The San Francisco Film Society today announced the 11 finalists for the 2015 SFFS Documentary Film Fund awards totaling more than $75,000, which support feature-length documentaries in post-production. The SFFS Documentary Film Fund was created to support singular nonfiction film work that is distinguished by compelling stories, intriguing characters and an innovative visual approach.
Previous DFF winners include Zachary Heinzerling’s “Cutie and the Boxer,” which won Sundance’s Directing Award and was nominated for the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson’s “American Promise,” which premiered at Sundance in 2013 and won the festival’s Special Jury Prize in the Documentary category.
This year’s winners will be announced in early April. The finalists, selected from over 300 applications, are listed below (with descriptions courtesy of SFFS):
The Bad Kids – Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe, co-directors
The Bad Kids brings audiences through the doors of an alternative public high school in the Mojave Desert where an extraordinary principal believes that, more than academics, it is love, support and empathy that will help at-risk students break the cycle of poverty that threatens their futures.
Forever Pure – Maya Zinshtein, director; Geoff Arbourne, producer
In January 2014, a secretive transfer deal transported two Muslim players to the heart of Israel to join the Beitar Jerusalem Football Club, leading to the most controversial public response in Israeli sports history. Closely following one season and a team in crisis, this film explores the structures of money and power behind this landmark event that sent the club spiraling out of control.
Forty Panes – Laura Dunn, director
Forty Panes is a cinematic portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America in the era of industrial agriculture, as seen through the mind’s eye of farmer and novelist Wendell Berry. The film revolves around the divergent stories of several residents of Henry County, Kentucky, each of whom face difficult choices that will dramatically reshape their relationship with the land and their community.
Infanity – Ramona Diaz, director
Infanity is set in the Philippines—the 12th most populous country in the world as well as one of the poorest—and explores its struggles with reproductive health policy, as seen in the legislature, where the laws are debated, and in a hospital with the busiest maternity ward on the planet.
The Island and the Whales – Mike Day, director
The pilot whale hunters of the Nordic Faroe Islands believe that hunting is vital to their way of life, but when a local doctor makes a grim discovery about the effects of marine pollution, environmental changes threaten to end the controversial tradition and change the community forever.
Learning to Forget – Kaspar Astrup Schröder, director; Katherine Sahlstrom, producer
In China, more people are on death row than in the rest of the world combined. The children of the convicts are most often left alone, stigmatized and living in the streets. Some of these abandoned kids are picked up by an orphanage founded by a former prison guard; here they learn to live a life without parents and prepare for a world outside where they have to prove wrong the many misconceptions about them.
Liyana – Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp, codirectors
In this genre-bending documentary, a talented group of children in Swaziland create a fictional heroine and send her on a dangerous quest.
The Oakland Police Project – Peter Nicks, director
The Oakland Police Project is a film about police power and restraint, unfolding deep inside the famously troubled Oakland Police Department. The film presents in intimate detail the rare perspective of beleaguered officers who are often viewed as oppressors in the community they serve, even as they and their young chief struggle to rebuild trust in the face of mass protests, budget cuts and more violent crimes per officer than any city in America.
Selling Our Daughters – Dave Adams and Josie Swantek, codirectors; Susan MacLaury, producer
Selling Our Daughters explores the dark side of child advocacy. A mystery unfolds as the film follows three Thai girls whose parents have allegedly sold them into sex work, only to discover that this story is a lie fabricated by the advocate who supposedly rescued them.
Uncertain – Ewan McNichol and Anna Sandilands, codirectors
Uncertain is a southern gothic tale set on the Texas / Louisiana border in a town called Uncertain, population 94. As the town struggles to survive, three men battle their demons in search of forgiveness and redemption.
Very Semi-Serious – Leah Wolchok, director
Very Semi-Serious takes an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at a cultural icon—the 89-year-old New Yorker cartoon—and uncovers the process and personalities who bring the art form to life. Guided by Bob Mankoff, the magazine’s incisive cartoon editor, the film introduces the past, present and future generations of cartoonists who collectively answer the question that has agitated readers for decades: what does a New Yorker cartoon really mean?