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In Real Life – Liza Mandelup
In Real Life – Liza Mandelup

SFFILM on Friday announced the five winners of the 2018 SFFILM Documentary Film Fund awards totaling $125,000,  which support feature-length documentaries in post-production. Jennifer Maytorena Taylor’s The Gut (working title), Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska’s Honeyland, Liza Mandelup’s In Real Life, Hassan Fazili’s Midnight Traveler, and Jessica Kingdon’s Untitled PRC Project, were each awarded funding that will help push each project towards completion.

The SFFILM Documentary Film Fund has a track record for championing important films that in recent years, left a mark on the festival circuit and beyond. Previous winners include RaMell Ross’ Hale County, This Morning, This Evening, which won a Special Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival; Peter Nicks’s The Force, which won the 2017 Sundance Film Festival Directing Award for documentary and SFFILM Festival’s McBaine Bay Area Documentary Feature Award, before being released theatrically by Kino Lorber; Peter Bratt’s Dolores, which won the 2017 SFFILM Festival Audience Award for Documentary Feature following its Sundance premiere; 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 more than $750,000 to advance new work by filmmakers nationwide. The 2018 Documentary Film Fund is made possible thanks to support from Jennifer Battat and the Jenerosity Foundation.


The Gut (working title) – Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, director/producer; Jim Sabataso and Asma Bseiso, producers; Jen Bradwell and Youssif Salah, editors – $25,000
Filmed over two years in a small New England community that is struggling to emerge from the opioid epidemic and finds itself caught up in a battle over Syrian refugee resettlement, The Gut closely follows the lives of several intersecting but very different characters to explore what changes — and what doesn’t — when white, rural Americans see themselves in “the other.”

Honeyland – Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, co-directors; Atanas Georgiev, producer/editor – $25,000
The last female bee hunter in Europe struggles to save the bees and restore the natural balance when a family of nomadic beekeepers invade her land and threaten her livelihood. Honeyland is an exploration of an observational Indigenous visual narrative that deeply impacts our behavior towards natural resources and the human condition.

In Real Life – Liza Mandelup, director; Lauren Cioffi and Bert Hamelinck, producers; Alex O’Flinn, editor – $25,000
This intimate contemplation on modern youth follows 16-year-old Austyn Tester as he flirts with the world of social media fame. Driven by a wide-eyed desire for stardom, Austyn cultivates a singularly positive online persona that’s at odds with growing up in small-town Tennessee.

Midnight Traveler – Hassan Fazili, director; Su Kim, producer; Emelie Mahdavian, producer/editor – $25,000
Midnight Traveler follows a family of Afghan filmmakers on the run from the Taliban. Told from refugee/director Hassan Fazili’s unique first-person perspective, this story provides unprecedented access to the complex refugee experience as it encounters the West.

Untitled PRC Project – Jessica Kingdon, director; Kira Simon-Kennedy and Nathan Truesdell, producers – $25,000
Untitled PRC Project examines megatrends of today’s China through an impressionistic collage of the new “Chinese Dream.” This observational film reveals paradoxes born from prosperity of the newest world power through the flow of production, consumption, and waste.

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