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San Francisco Film Society Announces Films in Competition for Golden Gate Awards, 35% Female-Helmed

San Francisco Film Society Announces Films in Competition for Golden Gate Awards, 35% Female-Helmed

The San Francisco Film Society has announced the films in competition for the Narrative Feature and Documentary Feature Golden Gate Awards, which will be presented at the San Francisco International Film Festival running from April 21-May 5.

Of the 20 films in competition, seven, or 35 percent, were directed by women.

The awards will distribute nearly $40,000 in total prizes this year. Films are selected with an emphasis on bringing attention to innovative and quality film making regardless of participation in other festivals.

Notable inclusions in the documentary competition are “Cameraperson,” a documentary from “Citizenfour” cinematographer Kirsten Johnson, and Sonia Kennebeck’s “National Bird,” which was produced by Wim Wenders and Errol Morris. Two of the narrative features, “As I Open My Eyes” and “Mountain,” appear to follow women facing challenges that come from restrictive societies.

The GGA New Directors Prize winner will receive a cash prize of $10,000, the GGA Documentary Feature winner will receive $10,000 and the GGA Bay Area Documentary Feature winner will receive $5,000. In addition to the narrative and documentary features in contention, the Golden Gate Awards will include competitors in six short film categories. These films will be announced at the Festival press conference on  March 29. Independent juries will select the winners in all categories, which will be announced at the Golden Gate Awards May 4.

The films directed by women are listed below, with synopses provided by the festival.


“As I Open My Eyes,” Leyla Bouzid, Tunisia/France/Belgium
Her family assumes that Farah, a high-achieving student in Tunis, will continue her studies, but she just wants to sing. When her mom hears that she’s performing politically provocative material with a group of male friends, a powerful story unfolds of female independence that stands in the face of conservative Muslim beliefs.

“Mountain,” Yaelle Kayam, Israel/Denmark
Yaelle Kayam’s debut feature is strikingly shot against the tombstones of Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, where an Orthodox woman’s longing for her husband’s love sets in motion a transformational journey into a nocturnal world of pimps and prostitutes. A mesmerizing performance by Shani Klein keeps viewers riveted to a character study that is by turns tender and startling.

“Thirst,” Svetla Tsotsorkova, Bulgaria
When water becomes scarce due to drought, a laundress living in rural southwest Bulgaria with her husband and son invites a dowser and his spirited daughter onto their property to search for hidden springs. Wonderfully atmospheric, the film gracefully depicts how the teenage girl’s combative nature and the oppressive heat surrounding them all upset the family’s balance, for good and bad.


“Cameraperson,” Kirsten Johnson, USA
Simultaneously an astute observation of nonfiction filmmaking’s dilemmas, and a wonderfully creative autobiographical collage, Cameraperson is a must-see for all documentary enthusiasts. Acclaimed cinematographer Kirsten Johnson, who has lensed such acclaimed films as Citizenfour, Very Semi-Serious and Darfur Now, assembles moments from 25 years of location shoots — including a birthing clinic in Nigeria, a Bosnian farm, a detention center in Yemen and a boxing ring in Brooklyn — and stiches together an illuminating, emotional patchwork memoir.

“haveababy,” Amanda Micheli, USA
Amanda Micheli’s stirring and suspenseful documentary follows several aspiring parents who desperately want to have a baby but are struggling with infertility and the high cost of treatments. They place themselves in the hands of Las Vegas doctor Gregory Sher and his annual contest offering a prize of a free round of in-vitro fertilization treatments — with no guarantee of pregnancy. A rollercoaster of hope and despair awaits them all.

“National Bird,” Sonia Kennebeck, USA
Executive produced by Wim Wenders and Errol Morris, this elegant and chilling documentary provides a glimpse of what the US government doesn’t want you to know about drone warfare by focusing on three veterans whose service experience caused them to question the usage of drones in overseas combat.

“The Return,” Kelly Duane de la Vega, Katie Galloway, USA
After California voters reversed the state’s Three Strikes law, thousands of inmates became suddenly eligible for re-sentencing and release. This provocative and touching documentary chronicles what happened next. Filmmakers Kelly Duane De la Vega and Katie Galloway (Better this World, SFIFF 2011) focus on the journeys of the newly free and their families, as well as the Stanford-based lawyers working on behalf of nonviolent offenders, illuminating the multifaceted struggle behind every transition from incarceration to freedom.

[via Press materials]

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