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The 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival wrapped with 209 screenings from 52 countries



Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart and Alfred George Bailey’s Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall Win Audience Awards for Best Narrative Feature and Best Documentary

San Francisco, CA – SFFILM wrapped the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival (April 10–23) with 209 screenings from 52 countries attended by approximately 300 special guests. SFFILM brought in 126 filmmakers from 19 different countries including Macedonia, China, South Africa, and Iceland. Filmmakers attending Festival spanned a range of 19 to 91 years of age, and over 71 percent of the Festival’s 163 films were presented by a filmmaker or guest in attendance.
Over the course of two weeks, the 2019 SFFILM Festival showed 46 narrative features, 40 documentary features, four New Visions features, three episodic programs, and a total of 70 short films. The Festival awarded nearly $40,000 in prizes to emerging and established filmmakers with films representing ten countries.
New venues and old favorites hosted Festival audiences this year, from San Francisco’s downtown and Mission districts, to Oakland and Berkeley in the East Bay. Screenings in the city spread the Festival footprint to venues including SFMOMA Phyllis Wattis Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Dolby Cinema at 1275 Market, the Roxie Theater, the Victoria Theatre, and the Castro Theatre while additional events were held at SFFILM FilmHouse and 111 Minna Gallery. SFFILM successfully expanded into the East Bay with a larger presence and full five-day festival run at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre. Screenings at BAMPFA in downtown Berkeley continued a to carry its traditional longtime Festival presence at that venue.
“I am so incredibly delighted that this, my last Festival at SFFILM as Executive Director, has touched on so many Bay Area values at the core of our mission,” said Noah Cowan. “This really felt like a purpose-led organization these past two weeks, with films touching on political social movements, innovation and creativity, technology and its perils, as well as terrific films about food and the environment. Our filmmaker guests left feeling supported by our incredible audiences and this stellar staff team. I think the future of SFFILM has never looked brighter nor felt more clear in its impact and ability to influence the global conversation about great film and issues of great importance.”
"The staff of SFFILM is amazing, and the success of the 2019 Festival is a testament to that,” said SFFILM Board President Nion McEvoy. “As a board, we look forward to working together with them to continue to champion important films, support dynamic filmmakers, and shape film culture in the Bay Area and around the world, as SFFILM has done for more than 60 years."
Star-Studded Nights
Guests in attendance this year were just as varied as the Festival programming with appearances from Ai Weiwei, Karen Allen, Boots Riley, Murray Bartlett, W. Kamau Bell, Martin Bright, Charlie Burnett, Cori Bush, Jade Castrinos, Michael Childers, Erin Davis, Kaitlyn Dever, Kevin Durant, Jakob Dylan, Daniel Ellsberg, Fab 5 Freddy, Beanie Feldstein, Aisling Franciosi, Garcia, Barbara Garrick, Mason Gooding, Hannah Gross, Paul Gross, Katharine Gun, Nico Hiraga, May Hong, Gavin Hood, Dolores Huerta, Naeem Khan, Rachel Kushner, Christopher Larkin, Zosia Mamet, Armistead Maupin, Lauren Morelli, Gavin Newsom, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Ashley Park, Nicole Perlman, Alan Poul, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Katie Silberman, Andrew Slater, Amy Vilela, Warpaint’s Theresa Wayman and Stella Mozgawa, Lulu Wang, Vince Wilburn, Jr., and Olivia Wilde, among many others.
The 2019 SFFILM Festival also presented several tributes and awards to contemporary and legendary film greats. First honoring Opening Night guest Laura Linney with a conversation and screening of The Savages, the Festival also honored master filmmaker Claire Denis on the same night. The tribute to Denis included a screening of her newest film, High Life. The following night, the Festival honored one of the most versatile character actors working today, John C. Reilly, with a conversation and screening of The Sisters Brothers. Actress Laura Dern was given tribute for her singular career in conjunction with a screening of Trial by Fire, directed by Edward Zwick.
The tributes continued with the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award honoring a filmmaker whose main body of work falls outside the realm of narrative feature filmmaking. This year, the Festival honored documentary filmmaker Madeline Anderson, who is credited with being the first American-born Black woman to produce and direct a televised documentary film, the first to direct and produce a syndicated television series, and one of the first African-American woman to join the film editors union. The Mel Novikoff Award was given to the award-winning BBC Series Arena, and accepted by Series Editor and Executive Producer Anthony Wall. Accomplished child actor and renowned philanthropist Claude Jarman, Jr. received the George Gund III Craft of Cinema Award for his service to the film community and his unwavering commitment to the arts.
