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Marathon Boy, Gemma Atwal

The 54th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 21 – May 5) today announced its Documentaries in Competition for the esteemed Golden Gate Awards. The International will award close to $100,000 in total prizes this year. Sixty thousand dollars will be awarded to winners in three categories: investigative documentary feature ($25,000), documentary feature ($20,000) and Bay Area documentary feature ($15,000). Winners will be announced at the Golden Gate Awards, Wednesday, May 4.

Official Selections 2011 Golden Gate Awards  
Documentary Feature Competition

Better This World, Kelly Duane de la Vega,  
Katie Galloway, USA 2011
Set against the backdrop of the 2008 Republican National Convention amid bomb plots, arrests and subsequent trials, this twist-filled portrait of two young activists caught in the web of an opportunistic mentor and a desperate justice system poignantly describes not only the problems of power and authority, but also the ultimate power of forgiveness and love.

Cinema Komunisto, Mila Turajlic, Serbia 2010
This evocative documentary explores the cinematic history of Yugoslavia under Tito. Exploring the ruins of forgotten film studios and sets, making ample use of clips from propaganda films and talking to directors, producers, actors and Tito’s personal projectionist, the film reveals the manifold complexities of the era.

Crime After Crime, Yoav Potash, USA 2011
This intimate look at the coming together of a female prisoner and her two pro bono lawyers is a must-see documentary for those interested in the power of film to change the course of events. Observed over a five-and-a-half year period, the saga of one woman’s case resounds with broader social implications.

Detroit Wild City, Florent Tillon, France/USA 2010
A beautifully crafted portrait of the city of Detroit, a shell of its former incarnation as car manufacturing hub of the nation. As the city empties out, however, this documentary uncovers pockets of urban pioneers, finding and making use of what the city still has to offer.

Foreign Parts, Véréna Paravel, J.P. Sniadecki, USA 2010
Foreign Parts portrays an enclave of auto shops and junkyards in the shadow of a new baseball stadium in Queens. The film observes this vibrant community of immigrants — for whom car wrecks, refuse and recycling form a thriving ecosystem — as it struggles for daily survival.

The Good Life, Eva Mulvad, Denmark 2010
A Danish mother and daughter, living in a rundown house in Portugal, bemoan their vanished wealth and present circumstances. Through old photos and home movies and present-day footage, The Good Life constructs an insightful portrait of an eccentric, dysfunctional relationship.

The Green Wave, Ali Samadi Ahadi, Germany/Iran 2010
This riveting documentary for the 21st century combines powerful animation, minute-by-minute Twitter feeds, blog accounts and mobile phone video footage alongside conventional on-camera testimonies to recount the abortive 2009 antigovernment Iranian youth revolt called the Green Wave — a revolution in flux, yet evergreen with hope.

Marathon Boy, Gemma Atwal, England/USA/India 2010
A scrappy slum kid with a gift for running meets a driven judo instructor with dreams of Olympic fame. Their complicated, compelling relationship turns India upside down in this documentary that gets up close and personal, while expertly guiding us through a series of twists and turns that are both exciting and unsettling.

The Pipe, Risteard Ó Domhnaill, Ireland 2010
On Ireland’s west coast, a group of farmers, fishermen and homeowners crusade against Shell Oil’s plans to run a gas pipeline through their town and countryside. The heroic attempts of these citizens to take on Big Oil divide this small community for which the pipeline may mean either the prospect of increased prosperity or the end of their way of life.

Position Among the Stars, Leonard Retel Helmrich,  
Netherlands 2010
The third in a series of documentaries focusing on one particular Indonesian family presents a stylized portrait of family members facing poverty, religious differences and adolescent rebellion.

The Redemption of General Butt Naked,  
Daniele Anastasion, Eric Strauss, USA 2010
Can a ruthless mass killer ever really become a messenger of peace and forgiveness? This riveting documentary traces the rise and fall of General Butt Naked — feared warlord of Liberia’s 14-year civil war — and his self-proclaimed quest to now heal his country and redeem his own soul as a newborn evangelist, armed only with the power of the Gospel.

The Tiniest Place, Tatiana Huezo, Mexico 2011  
International Premiere
Years after the Salvadoran National Guard destroyed the jungle-shrouded village of Cinquera in that country’s civil war, survivors begin returning home to rebuild their community from the ashes. Soulful and beautifully rendered, this documentary feature debut is an evocative testament to memory and the power of life to rebound after unspeakable tragedy.

In addition to these 12 documentary features, the Golden Gate Awards also will include competitors in nine other categories. These films will be announced at the Festival press conference on Tuesday, March 29.

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