SEPTEMBER 24, 2021


SDFF 2021 selection The Dilemma Of Desire, directed by Peabody Award winner Maria Finitzo, is opening the Midwest Film Festival in Chicago on Oct. 2. Another of Finitzo’s films, Until She Is Free, which imagines a culturally “cliterate” world, has been selected for this year’s Lunafest, a traveling film festival by, for, and about women that began in 2001. Dilemma of Desire is a doc that breaks down cultural myths about women’s desire, bodies and power, which showed as part of SDFF 2021.

Gilda Shepperd’s Since I Been Downwhich approaches a bevy of criminal justice and carceral issues by focusing on victims of the 1980s drug war, many of whom continue to languish behind bars, is an official selection at the Reel Hilltopian Film Festival at The Evergreen State College Tacoma campus on Sept. 25. The film elucidates the U.S.’s dysfunctional carceral state, while also showing how some of its victims have been able to create community and support one another’s personal growth, despite demoralizing circumstances. This SDFF 2021 selection won the Gold Prize at the Social Justice Film Festival and was among the “Best of the Fest” at DOC NYC. The film is also a part of the Local Sighting Film Festival and will be available online through it until Sept. 26.

Three Meters and A Few Centimeters Mostafa Salehi Nezhad’s film about Islamic burial rights in Iran during the height of the pandemic will be screened at the 16th Sapporo International Short Film Festival as part of the Corona, COVID-19 Program, Oct.13 -Nov. 30. The film is one of a handful of Iranian shorts selected for the festival. Three Meters was an SDFF official selection in 2021, for which filmmaker Nezhad did an exclusive interview with SDFF lead programmer Jean McGlothlin. 

Cecilie Debell’s film with Maria Tórgarðm Skál won the New Nordic Voice Award at this year’s Nordisk Panorama. The award introduces promising Nordic filmmakers whose work has not previously been screened at the festival before. Skál is a Danish-Faroese coming-of-age doc about a young woman who writes a tome of poetry about the double-life she, and other young members of her heavily Christian community, live. The film captures the search for identity and hunger for change among the upcoming generation of Foroese people who feel suppressed by social norms in a tightly controlled religious community of 53,000. Skál’s appearance and CPH:DOX this year marked the first time a documentary about the Faroe Islands has been given a main competition ticket at an A festival. Debell is an SDFF alumni, whose film My Mother Is Pink showed at the 2018 festival.

Filmmaker Corina Schwingruber and Nikola Ilić’s latest film Dida received an honorary mention for Best Film in the Serbian Competition of the Belgrade International Film Festival Beldocs earlier this month, where young femal directors dominated. Dida is a film about Nikola Ilić’s relationship with the women in his family. Corina Ilić’s short All Inclusivewhich shows life aboard a cruise ship, was an SDFF 2020 selection, and was released just before the COVID-19 outbreak, which hit international cruise ships particularly hard. 

Bobbi Jo Hart’s doc about the pioneering 70s “womyn’s music” band Fanny, Fanny: The Right To Rockwill kick off the 2021 Woodstock Film Festival. Hart directed the SDFF 2018 selection Rebels On Pointewhich celebrated Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo; the all-male, drag ballet company founded on the heels of New York’s Stonewall riots. 

Denmark’s From the Wild Sea (Robin Petré, 2021) will be part of the Documentary Competition at the upcoming 17thAnnual Zurich Film Festival (Sept. 23-Oct. 3). The film, an SDFF 2021 selection, is a poetic dialogue between human- and animal-kind.

SDFF Alumni – New Docs In Progress

Chico Pereira’s The Lock-In was selected for the Documentaries In Progress & Development section of the 10th Anniversary Finnish Film Affair. Pereira’s Donkeyote was an SDFF 2018 official selection and is about a man’s decision to follow his dreams and walk the 2,200-mile Trail of Tears with his beloved donkey before he dies.

Martha Gregory, director of beloved SDFF 2018 selection Three Red Sweaters has signed on as an EP to indigenous coming of age productionFrybread Face and Me. She joins an impressive list of Executive Producers, including Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows, Jojo Rabbit, Reservation Dogs), Poppy Hanks, Chad Burris (Idion), Fenton Bailey (World of Wonder), etc. The film is being funded by River Road and REI Co-op Studios.

101 Studios and Versus Productions have teamed up to produce Access the Public, a docuseries tracing the rise of public access television between 1970 and 1990. Versus produced the SDFF 2018 doc Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, from executive producer Susan Sarandon. 

