“Dolores” big hit at SFFILM60

SFFILM wrapped the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 5–19) with 249 screenings of 181 films from 51 countries, which were attended by some 200 filmmakers and industry guests from 15 countries. Over two weeks, the 60th SFFILM Festival showed 66 narrative features, 36 documentary features, two New Visions features, two television series, and a total of 75 short films. The Festival awarded nearly $40,000 in prizes to emerging and established filmmakers with films representing ten countries. Particularly popular were the many screenings and events featuring attending filmmakers and guests as well as those with enhanced Q&As. For the third year in a row, SFFILM Festival welcomed a record-breaking number of artist and filmmaker guests to the Festival, who engaged with audiences through in-depth post-screening conversations.

Audiences warmly embraced the Festival’s new venue configuration, with throngs of film lovers crowding the sidewalks of San Francisco’s South of Market and Mission districts. Spurred by an 8% increase in total event capacity, Festival attendees flocked to the city’s newest and oldest cinema screens—from the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission and new Festival venues SFMOMA and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, to the beloved classic arthouses the Roxie Theater, the Victoria Theatre, and the Castro Theatre—and across the bay to BAMPFA. Festival filmmaker guests and filmgoers alike took advantage of the bustling cultural life of the city, partaking of the countless sources of world-class food, drink, and entertainment.

Dolores Huerta banner 2

“What an amazing year,” said Noah Cowan, SFFILM Executive Director. “Through partnerships local, national and global, we were able to create a special birthday celebration for the city of San Francisco, Bay Area audiences, and our followers online. We are grateful to the many people who took this journey with us, and we can’t wait to do it again!”

Star-Studded Nights
Numerous guests graced the stage during the 60th SFFILM Festival, starting on Opening Night with Landline leading actresses Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn and continuing throughout the 15-day event. Scores of Festival screenings featured actors, filmmakers, writers, musicians, and other creative professionals who participated in on-stage introductions and Q&A sessions with Festival audiences; these guests included Kevin Bacon, Ellen Burstyn, Nancy Pelosi, William R. Hearst III, Usher Raymond IV, Francis Ford Coppola, President of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios Ed Catmull, Bill Nye, James Gray, President of the World Bank Dr. Jim Kim, Griffin Dunne, Brett Ratner, Asian Dub Foundation, Matt Bomer, Martin Starr, Katharine Ross, Will Oldham, Maude Apatow, Michael Almereyda, DeVotchKa, Gigi Gorgeous, Chief Creative Officer/Senior Visual Effects Supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic John Knoll, Joan Chen, Peter Nicks, Peter Bratt, Dolores Huerta, Kronos Quartet, Alex Wolff, Danielle Macdonald, James Schamus, and Nick Thune, among many others.

Some of world cinema’s most iconic figures were honored with special tributes and Festival awards. Tom Luddy, co-founder of the Telluride Film Festival and icon of international cinema, received the Mel Novikoff Award. Visionary Bay Area artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson received the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award. Emmy Award®-winning filmmaker, artist, and writer Eleanor Coppola received the George Gund III Craft of Cinema Award. In addition to the award recipients, the Festival paid tribute to philanthropist and community leader Gordon Gund; Academy Award®-nominated actor and multifaceted artist Ethan Hawke; Academy Award®- Golden Globe®- and BAFTA®-nominated and Guinness World Record-holder James Ivory; and Academy Award®-winning screenwriter, director, producer, and novelist John Ridley. In an unprecedented display of popular appreciation at the SFFILM Festival, thousands of screaming fans flocked to the Castro Theatre to see global superstar, actor, producer, and humanitarian Shah Rukh Khan at his special tribute program.

The Festival’s Big Nights continued successfully with the Bay Area premiere of the Centerpiece film, Patti Cake$, featuring a Q&A with director Geremy Jasper and breakout star Danielle Macdonald. The festivities ended with the Closing Night screening of The Green Fog – A San Francisco Fantasia, the world premiere of an SFFILM-commissioned visual collage film by cultural iconoclast Guy Maddin and co-directors Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, with a score from San Francisco native composer Jacob Garchik, performed live by Kronos Quartet.

