9 AUGUST 2022


Animated rendering of a Cultural Revolution-era Chinese theater from Drew Leung’s animated documentary short, The Chemical Factory, which is an official selection of the 18th Annual HollyShorts Festival.

Two SDFF 2022 shorts, The Chemical Factory (Drew Leung, 2021) and Nuisance Bear (Jack Weisman and Gabriela Oslo Vanden, 2021), are official selections of the 18th Annual HollyShorts Festival, which runs Aug. 11-20. The Chemical Factory, in which an immigrant mother retraces her early years during the Chinese Cultural Revolution to her son, is one of the festival’s adult animation selections. Nuisance Bear, an unconventional and visually arresting study of the polar bears who draw tourists to Churchill, Manitoba is in the documentary category. A trio of films from past SDFF alumni filmmakers have also been selected for the festival: 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 festival will be screening live at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, and will also be streaming movies and panels on Bitpix.

Still of Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim from Mapping Survival (Nacho Corbella, 2021), an official selection of the 2022 NGO International Film Festival. Ibrahim’s work advocating for her community in Chad ended up making her a leader in the fight against climate change.

Mapping Survival (Nacho Corbella, 2021) is an official selection of the 2022 NGO International Film Festival, which will be held in Nairobi this October. This unique festival was started as a way to insure that the films made by NGOs, which frequently have extremely limited distribution and end up in organization archives with little access, have a chance of being seen. Most of these films are made to raise awareness/increase visibility for humanitarian projects, and to document evidence-driven interventions and the lessons learned during those undertakings. NGOs have been subject to criticism since the 1990s for the role they’ve played in “developing” nations for global capital, curbing real change in the process. That project is to some extent clear in the NGO film festival’s mission, which comports with “sustainable development goals.” At the same time, the festival provides a platform for sharing community-based knowledge and information from/about diverse sources, often showing localized experiences of widespread issues, and effective responses to them. Supported by Ripple Effects, a non-profit aimed at telling stories about women making change, Mapping Survival tells precisely this kind of story. The film is about Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim’s work advocating for the rights of her nomadic community in Chad, which ended up making her a leader in the fight against climate change and a voice for Indigenous people across the planet. The film showed at SDFF 2022.

Barbara Lee speaks to supporters in this still from Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth To Power (Abby Ginzberg, 2020), which was recently screened as part of Women In Media – Newark’s flagship event, the Women’s International Film Festival, currently is in its 13th iteration.

Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power (Abby Ginzberg, 2021) was screened as part of The Women’s International Film Festival on July 30 at the Newark Museum of Art. The screening was followed by a panel discussion of Women In Leadership, and was accompanied by three shorts Under The Same Sky (Alison Chace, 2021) in which female experts talk pandemic, Eureka (Miida Chu, 2021) about indentured Chinese prostitutes on the eve of the 1885 anti-Chinese riot in Eureka, and Daughters of the Sea (Laura Esteban, 2021) about chauvinism in the Atlantic fishing business. The Women’s International Film Festival is put on by Women in Media – Newark. This year marked its 13th iteration, which focused on cause and effect as they relate to women’s issues. Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth To Power 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. You can catch Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth To Power (Abby Ginzberg, 2021) VOD via Amazon and iTunes.

A still from Leftover Feelings: A Studio B Revival (Lagan Sebert and Ted Roach, 2021), which opened the 10th Albuquerque Film & Music Experience.

Leftover Feelings: A Studio B Revival (Lagan Sebert and Ted Roach, 2021) is an Opening Night Movie at the Albuquerque Film & Music Experience, which is now in its 10th year. In the SDFF 2022 film, Nashville music legends, John Hiatt and Jerry Douglas, team up to record their Grammy-nominated album Leftover Feelings in Elvis’s favorite studio, RCA’s fabled Studio B, attempting to revive and capture the magical sounds of this historic room where so many early hit songs were made. The film features commentary from Lyle Lovett, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and others. The film will screen at University of New Mexico’s Rodey Theater on September 13.

Still from Don’t Feed The Coyotes (Nick Stone Schearer, 2021), which was an official selection of the recent Maine Outdoor Film Festival, where it screened along with a panel on climate change storytelling and 6 other shorts.

Don’t Feed The Coyotes (Nick Stone Schearer, 2021) was an official selection of the recent Maine Outdoor Film Festival, and showed as a part of a program that included an expert panel on climate change storytelling, and six other shorts: Riding The Rails (Evan Kay, 2021) about bikes modified to use train tracks, The People’s Perch (Patrick Bonsant, Susan Kimball, and David Blais, 2021) about a water tower transformed into a gathering and education space, Inner Mounting Flame (Andrew Kornylak, 2021) about North Carolina musician and rock climber Mike Stam, wildlife mini Snowstorm (David Busse, 2021), experimental mini doc Continuum (Harrison Mendel), and Skin Swimmer (Hannah Walsh, 2021) about action sports athlete Roberta Cenedese training to swim an “ice mile” in three degree water. Don’t Feed The Coyotes is an SDFF 2022 short, which observes several years in the intertwined lives of San Francisco’s urban coyotes and the very different researchers who observe them. On its face, the doc centers around a three year-old coyote, fondly named Scout, and her territorial challenger, the scientifically-dubbed 15F. However, it chronicles their lives through the two starkly different researchers observing them, telling a story about humans, the natural world and how the lines that get drawn between the two.


