20 DECEMBER 2022


Array of posters for Oscar® films for Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short from SDFF alumni. Fifteen-film Oscar® shortlists for each category will be released on Dec. 21, and five nominees for each award will be announced on Jan. 24.

Two SDFF 2022 docs about women and popular music, Fanny The Right To Rock (Bobbi Jo Hart, 2021) and I’m Wanita (Matthew Walker, 2021), are both eligible for the Oscar® Best Documentary Feature Film award. Fanny The Right To Rock has been celebrated on the U.S. festival circuit since its release. The film tells the forgotten story of Fanny, the first all-female rock band to get a major record deal in the U.S. This groundbreaking all-female band was also queer and majority Filipina-American, becoming popular not only with fans, but with other, vaunted musicians as well. I’m Wanita has been far less visible on the U.S. festival circuit, but also deals with gender and popular music. The doc tells the story of a renegade country music singer Wanita Bahtiyar from Tamworth, Australia, hell-bent on realizing her childhood dreams of stardom. The list of eligible documentary features also includes a handful other films with SDFF connections: School Life (SDFF 2018) directors Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane’s Young Plato (co-dir. Declan McGrath); The River and The Wall (SDFF 2020) director Ben Masters’s conservation film Deep In The Heart: A Texas Wildlife Story; Machines (SDFF 2018) director Rahul Jain’s environmental doc Invisible Demons (Tuhon merkit); Fire Of Love (Sara Dosa, 2022), for which SDFF alumni filmmaker Pablo Alvarez-Mesa (La Pesca, SDFF 2018) did cinematography. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences released a list of eligible films in the documentary feature last week, which includes 144 titles that will be winnowed down to a 15-film shortlist on Dec. 21, then to a nomination field of 5 films on Jan. 24. Although the Academy has yet to release a list of eligible shorts, a recent assessment of this year’s contenders in The Hollywood Reporter included one SDFF 2022 nominee, Nuisance Bear (Gabriela Oslo Vanden and Jack Weisman, 2021), and four other films from SDFF alumni filmmakers: ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They’ve Been Taught), produced by Dawnland (SDFF 2019) co-director Adam Mazo; The Martha Mitchell Effect, co-directed by The Booksellers (D.W. Young, SDFF 2020) producer Debra McClutchy, and two from The Queen Of Basketball filmmaker Ben Proudfoot, Mink! and The Best Chef In The World.

Still from Jack Weisman and Gabriela Osio Vanden’s Nuisance Bear, an unconventional, visually arresting, and surprisingly moving study of polar bears whose migration draws tourists to Churchill, Manitoba for the specific purpose of taking wildlife photos. The film won an honorable mention for the Pare Lorentz Award at IDA 2022, and is also eligible for an Oscar® nom in the Best Documentary Shorts category.

In addition to being eligible for the Gabriela Oslo Vanden and Jack Weisman’s Nuisance Bear (The New Yorker, SDFF 2022) came away from the Dec. 10 IDA Awards with an honorable mention for the Pare Lorentz Award. The celebrated SDFF 2022 film isan unconventional and visually arresting study of polar bears who draw tourists to Churchill, Manitoba for the specific purpose of taking wildlife photos. Other IDA winners with connections to SDFF include Pablo Alvarez-Mesa (La Pesca, SDFF 2018), for his work as a cinematographer on Fire Of Love (Sara Dosa, 2022), which won for Best Cinematography and Best Writing; Ido Weisman (Uzzi, SDFF 2019), for Requiem For A Whale, which won the David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award; and season 35 of PBS’s POV, which won for Best Curated Series. The winning season of the series opened with SDFF 2020 film Wuhan Wuhan (Yung Chang, 2020).See a copy of the 35th IDA Awards livestream on youtube.

Still from Sébastien Pins’s When The Swallows Fly Away, which won the the award for Best Documentary at the 31st annual Euroshorts film festival.

