SFFILM Awards Documentary Film Fund Grants to Four Rising Projects

Now in its 10th year, SFFILM awarded $60,000 to four rising filmmaking teams to support feature length documentaries.
2021 SSFILM Documentary Film Fund Winners

The SFFILM Documentary Film Fund (DFF) officially has deemed the 2021 winners.

Now in its 10th year, DFF awarded a total of $60,000 in grant funding to four documentary projects, in $15,000 increments each. The funding will support feature-length documentaries in post-production.

Per the official SFFILM announcement, the DFF supports “non-fiction films that are distinguished by compelling stories, intriguing characters, and an innovative visual approach.” The 2021 winners include “Against the Tide,” “Driver,” “Hummingbirds,” and “Weed Dreams.”

“In an incredibly competitive slate of submissions, we are thrilled with the winning selections,” Masashi Niwano, SFFILM Director of Artist Development, said. “All of these films explore the human experience in new and powerful ways that truly moved our jury to tears.”

Since its founding in 2011, the SFFILM Documentary Film Fund has distributed nearly $1 million to filmmakers across the nation. The 2021 DFF is made possible by support from Jennifer Hymes Battat and the Jenerosity Foundation.

The 2021 panelists who reviewed the 13 finalists’ submissions include Jeanelle Augustin, Manager of Film Fellowships and Artist Development at NBCUniversal; Jennifer Hymes Battat, founder of the Jenerosity Foundation; Liza Mandelup, film director and 2018 DFF winner for Jawline; Joshua Moore, SFFILM Manager of Documentary Programs; Rosa Morales, SFFILM Associate Manager of Narrative Programs; Masashi Niwano, SFFILM Director of Artist Development; and Sabrina Sellers, SFFILM Artist Development Coordinator.

“We are delighted to be able to support this fantastic slate of documentaries,” the jury said in a press statement. “Each project focuses on underrepresented characters and fighters striving for a better world. We’re impressed by the visual palettes this talented group of filmmakers have used to create a beautiful tapestry of the diverse and vibrant communities captured in their stories, and we look forward to seeing them reach a wide audience.”

See below for the full list of winners:

“Against the Tide” 

Sarvnik Kaur, director/producer; Koval Bhatia, producer – $15,000

A tale of love, brotherhood and resentments against the backdrop of an adoring sea, which is turning adverse under the menacing effects of an all-pervading calamity called climate change.


Nesa Azimi, director/producer; Ines Hofmann Kanna, producer – $15,000

Driver follows three years in the life of long-haul truck driver Desiree Wood. Taking on an industry where multi-billion dollar megacarriers conspire to make individual drivers anonymous and disposable, Desiree brings together an unlikely group of women to find strength, solidarity, and self-determination on the road—all while she fights to sustain herself as a long-haul truck driver.


Leslie Benavides, producer; Silvia Castaños, co-director; Estefanía Contreras, co-director; Miguel Drake-McLaughlin, producer/co-director; Diane Ng, co-director; Ana Rodriguez-Falco, producer/co-director; Jillian Schlesinger, producer/co-director – $15,000

In this collaborative coming-of-age film, best friends Silvia and Beba escape the cruel heat of summer in their Texas border town, wandering empty streets at night in search of inspiration, adventure, and a sense of belonging. When forces threaten their shared dreams, they take a stand and hold onto what they can—the moment and each other

“Weed Dreams”

Mathew Ramirez Warren, director/producer; Barni Axmed Qaasim, producer – $15,000

Black-owned businesses in Oakland, California try to break into the predominantly white legal Cannabis industry, through the nation’s first ever Cannabis Equity Program.

Previous DFF winners have include Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s “Writing With Fire,” Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska’s “Honeyland,” RaMell Ross’ “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” and Liza Mandelup’s “Jawline.”

The SFFILM Documentary Film Fund grants are awarded once per year. As with all SFFILM grants, in addition to the cash awards, recipients will gain access to numerous benefits through SFFILM Makers, the organization’s comprehensive and dynamic artist development program. These benefits, customized to every individual production, can include one-on-one project consultations, creative development, additional fundraising assistance, resource and service recommendations, and networking opportunities, among many others.

For more information visit sffilm.org/makers.

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