Still from For Sama, a Frontline doc co-directed by Edward Watts and Waad al-Kateab. Watts recently co-produced another Frontline doc Ukraine: Life Under Russia’s Attack (Mani Benchelah, and Patrick Tombola, 2022), which showed on PBS on Aug. 2.

For Sama co-director Edward Watts produced Ukraine: Life Under Russia’s Attack (Mani Benchelah, and Patrick Tombola, 2022)which was featured on Frontline on Aug. 2, and is still available to stream on the series website. The film was shot during the Russian assault on Kharkiv, and follows displaced families trying to survive underground, civilians caught in the war and first responders risking their lives amid the shelling of Ukraine’s second largest city. For Sama, Watt’s film with Waad al-Kateab, which was an official selection at SDFF 2020, also showed as a Frontline Episode in 2019. That film traces five years of filmmaker al-Kateab’s life during the uprising, as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth while apocalyptic conflict rises around her.

Still of two young friends from Omar Mullick’s These Birds Walk about the struggles and resilience of Karachi street children. Mullick co-directed the upcoming documentary feature Flight/Risk with Karim Amer. The film, which will be released on Amazon Prime on Sept. 9 is about the everyday people impacted by two Boeing 737 crashes in 2018 and 2019.

Flight/Risk, a new film co-directed by Omar Mullick (These Birds Walk, 2014) and Karim Amer, who also collaborated on Oscar®-nominated doc, The Square, will be released on Prime Video on September 9.  The film follows everyday people who find themselves in the midst of a tragedy when two Boeing 737 Max planes crashed only five months apart in 2018 and 2019. The documentary feature is told from the perspective of affected family members, their legal teams, whistleblowers, and Pulitzer-winning Seattle Times journalist Dominic Gates. Mullick’s doc These Birds Walk examined the struggles and resilience of Karachi street children and the Samaritans looking out for them.  The film showed at SDFF 2014.

Still from produced Michael-David McKernan’s How To Fall In Love in a Pandemic. McKernan just produced a second film, Superhuman (Mícheál Fleming, 2022), which is about an African-Irish schoolboy whose hopes of playing pro soccer are dashed when he’s diagnosed with a degenerative condition, but begins to find his way in the world of para-athletics.

Superhuman (Mícheál Fleming, 2022)a new documentary short produced Michael-David McKernan (How To Fall In Love in a Pandemic, 2021) premiered at the Dunamaise Arts Centre and Theatre in Laois, Ireland on July 25. The film is about an African-Irish schoolboy who is guided towards para-athletics after he is rejected from a pro soccer club due to a degenerative eye disease. McKernan’s How To Fall In Love in a Pandemic showed at SDFF 2021 and told the story of his romance with another filmmaker that accelerated during the pandemic as the duo are forced to move in together after knowing each other for just two weeks. Superhuman is McKernan’s second production credit after How To Fall In Love In A Pandemic.

Still from Ben Masters’ The River And The Wall (2019). Masters’ new film Deep In The Heart, which is also set amid Texas’s stunning wilds, was an official selection at the San Antonio Film Festival.

Ben Masters’ Texas nature doc Deep In The Heart was an official selection of the 28th San Antonio Film Festival, which ran Aug. 2-7, with a special emphasis on Texas filmmakers. The film is a celebration of the diverse landscapes and wildlife of Texas, told through the eyes of wildlife species and narrated by Matthew McConaughey. Masters’ film with Hillary Pierce, The River and The Wall, 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. Deep In The Heart will have a VOD streaming release later this summer. 


Still of Luisa Harris, the first woman to be drafted into the NBA, from Ben Proudfoot’s Oscar®-winning short, The Queen Of Basketball. During his acceptance speech, Proudfoot called out for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner. That pleas was back in the news this week after Griner was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian penal colony. Griner’s situation is shaped by many of the same issues Harris grappled with during her own career.

