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The San Francisco Film Society announced the five winners and one honorable mention for the SFFS/Film Arts Foundation Documentary Grants, the newest grants to be offered by its Filmmaker Services program. Thanks to the generous support of Film Arts Foundation and its board, and honoring Film Arts’ support of documentary filmmakers over its 32-year history, the grants award a total of $25,000 for documentary feature films in postproduction. These one-time grants are awarded to filmmakers residing in the United States whose work expresses both a unique personal perspective and an artistic approach to their chosen subject.

The panelists who reviewed the finalists’ submissions — Hannah Eaves, director of new media, LinkTV; Alan Snitow, documentary filmmaker; Dave Winton, documentary filmmaker; Sara Dosa, SFFS grants and residencies coordinator, San Francisco Film Society; and Michele Turnure-Salleo, director of filmmaker services, San Francisco Film Society — announced the winners saying, “The selection process was lengthy and rigorous given the high quality of applicants and we are thrilled with the five recipients. Their exceptional projects are not only compelling and diverse, but will also honor the legacy of the Film Arts Foundation.” Winners and honorable mention of the SFFS/FAF grants follow.

Christian Bruno: Strand: A Natural History of Cinema, $5,000
Strand: A Natural History of Cinema charts the rise and demise of moviegoing in San Francisco while revealing the transformation of postwar urban America and examines this important aspect of collective culture by focusing on its richest period, the repertory and revival movement of the 1960s and ’70s. The film integrates contemporary 16mm film, archival images and interviews with filmmakers such as Errol Morris, Werner Herzog and Walter Murch.

Eugene Corr: From Ghost Town to Havana, $5,000
Since the summer of 2007, Corr has followed the lives of boys growing up in the Centro Havana neighborhood, Cuba, playing baseball for coach Nicholas Reyes, and boys growing up in West Oakland, California, playing for coach Roscoe Bryant. This April Oakland and Centro Havana players met and formed one Oakland/Centro Havana team that played against other Havana barrios. Through the prism of sports From Ghost Town to Havana portrays the human struggle to wrest life, and even joy, from hardship and death.

Hayley Downs and Julie Kahn: Swamp Cabbage, $5,000
Swamp Cabbage is a documentary about a half-Cracker (descendent of Florida pioneers known for their ability to survive in the treacherous Florida wilderness; often confused with but unrelated to the slur meaning ignorant bigot) stuck in Brooklyn who discovers that the bizarre backwoods-meets-suburbia Florida childhood she left behind is actually the key to her survival. The film weaves her story of love, addiction, illness, death and redemption with vérité sequences of Florida Crackers as they gig, trap, hunt, fish and cook, in close partnership with their environment, in the face of out-of-control development and suburban sprawl. Her tragicomic journey offers a new take on food, conservation and community.

Dara Kell and Christopher Nizza: Dear Mandela, $5,000
Dear Mandela chronicles events leading up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa through the eyes of three young leaders of the shack-dwellers movement whose communities face mass eviction. Filmed over two years, Dear Mandela follows the leaders from the chaos on the streets to the highest court in the land as they resist the evictions and put Nelson Mandela’s promise of a better life for all to the test.

David Weissman: We Were Here: Voices from the AIDS Years in San Francisco, $5,000
We Were Here: Voices from the AIDS Years in San Francisco is the first deep and reflective look back at the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco and how the city’s inhabitants dealt with that unprecedented calamity. The relentless suffering that overwhelmed San Francisco in the 1980s and ’90s has given way to a kind of calm and, understandably, a degree of willful forgetfulness. The documentary explores what was not so easy to discern in the midst of it all: parallel histories of suffering and loss, and of community coalescence and growth. Despite legitimate fears of being forced back into the closet by AIDS, the gay community was in many ways greatly empowered by the challenges that the epidemic presented.

Tristan Patterson: Dragonslayer
Set against inland California’s decaying suburban and exurban communities in the aftermath of America’s economic collapse, Dragonslayer is a documentary portrait of a homeless young man who spends his days breaking into the backyards of foreclosed homes, draining the scummy water from their abandoned swimming pools and skateboarding, as a pure form of artistic expression that he refuses to compromise. On the verge of suicide, he falls in love with a 19-year-old college student who dreams of joining the Peace Corps. When she loses her childhood home, they decide to hit the road together in search of a better way of life.

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