Announcing the Golden Gate Award Winners at the 2019 SFFILM Festival

On April 21, SFFILM announced the winners of the juried Golden Gate Award (GGA) competitions at the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival (April 10–23), at an event held at the Brava Theater Center. This year the Festival awarded nearly $40,000 in prizes to emerging and established filmmakers.

The SFFILM Golden Gate Awards have honored deserving filmmakers and their projects for over 60 years, bringing recognition for unique and innovative filmmaking to the Bay Area’s local and international audiences. Among the most significant awards for emerging global film artists in the United States, the Golden Gate Awards embody SFFILM’s commitment to global storytelling and independent filmmaking.


The New Directors award is given to a debut feature by an international filmmaker whose work exhibits unique artistic sensibility or vision. The New Directors jurors were TIFF former director and CEO Piers Handling, film critic Amy Nicholson and writer Jada Yuan.

GGA New Directors Award winner: The Chambermaid, Lila Avilés (Mexico/USA)
— Receives $10,000 cash prize

In awarding this top prize, the jury stated, “This film drew us into its character’s claustrophobic world with precision, sophistication, restraint, and warmth. A devastating portrait of a working class woman who gradually challenges her circumstances, this young filmmaker creates unbearable tension from ordinary, overlooked moments. And yet there’s joy, too, and above all the beautiful dignity of its lead actress, Gabriela Cartol, and the co-workers who complicate her days.”

Special Jury Mention, New Directors: Suburban Birds, Qiu Sheng (China/Taiwan)

The jury gave special attention to Suburban Birds as “a film that is all contradictions. It’s hypnotic and punk rock, languid and jerky. If that weren’t weird enough, it’s an art film made by a visionary with an engineering degree, and captures the atmosphere of a rapidly developing country that is currently swallowing independent voices in a metaphorical sinkhole.”


For more than 60 years, a significant element of the SFFILM Festival has been its broad selection of acclaimed documentaries from across the globe. There are two awards in this category — Best Documentary and Best Bay Area Documentary. Films in the Bay Area Documentary Feature category are also eligible for the Best Documentary Feature award. This year’s Documentary Feature jury was comprised of Associate Vice President at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Gina Duncan, Web Editor and Digital Director at Harper’s Magazine and a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, Violet Lucca, and Film Programmer Sudeep Sharma.

McBaine Documentary Feature Award Winner: Midnight Traveler Hassan Fazili (USA/Qatar/Canada/UK)
— Receives $10,000 cash prize

The jury described the Feature Award winner as “an incredible document that is beautiful and compelling. A true achievement of filmmaking and parenting.”

McBaine Bay Area Documentary Feature Award: The Seer And The Unseen, Sara Dosa (USA/Iceland)
— Receives $5,000 cash prize

The jury applauded Dosa’s film as “a novel approach to belief systems and their power to shape our physical world.”


The Festival is proud to have a variety of shorts in competition across programs. The GGA Short Film jury consisted of programmer Emily Doe, filmmaker Trevor Jimenez, and programmer Jacqueline Lyanga. It’s worth noting that in the variety of categories, all the winning short films with the exception of two (Selfies and One Small Step) have women directors or co-directors.

Narrative Short Winner: Brotherhood (Ikhwène), Meryam Joobeur (Canada/Tunisia)
— Receives $2,000 cash prize

In awarding the prize to Brotherhood, the jury stated, “this intimate portrait of a family torn apart by radicalization, loyalties and the desire to serve a greater good is masterfully directed, and brilliantly cast. Its engaging close-ups and beautiful cinematography communicate the pain, love and disillusionment lurking in the subtext of every scene.”

Special Jury Mention, Narrative Short: Fuck You, Anette Sidor (Sweden)

The jury acknowledged Anette Sidor’s short with this statement: “this film sets out to upend the familiar narrative of teenage sexual awakening, portraying a bold young woman who unapologetically forges her own path of sexual discovery.”