Filmmaker Ben Proudfoot’s plea to “Bring Brittney Home,” during his acceptance speech for The Queen Of Basketball at this year’s Oscar® Awards ceremony was circulated this week in press coverage of WNBA star Brittney Griner’s sentence to 9 years in a Russian penal colony on Cannabis charges. Many of the issues that shaped the career of The Queen Of Basketball’s Luisa Harris, principally sexism, undergird Griner’s current situation. Griner was in Russia to play during the WNBA’s off season for supplementary income, since WNBA players make a fraction of their male counterparts. In addition, Griner is one of the most visible queer women of color in the world, and Russia’s laws against LGBTQ+ folks have escalated over the last 10 years, beginning with laws prohibiting the “propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia among minors” in 2012, which encroached on freedom of expression and led to escalating violence and persecution of LGBTQ+ folks, according to the Center for European Policy Analysis and Human Rights Watch. Griner’s trial and the response to it has resonated with queer Black women and nonbinary people in particular, with the National Black Justice Coalition releasing an official statement calling Griner’s treatment a miscarriage of justice. For more information on this case, see the WNBA petition for her swift and safe release at

Still from Jay Rosenblatt’s award-winning documentary short When We Were Bullies (SDFF2021). Rosenblatt gave a workshop that would spur two students to create the robot film director Jan Bot for Amsterdam Eye Film Museum.

Robot film director Jan Bot, an AI that produced films as part of a project at Amsterdam’s Eye Filmmuseum, is being decommissioned. The project began in 2018 and is wrapping with more than 25,000 films in its catalog. Initially conceived of as a way to bring a physical archive into the Internet age, the next phase of the project will be “posthumously” archiving Jan Bot’s body of work as NFTs, according to a piece in Hyperallergic. Surprisingly enough, this story has a connection to SDFF. The project’s creators Pablo Núñez Palma and Bram Loogman conceived of the projects after taking a workshop at the Film Academy in Amsterdam with Jay Rosenblatt (When We Were Bullies, SDFF 2021; The Kodachrome Elegies, SDFF 2018), which involved experimenting with Eye Filmmuseum’s Bits & Pieces collection, a collection started in the early 1990s, composed of unidentified media fragments that caught the attention of its curators. Palma and Loogman’s were interested in doing something with this odd collection, and knew that the museum was looking for ways to create interesting new content. The duo looked to examples of an “algorithmic mindset” in avant-garde cinema, such as Tony Conrad’s The Flicker (1966) and Hollis Frampton’s Critical Mass (1971), according to the Palma’s reflection on Jan Bot in Medium. Jan Bot, which is physically housed at Eye Filmmuseum, will be physically unplugged in an official funeral event, where NFT cards of the films, as a kind of digital afterlife.

Still from The Art Of Making It (Kelcey Edwards, 2022), which recently became available VOD on most major platforms, spurring a Town & Country interview with producer Debi Wisch. The film documents a selection of young artists and poses questions about the relationship between the art market, the social value of art, and the impact of both on the work itself.

Town & Country ran an interview with The Art Of Making It (Kelcey Edwards, 2022) producer Debi Wisch, who also produced another prominent art biz doc, Emmy-nominated, The Price Of Everything (Nathaniel Kahn, 2018), which examines art and consumer cultureThe interview, and a handful of other reviews of the doc, come as The Art Of Making It becomes available VOD on most major platforms. An SDFF 2022 selection,the doc follows a diverse cast of young artists at defining moments in their careers, exploring whether the art world ecosystem meant to nurture them is actually failing them. Embracing the conundrum of how artists must be in the market, but not of it, The Art Of Making It is a cautionary tale about what America stands to lose if we don’t rethink how we value artists, and a love letter to those who persevere in their artistic practice in spite of the extraordinary odds against ever achieving a sustainable career.  The Art Of Making It is available to stream VOD on AmazonGooglePlay and YouTube.


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. 11.

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song (Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, 2022), a unique music doc about the beloved singer-songwriter, will play at the Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol through Aug 11. 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. 

Still from Fire Cats, Katherine Parsons’s new doc about the people who worked to rescue cats and return them to their families in the wake of the 2017 fire storm in Sonoma and Napa counties. The film will be screened as a benefit for Forgotten Felines and Field Haven on Aug. 14 at Rialto Cinemas®.

The Fire Cats—Save Something Small (Katherine Parsons, 2022) will be screened as a benefit for Forgotten Felines and Field Haven at Rialto Cinemas® on Aug. 14 (1 and 7 p.m.). Fire Cats is about efforts to rescue cats following the 2017 firestorm in Santa Rosa. The film focuses on Officer Shannon Jay, who rescued hundreds of cats during the disaster, returning them to families who had lost everything. It also looks at similar efforts a year later, during the camp fire, when a sanctioned NGO attempted to stop them. This is an issue that remains pertinent, as not one, but two massive fires engulf parts of California in the present day. A bit later in the month, the Rialto® will also be screening a lighter-hearted doc, Living Wine (Lori Miller, 2022), starting Aug. 19. The film is about 25 years of the Northern California natural wine movement. And, last but certainly not least, the highly anticipated biographical doc Loving Highsmith (Eva Vitija, 2022), which uses the diaries and notebooks of celebrated novelist and lesbian icon Patricia Highsmith to focus on her love life and struggles with identity starting September 9.

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 Nights are a collaboration of Trim Tab, SDFF and Rialto Cinemas®. See Belly Of The Beast and Doc Night details here. Buy Tickets here.


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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