Meet the 2021 SFFILM Rainin Finalists

10 min readJul 23, 2021

SFFILM and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation are excited to announce the finalists for the 2021 SFFILM Rainin Grant, the flagship artist development program offered by SFFILM Makers. Thirty filmmaking teams have been shortlisted as contenders to receive funding for their narrative projects in various stages of production.

The SFFILM Rainin Grant program is the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the US, and supports films that address social justice issues — the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges — in a positive and meaningful way through plot, character, theme, or setting. In a shift from previous years, awards will be made to multiple projects once a year, for screenwriting, development, and post-production. In addition to a cash grant of up to $50,000, recipients are offered a two-month residency at FilmHouse and benefit from SFFILM’s comprehensive and dynamic artist development programs.

The program is open to filmmakers from anywhere in the world who can commit to spending time developing the film in San Francisco. Applications will reopen in the Spring of 2022.

A Rodeo Film

A black bull-rider must choose between a life of crime with his cattle rustling brother or a career in rodeo.

Darius Dawson — Director

Darius Dawson

Ale and the Boxer

Ale (21, Brazilian-American) and Samuel (25, Venezuelan-American), employees at a Bay Area working-class Latinx nightclub, form a powerful bond over shared trauma and embark on an intense relationship that shatters personal boundaries in this semi-autobiographical story of love, loss, addiction, and recovery.

Alexandre Moratto — Writer, Director, Producer
Ramin Bahrani — Producer

Alexandre Moratto


A talented but impulsive graffiti artist makes the connection between his art and ancient San rockart forms still alive in his hometown. On the journey, he takes up the calling to explore a deeper magic that exists to renew a culture made a crime. In the end, he must learn that realizing his full purpose means accepting the ultimate fate in a city designed to kill him.

Kurt Orderson — Director

Kurt Orderson

Broken Bird

A daughter and father, torn apart by addiction, find their way back to each other through mixtapes and memories, and challenge their label of “broken.”

Rachel Harrison Gordon—Director, Producer

Rachel Harrison Gordon

Cotton Queen

Fifteen-year-old Nafisa lives in a cotton-farming village in Sudan. She finds herself in the center of a power play between her mother and grandmother: accept an arranged marriage or be circumcised. Her final choice will change the village forever.

Suzannah Mirghani — Writer, Director

Suzannah Mirghani

Coyote Boys

A stream of days that make up the life and journey of a young train-hopping graffiti writer, Coyote Boys is a contemporary odyssey through fringe communities, centered on rootless youth experiencing loss and loneliness — trying to find alternative ways of surviving 21st century America.

Haley Elizabeth Anderson — Director

Haley Elizabeth Anderson


In West Oakland a young woman finds herself without a place to call home, timed out foster care, and a survivor of sexual exploitation. Without a roof over her head, and caught in a system that would rather forget her, she must not only find a way to survive, but discover who she truly is. But can she find a way forward without confronting her past?

Lucretia Stinnette — Director; Mel Jones — Producer; Darren Colston — Producer

Lucretia Stinnette

Dear Wizard

Set in the 80s. When spunky eight-year-old Shelly Chan and her parents move to rural Virginia, they are bullied for being Asian. The family also starts receiving letters from a mysterious KKK “wizard.” Believing that a wizard must be good, Shelly writes him back and tries to be his friend. Inspired by true events.

Christy Chan — Director, Producer, Writer

Christy Chan

Dìdi (弟弟)

Fremont, CA. 2008. In the last month of summer before high school begins, an impressionable Taiwanese-American boy learns what his family can’t teach him: how to skate, how to flirt, and how to love your mom.

Sean Wang — Writer, Director, Producer

Sean Wang


Two women; one in the present, the other in the future. They don’t know each other, but their lives are profoundly connected by an entity named Dottie.

Yen Tan — Writer, Director

Yen Tan

Earth Mama

Gia, a young mother reaching the end of her third pregnancy, struggles with the uncertain future of her unborn child, her other two children having already been taken from her by Child Protective Services.

Savanah Leaf — Director, Screenwriter, Producer; Cody Ryder — Producer; Danielle Massie — Producer

L to R: Savanah Leaf, Cody Ryder, Danielle Massie

Escape to Last Man Peak

In a land ravaged by ‘The Sickness’, desolation and despair, 10 orphans find hope and strength in each other, as they attempt the perilous journey to seek refuge at Last Man Peak. In this coming-of-age drama/adventure set in a dystopian Jamaica, the young outcasts battle unfamiliar terrain and a world where adults have become the enemy.

Nile Saulter — Director; Tanya Batson-Savage — Screenwriter / Producer; Analisa Chapman — Producer

L to R: Nile Saulter, Tanya Batson-Savage, Analisa Chapman

Fancy Dance

Following the disappearance of her sister, a Native American hustler kidnaps her niece from her white grandparents and sets out for the state powwow in the hopes of keeping what’s left of their family intact.

Erica Tremblay — Screenwriter, Director, Producer; Miciana Alise — Screenwriter

L to R: Erica Tremblay, Miciana Alise

God Help the Gayes

As the world awaits a new ruling from the Supreme Court that could effectively reverse marriage equality, a local celebrity couple, Pam and Rosa Gaye, are thrust into the spotlight and hands of a publicity seeking marriage counselor when Rosa announces she wants a divorce.

