SFIFF54 Announces Documentaries in Golden Gate Awards, Films in New Directors Competition

March 4, 2011

Press release: The 54th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 21 - May 5) today announced its documentaries in competition for the Golden Gate Awards and films in competition for the New Director prize. The International will award close to $100,000 in total prizes this year. Sixty thousand dollars will be awarded to winners in three categories: investigative documentary feature ($25,000), documentary feature ($20,000) and Bay Area documentary feature ($15,000). The New Directors Prize of $15,000 is given to a narrative first feature that exhibits a unique artistic sensibility and deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. Seventeen countries contributed to the production of the 11 films in this year's competition.

Official Selections 2011 Golden Gate Awards Documentary Feature Competition

Better This World, Kelly Duane de la Vega, Katie Galloway, USA 2011
Set against the backdrop of the 2008 Republican National Convention amid bomb plots, arrests and subsequent trials, this twist-filled portrait of two young activists caught in the web of an opportunistic mentor and a desperate justice system poignantly describes not only the problems of power and authority, but also the ultimate power of forgiveness and love.

Cinema Komunisto, Mila Turajlic, Serbia 2010
This evocative documentary explores the cinematic history of Yugoslavia under Tito. Exploring the ruins of forgotten film studios and sets, making ample use of clips from propaganda films and talking to directors, producers, actors and Tito's personal projectionist, the film reveals the manifold complexities of the era.

Crime After Crime, Yoav Potash, USA 2011
This intimate look at the coming together of a female prisoner and her two pro bono lawyers is a must-see documentary for those interested in the power of film to change the course of events. Observed over a five-and-a-half year period, the saga of one woman's case resounds with broader social implications.

Detroit Wild City, Florent Tillon, France/USA 2010
A beautifully crafted portrait of the city of Detroit, a shell of its former incarnation as car manufacturing hub of the nation. As the city empties out, however, this documentary uncovers pockets of urban pioneers, finding and making use of what the city still has to offer.

Foreign Parts, Véréna Paravel, J.P. Sniadecki, USA 2010
Foreign Parts portrays an enclave of auto shops and junkyards in the shadow of a new baseball stadium in Queens. The film observes this vibrant community of immigrants -- for whom car wrecks, refuse and recycling form a thriving ecosystem -- as it struggles for daily survival.

The Good Life, Eva Mulvad, Denmark 2010
A Danish mother and daughter, living in a rundown house in Portugal, bemoan their vanished wealth and present circumstances. Through old photos and home movies and present-day footage, The Good Life constructs an insightful portrait of an eccentric, dysfunctional relationship.

The Green Wave, Ali Samadi Ahadi, Germany/Iran 2010
This riveting documentary for the 21st century combines powerful animation, minute-by-minute Twitter feeds, blog accounts and mobile phone video footage alongside conventional on-camera testimonies to recount the abortive 2009 antigovernment Iranian youth revolt called the Green Wave -- a revolution in flux, yet evergreen with hope.

Marathon Boy, Gemma Atwal, England/USA/India 2010
A scrappy slum kid with a gift for running meets a driven judo instructor with dreams of Olympic fame. Their complicated, compelling relationship turns India upside down in this documentary that gets up close and personal, while expertly guiding us through a series of twists and turns that are both exciting and unsettling.

The Pipe, Risteard Ó Domhnaill, Ireland 2010
On Ireland's west coast, a group of farmers, fishermen and homeowners crusade against Shell Oil's plans to run a gas pipeline through their town and countryside. The heroic attempts of these citizens to take on Big Oil divide this small community for which the pipeline may mean either the prospect of increased prosperity or the end of their way of life.

Position Among the Stars, Leonard Retel Helmrich, Netherlands 2010
The third in a series of documentaries focusing on one particular Indonesian family presents a stylized portrait of family members facing poverty, religious differences and adolescent rebellion.

The Redemption of General Butt Naked,Daniele Anastasion, Eric Strauss, USA 2010
Can a ruthless mass killer ever really become a messenger of peace and forgiveness? This riveting documentary traces the rise and fall of General Butt Naked -- feared warlord of Liberia's 14-year civil war -- and his self-proclaimed quest to now heal his country and redeem his own soul as a newborn evangelist, armed only with the power of the Gospel.