Sébastien Pins’s When The Swallows Fly Away (SDFF 2022) won the award for Best Documentary at the 31st annual Euroshorts film festival, which took placein Gdańsk and Warsaw earlier this month. When The Swallows Fly Away is a moving 20-min short that tells the story of a young boy living in a small, rural village who befriends an elderly couple, both farmers, who, at 80 years-old, are struggling feeding their remaining livestock. Though the name Euroshorts suggests the festival is limited to European entries, this years’ 60 films from across the globe, including selections from Afghanistan, Peru, Malasia, and the U.S.


Still from Niobe Thompson’s documentary short Boy Nomad. Thompson is working on a new film, Before The Ice, for PBS/NOVA, which will create a scientifically-based image of the world as it was 2 million years ago before the Great Ice Age.

Boy Nomad (2018) filmmaker Niobe Thompson is directing and producing the PBS/Nova doc Before The Ice, which will create a scientifically-based image of the world as it was 2 million years ago, before the Ice Age. The show, which isn’t set for release until 2024, is based on a December 2022 cover story from Nature, which reports on the recovery and sequencing of more than 100 plant and animal genera contained in sediment from northern Greenland that date back at least 2 million years, nearly 1 million years older than any previously discovered DNA sample. The filmmakers have had access to the scientific team behind the discovery and will use genetic information from the find to create a detailed picture of the lush Arctic forest ecosystem that existed on Greenland’s northern coast before glaciers advanced at the onset of the Ice Age. According to the Nature article, these earlier epochs had climates resembling those forecasted as part of future global warming. Moreover, the DNA opens the door to human-engineered climate adaptation, which could be used to help save ecosystems and species from extinction in the future. This connection to climate change resonates with Thompson’s most recent work with Daniela Ortega on Carbon—The Unauthorised Biography, which renders the complex links between carbon and climate change visible through animation based on scientific modeling. In a totally different vein, Thompson’s Boy Nomadan SDFF 2019 selection, follows a year in the life of 9 year-old, horse-loving Janibek and his family in the Mongolian Altai Mountains, culminating in winter migration. 

Still from Ben Masters’s doc Deep In The Heart: A Texas Wildlife Story, one of five films that will be competing for the Texas Independent Film Award at the annual Houston Film Critics Society in early 2023.

SDFF alumni Ben Masters’s (The River and The Wall, SDFF 2020) new film Deep In The Heart: A Texas Wildlife Story is one of five films that will be competing for the Texas Independent Film Award at the annual Houston Film Critics Society in early 2023. Other nominees include Richard Linklater’s Apollo 10-1/2, about a 4th grader’s fantasy of the moon landing, Jennifer Wald’s Acid Test, a Latina’s coming-of-age story, Tarun Verma’s Conception about IVF, and Bradley Jackson’s baseball doc Facing Nolan. The award was created in 2014 as a means of spotlighting the quality of local films, so nominees must be independently financed, feature-length films, shot principally in Texas. The HFCS selects two award winners from the group, one for the TIFA, proper, the other for the Texas Visionary Award. Deep In The Heart, like much of Masters’s work, including his other 2022 film American Ocelot, is a celebration of Texas’s diverse landscapes and wildlife, made in hopes of generating an emotional connection to the environment in its audiences. Deep In The Heart also shifts the perspective away from the human population, and told through the eyes of wildlife species. Deep In The Heart is available to stream VOD on PrimeVideo, GooglePlay, AppleTV and Vudu. Masters’ 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 River And The Wall is available to stream VOD on Vimeo and iTunes.  


Still from Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata’s Oscar® nominated documentary short, Negative Space (2018). Porter and Kuwahata will be the keynote speakers at the 8th annual Vermont Animation Festival.

