Train's ride: Lixin Fan's Last Train Home won the Golden Gate Award for best Investigative Documentary Feature at SFIFF53.

SFIFF53: Golden Gate Awards and Juried Prizes/Grants Announced

Susan Gerhard May 5, 2010

The San Francisco Film Society announced juried awards and cash prizes totaling nearly $300,000 for filmmakers during the San Francisco International Film Festival’s Golden Gate Awards at Temple Nightclub Prana Restaurant Wednesday night.

"It’s a whopping amount of money," said Graham Leggat, SFFS Executive Director, introducing the ceremony, "and we don’t intend to stop at this amount."

Winners of the Spring, 2010, SFFS/KRF Filmmaking Grants for narrative films with social justice themes were Krisy Gosney, winning $10,000 for script development of Manhandled about a longtime lesbian couple undergoing identity changes; Annie Howell, winning $25,000 for preproduction of Black Kid, the coming-of-age story of a biracial San Franciscan transplanted at age 11 to rural Appalachia; Barry Jenkins, receiving $35,000 for script development of Jeremiad, a post-incarceration story; Maryam Keshavarz, awarded $50,000 for postproduction of Circumstance, a family story set in Iran; and Benh Zeitlin, receiving $50,000 for postproduction of Beasts of the Southern Wild, an epic inspired by an environmental crisis.

The submissions were reviewed by a panel featuring filmmaker Jacob Kornbluth, Active Voice Executive Director Ellen Schneider, Kenneth Rainin Foundation President Jennifer Rainin, SFFS Director of Filmmaker Services Michele Turnure-Salleo and SFFS Executive Director Graham Leggat. Over the next four years SFFS and KRF will disburse a series of semiannual grants totaling more than $3 million.

A new series of grants, the SFFS/Film Arts Foundation Documentary Grants offered $25,000 to documentary filmmakers, and honored Film Arts Foundation’s legacy of support for nonfiction filmmaking over its 32 years of existence.

Winners of $5,000 grants were Christian Bruno for Strand: A Natural History of Cinema, a film about the rise and demise of moviegoing in SF; Eugene Corr for From Ghost Town to Havana, about boy baseball players in the Centro Havana neighborhood and a parallel group in West Oakland, CA; Hayley Downs and Julie Kahn for Swamp Cabbage, a documentary about a descendent of Florida pioneers known for their ability to survive in the wilderness who is stuck in Brooklyn; Dara Kell and Christopher Nizza for Dear Mandela, chronicling events leading up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa through the eyes of three young leaders of the shack-dwellers movement whose communities face mass eviction; David Weissman for We Were Here: Voices from the AIDS Years in San Francisco, a look back at the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco. An Honorable Mention went to Tristan Patterson for Dragonslayer, set against inland California’s decaying suburban and exurban communities in the aftermath of America’s economic collapse.

The panelists who reviewed the SFFS/FAF Documentary Grant finalists’ submissions were LinkTV’s Hannah Eaves, documentary filmmakers Alan Snitow and Dave Winton, SFFS Grants and Residencies Coordinator Sara Dosa, and SFFS Director of Filmmaker Services Michele Turnure-Salleo.

Golden Gate Award Documentary Feature Winners were Last Train Home (Investigative Documentary Feature) by Lixin Fan (Canada/China 2009), who gave a shout-out to his friend, Yung Chang, who’d previously taken home the Golden Gate Award for Up the Yangtze. Fan won a $25,000 cash prize and Final Cut Studio software provided by Apple. The others were Pianomania (Documentary Feature), Lilian Franck and Robert Cibis (Austria/Germany 2009), receiving a $20,000 cash prize and Final Cut Studio software provided by Apple, and the previously announced Bay Area Documentary Feature winner Presumed Guilty, by Roberto Hern ndez and Geoffrey Smith, (Mexico 2009) receiving a $15,000 cash prize, Final Cut Studio software provided by Apple and $2,000 in lab services from EFILM Digital Laboratories.

Said Hernandez, "It was a pleasure to show the film here in the Bay Area where the idea of the film was born."

Other Golden Gate Awards went to: (Youth Work) Moon Shoes by Joel Vanzeventer (USA 2009), winning a $1,500 cash prize; (Honorable Mention)*Alisha* by Daniel Citron (USA 2009); (Work for Kids and Families) Leonardo by Jim Capobianco (USA 2009), receiving a $1,500 cash prize; (Honorable Mention) The Mouse That Soared, Kyle Bell (USA 2009); (Animated Short) Tussilago, Jonas Odell (Sweden 2010), receiving a $2,000 cash prize.

In New Visions, Release by Bill Morrison (USA 2009) won a
$1,500 cash prize and 1,000 feet of Kodak film stock. The Bay Area Short, First Prize went to Embrace of the Irrational by Jonn Herschend (USA 2009), who received a $2,000 cash prize; the Bay Area Short, Second Prize, went to Leonardo by Jim Capobianco (USA 2009), along with a $1,500 cash prize.

Winning for Documentary Short was The Shutdown by Adam Stafford (Scotland 2009), which came with a $5,000 cash prize. The Narrative Short prize went to The Armoire by Jamie Travis (Canada 2009), along with a $5,000 cash prize and 1,000 feet of Kodak film stock.

The New Directors Award went to Alamar by Pedro Gonz lez-Rubio (Mexico 2009). He won a $15,000 cash prize and Final Cut Studio software provided by Apple.

The FIPRESCI Prize from an international jury went to Frontier Blues by Babak Jalali (Iran/England/Italy 2009) . Jurist Jay Carr said, "I’m leaving this festival with more hope for film than when I entered it."

Rachel Rosen, SFFS Director of Programming, said announcements of Audience Awards will be made Thursday, May 6, at Closing Night.

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