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EXCLUSIVE: 14 Finalists Compete for $300K in San Francisco Film Society Grants

EXCLUSIVE: 14 Finalists Compete for $300K in San Francisco Film Society Grants

The 14 finalists for the Spring 2016 San Francisco Film Society / Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grants highlight a remarkably diverse set of filmmakers, including The Coup vocalist and all-around polymath Boots Riley, making his directorial debut; Iranian American writer/director Maryam Keshavarz, winner of the 2011 Sundance Audience Award for “Circumstance”; and Oscar winner Rob Epstein (“The Times of Harvey Milk,” “The Celluloid Closet”).     

More than $3 million has been awarded through the grant program since its inception in 2009. Winners also receive customized benefits through Filmmaker360, the San Francisco Film Society’s filmmaker services program, including one-on-one project consultations, project feedback, fundraising assistance, resource and service recommendations, and networking opportunities.

Past recipients of the grant, awarded twice annually to one of more narrative features at various stages of production that will have a significant economic or professional impact on the Bay Area filmmaking community, include “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Short Term 12,” “Fruitvale Station,” and “Love Is Strange.”

Read the full list of Spring 2016 finalists below. 


“Above” – Donari Braxton, writer/director; Takeshi Fukunaga,
producer – screenwriting

In a world ravaged by uncurbed global warming, two Hassidic
Jewish teenagers struggle to navigate the chaotic remains of their
ultra-orthodox community, only to discover an unexpected sense of purpose when
they find themselves the ringleaders in a coup to sabotage an illegal logging

“Bootleg” – Reem Morsi, writer/director – screenwriting

A satirical dramatic comedy about a Muslim woman, in a
sexually unfulfilling marriage, who discovers sexual pleasure through sex toys
and decides to go back to Egypt to start an underground sex toy manufacturing

“Clash”Mohamed Diab, writer/director – postproduction

In the wake of the recent Egyptian military takeover, 22
people of different backgrounds and beliefs are arrested and stuck inside an
over-crowded police riot truck. They constantly clash with one another, but in
the face of death, must learn to reconcile their differences in order to

“Collisions” – Richard Levien, writer/director; Chad Burris,
producer – production

Twelve-year-old Itan’s promising life in San Francisco is
turned upside down when she comes home from school to find her apartment
ransacked and her mother missing. Itan manipulates her estranged and
irresponsible uncle Evencio into taking them across the country, through the labyrinth
of immigration detention, trying to find Itan’s mother and stop her

“Dark Forest” – Elena Greenlee, writer/director/producer;
Marcia Mayer, producer – packaging

A young neuroscientist steps out of her depth while
researching applications of the psychedelic brew ayahuasca in addiction
treatment. In the complex world of Amazonian shamanism, she finds herself
battling against mysterious forces she neither understands nor is convinced she
believes in.

“Dogpatch” – Rob Epstein, writer/director – screenwriting

Jake, a successful filmmaker in his 50s, lives alone in a
funky Victorian in San Francisco. Jake’s lover—the love of his life—died of
AIDS 25 years ago, along with all of Jake’s friends from his younger days. Jake
has never quite gotten over this, nor has he ever truly dealt with his
grief…that is, until the ghosts of his dead friends visit to set him free.

“First Match” – Olivia Newman, writer/director; Chanelle
Elaine and Veronica Nickel, producers – packaging

Hardened by years in foster care, a teenage girl from
Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood decides that joining the all-boys high
school wrestling team is the only way back to her estranged father.

“The Last Harem” – Maryam Keshavarz, writer/director/producer;
Paolo Marinou-Blanco, writer/producer – packaging

Set in tradition-bound 19th century Persia, The Last Harem
follows the rise of Jayran, a young and rebellious cross-dressing musician,
through the ranks of the Royal Harem and through her love affair with Nasir, an
equally unconventional Shah. Together, they battle against societal
expectations of their political and gender roles, embodied in the fierce figure
of Nasir’s mother.

“Machine Organic” – Rohit Rao, writer/director; Laura Wagner,
producer – screenwriting

In a disconnected world, a woman searches for and finds a
solution for human disconnection through a telepathy software called
Transmission, but soon realizes that navigating human connection is more
terrifying than she had ever anticipated.

“Monsters and Men”Reinaldo Marcus Green, writer/director –

The lives of three Brooklyn residents are changed
irrevocably after witnessing an episode of police violence.

“Moonlight”Barry Jenkins, writer/director; Adele Romanski,
producer – postproduction

Moonlight tells the story of Chiron, a boy who becomes a man
in tumultuous “War on Drugs” era Miami. Set in three different time periods
highlighting the most pivotal moments of Chiron’s fraught quarter-life, his
battle with a deteriorating home life and his dawning sexuality, the film is a
radical depiction of modern masculinity.

“Oh Lucy!” – Atsuko Hirayanagi, writer/director/producer –

Setsuko, a 55-year-old single office worker in Tokyo,
enrolls in an unorthodox English class which requires her to take on an
American persona, Lucy. Lucy awakens Setsuko’s dormant side, sparking strong
emotions and possibly love. When the instructor she desires leaves Japan,
Setsuko sets out for America to follow and finds her true self along the way.

“Rent Girl” – Bill Guttentag, director; Michelle Tea, writer;
Sharon Barnes Rubinstein, producer – packaging

Working-class, queer Zoe Zuber leaves home and falls into
the sex industry through a love affair with a woman who is not who she seems.
Sex-positive without being didactic, edgy without being alarmist, funny and
dark, Rent Girl is a complicated, realistic look at the industry and the myriad
of reasons women enter it.

“Sorry to Bother You” – Boots Riley, writer/director; Kelly
Williams, Jonathan Duffy and George Rush producers – packaging

A black telemarketer discovers a magical way to make his
voice overdubbed by a white actor, propelling him into the upper echelon of a
macabre universe where he’s selected to lead a species of genetically
manipulated horse-people, called the Equisapiens.

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