Negative Space (SDFF 2018) directors Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata will be the  keynote speakers at the 2023 Vermont Animation Festival. In its 8th year, the VAF will include workshops for both beginner and experienced animators, a screening of student films, and an artist talk from the Porter and Kuwahata, who have been working together as Tiny Inventions since 2018. Specializing in mixed-media narratives, Porter and Kuwahata’s work marries analogue and digital animation techniques, often combining handcrafted art, CG animation, drawn animation, stop-motion and photographic effects. These techniques came together in a particularly poignant way in the Oscar® nominated documentary short, Negative Space, which  tells the bittersweet story of a relationship between a father, who is always leaving on business trips, as he tries to connect to his son Sam by teaching him how to pack a suitcase efficiently. Negative Space is available to view on youtube. The Vermont Animation Festival will take place March 24-25, 2023.

Still of Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink at work from Ben Proudfoot’s doc Mink!, which was recently screened on Capitol Hill. Mink was the first woman of color to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ben Proudfoot’s Mink! (The New York Times, 2022), which tells the story of Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to Congress, was screened for a group of law-makers on Capitol Hill earlier this month.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Ed Case (D-HI) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) all attended the screening, alongside tennis star Naomi Osaka, an EP on the project, and Mink’s daughter Wendy, who was interviewed extensively for the film. The film’s release this year marks the 50 year anniversary of Title IX, a measure that prohibits gender discrimination in institutions that receive federal funding, which Mink championed relentlessly. While Mink! tells the congresswoman’s story, it also spends a great deal of time on what happened after the measure was passed, and the literal collision of the personal and the political that pulled Mink away from a floor vote on restrictions to Title IX three years after it was passed. In fact, according to a Deadline piece about the screening, Pelosi’s description of the intersection of the personal and the political in Mink’s career is what initially sparked his interest in the representative’s story. This isn’t Proudfoot’s first exploration of Title IX, his Oscar® winning short, The Queen Of Basketball (SDFF 2022), tells the story of Luisa Harris, the first woman drafted to into the NBA, who has been called a Title IX pioneer. Like its predecessor, Mink! is eligible for this year’s Oscar® for best documentary short, and you can find more on that story at the top of this news column!

Still from Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watt’s film For Sama. For Sama is among the films the 60+ year-old non-fiction media production company ITN has become known for over the past several years.

One of the UK’s long-standing independent news and non-fiction producers, ITN (Independent Television News), has rebranded for the first time in decades, marking plans to expand from legacy news and factual formats (ie. conventional documentary) into sports, education and branded content. According to Variety coverage,the company, which has been creating content for British Channels 4 and 5 since 1955, has increasingly become known for other non-fiction content, from true crime and edutainment projects for streamers (Ancient Apocalypse/Netflix, The Confession/Prime Video) to more vaunted work like the Oscar®-nominated SDFF 2020 doc For Sama (Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts, 2019). The change includes replacing their 60+ year-old static logo defined by hard lines with a more liquid one, meant to mimic the responsiveness of a cell to stimuli. IT also includes a new tagline, “Truth To Life,” which is meant to mark the company’s purpose-driven content, while also encompassing legacy media, new formats, and fact-based media for new audiences. The media pillar’s rebrand is yet another signal of the predominance of streaming content, and its broad dependence on non-fiction content.

Still of stand-up comedian Julia Scotti on stage from Julia Scotti: Funny That Way (Susan Sandler, 2020). Scotti delivered the main address at the first annual New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce Gala and Awards.

Comedienne and New Jersey native Julia Scotti, of Julia Scotti: Funny That Way (Susan Sandler, SDFF 2021) fame, delivered the main address at the first annual New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce gala and awards dinner on Dec. 1. The event celebrates the accomplishments of the state’s LGBTQ+ business owners and advocates, and the advances they have helped secure for the queer community’s economic development, inclusion and staying power within the state. Scotti spoke about her journey, from her childhood memories of bullies in the Boy Scouts to undergoing quadruple bypass surgery to living her truth as a transgender woman. The speech touched on many issues expanded on in Julia Scotti: Funny That Way, which tells Scotti’s life story and examines her decision to transition at 47 years-old with a thriving career as a male comedian impacted her career and family life, culminating in her comeback as a trans comedian that escalated into a finalist spot on the TV show America’s Got Talent. The doc is available to stream VOD on iTunesPrimeVimeoGooglePlay, etc. SDFF’s exclusive interview with Scotti  and Sandler from SDFF 2021 is available here.

