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Winners Announced for Fall 2017 SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants

SFFILM, in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, announced today the projects that will receive a total of $225,000 in funding in the latest round of SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants. Nine filmmaking teams were granted funding to help with the next stage of their creative process, from screenwriting to post-production. SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants are awarded twice annually to filmmakers whose narrative feature films will have significant economic or professional impact on the Bay Area filmmaking community and/or meaningfully explore pressing social issues. More than $4.5 million has been awarded since the launch of this grant program in 2009, making the SFFILM, in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the largest grant-maker to independent narrative films in the United States.
Additionally, SFFILM and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation launched a new discretionary loan program for filmmakers in post-production. Open to any previous recipient or alumnus following the first day of production, the first loan in the amount of $25,000 was presented to Sorry to Bother You by writer/director Boots Riley.

Applications are currently being accepted for the Spring 2018 round of SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants; the deadline to apply is February 2. For more information visit


SFFILM, in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, is the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the United States. The SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grant program has funded more than 70 projects since its inception, including Geremy Jasper’s Sundance breakthrough Patti Cake$, which closed the 2017 Cannes Director’s Fortnight program, ahead of its summer release; Alex and Andrew Smith’s Walking Out starring Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival; Chloé Zhao’s Songs My Brothers Taught Me, which screened at Sundance and Cannes in 2015; Short Term 12, Destin Cretton’s sophomore feature which won both the Narrative Grand Jury Award and Audience Award at South by Southwest 2013; Ryan Coogler’s debut feature Fruitvale Station, which won the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, the Un Certain Regard Avenir Prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the narrative category at Sundance 2013; and Ben Zeitlin’s debut phenomenon Beasts of the Southern Wild, which won Sundance's Grand Jury Prize and Cannes' Camera d'Or in 2012 and earned four Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture).

The panelists who reviewed the finalists’ submissions are Noah Cowan, SFFILM’s Executive Director; Paul Federbush, International Director, Feature Film Program at the Sundance Institute; Shelley Trott, Director of Arts Strategy and Ventures at the Kenneth Rainin Foundation; Diana Williams, Content Strategist at LucasFilm; Caroline von Kühn, SFFILM’s Director of Artist Development; and Lauren Kushner, SFFILM’s Senior Manager of Artist Development.
The jury noted in a statement: “We are proud to support these emerging filmmaking teams, many of whom are embarking upon their first feature films. The SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants program seeks to support filmmakers who are grappling with complex social issues through compelling and inventive artistic approaches. Ranging from a tense police procedural that tells the story of a marginalized Nepali inspector to a portrait of the personal impact of San Francisco gentrification that blends romanticism with a stark realism, this group of films clearly represents that vision.”
All About Nina
Eva Vives, director; Natalie Qasabian, Eric Fleischman, Sean Tabibian, Eva Vives, producers – post-production – $25,000
Just as Nina Geld’s brilliant and angry stand up kicks her career into high gear, her romantic life gets complicated, forcing her to reckon with what it means to be creative, authentic, and a woman in today’s culture.
American Babylon
Yvan Iturriaga, writer/director – screenwriting – $12,000
A gripping tale of love and revolution set in the gritty streets of Oakland, California in the months leading up to 9/11.
Babak Jalali, writer/director; Marjaneh Moghimi, producer; Carolina Cavalli, co-writer – development –  $22,000
Troubled, edgy, unconventional Donya—an Afghani translator formerly working for the US military—now spends her days writing fortunes for a Chinese fortune cookie factory in San Francisco. As she struggles to put her life back in order, in a moment of sudden revelation, she sends out a message, wrapped in a fortune cookie—an act that sends her on an odyssey of deceit, mystery, and redemption.
Jules of Light and Dark
Daniel Laabs, writer/director; Jeff Walker, Liz Cardenas Franke, Russell Sheaffe, and Judd Myers, producers – post-production – $25,000
A young woman, Maya, struggles to rebuild her life after surviving a devastating car wreck with her girlfriend. The two are found and rescued by an oil worker, Freddy, who forges an unlikely friendship with Maya in this Texas-set drama.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Joe Talbot, writer/director; Khaliah Neal, Producer – production – $50,000
Jimmie Fails dreams of buying back the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Now living in the city’s last, dwindling Black neighborhood with his oddball best friend Prentice, the two misfits search for belonging in the rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind.
Me, My Mom and Sharmila
Fawzia Mirza, writer/director; Terrie Samundra, producer/cowriter – screenwriting – $22,000
A queer, Pakistani teen, her Muslim immigrant mother, and a Bollywood heroine’s destinies intertwine in this bittersweet coming of age tale.
Monsters and Men
Reinaldo Marcus Green, director; Josh Penn, Elizabeth Lodge Stepp, Eddie Vaisman, Julia Lebedev, and Luca Borghese, producers – post-production – $25,000
Monsters and Men is an interwoven narrative about police violence, racial profiling, and the power of perspective. The story is told in three chapters, each shifting perspective to different protagonists who are from the same Brooklyn neighborhood: a man who captures an act of police violence on his cellphone, an African-American police officer working in the precinct, and a high-school baseball phenom. We follow the unspooling narrative as each is impacted by a violent episode. 
Mr. Rob
Fawaz Al-Matrouk, writer/director – screenwriting – $22,000
The true story of Rob Lawrie, an ex-soldier who left his family in England to help migrants at the infamous Jungle refugee camp in France. Lawrie risked everything to rescue a four-year-old girl, entrusted to him by her father, but was arrested and charged with human smuggling.
Deepak Rauniyar, writer/director – screenwriting – $22,000
Raja is a socially-rooted police procedural, a race-against-time thriller, as well as a portrait of Nepal—a complex society on the edge of a new future.
A new discretionary loan for filmmakers in post-production open to any previous recipient or alumnus following the first day of production was awarded to:
Sorry to Bother You
Boots Riley, writer/director; Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker, Charles King, George Rush, Jonathan Duffy and Kelly Williams, producers – post-production – $25,000 LOAN
Sorry to Bother You tells the story of Cassius Green, a Black telemarketer who discovers a magical key to telemarketing success, propelling him into a macabre universe where he is selected to lead a species of genetically manipulated horse-people.
SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants and loans are made possible by the generosity of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. In addition to funding, grant and loan recipients also receive various benefits through SFFILM Makers, SFFILM’s comprehensive artist development program. These benefits, customized to every individual production, can include one-on-one project consultations, creative development, additional fundraising assistance, resource and service recommendations, and networking opportunities, among many others. For more information visit






SFFILM Makers (formerly "Filmmaker360"), the organization’s artist development program, provides significant financial and creative resources to independent filmmakers through grants, fellowships, residencies, fiscal sponsorship, and more. Since 2009, nearly $5 million has been disbursed to more than 150 film projects in various stages of production. Highlights include the SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grant; a joint effort with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to cultivate stories rooted in science and technology; and the Documentary Film Fund, a partnership with the Jenerosity Foundation. For more information, visit

SFFILM is a nonprofit organization with a mission to champion the world's finest films and filmmakers through programs anchored in and inspired by the spirit and values of the San Francisco Bay Area. Presenter of the San Francisco International Film Festival, SFFILM is a year-round organization delivering screenings and events to more than 100,000 film lovers and media education programs to more than 10,000 students and teachers annually. In addition to its public programs, SFFILM supports the careers of independent filmmakers from the Bay Area and beyond with grants, residencies, and other creative development services. For more information visit