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The San Francisco Film Society announced the three winners of the inaugural SFFS Documentary Film Fund grants. The Fund was created to support the postproduction of singular feature-length nonfiction film work that is distinguished by compelling stories, intriguing characters and an innovative visual approach.

2011 Winners

Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, An American Promise, $25,000

In 1999, filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson began documenting the experiences of two African American boys — their son and his best friend — as they started kindergarten at the prestigious, private, predominantly white Dalton School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, just as the school began to actively cultivate a diverse student body. This unprecedented longitudinal documentary reveals the life-changing experiences of the boys and their families as they navigate the challenges of academic achievement further complicated by issues of race and class.

Priya Desai and Ann Kim, Match +, $25,000

How do you find love and marriage when you are HIV-positive? And how do you do that in India, where marriage is a must but HIV/AIDS is unspeakable? Shame led some people to marry without disclosing their diagnosis and others to remain single. Twenty-five years ago the doctor who discovered the first cases of HIV in India could do little more than console her patients. Now she also acts as their matchmaker, helping HIV-positive people fulfill their familial duty as well as their own wish to marry.

Zachary Heinzerling, Cutie & the Boxer, $50,000

Cutie & the Boxer chronicles a unique love story between two Japanese artists and reveals the roots of their relationship. Ushio Shinohara achieved notoriety in postwar Japan with his avant-garde boxing paintings, and in 1969 moved to New York City in search of international recognition. Three years later, at age 19, Noriko left Japan to study art in New York and was instantly captivated by the middle-aged Shinohara. She abandoned her education and became the wife of an unruly, alcoholic husband. Forty years into their marriage the Shinoharas’ art and personalities are the basis for a deep and challenging symbiosis. Cutie & the Boxer reveals painful, universal truths about the lives of artists and examines how the creative process intersects with reality, identity and marriage.

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