Jake Dypka, whose mini Pink or Blue showed at SDFF 2018 made a mini/ad as part of a TV and digital campaign by Creature for the ClearScore app. at 10-, 30- and 40-second versions for various platforms. This isn’t Dypka’s first collaboration with a tech company. His SDFF film was made using 3-D technology and was commissioned to open the Saatchi showcase in Cannes. 


Hillbilly co-director Ashley York spoke at Western Kentucky University, accompanying the screening of her film last week. The film, which traces the history and development of the figure of the hillbilly in Appalachia, and also captures the region during the 2016 presidential election, has been of almost permanent interest since its release, as white poor and working class people have been focalized in national politics. Excerpts from her talk are available in the WKU Herald online. Hillbilly was an SDFF 2019 official selection which screened with a filmmaker Q&A.

Just before a screening of their film at producer Michael Sheuerman’s alma mater, the University of Iowa, Hunger Ward director Skye Fitzgerald and Sheuerman spoke with The Daily Iowan about raising awareness and using art for justice. That interview that is available online now. Hunger Ward is part of Fitzgerald’s Humanitarian Trilogy, all of which have been screened at SDFF.

Twins Mohammad and Muna El-Kurd made Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2021 for their global campaign to halt Israeli efforts to forcibly displace Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish settlers. While their online activism got them briefly detained, it is also credited by Time with changing the discourse on the Israel-Palestine conflict.  Mohammad El-Kurd was the main subject of the 2013 doc, My Neighborhood by Julia Bacha and Rebeka Wingert-Jab. Bacha’s film Naila and the Uprising was shown as part of SDFF 2019.


A Sexplanation, filmmaker Alex Liu’s fun documentary exploring the persistence of shame around gay sex is one of more than 40 films that will show as part of the Queer Screen Film Festival’s on-demand program, streaming now through Sept. 26. The Australia-based festival includes queer films from 17 countries in 18 languages this year, and will be holding some in-person screenings in Australia, in addition to its online content. A Sexplanation was an SDFF 2021-OUTwatch selection.

Marianna Economou’s humorous 2020 doc When Tomatoes Met Wagner will show as part of the new FoodxFilm Festival, an international, virtual festival focused on foo-related documentaries and series. The festival selections examine social issues, agriculture, the environment, the sea and the future of food. The festival runs from Sept. 26-Oct. 3. When Tomatoes Met Wagner is an SDFF alumni film, which tells the uplifting story of two Greek cousins and five village women, who tackle the world market with their organic tomatoes.

Lynne Sach’s Your Day Is My Night, which tells the stories of immigrant residents of a “shift-bed” apartment in NYC’s Chinatown is part of international, curated streaming platform, MUBI’s lineup next month. MUBI is a Belgium-based platform that seeks to bring a curated collection of classics and new cinema to its audience each month. They also feature a free film of the day. Sach’s film with Lizzie Olesker, The Washing Society was an SDFF 2018 Official Selection.

If you weren’t able to catch My Favorite War (Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen, 2020) at SDFF 2021, check it out at the Calvert Journal Film Festival online. This streaming festival is envisioned as a journey across Central Europe and runs Oct. 18-31.


Citizenfour director and investigative journalist Laura Poitras has created tools for documentarians to protect their own work. The filmmaker, who feared her source material on Edward Snowden would be seized, has worked with the Freedom of the Press Foundation and Field of Vision to create Digital Security for Filmmakers, a website that includes various lessons and aids to help filmmakers protect their work. The site includes everything from a template for risk assessment and security protocols to a tutorial on how to create unguessable four-layer passwords. 

The world’s leading film festival marketplace, Film Freeway, has been acquired by Backstage, an enormous freelance marketplace and application suite for media creators. Evidently Film Freeway will serve as a user extension for content creators to discover, manage, and enter film festivals on Backstage’s platform. See Film Freeway’s announcement of the acquisition here
*SDFF has used Film Freeway as its sole platform for entries since 2014.


The LA Times published a check-in on Hollywood diversity last week, a year out from 2020 commitments to diversity and social justice that came in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the mass protests triggered by it. 

Indy Week featured a piece this week about the challenges faced by indie film festivals as they attempt to adapt to post-COVID conditions and keep afloat, “Faced with Shifting Safety Norms and Streaming Technologies, Local Film Festivals Work to Reinvent Themselves.” 

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