020), which has won this year’s 53rd NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Documentary. The film paints a vivid and timely portrait of Congresswoman Barbara Lee (California-D), a steadfast voice for human rights, racial and economic justice, peace and diplomacy in the U.S. government. Lee began her tenure as an activist with the Black Panther Party and raised two sons as a single mom before becoming the highest ranking black woman in the U.S. Congress. The doc showed as part of SDFF 2022.
The Rob Stewart Award for Best Science or Nature Documentary Program or Series at the Canadian Screen Awards went to Borealis (Kevin McMahon, 2021), an hour-long doc that travels deep into the heart of Canada’s iconic wilderness to explore how the plants and animals that live there communicate and survive the destructive forces of fire, insects and human encroachment.The award is given out in honor of Stewart who tragically died shooting the film, Sharkwater Extinction, which exposed the devastating issue of shark finning. The film was a follow-up to his two previous films Sharkwater and Revolution and showed as part of SDFF 2020.
Director Corina Schwingruber Ilić won the regional Big Stamp at ZagrebDOX International Documentary Film Festival, along with co-director/husband Nikola Ilić for the Swiss/Serbian doc Dida. This family doc focuses on Nikola’s relationship with his mother Dida, who has been living in Belgrade with her mother whose health has declined, threatening the independent life she has been able to lead. The film follows Nikola, who immigrated to Switzerland from Serbia as a young man, as he attempts to help his mother while maintaining his relationship with his wife and life in Switzerland. Corina Schwingruber Ilić directed the documentary short All Inclusive, a beautifully shot, mildly humorous observational doc shot aboard cruise ships, which showed as part of SDFF 2020.
Filmmaker and creator Adrienne von Wolffersdorff has received a Seattle City Artist Award for a proposal focusing on women’s experiences of miscarriage. The finished project involve short videos of five conversational interviews with a graphics/digital artist and women who have experienced miscarriages, and will culminate in a podcast, website and public screenings. Von Wolffersdorff’s The Memoir, which showed at SDFF 2018,is a documentary about the filmmaker’s Grandma Ceil, a 96 year-old woman who was in the process of writing her memoir. The filmmaker explores her grandmother’s past, as well as her creative process, in an effort to understand what inspires her to stay motivated.
SDFF 2022 fan fave, Fanny: The Right To Rock (Bobbi Jo Hart, 2021), was shown as part of the Hawaii’i International Film Festival this week. The first all-female band to be signed to a major record label, Fanny was formed in Sacramento in 1960 by two Filipina-American sisters and their friends, released five critically-acclaimed records in as many years, toured with bands like Chicago, and were written out of history until the reformed 50 years later. The film’s director Bobbi Jo Hart also directed the SDFF 2018 selection Rebels On Pointe, which celebrated Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo; the all-male, drag ballet company founded on the heels of New York’s Stonewall riots.
Échale Ganas: The Villa’s Tacos Story (Shirley Yumeng He, 2021) shows at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival this week, with one of the film’s subjects, Victor Villa, in toe for a post-screening Q&A. In the film, young entrepreneur Victor dreams of 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. The short doc was an SDFF 2022 official selection.
NEW FILMS & PROJECTS FROM SDFF FILMMAKERS
Filmmaker Kief Davidson (Bending The Arc, SDFF 2018) has just finished a new 4-part docuseries The Meltdown: Three Mile Island, which will begin streaming on Netflix May 4. The series tackles the near catastrophe at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant and the whistleblower who spoke up to protect the community. The doc’s subject resonates with Davidson’s other films including Bending The Arc, which he co-directed with Pedro Kos. Kos has also made a recent documentary for Netflix, the critically acclaimed feature-length doc Lead Me Home, an immersive film about homelessness shot in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle made in collaboration with Jon Shenk. The SDFF2018 doc that they co-directed is also available to stream through Netflix. Bending The Arc documents the birth of Partners In Health, which began 30 years ago with the work of a group of extraordinary doctors and activists working to save lives in a Haitian village and became a battle in the halls of power for healthcare for all.
In the news last week for helming If You Have, a 35-minute doc chronicling the 75-year history of UNICEF, SDFF alumni filmmaker Ben Proudfoot popped up again this week with the release of The Life of Jerry Givens, a State Executioner Turned Death-Row Abolitionist. The seven-minute doc is part of the Times’s “Cause of Life” video series that celebrates the lives of people lost to Covid-19. It is part of an ongoing relationship betweenProudfoot and the newspaper. Proudfoot has been showing films at SDFF for several years, including SDFF 2022 Best Short winner A Concerto Is A Conversation, which he made with musician Kris Bowers, and The Queen of Basketball, which won the Academy Award® this year for Best Short Documentary. These films, along most of his catalog, are available for free on his production company website: Breakwater Studios.
