Snow and the Bear (Kar ve Ayı)
Snow and the Bear (Kar ve Ayı) directed by Selcen Ergun

Selcen Ergun won the New Directors Award for her debut film Snow and the Bear at the 66th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM Festival). In the Turkish film, a young nurse begins a new assignment at a wintry, remote village when a man goes missing.

Other juried Golden Gate Awards prizes went to Smoke Sauna Sisterhood directed by Anna Hints for McBaine Documentary Feature Award. Anna Hints’ documentary captures a group of Estonian women who gather in the safe darkness of a smoke sauna to share their innermost thoughts and secrets.

The Audience Award — Narrative Feature went to Earth Mama directed by Savanah Leaf, and the Audience Award — Documentary Feature went to Home Is a Hotel directed by Kevin Duncan Wong, Todd Sills + Kar Yin Tham.

“We are beyond proud to honor the films selected by the 2023 SFFILM jurors, a group of tastemakers, filmmakers, and industry leaders,” said Jessie Fairbanks, SFFILM’s Director of Programming. “The juries have recognized a group of emerging international creatives including firsts for women directors from Estonia and Nicaragua, and several local filmmakers, which is thrilling, as this consensus reflects the curatorial intention behind the Festival. It is so gratifying to see the titles that our programming team have championed resonate with our audience and colleagues. The films noted here join our other festival honorees, and some now qualify for the Academy Awards.”

Some of the special honors of the 2023 SFFILM Festival previously announced included SFFILM’s Persistence of Vision Award, which went to Northern Irish director and film historian Mark Cousins; and the Mel Novikoff Award, which honored Firelight Media founded by filmmakers Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith, and was presented with a special retrospective screening of Nelson’s pivotal work, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015). The Sloan Science in Cinema Prize went to Matthew Johnson’s SXSW standout BlackBerry, a film about the rise and fall of the world’s first smart device. SFFILM also celebrated visionary Canadian-British director Mary Harron with a tribute and screening of Dalíland, her latest film starring Sir Ben Kingsley.

The winners of the 66th Annual SFFILM Golden Gate Awards Competition are as follows:


New Directors Award Winner
Snow and the Bear (Kar ve Ayı)
Directed by Selcen Ergun (Turkey; 2022; 98 min)

“Selcen Ergun is the winner of the New Directors Award for her debut Snow and the Bear, which showcases her keen eye for scenery, suspense, and character development as we become entranced with small-town drama and the eternal challenge of man vs nature. Asli, the main character, emotes beautifully, reflecting Selcen’s sensitive direction, and we shivered alongside her as she searched for the truth in a never-ending winter.“


McBaine Documentary Feature Award Winner
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood
Directed by Anna Hints (Estonia, France, Iceland; 2023; 89 min)

“Our choice for the Documentary Feature is Smoke Sauna Sisterhood for its stunning intimacy, both with its participants and with its visual style. Anna Hints’s subtle, intentional filmmaking transports viewers to Southern Estonia, allowing audiences to be fully immersed in the sauna tradition. Equal parts breathtaking and heartbreaking, Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a portal, allowing us to feel we are sitting on the bench alongside the women who have come to partake in this sacred ritual to heal.”

McBaine Bay Area Documentary Feature Award
Home Is a Hotel
Directed by Kevin Duncan Wong, Todd Sills + Kar Yin Tham (USA; 2023; 92 min)

“There is not a more timely or important film for the Bay Area in its current housing crisis — Home Is a Hotel is essential viewing to promote empathy for those who are faced with the insurmountable challenges of affordability in San Francisco. Made by local filmmakers, this critical film thoughtfully captures an overlooked population worthy of our attention.”


Narrative Short Winner
Sèt Lam
Directed by Vincent Fontano (France; 2022; 23 min)

Documentary Short Winner
Direcciones (Addresses)
Directed by María Luisa Santos + Carlo Nasisse (Costa Rica; 2022; 14 min)

Animated Short Winner
By Water
Directed by Iyabo Kwayana (USA, Singapore; 2022; 12 min)

Bay Area Short Film Prize
Still Waters
Directed by Aurora Brachman (USA; 2021; 12 min)

Mid-Length Winner
What These Walls Won’t Hold
Directed by Adamu Chan (USA; 2022; 42 min)


Cine Latino Jury Award
Daughter of Rage (La Hija de todas las Rabias)
Directed by Laura Baumeister (Nicaragua, Mexico, The Netherlands, Germany, France, Norway, Spain; 2022; 91 min)


Family Film Prize Winner
El MoñoDirected by Luis Fernando Puente + Lizde Arias (USA; 2022; 9 min)

Family Film Honorable Mention
New Moon
Directed by Jeff Le Bars + Jérémie Balais (France, USA; 2022; 12 min)


Youth Works Prize Winner
My Sisters in the Stars: The Story of Lee Yong-soo
Directed by Ian Kim (USA, South Korea; 2022; 10 min)

Youth Works Honorable Mention
American Ball Game
Directed by Teja Mettu + Krish Mysoor (USA 2022, 9 min)
World Premiere


Audience Award — Narrative Feature
Earth Mama
Directed by Savanah Leaf (USA; 2023; 100 min)
California Premiere

Audience Award — Documentary Feature
Home Is a Hotel
Directed by Kevin Duncan Wong, Todd Sills + Kar Yin Tham (USA; 2023; 92 min)
World Premiere

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