Big Nights at the Festival started with a sold-out premiere of the Netflix episodic series Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. San Francisco native and renowned writer Armistead Maupin reunited with original cast members Laura Linney and Paul Gross to bring life back to 28 Barbary Lane. New cast members Charles Burnett, Murray Bartlett, Garcia, May Hong, and Zosia Mamet also came to the historic Castro Theatre to celebrate Opening Night. The 2019 SFFILM Festival Centerpiece featured the Awkwafina-starring hit, The Farewell. Director Lulu Wang spoke at a special panel about Women Behind the Camera at the Festival Lounge just before presenting her film at the Castro Theatre. The Festival featured Official Secrets as the Closing Night Film with director Gavin Hood and two of the real-life subjects of the film. British intelligence officer and whistleblower Katharine Gun and journalist Martin Bright joined the red carpet and the onstage Q&A at the Castro Theatre to close out the Festival.
Award-Winning Films
Nearly $40,000 in prizes were awarded to emerging and established filmmakers at the 2019 SFFILM Festival at the Golden Gate Awards on Sunday, April 21. Films from 11 categories were in juried competition at the event held at the Brava Theater Center. The Golden Gate New Directors Prize, a $10,000 cash prize given to a first-time filmmaker whose work exhibits a unique artistic sensibility was awarded to Lila Avilés for The Chambermaid (Mexico/USA). The New Directors jurors were TIFF former director and CEO Piers Handling, film critic Amy Nicholson, and writer Jada Yuan. A Special Jury Mention was given to Qiu Sheng for Suburban Birds (China/Taiwan).
Additional cash prizes went to two winners in the non-fiction feature categories for the McBaine Documentary Feature Award ($10,000) and the McBaine Bay Area Documentary Feature Award ($5,000). The Golden Gate Award Documentary Feature competitions jury was comprised of Associate Vice President at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Gina Duncan; Web Editor and Digital Director at Harper’s and a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, Violet Lucca; and Film Programmer Sudeep Sharma. The McBaine Documentary Feature Award went to Midnight Traveler (USA/Qatar/Canada/UK), directed by Hassan Fazili. The McBaine Bay Area Documentary Feature Award was awarded to The Seer and the Unseen (USA/Iceland), directed by Sara Dosa.
The Golden Gate Award Short Film jury consisted of programmer Emily Doe, filmmaker Trevor Jimenez, and programmer Jacqueline Lyanga. They awarded over $10,000 in cash prizes. The Best Narrative Short was awarded to Brotherhood (Ikhwène) (Canada/Tunisia), directed by Meryam Joobeur. A Special Jury Mention went to the narrative short, Fuck You (Sweden), directed by Anette Sidor. Where Chaos Reigns (USA/Venezuela) by Braulio Jatar and Anaïs Michel won for Best Documentary Short. Special Jury Mention went to Edgecombe (USA) by Crystal Kayiza. Best Animated Short was presented to Selfies (Switzerland), directed by Claudius Gentinetta. The GGA for New Visions Short was given to Urszula Palusińska for Cold Pudding Settles Love (Poland). The Best Bay Area Short went to Enforcement Hours (USA) by Paloma Martinez, and Bay Area Short Second Prize was awarded to Confidence Game (USA), directed by Kathleen Quillian.
The Golden Gate Award Family Film jury was comprised of producer Courtney Lockwood, filmmaker Paloma Martinez, and teacher Anne Smith, who awarded a $1,500 cash prize and Best Family Film to One Small Step (USA/China) by Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas, with Special Jury Mention to The Pen Licence (Australia) by Olivia Peniston-Bird.
The Golden Gate Youth Works jury was comprised of SFFILM FilmHouse resident Daniel Freeman, filmmaker Leslie Tai, and students Maya Dighe, Keilah McKeown-Pool, and Max Rosenberg, who awarded a $1,000 cash prize to Meeting at Half Past Five (Russian Federation) by Daria Litvichenko, with Special Jury Mention to This House Has Eyes (USA) by Theo Taplitz.
The 2019 SFFILM Festival Audience Awards gave festival-goers the opportunity to select their favorite narrative and documentary features. The Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature went to Olivia Wilde with her directorial debut film Booksmart, which also received a special award from the Festival for Breakout Comedy Directing. The Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature went to director Alfred George Bailey for his film, Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall.