Award-Winning Films
Nearly $40,000 in prizes was awarded by Golden Gate Awards juries at the 60th SFFILM Festival. The Festival’s awards ceremony was held on Sunday, April 16, at The Lab. Ten films were in juried competition for the $10,000 Golden Gate New Directors Prize, given to a first-time filmmaker whose work exhibits a unique artistic sensibility. The jury, composed of Village Voice film critic Bilge Ebiri, Austin Film Society’s Head of Film & Creative Media Holly Herrick, and last year’s New Directors Prize winner, filmmaker Philippe Lesage, selected Natalia Almada’s Everything Else (Mexico/USA/France). Additional cash prizes went to two winners in the competition’s non-fiction feature categories, where 10 films were in juried competition for the McBaine Documentary Feature Award ($10,000) and the McBaine Bay Area Documentary Feature Award ($5,000). The Golden Gate Award Documentary Feature competitions jury was comprised of journalist and programmer David Ansen, film editor Nels Bangerter, and Founder of Ambulante and No Ficción Elena Fortes, who presented the McBaine Documentary Feature Award to Brimstone & Glory (USA) by Viktor Jakovleski. Special Jury recognition was given to School Life (formerly In Loco Parentis) by Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane (Ireland/Spain). The jury presented the McBaine Bay Area Documentary Feature Award to The Force (USA) by Peter Nicks.

The Golden Gate Award Short Film jury consisted of Vimeo Senior Curator Jeffrey Bowers, journalist Inkoo Kang, and film curator David Reilly, who awarded a total of $10,000 in cash prizes. The Best Narrative Short was awarded to Univitellin (France) by Terence Nance. Best Documentary Short was presented to The Rabbit Hunt (USA) by Patrick X Bresnan. The GGA for New Visions Short was given to Rawane Nassif’s Turtles Are Always Home (Qatar/Lebanon/Canada). First Prize for Best Bay Area Short went to In The Wake of Ghost Ship (USA) by Jason Blalock, Second Prize was awarded to American Paradise (USA) by Joe Talbot, with a Special Jury Prize to A Brief History of Princess X (Portugal/France/UK) by Gabriel Abrantes. The award for Best Animated Short went to Hot Dog Hands (USA) by Matt Reynolds.

The Family Film jury was comprised of Common Sense Media Editor-in-Chief Jill Murphy, author Jim Averbeck, and educator Alexandre Petrakis, who awarded $1,000 in cash prizes and Best Family Film to Valley of a Thousand Hills (South Africa/UK) by Jess Colquhoun. A Special Jury Prize went to Julia Pott’s Summer Camp Island (USA). The Youth Works jury was comprised of Bay Area high school students Ethan Bresnick, Shamaurea Sanford, and Melinna Equihua, with adult supervisor Jill Shackleford, Associate Producer of KQED’s Film School Shorts. The Golden Gate Award for Youth Works went to Caleb Wild’s Cycle (USA), which received a $1,000 cash prize.

President Obama bestowed highest honor upon Dolores Huerta for her unrelenting efforts and commitment to humanitarian endeavors

President Obama bestowed highest honor upon Dolores Huerta for her unrelenting efforts and commitment to humanitarian endeavors

The Google Breakthrough in Technology Award jury was comprised of Google’s ComputerScience in Media and Industry Relations teams, including Courtney McCarthy, Women’s & Kids Lead Strategist in Computer Science in Media; and Julia Hamilton Trost, Content Partnerships Lead, Google VR. Arthur Rodger ‘Harley’ Maranan won the Google Breakthrough in Technology Award for N.O.VI.S., (USA), receiving a $500 cash prize donated by Google Inc.

The 60th SFFILM Festival Audience Awards gave festival-goers the opportunity to select their favorite narrative and documentary features. The Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature went to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Endless Poetry (Chile/Japan/France), with Geremy Jasper’s Patti Cake$ (USA) also scoring highly with Festival audiences. The Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature went to Peter Bratt’s Dolores (USA), a 2016 SFFILM Documentary Film Fund winner for postproduction, while Rina Castelnuovo-Hollander and Tamir Elterman’s Muhi – Generally Temporary (Israel/Germany) also resonated with Festival audiences.

About the author

Sandra Varner has had her hands on the pulse of the entertainment industry and lifestyles coverage for decades, staying current, always.


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