The San Francisco Film Society and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation today announced the ten finalists for the fourth round of SFFS/KRF Filmmaking Grants of up to a total of $225,000, to be given to one or more feature films that through plot, character, theme or setting significantly explore human and civil rights, discrimination, gender and sexual identity and other urgent social justice issues of our time. Additionally, the grants support films that have a significant economic or professional impact on the Bay Area filmmaking community. The total amount disbursed in 2009-13 will be more than $3 million, including a total of $275,000 already awarded in the first three rounds. Finalists for the Fall 2010 grants follow.

Debbie Brubaker: 504, preproduction
504 is the story of the longest takeover of a Federal building in American history and the birth of the disability rights movement. A tumultuous love story between a recently paralyzed fraternity brother and an angry intellectual activist with cerebral palsy unfolds against the backdrop of an historic sit-in at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare offices in San Francisco, which led eventually to the enactment of the first disability nondiscrimination law, known as Section 504.

Mark Decena: Speak to Me, screenwriting/script development
Speak to Me tells the intertwined stories of three people — a teenager with a debilitating stutter, a speech pathology student and a racist former munitions specialist — whose lives have been impacted by the long-shuttered Hunters Point Naval munitions dump. Their lives are changed by a sudden tragedy and by their involvement in Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam.

Eric Escobar: East County, screenwriting/script development
A deputy sheriff who is drowning in debt moonlights for his brother’s eviction agency. His calloused and bitter outlook is shaken when he discovers three children who have been abandoned by their parents in a foreclosed home. Though his search for the missing parents ends tragically, his determination to rebuild a stable life for his own family is renewed.

Mohammad Gorjestani: Suitcase for Tomorrow, screenwriting/script development
Suitcase for Tomorrow explores the complex issues of human trafficking, illegal immigration and deportation as played out in a story set along the U.S./Canadian border. A naïve young smuggler who believes that he is helping refugees find a better, safer life comes to understand the brutality of trafficking in human cargo and fights to preserve the dignity of a victim.

Lynn Hershman Leeson: Killer App, preproduction
A visionary doctor at a fertility clinic realizes that a patient’s DNA holds the key to the next evolutionary leap from homo sapiens to machine sapiens: beings that look human but which have an unlimited ability to absorb information. As the patient learns more and more, she becomes increasingly aware that greed is destroying Earth and decides to develop a killer app that will save the world and her newborn twins.

Christopher Johnson: Skirt, screenwriting/script development
Skirt tells the story of an idealistic political campaign worker who must decide whether to perpetuate a lie in order to help promote a cause that she believes in or set the record straight before the truth is uncovered and run the risk of undermining her campaign.

Jennie Livingston: Read My Lips, screenwriting/script development
When a young woman moves from Portland, Oregon to join her friend in the Castro, their bond strengthens. After learning that he has been diagnosed with AIDS, she strives to keep him alive. Together they join a group of seasoned activists, who use art, performance and raucous bad behavior to protest the politics of the Reagan era, a set of policies seemingly oblivious to the plague that is ravaging the city.

Mike Ott: Teenage Wasteland, production
A young illegal immigrant who dreams of escaping her staid life in a sleepy desert town decides that the time to act has arrived when her impressionable best friend falls under the influence of his militaristic, vigilante older brother. She convinces him to leave with her and pursue their dreams in San Francisco.

Britta Sjogren: Beyond Redemption, production
Beyond Redemption is about overcoming the divide of difference. A hermitic ex-Black Panther, who was involved in a political action gone horribly wrong, and a younger white psychologist left suicidal after the death of her only child have both plunged into a fatal pessimism about the world. When their lives cross, the barriers that separate them lift and they are able to open their hearts to a second chance at life.

Morgan Wise: Western Addition, screenwriting/script development
Western Addition traces the lives of six African American residents of a crumbling San Francisco apartment building over the course of a single weekend in 1970 and the transformation of African American culture brought on by the second great migration of Blacks from the rural South to the industrial centers in the North.

Honorable Mentions
Cynthia Mitchell: The Lost Coast, screenwriting/script development
The Lost Coast tells the story of an encounter between two people who have become disillusioned by the future that they each foresee for humanity. A struggle to survive and escape from Death Valley draws them into an unlikely alliance and renews their hope for the future.

Leah Meyerhoff: Unicorns, production
Unicorns is about troubled young love, emotional confusion and sexual awakening. Running away from a bleak and isolated home life, a young girl looks for love in a relationship with an older boy. She survives a scarring act of sexual violence but eventually encounters real love and recognizes her own strength and independence.

The SFFS/KRF Filmmaking Grants support work by local filmmakers as well as attract projects of the highest quality to the Bay Area, providing tangible encouragement and support to meaningful projects and benefiting the local economy. In addition to a cash grant, recipients will receive various benefits through the Film Society’s comprehensive and dynamic filmmaker services programs.

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