In SFFILM’s third year of Launch championing exceptional and innovative films and filmmakers, the 2019 SFFILM Festival featured five titles found throughout several Festival sections. These five world premieres join a growing group of films that successfully embark upon journeys of public exhibition. First-time filmmaker and San Francisco native Cheryl Haines premiered her documentary film Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly to a sold-out audience at the Castro Theatre. Two other documentaries that were part of Launch included The Seer and the Unseen, a film about a “seer” who can communicate with Iceland’s elves, directed by Bay Area filmmaker Sara Dosa; and We Believe in Dinosaurs, a film that looks at the creationist movement while exploring the Ark Encounter exhibit in Kentucky, directed by Clayton Brown and Monica Long Ross. Director Tom Quinn and actress Karen Allen attended the festival to present the world premiere of Colewell, also a SFFILM supported project. In the fifth Launch film, actress Addison Timlin plays a fictionalized young Hillary Rodham Clinton in When I’m a Moth, directed by Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak.
In addition, SFFILM Makers set over 100 one-on-one meetings between supported residents and grantees with several of the executives from production and distribution companies, broadcasters, and streaming services that were at the Festival for Launch.
Live & Onstage
SFFILM presented four immersive programs in the popular Live & Onstage section of the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival. Bay Area icon Boots Riley gave the State of Cinema Address at the Victoria Theatre. Musician Jakob Dylan and his band performed a set of songs from the Laurel Canyon era in conjunction with the screening of Echo in the Canyon, directed by Andrew Slater. Co-director of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Kahlil Joseph, presented a series of short work in conjunction with an onstage conversation at the Victoria Theatre. Finally, Theresa Wayman and Stella Mozgawa of the LA-based band Warpaint performed a newly composed, original score for a screening of four short films from seminal avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren at the Castro Theatre.
Special Events
In addition to Live & Onstage, Festival audiences were treated to several other special events. Three community screenings with free admission were presented at the 2019 SFFILM Festival. Bay Area native W. Kamau Bell presented the opening episode of season four of his Emmy Award-winning CNN Original Series, United Shades of America at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre. The Radical Monarchs, an Oakland-based leadership development troop, specifically for girls of color, graced the Castro Theatre in a screening of the documentary, We Are the Radical Monarchs, directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton. Then, in conjunction with the Mel Novikoff Award winner, the BBC series Arena, the 2019 SFFILM Festival presented a gallery screening of Night and Day at the YBCA Lobby Gallery.
The Festival presented a number of special collaborations connected to individual screenings, designed to illuminate key themes in the Festival program and address pressing social issues and exciting trends. The collaboration screenings included luminary figures from many of the San Francisco Bay Area's key cultural, technology, and civic institutions—plus several notable out-of-town guests—who participated in special introductions, guided discussions, in-depth analyses and much more. At Halston, SFFILM Festival teamed with the San Francisco Chronicle Style reporter Tony Bravo to speak on the historical importance of the famed fashion designer in an extended conversation with director Frédéric Tcheng and notable contemporary designer (and former Halston assistant) Naeem Khan. SFFILM collaborated with the essential NGO Human Rights Watch, a global leader in research and advocacy around human rights topics, to present Midnight Traveler. The world premiere of The Great American Lie was supplemented with an extended conversation on the decline and fall of the American Dream in collaboration with the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas founded in 1949 and the organization behind the Aspen Ideas Festival, among the world’s most important policy discussion forums. At a screening of Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, the current state of journalism and the threat to First Amendment and free speech rights was discussed with director Janice Engel and David Greene, Civil Liberties Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. At Jawline, a special conversation took place around authenticity and the effects of social media with the filmmakers and special guest Jeff Hancock, Professor of Communication and Founding Director of the Stanford Social Media Lab, who is a world leading expert on the psychology of social media, including how it affects our emotions, thoughts, and relationships.
The 2019 SFFILM Festival featured a number of films supported by the SFFILM Makers grant and residency programs. The supported films that screened as part of this year's Festival represent several of the ways in which SFFILM provides funding and creative services for independent film projects from around the globe as part of its year-round artist development programs. This year’s festival included films supported by SFFILM’s partners at the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, Jenerosity Foundation, Cinereach, and Dolby Institute.
Tom Quinn’s Colewell, which premiered as part of the festival’s Launch program, received a SFFILM Rainin Grant for post-production in 2018. Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov’s Honeyland and Luke Lorentzen’s Midnight Family received SFFILM Documentary Film Fund grants for post-production and additional support from SFFILM Invest. Liza Mandelup’s Jawline and Hassan Fazili’s Midnight Traveler also received Documentary Film Fund grants for post-production. Michael Tyburski’s The Sound of Silence received the inaugural SFFILM Dolby Fellowship. Kristine Samuelson, co-director of the short film Life Overtakes Me, was a FilmHouse resident in 2017.
