Meet the Finalists for the Fall 2020 SFFILM Rainin Grant

It’s suddenly undeniably fall, and the SFFILM Makers team has been hard at work on another busy cycle of grant applications! This week, SFFILM and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation have decided on the finalists for the Fall 2020 SFFILM Rainin Grant, the organization’s flagship artist development program. Thirteen filmmaking teams have been shortlisted as contenders to receive funding for their narrative projects in various stages of production, from screenwriting to post-production.

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. Awards are made to multiple projects twice a year, in the spring and fall, 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. The Spring 2021 grant cycle is currently accepting applications; the deadline to apply is February 11. Learn more at


Aliens in Eritrea
Sephora Woldu, writer/director; Valerie Steinberg and Nahom Abraham, producers — screenwriting
It’s 1993. Everyone is an alien navigating the newly independent nation of Eritrea — the diaspora moving back home, the citizens who never left, and the visitors from outer space.

Samina Akbari, writer/director — screenwriting
Haunted by her father’s passing in the childhood home they now inhabit, Zehra returns to protect her sister and young nephew from a sinister presence that threatens the only family she has left. Set in the captivating world of the Shia Muslim-American community, Anees is a meditation on the inheritance of trauma and the relationships that continue after death.

The Engineers
Mayuran Tiruchelvam, writer/producer; Willem Lee, writer — screenwriting
In 1777, Black freeman Agrippa Hull and exiled Polish engineer Tadeusz Kosciusko join the Continental Army — a ragged force of Indigenous, Black, and poor white fighters. Forging an unlikely brotherhood amidst the War for Independence, Agrippa and Kosciusko battle the festering racism of the nascent United States.

Gulaab (Rose)
Saim Sadiq, writer/director; Sabiha Sumar and Apoorva Charan, producers — development
Amidst a deadly heatwave in Lahore, a meek and conservative family man joins the dance troupe of a fiercely ambitious trans starlet at an erotic theatre and gets engulfed in a blazing summer of romance and rebellion.

Tiare Ribeaux and Jody Stillwater, co-writers/directors — screenwriting
After marine biologist Mahina meets dancer Chris on a beach outside of San Francisco, they learn they are from two different Indigenous lineages that have experienced profound cultural genocide, and are both searching to reconnect with their heritage amidst post-colonial society. Chris awakens Mahina to the freedom he is able to access outside of western ideologies of success, and together they work towards healing from intergenerational trauma.

Joy and Pain
Sanford Jenkins, writer/director; Sue-Ellen Chitunya, producer — development
Joy and Pain is a meditative exploration of two families, through a young couple burying a parent and bearing their first child.

Asher Jelinsky, writer/director — screenwriting
A young nonbinary person struggling to assert their identity falls in love with an older trans man who allows them to feel seen for who they are for the first time. But as conflicting long-term expectations emerge, mounting insecurities threaten to tear them apart.

A Lo-Fi Blues
Ed Ntiri — writer/director/producer; Winnie Wong, producer — development
An aging blues musician who is convinced his late wife is trapped inside a song believes she has been kidnapped by a group of lo-fi hip-hop producers in Oakland.

Alex Camilleri, writer/director/producer; Rebecca Anastasi, Ramin Bahrani, and Oliver Mallia, producers — post-production
On the island of Malta, desperate fisherman Jesmark fights the cutthroat fishing industry in order to change his family’s fate.

Our Father, The Devil
Ellie Foumbi, writer/director/producer; Joseph Mastantuono, producer — screenwriting
A reserved African refugee’s quiet existence in a sleepy mountain town in the south of France is upended by the arrival of a charismatic Catholic priest, whom she recognizes from her past.

The Parking Lot Attendant
Lino Yerima Asana, writer/director — screenwriting
Based on the novel by Nafkote Tamirat, this is the story of a second-generation teenager in Boston’s tightly-knit Ethiopian community who, while grappling with loneliness, identity, and familial tension, falls under the spell of a charismatic attendant who runs a mysterious empire out of his parking lot.

Tania Taiwo, writer/director — screenwriting
Pharmacopeia tells the story of a quirky, Black pharmacist drowning in student loan debt who rebels against the system and becomes the drug dealer pharmacy school never taught her to be.

Sontenish Myers, writer/director; Camille Gatin, producer — development
On a southern plantation in the 1800s, a young slave girl named Lena has telekinetic powers she cannot yet control. Lena must keep her powers under wraps when she is separated from her mother to be a house girl, in close quarters with the master’s wife Elizabeth.

For more information about SFFILM’s artist development programs, visit

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