The Feeling of Being Watched
The Feeling of Being Watched

SFFILM announced the six winners of the 2017 SFFILM Documentary Film Fund awards totaling $125,000, which support feature-length documentaries in postproduction.

Assia Boundaoui’s The Feeling of Being Watched, RaMell Ross’ Hale County, This Morning, This Evening, Leslie Tai’s How to Have an American Baby, Luke Lorentzen’s Midnight Family, Heaven Through the Back Door by Anna Fitch and Banker White, and A Machine to Live In by Yoni Goldstein and Meredith Zielke, were each awarded significant funding that will help push them towards completion.

The SFFILM Documentary Film Fund has an excellent track record for championing important films that have gone on to earn great acclaim. Previous DFF winners include Peter Nicks’s The Force, which won the 2017 Sundance Film Festival Directing Award for documentary and SFFILM Festival’s Bay Area Documentary Award, and will be released this fall by Kino Lorber; Peter Bratt’s Dolores, which won the 2017 SFFILM Festival Audience Award for Documentary Feature following its Sundance premiere; Jamie Meltzer’s True Conviction, which won a Special Jury Mention for Documentary Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival; and Zachary Heinzerling’s Cutie and the Boxer, which won Sundance’s Directing Award for documentary and was nominated for the 2014 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature; among many others.

Since its launch in 2011, the SFFILM Documentary Film Fund has distributed nearly half a million dollars to advance new work by filmmakers nationwide. The 2017 Documentary Film Fund is made possible thanks to an expanded gift from the Jenerosity Foundation.

The panelists who reviewed the ten finalists’ submissions are Jennifer Battat, founder of the Jenerosity Foundation; Noah Cowan, SFFILM Executive Director; Caroline von Kühn, Director of Artist Development at SFFILM; Jenny Slattery, Associate Director of Foundations and Artist Development at SFFILM and independent producer Corey Tong.

“We are thrilled to support these six filmmaking teams, each of which is telling an important story with boldness and passion,” remarked the jury. “This group of projects represents a wide range of artistic visions, subjects, and approaches to nonfiction filmmaking—from the intimate portrayal of an independent woman’s last days to an arresting journey into the surreal, futuristic city of Brasilia. We very much look forward to supporting these films as they evolve, make their way into the world, and leave their imprint on audiences, fellow filmmakers, and our collective sense of what can be achieved through the documentary form.”

2017 DOCUMENTARY FILM FUND WINNERS

The Feeling of Being Watched – Assia Boundaoui, director/producer; Jessica Devaney, producer – $25,000
When a filmmaker investigates rumors of surveillance in her Arab-American neighborhood in Chicago, she uncovers one of the largest FBI terrorism probes conducted before 9/11 and reveals its enduring impact on the community.

Hale County, This Morning, This Evening – RaMell Ross, director; Joslyn Barnes and Su Kim, producers – $15,000
What is the experience of coming-of-age in the Black Belt region of the US? This film presents the lives of two young men in a series of visual movements that replace narrative arc with orchestral form.

Heaven Through the Back Door – Anna Fitch and Banker White, co-director/producers; Sara Dosa, producer – $20,000
Heaven Through the Backdoor is a contemplative documentary that tells the story of Yo (Yolanda Shae), a fiercely independent 88-year old woman whose unique brand of individualist feminism impacts how she chooses to live in the final years of her life. (Former SFFILM FilmHouse resident; Bay Area-based project)

How to Have an American Baby – Leslie Tai, director/producer; Jillian Schultz, co-producer – $20,000
There is a city in Southern California that abounds with pregnant women from China. Told through multiple perspectives, How to Have an American Baby is a kaleidoscopic voyage behind the closed doors of the Chinese birth tourism industry. (SFFILM FilmHouse resident; SFFILM fiscally sponsored filmmaker; Bay Area-based project)

A Machine to Live In – Yoni Goldstein and Meredith Zielke, co-directors; Sebastian Alvarez, producer; Andrew Benz, co-producer – $20,000
Hovering over what remains of Brazil’s modernist future, this film looks at how social control, rational design, and space-age architecture gave rise to a vast landscape of transcendental and mystical utopias. (Bay Area-based project)

Midnight Family – Luke Lorentzen, director; Kellen Quinn, producer; Daniela Alatorre,and Elena Fortes, co-producers – $25,000
In Mexico City, 16-year-old Juan Ochoa struggles to legitimize his family’s unlicensed ambulance business, as corrupt police in the neighborhood begin to target this cutthroat industry.

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