Chad – once home to thousands of elephants – now only has an estimated 1,000 spread across the country. Still from The Last Animals (Kate Brooks, 2017), which made a recent list of wildlife conservation docs to watch.

The Last Animals (dir. Kate Brooks, 2017) made a list of five wildlife conservation docs to watch in light of the recent Netflix documentary short The Elephant Whisperers (Kartiki Gonsalves, 2022). The doc, which showed at SDFF 2018, is war photographer Kate Brooks’s first film, shot over the course of three years, documenting the plight of the Northern White Rhinoceros in the midst of a global wildlife trafficking crisis. The film examines poaching, the international trade in endangered species, and the scientists working to apprehend criminals and save endangered species from the edge of extinction. The film is available to stream on Vudu.

Still from Mark Cousins’s The Story Of Film: A New Generation, which is a follow-up to his earlier Story of Film: An Odyssey. Cousins’s 2013 book The Story Of Film, which tells the story of world cinema, made a recent list of 7 great books about film history.

The Story Of Looking (SDFF 2022) director Mark Cousins’s tome The Story Of Film (2013) made a list of 7 Great Books About Film History from The Reel Bits, for its elaboration of the development of world cinema, in contrast to Hollywood-focused histories. The book can be seen as a companion to Cousins’s The Story Of Film (2011), and its recent update The Story Of Film: A New Generation (2021). The list’s author, Richard Gray praises the book for its passionate coverage of film history and as an excellent source for finding lesser known film gems to seek out. Cousins is a prolific filmmaker and critic, who directed the stunning SDFF 2022 doc The Story Of Looking, a personal exploration of visual experience by a filmmaker on the cusp of losing his sight.


Th 27th Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival continues this week with two screenings of The Man In The Basement (Roberta Grossman, 2022) at Rialto Cinemas® on Dec. 13, and wraps up its theatrical screenings on Dec. 20 with A Kaddish For Bernie Madoff (Alicia J. Rose, 2021), a hybrid memoir docudrama and narrative fantasy.

The 27th Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival wraps up this week with two screenings of A Kaddish For Bernie Madoff (Alicia J. Rose, 2021) at the Rialto Cinemas® today, Dec. 20. A Kaddish For Bernie Madoff is a hybrid of memoir docudrama and narrative fantasy, which tells the story of Madoff and the system that allowed him to function for decades through the eyes of musician/poet Alicia Jo Rabins, who watches the financial crash from her 9th floor studio in an abandoned office building on Wall Street. A Kaddish For Bernie Madoff is the final film the 2022 festival will screen at Rialto Cinemas® on Dec. 20 and is also available to view via the online fest. The online fest also includes the festival’s other documentary, Reckonings (Roberta Grossman, 2022), which recounts tense negotiations between German and Jewish leaders in the direct aftermath of the Holocaust, who were attempting to determine compensation and reparations for survivors who were badly in need of help.

A recreation of the camera array Muybridge used to capture images for motion studies from Exposing Muybridge (Mark Shaffer, 2021). The most famous of these are the images he took of a horse running, which captured all four of the animal’s hooves leaving the ground mid-gallop. The image was commissioned by Leland Stanford, and famously settled a bet he had made with a friend on the subject.

