Bay Area filmmaking gets a lift: Award winners Jim Granato (left) and Richard Levien (above) celebrate their cash prizes.

SFIFF52: Golden Gate Awards Uncorked, SFFS/KRF Grant Winner Announced

Susan Gerhard May 7, 2009

The San Francisco International Film Festival handed out approximately $100,000 in cash prizes to filmmakers at its Golden Gate Awards ceremony last night at the Temple Nightclub-Prana Restaurant. It also announced the winner of the $35,000 San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grant, the first in a cycle of grants that will infuse $3 million dollars into narrative feature filmmaking in the Bay Area in the next five years.

Graham Leggat, the executive director of a newly expanded San Francisco Film Society, which now serves as both a film exhibition and filmmaker services organization, explained that the Film Society’s changes mean it is opening its arms to the film community in San Francisco, helping to grow films "from the ground up." To the Bay Area filmmakers in the audience, which also included international filmmakers, filmgoers, fans and programmers, Leggat said, "We hope that you feel more than ever a part of the Film Society."

Richard Levien was the winner of the SFFS/KRF $35,000 for screenwriting/script development of La Migra, the story of an 11-year-old girl whose mother has been taking away by U.S. immigration police. He also won a $2,000 cash prize for the short film he presented at the Festival this year, Immersion, a San Francisco-filmed movie about the challenges faced by an English-language learner in an English-only elementary school. The awards are given to projects with a social justice element; "good films that do good in the world," according to Leggat. Levien shared with the audience that the La Migra story emerged from an actual situation faced by a girl at the San Francisco school at which his wife, Zareen Levien, teaches.

Michele Turnure-Salleo, Manager of Fiscal Sponsorship, Grants and Residencies at SFFS, presented the SFFS/KRF grant, and said, "I truly believe that fact that this grant even exists has motivated filmmakers into action." Turnure-Salleo managed the selection process with panelists Linda Blackaby, director of programming, San Francisco Film Society, Jennifer Chaiken, partner, 72 Productions, Leggat, executive director, San Francisco Film Society, Jennifer Rainin, president, Kenneth Rainin Foundation, and George Rush, entertainment attorney. She said she was impressed by the work. "It was a more emotionally moving process than I could have ever imagined."

Honorable mentions went to Amanda Micheli for screenwriting/script development of Tomboy, a coming-of-age story set in the world of college women’s rugby, and Jeff Zimbalist for preproduction on The Scribe of Urabá, about the rise the rise of the Nobel Prize-nominated Peace Community Movement in Latin America.

That the FIPRESCI Prize, awarded by an independent jury of international critics, also went to a Bay Area narrative feature, Frazer Bradshaw’s Everything Strange and New was a coincidence that underlined the growing strength of narrative feature filmmaking in the Bay Area.

A complete listing of the Golden Gate Awards follows.

Golden Gate Award Documentary Feature Winners

Investigative Documentary Feature ($25,000 cash prize): Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country, Anders Østergaard (Denmark/Sweden, 2008)

Bay Area Documentary Feature ($15,000 cash prize, Final Cut Studio 2.0.1 software courtesy of Apple and $2,000 worth of lab services from EFILM Digital Laboratories): D tour, Jim Granato (USA, 2008)

Documentary Feature ($20,000 cash prize and Final Cut Studio 2.0.1 software courtesy of Apple): Nomad’s Land, Gaël Métroz (Switzerland, 2008)

New Directors Award ($15,000 cash prize and Final Cut Studio 2.0.1 software courtesy of Apple): Snow, Aida Begic (Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2008)

Prize: Everything Strange and New, Frazer Bradshaw (USA, 2008)

Golden Gate Award Short Film Winners

Adobe Youth Film for Change ($1,500 cash prize and an Adobe production suite certificate): A Generation of Consolidation, Samantha Muilenburg, Brooke Noel (USA, 2008)

Youth Work ($1,500 cash prize and an Adobe production suite certificate): No Light at the End of the Tunnel, Charlotte Burger (USA, 2008)

Honorable Mention: Poetry in the Dark, Daniel Kharlak (USA, 2008)

Work for Kids and Families ($1,500 cash prize): Mutt, Glen Hunwick (Australia, 2008)

Animated Short ($2,000 cash prize): Kanizsa Hill, Evelyn Lee (USA, 2008)

New Visions ($1,500 cash prize and 1,000 feet of Kodak film stock): Circles of Confusion, Phoebe Tooke (USA, 2008)

Bay Area Short, First Prize ($2,000 cash prize): Immersion, Richard Levien (USA, 2008)

Bay Area Short, Second Prize ($1,500 cash prize): Utopia, Part 3: The World’s Largest Shopping Mall, Sam Green, Carrie Lozano (USA, 2008)

Documentary Short ($5,000 cash prize): Tongzhi in Love, Ruby Yang (USA, 2008)

Narrative Short ($5,000 cash prize and 1,000 feet of Kodak film stock): Angels Die in the Soil, Babak Amini (Iran, 2008)

Previously announced Golden Gate Award winner (Television) TV Narrative Long Form: Artemisia, Chiang Hsui-chiung (Taiwan, 2008)

Audience Awards
(added May 7, 2009)

Best Narrative Feature: Don’t Let Me Drown (Cruz Angeles, USA, 2008).

Best Documentary Feature: Speaking in Tongues (Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider, USA, 2009).

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