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San Francisco Film Society

Eight filmmaking teams will receive a total of $300,000 in funding in the latest round of SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants to help with the next stage of their creative process, from screenwriting to postproduction.

SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants are awarded twice annually to filmmakers whose narrative feature films will have significant economic or professional impact on the Bay Area filmmaking community and meaningfully explore pressing social issues. More than $4 million has been awarded since the launch of this grant program in 2009, making the SFFILM, in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the largest grant-maker for independent narrative films in the United States.

The SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grant program has funded more than 50 projects since its inception, including Geremy Jasper’s Sundance breakthrough Patti Cake$, which is on its way to a July theatrical release; Alex and Andrew Smith’s Walking Out starring Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival; Chloé Zhao’s Songs My Brothers Taught Me, which screened at Sundance and Cannes in 2015 and has created buzz across the international festival circuit; Short Term 12, Destin Cretton’s sophomore feature which won both the Narrative Grand Jury Award and Audience Award at South by Southwest 2013; Ryan Coogler’s debut feature Fruitvale Station, which won the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, the Un Certain Regard Avenir Prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the narrative category at Sundance 2013; and Ben Zeitlin’s debut phenomenon Beasts of the Southern Wild, which won Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize and Cannes’ Camera d’Or in 2012 and earned four Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture).

The jury noted in a statement: “This group of finalists was exceptionally strong, and we are thrilled to support these eight bold and deeply human films, which collectively represent such a wide range of tones, styles, voices, and artistic visions. These filmmakers showcase the ever-growing talent coming out of San Francisco, and their work will contribute to the growing strength, diversity, and richness of the Bay Area filmmaking community.”


The Continental
Aron Kantor, writer/director; K.M. Soehnlein, cowriter – screenwriting – $25,000
A young, gay Latino immigrant working at New York’s legendary Continental Baths gets swept up in the burgeoning gay rights movement and the early disco scene while navigating an affair with his married boss.

Nijla Mu’min, writer/director; Avril Speaks, producer – post-production – $50,000
Summer is a carefree, Black teenage Instagram celebrity whose world is turned upside down when her mother abruptly converts to Islam and becomes a different person. At first resistant to the faith, she begins to reevaluate her identity after becoming attracted to a Muslim classmate, crossing the thin line between physical desire and piety.

Beth de Araújo, writer/director – screenwriting – $25,000
An obedient eight-year-old girl unintentionally witnesses a rape in Golden Gate Park. Unraveling with fear and paranoia, her subsequent violent outbursts put her family and classmates in jeopardy.

Music Moves Us
Cyrus Tabar, writer/director – screenwriting – $25,000
In a near future where music is outlawed in an authoritarian state, a passionate woman and her friends throw illegal techno dance parties in Oakland, California, and broadcast on a bootleg pirate radio station to bring people together.

Mohammad Gorjestani, writer/director; Malcolm Pullinger, producer – screenwriting – $25,000
Set in 2025, Refuge depicts a brewing cyberwar between the US and Iran which puts Sonia, a young Iranian refugee and activist, at risk of deportation or internment. Her only escape may come at a greater price than she’s willing to pay.

A Rooster on the Fire Escape
Guetty Felin, writer/director/producer; Danielle Dreis, producer – packaging – $25,000
Upon coming to America, the Celestin family was hopping to leave behind the traumas of the brutal dictatorship of their tropical native land, but the sacrifices they made for their freedom create a dark spiral from which they might not recover.

Sorry to Bother You
Boots Riley, writer/director; Jonathan Duffy, George Rush and Kelly Williams, producers – production – $75,000
Sorry To Bother You tells the story of Cassius Green, a Black telemarketer who discovers a magical key to telemarketing success, propelling him into a macabre universe where he is selected to lead a species of genetically manipulated horse-people.

We the Animals
Jeremiah Zagar, writer/director; Jeremy Yaches and Christina King, producers – post-production – $50,000
Based on the bestselling novel by Justin Torres, We the Animals explores the beautiful and savage nature of family and the viscerally charged landscape of youth through the eyes of Jonah, the youngest son of a mixed-race, working-class couple, as he discovers his artistic identity.

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