This year’s SFFS Documentary Film Fund awards total $75,000 to support feature-length docs in postproduction. Esteemed past winners include Zachary Heinzerling’s 2014 Oscar-nominated “Cutie and the Boxer,” Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson’s 2013 Sundance winner “American Promise” and Jason Zeldes’ “Romeo Is Bleeding,” which just premiered at the SF International Film Festival. The Fund has distributed over $450,000 to national filmmakers since 2011.
The panelists who reviewed the 11 finalists’ submissions are Jennifer Battat, founder of the Jenerosity Foundation; Noah Cowan, executive director of the San Francisco Film Society; Lisa Kleiner-Chanoff, cofounder of Catapult Film Fund; filmmaker Dan Krauss; and Michele Turnure-Salleo, director of the Film Society’s Filmmaker360 program.
2015 Documentary Film Fund Winners:
“The Island and the Whales” – Mike Day, director – $35,000
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.
Mike Day was previously a writer and photographer in Jerusalem and Cairo before becoming a lawyer in London and the Middle East. He retrained as a filmmaker and founded Intrepid Cinema in 2009 and was commissioned by the BBC to make “The Guga Hunters of Ness” to critical acclaim. Day is now a Sundance fellow, was listed as one of “10 filmmakers to watch in 2012” by Filmmaker Magazine and was one of the European Documentary Network’s “12 for the Future.”
“Learning to Forget” – Kaspar Astrup Schröder, director; Katherine Sahlstrom, producer – $15,000
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.
Kaspar Astrup Schröder is an award-winning director based in Copenhagen, Denmark. He is self taught and started his career in editing fictional films. With a strong sense for narrative storytelling he thrives to make dramatic documentaries with a strong narrative arc. Previous films include “The Invention of Dr. Nakamats,” “My Playground” and “Rent a Family Inc.” His films have been nominated at many major international film festivals. “Rent a Family Inc.” recently won the Golden Eye Award at Zürich International Film Festival.
“The Oakland Police Project” – Peter Nicks, director – $25,000
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.
Director/producer/cinematographer Peter Nicks’ feature documentary “The Waiting Room” was released in 2012 to critical acclaim, named by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle as the best documentary of the year and shortlisted for an Academy Award. His other film and television credits include “Blame Somebody Else,” for which he earned an Emmy; “The Wolf,” executive produced by Jon Else; “Islam In America,” “America’s Sheriff” and “Out Of Control: AIDS In Black America.” Nicks was recently awarded a SFFS / KRF screenwriting grant for his first narrative feature “Escaping Morgantown,” loosely based on the year he spent in federal prison in the early 90s.