SFFILM Makers hosted programming throughout the festival at FilmHouse focused on artistic process, industry relationships, and funding. The Art of Sound Design Panel with Dolby Institute and Skywalker Sound featured conversations with sound designers from both companies, along with filmmakers Tom Quinn of Colewell, Michael Tyburski and Ben Nabors of The Sound of Silence, and Nicole Perlman and Malcolm Pullinger of The Slows. Filmmakers Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov of Honeyland, and Sara Dosa of The Seer and the Unseen, which had its world premiere in the Launch program, spoke about their non-traditional protagonists and the sense of place in their artistic nonfiction work.  
Adobe co-hosted FilmHouse’s first live-stream of a conversation about the editing process of Midnight Traveler with producer and editor Emelie Mahdavian, and co-editor and FilmHouse alum Kristina Motwani. Apple co-hosted two workshops about editing, one for non-editors who want to expand their vocabulary around editing, and an advanced workshop for editors. Funding panels included representatives from Impact Partners, Catapult Film Fund, and Vulcan Productions.
Key events at FilmHouse also included the first semi-annual Accessibility Congress—a gathering of Bay Area film funders and exhibitors with an aim to meaningfully expand the movement around access and representation of and with disabled filmmakers and stories. SFFILM Makers also co-hosted a luncheon honoring the local chapter of Brown Girls Doc Mafia, an organization of over 2,500 members worldwide advocating for women and non-binary people of color in the documentary industry.
World Cinema Spotlight
This thematic series at the Festival calls attention to international filmmaking by highlighting hot topics, reinvigorated genres, underappreciated filmmakers, and national cinemas. This year the festival highlighted a World Cinema Spotlight on Food and Film. Food encompasses all of the senses, with taste and smell perhaps the most prominent, but the visual element is arguably the most sensual. The Festival films in this year’s spotlight all offer an immaculate feast for the eyes.
Netflix has been a pioneer in food show programming, and their new episodic Street Food, from Chef’s Table (2015-) creator David Gelb, gave audiences mouth-watering sidewalk fare from bustling Asian metropolises. Bloodroot presented the story of a lesbian couple and their feminist restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where they feature vegetarian takes on Thai chicken and African stews. Nothing Fancy: Diana Kennedy told the story of one of the most eminent practitioners of Mexican cuisine who demonstrates how to make great guacamole. Finally, Singaporean director Eric Khoo’s Ramen Shop showed how food can bring cultures together as his protagonist Masato searches for the perfect recipe for the peppery pork rib soup known as bak kut teh.
At this year’s Festival, SFFILM continued its partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation—the nation’s leading philanthropic grantor for science and the arts—to highlight compelling cinema that tells the story of science. A special presentation of Red Joan (UK) featured a conversation with producer David Parfitt and special guests David Holloway, Professor of International History at Stanford University and Mildred Cho, Associate Director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics. The Sloan Foundation also partnered with SFFILM to screen The Sound of Silence (USA), a SFFILM Dolby Fellowship recipient film directed by Michael Tyburski, at the Dolby Cinema.
Schools at the Festival
SFFILM Education’s Schools at the Festival (SATF) program, run by Associate Director of Education Keith Zwölfer, had another record-breaking year, welcoming almost 10,000 students (ages 6–18) and teachers from schools across a total of 130 schools in the Bay Area. For the third year in a row, SATF was able to bring students and teachers free of charge to attend 19 feature and short film screenings during the Festival through the support of First Republic Bank, The Nellie Wong Magic of Movies Education, and Sharon Ow-Wing. The program also provided 27 school visits to local schools with even more accessibility to Oakland schools due to the Festival’s East Bay expansion at the Grand Lake Theatre.
This year’s highlights included visits with Karen Allen, from the Launch film Colewell; Missing Link animator Rachelle Lambden; and Jennifer Siebel Newsom, director of The Great American Lie. Previous SATF Youth Works participant Nathan Ambrosioni returned as a guest director this year for his film, Paper Flags. An Art and Science of Lucasfilm presentation was held at San Francisco’s Lucasfilm campus. In its 29th year, SATF continues to develop media literacy, broaden insights into other cultures, enhance foreign language aptitude, develop critical thinking skills, and inspire a lifelong appreciation of cinema.
