The San Francisco Film Society has just unveiled the three winners of the 2016 SFFS Documentary Film Fund awards. Totaling $75,000, the funds will support the feature-length documentaries in post-production and help push them towards completion. Chosen for their compelling stories, intriguing characters and innovative visual approach, the winners are: “For Ahkeem” by Jeremy Levine and Landon Van Soest, “The Rescue List” by Alyssa Fedele and Zachary Fink and Peter Bratt’s “Woman in Motion.”
“These projects are great examples of balance between artistic vision and social impact,” stated the jury in a statement. “They tell neglected or overlooked stories by exploring the lives of very interesting characters who stand for larger social issues. For ‘Ahkeem’ is an extremely patient verité film, yet with a sense of political urgency in the way it tackles its complex subject. ‘The Rescue List’ portrays an artful balance of ethnography and visual poetry while it brings to light the overlooked reality of child labor and slavery in Ghana. And with ‘Woman in Motion,’ there is a clear need to make this story known to a large audience; this is the right time for the story to be told and Peter Bratt is the right filmmaker to do it.”
“For Ahkeem,” co-directed by Levine and Van Soest, received a cash prize of $25,000:
The documentary follows Daje Shelton, a 17-year- old Black girl from north St. Louis, Missouri as she strives to graduate from the nation’s only court-supervised public high school. Daje fights for her future as close friends are killed, her sixteen-year- old boyfriend Antonio is sent to jail and nearby Ferguson erupts after the police shooting of Michael Brown. Through Daje’s intimate first-person account, the film explores the complex web between juvenile justice, education and race in America today.
“The Rescue List,” co-directed by Fedele and Fink, received a cash prize of $35,000:
The feature follows the incredible journey of two boys in Ghana as they escape from slavery, spend a year in a hidden rehabilitation shelter, and are eventually reunited with their families. Meanwhile, the man who rescued them goes back on a covert rescue mission to liberate more children. For him, the work is personal.
“Woman in Motion,” written, produced and directed by Bratt, received a cash prize of $15,000:
A fiercely passionate and equally courageous Latina woman, young Dolores Huerta completely transforms her life when she embraces the spirit of revolt in 1950’s California, and goes on to cofound the country’s first farm worker’s union with the legendary Cesar Chavez. Introspective yet sweeping, both personal and political, “Woman In Motion” defines how precarious success can be, as impossible choices are made between motherhood and political advancement.
The SFFS Documentary Film Fund was launched in 2011 and has since distributed more than $450,000 to advance new work by aspiring filmmakers nationwide. Previous winners include Zachary Heinzerling’s “Cutie and the Boxer,” which won Sundance’s Directing Award for documentary and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary in 2014, and Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson’s “American Promise,” which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and won the festival’s Special Jury Prize in the doc category.
For more information on the winners, the Documentary Film Fund and the other Film Society documentary support programs visit sffs.org/filmmaker360/documentary-grants-and-programs.