Meet the finalists for the 2018 SFFILM Documentary Film Fund Grants

SFFILM has selected a dozen compelling projects to be in the running for this year’s Documentary Film Fund grants, which support feature-length docs in the post-production phase. For the 2018 cycle, a total of $125,000 will be distributed to the winning projects, which will be announced in late August.

Find out more about this and other filmmaking grant opportunities at sffilm.org/makers.

The Doc Film Fund has helped a growing range of important films finish their edits in recent years, including RaMell Ross’s Hale County This Morning, This Evening, which won a Special Jury Prize for Creative Vision 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 Bay Area Documentary Award, and was released theatrically last fall by Kino Lorber ahead of its broadcast on ITVS; 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 $650,000 to advance new work by filmmakers nationwide. The 2018 Documentary Film Fund is supported by the Jenerosity Foundation.

2018 DOCUMENTARY FILM FUND FINALISTS

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Anbessa
Mo Scarpelli, director; Caitlin Mae Burke, producer; Nico Leunen, editor
A brand-new condominium has shot up in the Ethiopian countryside, pushing farmers off their land for the construction and promising thousands of others a “better” way of life. Anbessa follows one boy caught between the two, as he navigates modernization on his own terms and comes of age in a brave new world.

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Chéche Lavi
Sam Ellison, director; Abraham Ávila, Rachel Cantave, Kyle Martin, Nora Mendis, and Kimberly Parker, producers
Geopolitical chaos challenges the bonds of brotherhood when two Haitian refugees get stranded at the US-Mexico border. With no one to depend on but each other, difficult choices lead them towards drastically different futures.

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Fanwei
Jessica Kingdon, director; Kira Simon-Kennedy and Nathan Truesdell, producers
Fanwei 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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Fourty Pounds
Nick Bentgen, director; Lisa Kjerulff, producer; Eavvon O’Neal and Dustin Waldman, editors
Tarone “Fourty Pounds” Lindsay spends hours illegally dancing on the New York subways, earning pocket money, dodging the cops and chilling with his crew. When new love blooms, Fourty must decide what to do with his life and how to be the man he wants to be.

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Freedom Fields
Naziha Arebi, director; Flore Cosquer and Naziha Arebi, producers; Ling Lee, Alice Powell, Maya Hawke, editors
In post-revolution Libya, a group of women are brought together by one dream: to play football for their nation. But as the country descends into civil war and the utopian hopes of the “Arab Spring” begin to fade, can they realize their dream? And is there even a country left to play for?

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The Gut (working title)
Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, director/producer; Jim Sabataso and Asma Bseiso, producers; Jen Bradwell and Youssif Salah, editors
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.”

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Hispaniola
Michèle Stephenson, director/producer; Jennifer Holness, Lea Marin and Joe Brewster, producers; Andres Landau, editor
Combining magical realism and verité, Hispaniola follows the lives of families affected by the 2013 Dominican Republic Supreme Court ruling that stripped citizenship from Dominicans of Haitian descent, and reflects on how imposed borders, citizenship, and racial identity define us and seal our fates.

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Honeyland
Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, co-directors; Atanas Georgiev, producer/editor
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.

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In Real Life
Liza Mandelup, director; Lauren Cioffi and Bert Hamelinck, producers; Alex O’Flinn, editor
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.

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Midnight Traveler
Hassan Fazili, director; Su Kim, producer; Emelie Mahdavian, producer/editor
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.

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No Kings
Emilia Mello, director/producer/cinematographer; Raoul Nadalet, producer; Adam Kurnitz, Henrique Cartaxo, Marie-Hélène Dozo, and Pierpaolo Filomeno, editors
In a place where conventional structures of authority fall away, a tomboy navigates the space between urban and traditional life.

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Watermelon Thump Queen
Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman, co-directors/producers; Mark Lukenbill, editor
In the “toughest town in Texas,” a high-stakes election plays out as seven high school girls compete to become the next Watermelon Thump Queen.