Producer Marci Wiseman’s (Bathtubs Over Broadway, EP) new project Bad Axe (dir. David Siev, 2022), which won the Audience Award for best feature-length doc, was recently acquired by IFC. The film has been lauded for its depiction of the year 2020 as it unfolded, as Asian-American director David Siev returns to his small hometown and documents his family’s struggle to keep their restaurant open amid the pandemic and the emergence of blatant, often violent white supremacy that emerged with Trumpism. Wiseman was an Executive Producer on the doc, as she was on SDFF 2019’s Bathtubs Over Broadway (Dava Whisenant, 2018), a film that focused on the industrial musicals and the people who make them, which is now available via Netflix.
IN THE NEWS
SDFF 2020 Jury Award winner Midnight Family (Luke Lorentzen, 2020) will serve as the source material and inspiration for a new, star-studded Spanish language medical drama that will stream on Apple+. Gibrán Portela and Julio Rojas are the showrunners, and the series will be executive produced by Pablo Larraín and Juan de Dios Larraín. The documentary is about the Ochoa family, which runs a private ambulance in one of Mexico City’s wealthiest neighborhoods, competing with other for-profit EMTs for patients in need of urgent help.
A U.S. trailer for Wuhan Wuhan (Yung Chang, 2020) is finally out, with the film receiving a limited U.S. release in theaters and on V.O.D. starting May 6. Wuhan Wuhan is an observational documentary unfolding 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. The film showed as part of SDFF 2021.
Sydney-based Adventure Entertainment recently acquired The Race To Alaska (Zach Carver, 2021)from Untethered Productions. The Race to Alaska documents a 750-mile motorless boat race described as “the Iditarod on a boat with a chance of drowning or being eaten by a Grizzly bear.” As punishing as it is his epic, the film captures an endurance race that is both punishing and beautiful and attracts the intrepid and unhinged who find their edge along a coastline. The doc was an official selection of SDFF 2021.
Cirque Du Cambodia (Joel Gershon, 2020) was recently acquired by Rolling Pictures on Circus Day (April 18). The doc, an SDFF 2022 selection, follows the real-life journey of two teenagers with the classic dream of running away to join the circus, but with a twist. Rolling Pictures’ media release on the acquisition points describes the film as inspirational but also as addressing social circus programs and arts education as potentially transformative for marginalized youth.
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. (Bob Hercules, Rita Coburn Whack, 2016) made a recent Book Riot list of bookish documentaries it recommends, which are available to stream now, along with the James Baldwin doc I Am Not Your Negro and Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise weaves the author’s words with archival photos and video. Covering everything from her upbringing in the Depression-era South to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana. The film showed at SDFF 2017 and is available as an episode of American Masters via PBS on YouTube.
Sapelo (Nick Brandestini, 2020), which documents matriarch Cornelia Walker Bailey and the two brothers she guides as they come of age on the barrier island of Sapelo, the last remaining enclave of the Saltwater Geechee people, premiered nationally on PBS earlier this month. The premiere and the film’s availability via PBS’s America ReFramed has increased attention to the island, with articles appearing in mass media publications like U.S. News & World Report, as well as smaller more niche places like Realscreen and New York New Amsterdam News. Sapelo was an SDFF 2021 film co-sponsored by SF DocFest/IndieFest.
The Berkeley FILM Foundation is offering a new round of film grants for its 2022 cycle, which began on April 4. The foundation supports narrative and documentary works in production, post-production and distribution stages. Grants between $5,000-$25,000 are awarded to professional and student filmmakers who live or work in the East Bay for films with a strong focus on social or environmental justice. The deadline to apply is May 9. To review guidelines and learn more about eligibility, click here.
LOCAL SCREENINGS + FILM EVENTS
Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol will be hosting a screening of the doc Angst (Matt Skerritt, 2020) on April 28 at 6:30 p.m. The film is designed to raise awareness around anxiety and mental health will be screened for free in collaboration with the Sonoma County Office of Education.
The Israeli Film Festival will be back for its 7th year, with a hybrid in-person and virtual fest screening seven films at the Rialto® and online April 26-May 17. The selections include 3 documentaries Black Flowers (Tammy Federmanm 2021) about , The Last Chapter of A.B. Yehoshua (Yair Qeder, 2021), and That Orchestra with the Broken Instruments, 2021). The festival is presented by the Jewish Community Center of Sonoma County.
The Sebastopol Doc Night series continues on May 9 at 7 p.m., with a screening of Symphony of the Soil (Deborah Koons Garcia, 2012) followed by a discussion with producer Deborah Koons Garcia and editor Vivien Hillgrove. Filmed on four continents, Symphony of the Soil highlights the elaborate relationships between soil and all other elements of the environment and life on earth, and examines human’s relationship to soil and its key role in ameliorating the climate crisis. The screening and discussion will be screened at 7 p.m. at Rialto Cinemas® and will be followed by a casual gathering at Fern Bar. Doc Night is a collaboration between Trim Tab, SDFF, and the Rialto®. Buy tickets here, or check out our Doc Night page for more details.