Documentary Short Winner: Where Chaos Reigns, Braulio Jatar, Anaïs Michel (USA/Venezuela)
— Receives $2,000 cash prize

The jury awarded the documentary shorts prize to Where Chaos Reigns, “for its audacity, its haunting images and its ability to bring us closer to the crisis in Venezuela than anything we’ve seen thus far in America. In a country grappling with an unprecedented economic and humanitarian crisis, the filmmakers take their cameras to the streets and join the throngs of brave protesters risking arrest, injury and death to call for change. Their unflinching cameras capture singular moments of courage, fearlessness and violence that linger long after the film has ended.”

Special Jury Mention, Documentary Short: Edgecombe, Crystal Kayiza (USA)

The jury was very moved and gave this special mention, stating, “with a lens that was both historical and present, both tender and raw, this documentary transported us to a place and connected us to its community. Through three moving character portraits we saw the ways in which trauma and injustice travel across generations, and yet how hope persists.”

Animated Short Winner: Selfies, Claudius Gentinetta (Switzerland)
— Receives $2,000 cash prize

In awarding the animated short prize, the just commented, “this film’s playful take on our social media lives encapsulates the highs and lows of the human experience, all packed into a succinct 4 minutes. We loved its creative transitions, absurd sense of humor, and painterly style all used expertly to reflect back on ourselves in these rapidly changing times.”

New Visions Short Winner: Cold Pudding Settles Love, Urszula Palusińska (Poland)
— Receives $2,000 cash prize

The jury described their selection for the new visions prize as, “hypnotic disco ball suits, body casts, neon skies, ghost like limousine rides, and mysterious powerful figures that make up a bleak disorienting world- captured vividly with lo-fi mixed media animation. This film demands repeated viewing to unpack the many themes and dreamlike moments that stayed with us days after seeing it.”

Bay Area Short First Prize Winner: Enforcement Hours, Paloma Martinez (USA)
— Receives $2,000 cash prize

In awarding the Bay Area short prize award, the jury stated, “this documentary illuminated the harrowing experience of being undocumented in the United States today without compromising the identities and safety of its subjects. It opened our eyes to the threat that lurks in familiar places, it flooded our ears with firsthand accounts of fear, confusion and spite, and filled our hearts with sympathy.”

Bay Area Short Second Prize Winner: Confidence Game, Kathleen Quillian (USA)
— Receives $1,500 cash prize

The jury praised the work for “its sharp and strong sense of design, and compelling subject matter. This animated short film employed a layered, collage style that perfectly mirrored the complex, layered issue at the heart of the film.”


The Family Film jury was comprised of producer Courtney Lockwood, filmmaker Paloma Martinez and teacher Anne Smith.

Family Film Prize Winner: One Small Step, Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas (USA/China)
— Receives $1,500 cash prize

The jury praised the film for “its complex story arc executed in an imaginative way, and further complimented its “beautiful message of the people who support your dreams are just as important as the achievement itself, and as you achieve your dreams, you carry those people with you.”

Special Jury Mention: The Pen Licence, Olivia Peniston-Bird (Australia)

The jury gave special recognition for the film, stating that “this film is much more than just penmanship, but shows that the cycle of failure and practice and success (or not) is so valuable for everything you do. It was an incredibly appealing and crowd-pleasing film about handwriting.”


The Youth Works jury was comprised of SFFILM FilmHouse resident Daniel Freeman, filmmaker Leslie Tai, and students Maya Dighe, Keilah McKeown-Pool and Max Rosenberg.

Youth Works Prize: Meeting at Half Past Five, Daria Litvichenko (Russian Federation)
— Receives $1,000 cash prize

In awarding the price to this film, the jury admired it for “an innovative animation style, with a funny and unexpected story. The film was strengthened by a strong voice-over performance and a unique point of view.”

Special Jury Mention: This House Has Eyes, Theo Taplitz (USA)

The jury commended the film as “creative, original, and daring. We loved the symbolism, effects, and cinematography that was used in this avant-garde take on a relationship between a boy, man, and an anthropomorphic house. The art direction of this innovative and unusual short made it amusing and exciting to watch.”

The 2019 Golden Gate Awards were proudly sponsored by The Chloe Wine Collection.



Presenter of the SFFILM Festival, SFFILM is a year-round nonprofit organization delivering screenings & events to 100,000+ film lovers annually.

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Presenter of the SFFILM Festival, SFFILM is a year-round nonprofit organization delivering screenings & events to 100,000+ film lovers annually.