Huriyyah Muhammad — Writer, Director, Producer

Huriyyah Muhammad

Good People

Best friends, Babs Holloway and Nora Lachman can talk about anything: their long-time marriages, sex, even race. Babs is African-American, Nora is white, and their children, having grown up together in one of SF’s wealthiest neighborhoods, also are best friends. But when a neighbor calls the police on their kids, Babs and Nora struggle to preserve their friendship as they discover they’ve made very different assumptions about race, class and the limits of their privilege.

Natalie Baszile — Director

Natalie Baszile

If You Hum at the Right Frequency

The Echo River Art + Memory Center is an experimental residency for artists who have recently lost loved ones. Each Summer, small cohorts of grieving residents are welcomed to a secluded property in Northern California where they can sort through raw emotions while healing through their craft. During their stay, artists are followed by a film crew that captures their creative process as they attempt to generate meaning and beauty from the overwhelming pain that loss brings.

Daniel Freeman — Director, Producer

Daniel Freeman

Laylayon (Cradlesong)

When a retired nurse is forced to relocate her American-born family to her ancestral home in a cursed village buried deep within the Philippine jungle, she discovers that she must face the ghosts of her past or risk losing her children forever.

Nic Yulo — Writer, Director

Nic Yulo

Magnolia Bloom

Magnolia Bloom is a story of young love and rebellion in 1960s New Orleans.

Phillip Youmans — Writer and Director

Phillip Youmans


Salha, a mother gifted with prophetic dreams, lives in an isolated village in Tunisia. When her eldest son’s sudden return from Syria coincides with a series of strange disappearances in their community, Salha’s maternal love is tested and the family faces how guilt can haunt the human spirit.

Meryam Joobeur — Director, Producer; Maria Gracia Turgeon — Producer; Annick Blanc — Producer ; Nadim Cheikhrouha — Producer; Sarra Ben Hassen — Producer

Clockwise from top L: Meryam Joobeur, Maria Gracia Turgeon, Annick Blanc, Nadim Cheikhrouha, Sarra Ben Hassen

Ohijee’s Past Lives

Ohijee Vati-Myers is a comic book artist. One day while in the comic book store, he meets a woman. They hit it off, and spend the rest of the day walking the city. They end up at her apartment where they spend the night together. The next morning, he awakes in his apartment with signs of never having met the woman.

Malik Isasis — Writer, Director, Producer

Malik Isasis


For 17-year-old queer Celeste, senior year in her affluent Black community means following family tradition and becoming a debutante… but she longs for a different kind of coming out.

Natalie Jasmine Harris — Writer / Director; Natalie Holley — Producer

Natalie Jasmine Harris


An Indian-American drag queen on the verge of stardom returns home to celebrate Diwali with his conservative parents who he hasn’t spoken to in 5 years due to his choice of profession. At this part for Diwali, his life is turned upside down when his parents surprisingly announce they have been divorced for ten years, his mother is gay, and they are selling the childhood home — causing chaos, laughs, and heartfelt drama.

Vishaal Reddy — Producer; Neal Ludevig, Producer; Shravya Kag, Creative Consultant; Raj Trivedi, Creative Consultant

Vishaal Reddy

Scary Lovely

A middle-aged gay man forges an unlikely friendship with his dead lover’s beneficiary as they’re drawn together by matters of the paranormal.

Johnny Alvarez — Writer, Director, Producer

Johnny Alvarez

Since I Laid My Burden Down

DeShawn is living fast and wild in a post-Utopian Oakland. Bathhouses, brawls, and endless hookups have continued well into his thirties. The night his Uncle dies, his hair turns abruptly gray, and he returns to his childhood home of Alabama for answers. DeShawn must confront the ghosts of his past, the dead men who seduced and failed him, and the firebrand women who made him in order to find peace, and finally lay his burden down.

Ro Haber — Director; Savannah Knoop — Writer; Brontez Purnell — Producer

L to R: Ro Haber , Savannah Knoop, Brontez Purnell

The Macrobiotic Toker

Living in a mommune, balancing her alternative lifestyle and separation from her partner, Sula’s life is plunged into potential chaos by an unplanned pregnancy. After discovering how to procure abortion pills online, she travels an unexpected path to become an underground supplier, an accidental pro-choice activist, and ultimately, a convicted felon. Inspired by true events.

Tracy Droz Tragos — Writer, Producer, Director

Tracy Droz Tragos

The President’s Cake

Despite severe sanctions on Iraq, 9-year-old Saeed must use his wits to make the mandatory cake to celebrate President Saddam Hussein’s birthday or his family will be imprisoned.

Hasan Hadi—Writer/Director

Hasan Hadi

The Return

In an attempt to escape her current life rut, a young Black American woman, finds herself foreign in Ghana caring for an older animatic Ghanaian woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s who’s planning her own funeral.

Mary Ann Anane—Writer/Director

Mary Ann Anane

Tokyo Forever

In Colombia, in a road on the slopes of an abyss in the Chicamocha canyon, Tokyo, a fourteen-year-old boy forced to work as a road mechanic, must face his conscience and responsibility for the disappearance of his younger brother, to confess to his parents the whereabouts of his corpse.

Andrés Piñeros — Writer / Director; Federico Piñeros — Producer

Federico Piñeros

Untitled Texas Latina Project

Five Mexican-American women across various cities in Texas attempt to forge connections in familiar spaces while their identities are challenged.

Chelsea Hernandez, Sharon Arteaga, Lizette Barrera, Jazmin Diaz, and Iliana Sosa—Directors

Wishes Sink in Man Made Lakes

Two trans teens secretly living in an old movie theater spend a summer trying anything and everything to get on hormones.

Faye Ruiz — Director

Faye Ruiz




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