The 57th San Francisco International Film Festival, running April
24–May 8, has revealed the films in competition for the New Directors Prize, as
well as the Golden Gate Award contenders in the documentary feature category.
SFIFF is set to award nearly $40,000 in total cash prizes
this year. The New Directors Prize of $10,000 will be given to a narrative
first feature that shows unique
artistic sensibility in the hopes it will be seen by a wider audience. The GGA
documentary feature winner will receive $10,000 while the GGA Bay Area
documentary feature winner will receive $5,000.
2014 NEW DIRECTORS PRIZE (NARRATIVE FEATURE) COMPETITION
The Amazing Catfish, Claudia Sainte-Luce, Mexico
Set in Guadalajara, The Amazing Catfish follows the quiet
transformation of a solitary young woman informally adopted and absorbed into a
rambunctious matriarchy in a state of crisis. Filmed by Claire Denis’ long-time
cinematographer, Agnès Godard, Claudia Sainte-Luce’s debut feature, based
loosely on events from her own life, blends a wry and moving naturalism with
moments of inspired comedy.
The Blue Wave, Zeynep Dadak and Merve Kayan,
In this low-key, loosely plotted coming-of-age tale, a
Turkish teenage girl wrestles with mood swings, unfocused restlessness,
familial responsibilities, shifting friendships and romantic complications
during a year of quiet tumult.
Difret, Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, Ethiopia
In a contemporary Ethiopian village, a 14-year-old girl is
abducted from school in an attempt at forced marriage, a tradition in her
community. Her efforts to free herself from a preordained future set off a
legal firestorm in this powerful drama inspired by a true story that pits the
law against an entrenched cultural mindset.
The Dune, Yossi Aviram, France/Israel
Delving into issues of identity and aging, this nuanced
relationship drama portrays the personal crises faced by an aging gay cop in
France and a younger Israeli man who is found on the beach, mute and without
History of Fear, Benjamín Naishtat,
Paranoia runs rampant in this accomplished first feature,
instilling a disorienting sense of dread in the viewer. Are the strange
occurrences in an affluent Buenos Aires suburb evidence that the skittish
residents are actually being targeted? Naishtat foregoes ready explanations or
assurances in favor of foreboding suggestions in a film that is sprawling both
in scope and implications but astonishingly exacting in its execution.
Manos Sucias, Josef Wladyka, USA/Colombia
A reluctant smuggler and his eager neophyte brother shepherd
a dangerous narco-torpedo up the coast of Colombia, posing as fishermen.
Paramilitary, guerrillas and hardscrabble desperation suffuse every inch of the
jungle and waters that surround them, eager to separate the siblings from their
only opportunity to escape the circumstances of their lives.
Of Horses and Men, Benedikt Erlingsson, Iceland/Germany
The relationship between man and beast is explored in a
series of dryly humorous, linked episodes set in a small Icelandic hamlet. With
its idiosyncratic portrait of village life, this remarkable debut features
several unforgettable visual tableaux.
Salvation Army, Abdellah Taïa, Morocco
Adapting his autobiographical novel, director Abdellah Taïa
tells the story of a gay Moroccan boy finding self-realization and personal
strength within a society that shuns him. Shot by the brilliant Agnès Godard,
the film takes the form of a diptych, telling the protagonist’s story in two
different time periods and locales.
South Is Nothing, Fabio Mollo, Italy/France
Miriam Karlkvist took a well-deserved Shooting Star award at
the Berlinale for her portrayal of an androgynous teenage girl negotiating life
in a mafia-controlled town whose code of silence is destroying her family.
Filmed in Reggio Calabria, this debut feature combines poetic realism with
Trap Street, Vivian Qu, China
What’s it like to be a 21st-century young adult—with access
to gadgets, the Internet and other high-tech conveniences—within China’s
surveillance state? First-time writer-director Vivian Qu’s taut, slow-building
noir cleverly uses a simple boy-meets-girl tale to unearth a hidden world of
government control lurking just under the surface.
White Shadow, Noaz Deshe, Italy/Germany/Tanzania
Inspired by news reports of the ongoing perils faced by
albinos in Tanzania, Noaz Deshe’s film depicts a fractured and uneasy world,
where superstition and the rule of law collide. An albino youth named Alias
must learn to navigate through a culture not just unsympathetic to his
condition, but actively violent towards it.
2014 GOLDEN GATE AWARDS DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION
Coast of Death, Lois Patiño, Spain
From the first entrancing images of trees being cut down in
a fog-filled forest to the later blues of the sky and ocean fusing to erase the
horizon, the always static frames of this documentary offer a meditative and
prismatic view of Spain’s much storied and dangerous “Coast of Death.”
The Last Season, Sara Dosa, USA
Every September, over 200 seasonal workers, many of them
Cambodian, Lao, Hmong, Mien and Thai, descend upon the tiny town of Chemult,
Oregon, to search the woods for the rare Matsuke, a fungus highly prized in
Japan. This documentary examines the bond between two of these hunters, an
elderly Vietnam vet and a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, during one unusually
The Overnighters, Jesse Moss, USA
Unemployed men and women across America want new oil jobs in
North Dakota, but housing is at a premium. Enter Pastor Jay Reinke. Despite
protests from his own congregation, he opens up his church to
“overnighters”—people in search of a second shot at the American Dream. The
film expertly and compassionately depicts the conflict between locals, these
new residents and Pastor Reinke’s controversial policy.
Return to Homs, Talal Derki, Syria/Germany
Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary
at Sundance, this dispatch from the besieged Syrian city of Homs is both an
elegy and a call to action. Filmed between 2011 and 2013, it presents a
visceral eyewitness account of the conflict as a peaceful uprising descends
into civil war and idealistic young men are transformed into revolutionary martyrs.
Soul Food Stories, Tonislav Hristov, Bulgaria/Finland
Muslim, Christian, Roma and atheist Communists live together
peacefully in Satovcha, a Bulgarian village. They have differing theologies and
politics, but are united by a love of food and the eternal mystery of being men
and women. Beautifully shot, the film unfolds like a 10-course meal, with
observations of food preparation and religious diversity laced into the
Stop the Pounding Heart, Roberto Minervini,
This unique hybrid of documentary and narrative offers an
evocative portrait of the quotidian lives of a devout young Christian goat
farmer and the bullriding cowboy who lives nearby. As much a portrait of the
East Texas town where they live as it is a relationship drama, the film
combines ethnography and budding romance to compelling effect.
Three Letters from China, Luc Schaedler, Switzerland
Luc Schaedler’s latest work presents distinct and
illuminating portraits of contemporary life in China. Attentively observing
life on a parched farm, a grim industrial zone, a rural village and a booming
megacity, the documentary expressively reveals the upheaval and uncertainty of
a rapidly changing nation through the deeply engrossing stories of its people.
We Come as Friends, Hubert Sauper, France/Austria
South Sudan may have declared its independence but that
hasn’t stopped multinationals and missionaries from laying claim to its natural
resources and influencing its people’s religious beliefs. Employing intrepid
techniques and striking visuals, documentarian Hubert Sauper (Darwin’s
Nightmare) delivers another piercing examination of the human cost of neocolonialism
that will provoke both thought and outrage.