The SFFILM Makers team has selected 13 outstanding non-fiction projects to as finalists for this year’s Documentary Film Fund (DFF) grants, which support feature-length docs in the post-production phase. A total of $60,000 will be distributed to the winning projects in this cycle, which will be announced in early December. The Documentary Film Fund next opens for applications in spring 2022.
Find out more about this and other filmmaking grant opportunities at sffilm.org/makers.
The SFFILM Documentary Film Fund supports engaging documentaries in post-production which exhibit compelling stories, intriguing characters, and an original, innovative visual approach.
The SFFILM Documentary Film Fund has an excellent track record for advancing compelling films that go on to critical acclaim. Previous DFF winners include Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s Writing With Fire, winner of Audience and Special Jury Prizes at 2021 Sundance Film Festival; Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska’s Honeyland, which won a record number of juried awards at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for Academy Awards for both Best Documentary Feature and Best Foreign Language Film; RaMell Ross’ Hale County This Morning, This Evening, which won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance 2018 and was nominated for the 2019 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature; Liza Mandelup’s Jawline, which won a Special Jury Award at Sundance 2019 and is currently streaming on Hulu; Hassan Fazili’s Midnight Traveler, which won a Special Jury Award at Sundance 2019 and the McBaine Documentary Feature Award at the 2019 SFFILM Festival; Luke Lorentzen’s Midnight Family, which premiered at Sundance 2019 and won dozens of awards including a Creative Recognition Award for Best Editing from the International Documentary Association; Assia Boundaoui’s The Feeling of Being Watched, which has won audience awards at several film festivals and was broadcast nationwide on POV; Alyssa Fedele and Zachary Fink’s The Rescue List, which had its world premiere at the 2018 SFFILM Festival and was broadcast nationwide on POV; 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.
Since its launch in 2011, the SFFILM Documentary Film Fund has distributed nearly $1 million to advance new work by filmmakers nationwide. The 2021 Documentary Film Fund is supported by the Jenerosity Foundation.
Amy Jenkins, director/producer
Adam’s Apple is an intimate exploration of what characterizes “maleness” for today’s gender-redefining youth, filmed from the perspectives of director Amy Jenkins and her teenage transgender son, Adam, each with a camera in hand. Vérité and artistic imagery chronicle the evolution of Adam’s identity beginning at toddlerhood, unveiling the ever-shifting family dynamic as Adam charts his path toward manhood.
Against the Tide
Sarvnik Kaur, director/producer; Koval Bhatia, producer
A tale of love, brotherhood and resentments against the backdrop of an adoring sea, which is turning adverse under the menacing effects of an all-pervading calamity called climate change.
Between the Rains
Andrew Harrison Brown, director/cinematographer, editor; Moses Thuranira, Samuel Ekomol, Ngaihike Napuu, producers
As a prolonged drought intensifies the conflict between two pastoral tribes over grazing lands in Kenya’s northern rangelands, an orphaned shepherd boy searches for a path forward while his village questions why the world around them is eroding.
Débora Souza Silva, director/producer; David Felix Sutcliffe, producer
Violence. Outrage. Impunity. Repeat. Black Mothers follows the journey of two African-American women battling to break America’s cycle of racist police violence. As one mother investigates the cover-up of her son’s attack by Alabama police, the other channels her grief into organizing mothers across the country as they fight for justice.
Nesa Azimi, director/producer; Ines Hofmann Kanna, producer
Driver follows three years in the life of long-haul truck driver Desiree Wood. Taking on an industry where multi-billion dollar megacarriers conspire to make individual drivers anonymous and disposable, Desiree brings together an unlikely group of women to find strength, solidarity, and self-determination on the road — all while she fights to sustain herself as a long-haul truck driver.
Augusto Zegarra, director; Claudia Chavez, Paloma Iturriaga, producers
A young indigenous man is trying to save a language from extinction. Fernando is an independent voice artist from Cusco, Peru who dreams of dubbing the animated classic The Lion King to Quechua, the language of the Incas. This epic endeavor of contacting Disney will make him re-examine his own identity, his role as a father, and test his commitment to his native language and culture.
Home Is Somewhere Else
Carlos Hagerman, co-director/producer; Jorge Villalobos, co-director; Carolina Coppel, Albie Hecht, Andrew Houchens, Susan MacLaury, Martha Sosa, executive producers
Accessing the American Dream is still not possible for all, much less those who come from immigrant backgrounds. For undocumented youth, their hopes for the future coexist with permanent fear of possible deportation. A fully animated 2D feature documentary, Home Is Somewhere Else is a window inside the hearts and minds of young Dreamers and the undocumented, amplifying and giving intimate voice to a growing community, still widely unrepresented and underserved.
Silvia Castaños, Estefanía Contreras, Diane Ng, co-directors; Miguel Drake-McLaughlin, Ana Rodriguez-Falco, Jillian Schlesinger, producers/co-directors, Leslie Benavides, producer
In this collaborative coming-of-age film, best friends Silvia and Beba escape the cruel heat of summer in their Texas border town, wandering empty streets at night in search of inspiration, adventure, and a sense of belonging. When forces threaten their shared dreams, they take a stand and hold onto what they can — the moment and each other.
Jose and Derek
Keira Sultan, director; Arielle Knight, producer
An exploration of community, memory, and image making, Jose and Derek interweaves 25 years of footage to tell the intergenerational story of a Philadelphia boxing gym and the mother-daughter pair behind the camera. Through the process of revisiting her mother’s unfinished film, director Keira Sultan is confronted with questions around image-making and authorship that alter the course of the film and catalyze reflections around her role as a director and outsider.
Isabel Castro, director/producer; Tabs Breese, Yesenia Tlahuel, producers
Doris Muñoz is an ambitious music manager whose undocumented family depends on her ability to discover aspiring pop stars. At just 26, she has already launched multiple Chicanx musicians, carving out space for her culture within a turbulent industry. Mija dives into the world of a young woman hustling harder than anyone else, because for Doris and her family, “making it” isn’t just a dream — it’s a necessity.
Time Bomb Y2K
Brian Becker, co-director/producer; Marley McDonald, co-director/editor; Penny Lane, Gabriel Sedgwick, producers
As the clock counts down to the dawn of the new millennium, the world mobilizes to face the largest technological disaster to ever threaten humanity. Told entirely through archival footage, Time Bomb Y2K decodes the truths and myths of the Millennium Bug in an electrifying race against time and technology.
Sura Mallouh, director/producer; Laura Poitras, Yoni Golijov, producers
Two friends uncover a conflict that divides their already embattled community. Told from all sides, with unprecedented access to courtrooms, anonymous sources and community leaders, this observational film unfolds in real-time.
Mathew Ramirez Warren, director/producer; Barni Axmed Qaasim, producer
Black-owned businesses in Oakland, California try to break into the predominantly white legal Cannabis industry, through the nation’s first ever Cannabis Equity Program.