The Tiniest Place, Tatiana Huezo, Mexico 2011
International Premiere
Years after the Salvadoran National Guard destroyed the jungle-shrouded village of Cinquera in that country's civil war, survivors begin returning home to rebuild their community from the ashes. Soulful and beautifully rendered, this documentary feature debut is an evocative testament to memory and the power of life to rebound after unspeakable tragedy.

In addition to these 12 documentary features, the Golden Gate Awards also will include competitors in nine other categories.

Official Selections 2011 New Directors Feature Competition

Autumn, Aamir Bashir, India 2010
Mourning the disappearance of his older brother, a young man tries to make a life for himself in his violence-ridden home of Kashmir in this powerful depiction of the loss and psychological decay caused by 20 years of violent conflict.

Circumstance, Maryam Keshavarz, 
USA/France/Iran/Lebanon 2011
This debut feature is a riveting political drama and love story, and a Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner, about a burgeoning romance between two young Iranian women and the fraught allegiances of a single Tehrani family.

The High Life, Zhao Dayong, China 2010  
US Premiere
Combining street realism and surprising artifice, the first fiction feature by the Chinese independent filmmaker of acclaimed documentaries Street Life and Ghost Town depicts hustlers, migrants, prisoners and others on the shabby outskirts of Guangzhou, where everyone is on the move but nobody seems to be getting anywhere.

The Journals of Musan, Park Jung-bum, South Korea 2010
North Korean defector Seung-chul is an unwanted refugee living on the harsh edges of Seoul. Bewildered by exploitative employers and cynical urbanites, he's no good for business, just barely for church. A powerful realism underscores this prizewinning feature debut about the struggle to survive in a strange new world.

, Alrick Brown, USA/Rwanda 2010
Kinyarwanda tells the tale of genocide and reconciliation in Rwanda in the early to mid-'90s through a series of parallel and overlapping narratives from a variety of Tutsi and Hutu perspectives.

My Joy, Sergei Loznitsa, Germany/Ukraine/Netherlands 2010
A taciturn truck driver hits the pitted asphalt road for a journey into rural Russia and encounters with peculiar folk -- an old man still plagued by the Great War, a teenage prostitute who shuns kindness, a trio of tramps who wander the wasteland like an unholy trinity -- in this gripping and surprising guignol about a republic in decline.

The Place in Between, Sarah Bouyain, France/Burkina Faso 2010
In this simple but moving story of global displacement, a young biracial woman raised in France travels to Burkina Faso in search of the mother she hasn't seen in many years. Having felt the outsider in Paris, Amy is now equally adrift in the city of her childhood. Meanwhile in Paris, an émigré from Burkina Faso who makes her living as a cleaner teaches the Dioula language to a white, middle-class office worker. 

The Salesman, Sébastian Pilote, Canada 2010
Featuring a remarkable central performance, The Salesman immerses us in the world of Marcel Lévesque, a quick-witted car salesman in a small, industrial Quebec town. Marcel has been salesman of the month for the last 16 years at the dealership where he has spent his career so he enthusiastically soldiers on despite the imminent shutdown of the local paper plant that employs most of the town's residents.

She Monkeys, Lisa Aschan, Sweden 2011
While trying out for the equestrian vaulting team, Emma befriends the slightly older Cassandra, but almost immediately their friendship is complicated by misunderstandings, jealousies and escalating struggles for power in this provocative examination of emergent sexuality and adolescent female friendships.

Tilva Rosh, Nikola Lezaic, Serbia 2010
Bor, in eastern Serbia, was once home to the largest copper mine in Europe. Now it's just the biggest hole in the ground. This astutely observed coming-of-age film expertly captures the pitfalls of the adult world, where idealism and hope no longer seem to have a place, as two teen skateboarders come to realize they have no choice but to grow up.

Ulysses, Oscar Godoy, Chile/Argentina 2011
World Premiere
The emotional life of a Peruvian immigrant in Chile is the subject of this nuanced character study of a man uprooted from home by economic necessity and suffering overwhelming loneliness and dislocation. He strives to improve his lot, but higher wages can't fill the void created by separation from everything that is dear to him.

In addition to these 11 films in competition, the New Directors section of SFIFF54 includes 17 out-of-competition films, which will be announced at the Festival's press conference Tuesday, March 29.

More at sffs.org.