Master Classes
The 2019 SFFILM Festival featured three Master Classes with film professionals and industry leaders. In David Thomson Master Class: Thinking About Cary Grant, the renowned film writer, journalist, and critic reflected on the unique career of legendary actor Cary Grant, reaching from Notorious (1946) to North by Northwest (1959) and from Bringing Up Baby (1938) to His Girl Friday (1940). This year, there were also drop-off classes for kids ranging from ages 6–14 and organized in conjunction with SFFILM Education. The Workshop for Kids: Hand-Crafted Stop-Motion Animation brought director Andrew Goldsmith for a behind-the-scenes look at the Oscar-shortlisted Lost & Found (2018). It took participants through the dizzying amount of labor and love put into producing the short film. The Workshop for Kids: Creative Poetry + Film allowed participants to bring poems to life under the guidance of Pushcart Prize nominee Nancy Kangas. Kangas, an experienced teaching artist, used the same exercises from Preschool Poets (2017), a film she co-directed with Josh Kun, to help students visualize their stanzas through illustration.
Sponsors and Partners
The 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival was supported by more than 100 sponsors and partners. These included SFFILM major sponsors Adobe Systems, Dolby Laboratories, First Republic Bank, Joie De Vivre Hotels, Netflix, Prime Group, Showtime Documentary Films, and Zero Pivot. Premier venue partners were the SFMOMA, 111 Minna Gallery, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
The 2019 SFFILM Festival supporting sponsors were the Chloe Wine Collection, Fort Point Beer Company, Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Hotel Emblem, Hotel Zelos, Hotel Zeppelin, Hotel Zetta, Chronicle Books, Levi’s, Meyer Sound, New Box Solutions, Omni, Hamilton, Rainbow Grocery, Regus, Riverview Systems Group, SAG-AFTRA, San Francisco Recreation and Parks, SPACES, VMG Partners, and ZAP (Zoetrope Aubry Productions). The 2019 SFFILM Festival event partner was Bright Event Rentals. Venue partners included Children’s Creativity Museum, Dolby Cinema @ 1275 Market, BAMPFA, Castro Theatre, SFFILM FilmHouse, Grand Lake Theatre, Roxie Theater, The Regency Center, and Victoria Theatre. This year’s transportation sponsor was Bartable. The festival guide printing sponsor was J. Graphics.
Support was also provided by the Consulate General of Sweden, Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco, Consulate General of Singapore, Spain Arts and Culture, and UniFrance. Government and foundation supporters were Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Catapult Film Fund, Cinereach, Flora Family Foundation, Grants for the Arts, Jenerosity Foundation, Kenneth Rainin Foundation, Koret Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, The Bernard Osher Foundation, Time Warner Foundation, Westridge Foundation, and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
The 2019 SFFILM Festival is grateful for the participation of technical sponsors Brickley Production Services, Flying Moose Pictures, Holzmueller Productions, Little Giant, Puget Systems, RF Audio, VER, and WorldStage. This year’s festival hotel sponsors were Axiom Hotel, Carlton Hotel, Cova Hotel, Fairmont San Francisco, Galleria Park Hotel, Hotel Abri, Hotel del Sol, Hotel Emblem, Hotel Kabuki, Hotel Majestic, Hotel Triton, Hotel Vitale, Hotel Zelos, Hotel Zeppelin, Hotel Zetta, Nob Hill Inn, The Marker, The Park Central San Francisco, Phoenix Hotel, Presidio Inn, and San Francisco Marriott Marquis. Restaurant, food, and beverage sponsors were alaMar Kitchen & Bar, Bar Agricole, Basel B Inc., Bitchin’ Baklava, Bon Voyage, Cabot Creamery Co-operative, Cala, Casa Sanchez, Compass Box Whiskey, Cupcake Cove, Delarosa, Dianda’s Bakery, Divine Chocolate, El Porteno Empanadas, The Feminist Party Wine, Frisco Brandy, Frozen Kuhsterd, Guayaki Yerba Mate, Homage, International Smoke, Judy’s Breadsticks, Kaya, La Mediterranee, LUNA, Macarons by Natalie, Obispo, Out the Dough, Palette, Presidio Social Club, Prospect Restaurant, Smashmallow, Sol Food, Stirred Not Shaken, Sugar & Spun, The Bird SF, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, The Taco Shop at Underdogs, Thorough Bread and Pastry, Underdogs Too, Urban Ritual, Venga Empanadas, Verve Coffee Roasters, We Love Jam, Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, and Z Cioccolato.

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2019 San Francisco International Film Festival
The longest-running film festival in the Americas, the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM Festival) is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in one of the country’s most beautiful cities. The 62nd edition runs April 10–23 at venues across the Bay Area and features nearly 200 films and live events, 14 juried awards with close to $40,000 in cash prizes, and upwards of 100 participating filmmaker guests.
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 75,000 film lovers and media education programs to more than 12,000 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.
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