Rialto Cinemas® Sebastopol has two special screenings of film history doc Exposing Muybridge scheduled for Dec. 15 at 1 and 7 p.m. with director Mark Shaffer on hand for a Q&A. The film tells the story of Eadweard Muybridge, whose photographic motion studies and experiments in motion picture projection were pivotal to the development of film. Shaffner’s doc examines Muybridge’s adventurous life and his lesser known work. Before his motion photography breakthrough, Muybridge produced one of the most celebrated early landscape catalogues of the American West. He made the first photographs of winemaking in Northern California, produced the first photographs of native Tlingit people and of Southeast Alaska, was the fourth to photograph Yosemite, the first to be hired by the U.S. government to photograph an Indian War and his photographs of Central America are widely considered the most important early images of the region. Exposing Muybridge won the 2022 Writers Guild Award for Best Documentary Screenplay. Get more information on this screening here.

Still from The Story Of Plastic (Deia Schlosberg, 2019), which is the film being discussed at the next meeting of the Sonoma County Library Documentary Film Discussion Group on Dec. 21. Recology Education Manager Marie Kneemeyer will be a special guest with information about the local waste stream.

The Sonoma County Library Documentary Film Discussion Group will meet, Dec. 21 to discuss environmental doc The Story Of Plastic (Deia Schlosberg, 2019), with special guest Marie Kneemeyer, Education Manager from Recology, on-hand to discuss the local waste stream. The Story of Plastic is an exposé, uncovering the ugly truth behind plastic pollution and the false solution of plastic recycling. From the extraction of fossil fuels and plastic disposal to the global resistance fighting back, the film stands out for its cohesive timeline of the current global plastic pollution crisis, including the oil and gas industry’s successful circulation of an industry-friendly narrative around pollution and climate change. The Story Of Plastic is a life changing film depicting one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues. The discussion group will be held on Zoom, Dec. 21 at 6 p.m., attendance requires registration by 5 p.m., see details and availability on the Sonoma County Library Events Calendar. The film is available to screen through Kanopy with a library card. All participants must view the film on their own before the meeting.


Still from The Race To Alaska (Zach Carver, 2021), which got a wide VOD release last week, and is now available to rent or buy on most major streaming platforms.

Zach Carver’s 2021 doc The Race To Alaska, got a wide VOD release last week by Freestyle, the digital film distribution division of Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group. 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. The Race To Alaska is now available via iTunes, AppleTV+, Amazon, GooglePlay, Youtube, Vimeo, xBox, Pojektor, and Adventure Sports TV.

A tryptic of stills from Nathalie Giraud and Timothée Corteggiani’s The Silent Shore, which captures fantasy author Pierre Dubois and his wife, Aline, as they talk about writing, imagination and how the death of their daughter has impacted their connection to the world. The film recently became available to stream through Peacock.

The Silent Shore (Nathalie Giraud and Timothée Corteggiani, 36 mins) is now streaming on The New Yorker Documentary, accompanied by a short written piece about the film and its making, which includes some reflections by Giraud and Corteggiani. The short is a lush, moving documentary in which fantasy author Pierre Dubois and his wife, Aline, discuss the power of writing, imagination, and the deep connection with life that has brought them through the suicide of their teenaged daughter Melanie, who took her life following a heartbreak. The Silent Shore was an SDFF 2022 Jury Nominee.

Still from Rahul Jain’s participant doc Invisible Demons, a visually-stunning film that captures the effects of climate change in Delhi is now streaming on MUBI.

Rahul Jain’s participant doc on climate change, Invisible Demons (Tuhon merkit), began streaming on MUBI this week, and has continued to draw new reviews from large market publications and smaller culture mags, including The Guardian, Paste,, and The Film Stage. The film, which was nominated for the Golden Eye when it premiered at Cannes in 2021, has also continued to make the rounds on the festival circuit, opening Spain’s Another Way Film Festival last week. The film captures the effects of climate change in Delhi and the environmental cost of India’s rapidly-growing economy, while meditating on the aesthetics of human disconnection with the natural world. This is Jain’s second doc. His first, Machines, a masterful meditation on work, was an SDFF 2018 selection.

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