OUTwatch continues its Spring/Summer film series on May 19 with Rebel Dykes (Harri Shanahan and Sian Williams, 2021), a heady, energized mash-up of animation, unseen archive footage and interviews, which provides intimate insight into a politically charged, artistically radical subculture in 1980s London. Bringing together BDSM nightclubs, inclusive, sex-positive feminism, DIY zine culture, post-punk musicians and artists, squatters, activists and sex workers, these rebel dykes went out onto the streets to make their voices heard. The film shows at 7 p.m. at Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol. The series will continue with Mama Bears (June 16) and Framing Agnes (July 21). Buy tickets here!
AVFest, formerly known as the Alexander Valley Film Festival, is returning for its 8th year, running screenings across Sonoma County from April 29-May 8. The festival will return to an entirely live/in-person festival this year, and includes a mix of fiction and documentary features and shorts from diverse perspectives. Check out their line-up here.
CATCH THEM WHILE YOU CAN: DOCS ON TV + ONLINE
When Claude Got Shot (Brad Lichtenstein, 2020) will have its television debut on May 9 on PBS’s Independent Lens, which recently revealed its Spring schedule. The film follows five years in the life of Claude Motley as he tries to recover mentally and physically from being shot in the face by 15 year old carjacker, Nathan King. Claude’s story is at the center of five stories of gun violence, justice and healing, and ultimately leads him back to the boy who shot him. The film, which showed at SDFF 2022, will be available to stream online after it airs. The Spring season of Independent Lens airs from April 25-May 16.
On The Divide (Maya Cueva and Leah Galant, 2021) is available to stream on PBS’s POV series website. The film, an SDFF 2022 official selection, follows the story of three Latinx people living in McAllen, Texas who, despite their views, are connected by the most unexpected of places: the last abortion clinic on the U.S./Mexico border. As threats to the clinic and their personal safety mount, our three characters are forced to make decisions they never could have imagined.
The EarthxFilm festival will be screening SDFF 2022 films Nuisance Bear (Jack Weisman and Gabriela Osio Vanden, 2021) about Manitoba polar bears, Breaking Trail (Jesse Roesler, 2021) about the first woman and person of color to thru-hike the 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail, and Tigre Gente (Elizabeth Unger, 2021) about a Bolivian park ranger and a journalist working to curtail the South American jaguar trade. The festival will also be showing Deep In The Heart, a new film by SDFF 2020 filmmaker Ben Masters who made The River and The Wall. The festival runs online May 16-23.
Big Sonia (Leah Warshawski and Todd Soliday, 2016) is available to stream for free via PBS through April 30. The film focuses on 91 year-old Auschwitz survivor Sonia Warshawski, whose forced retirement occasions a resurgence of memories and fears that she’s long kept at bay by committing herself to work. An SDFF 2017 selection, Big Sonia is also available to rent or buy through Amazon streaming, and is also available through AMC+.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Alexandra Dean, 2017) will be shown on PBS’s American Masters on May 3 and May 6, and is also available for free through the American Masters website until May 18. The American Masters website for the film also includes a number of new interviews and archival information, including an interview with Mel Brooks and recently unearthed audio of interviews with the inventor/actor. Bombshell showed at SDFF 2018 and is about the famed actress’s inventions,
The SDFF 2021 film, When We Were Bullies (Jay Rosenblatt, 2021) is now streaming on HBO/HBO MAX. When We Were Bullies is an autobiographical doc about a filmmaker who is spurred to investigate a 50 year-old bullying event in which he was complicit after a chance encounter with an old classmate. The short was nominated for Best Short Documentary at the 2022 Academy Awards®.
Ferne Pearlstein’s The Last Laugh (Ferne Pearlstein, 2016) is currently available to stream on Kanopy, which is available for free to anyone with a library card. The documentary, which showed at SDFF 2017, considers Holocaust comedy and satire, examining the history of the practice as well as the ethical issues it raises. The film includes appearances by Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman and Gilbert Gottfried, who died this week after battling a long illness.
Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (Deborah S, Esquezani, 2016) recently became available through NBC’s streaming platform Peacock TV. This SDFF 2017 selection examines the criminal justice system through the arrest of four women in San Antonio at the tail end of the “Satanic ritual abuse panic” of the 1990s. The four women, all Latina, all lesbian, were wrongfully convicted of a heinous sexual assault. The film documents their treatment by the criminal justice system and their continued efforts to prove their innocence after serving several decades in prison.
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