SDFF Alumni Filmmakers + Films - Awards. Honors. Festivals. - New Docs - Streaming


OCTOBER 27, 2021


The Sonoma County Virtual Jewish Film Festival is happening right now, and runs through Tuesday, Nov. 2. The festival is put on by the Sonoma County Jewish Community Center and has Spring and Autumn iterations, which bring the newest and best of Jewish-themed and Israeli films that are otherwise difficult for local audiences to find and screen. The festivals are typically held in-person, but remain virtual due to COVID concerns for now. The autumn festival includes a number of dramatic features, a comedic TV show and the documentary Commandment 613 about an American rabbi and son of refugees from Nazi Germany, Kevin Hale, who practices the sacred craft of a Torah scribe, restoring handwritten scrolls that contain the first five books of the bible, a task that has taken him from secular Judaism to a life of faith and practice. Check out festival’s film selections and trailers, or visit their youtube channel and check out filmmaker talks as well as other content from the JCC.

The 30th anniversary of the 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm over the weekend was marked by the release of Firestorm: East Bay Hills Fire a documentary hewn from first-hand accounts of the event from local SF Bay Area ABC 7. At the time, the terrible event, which took the lives of 25 people and burned over 3,500 people was viewed as anomalous. In the time since, the state has, unfortunately, experienced deadlier, larger and more devastating wildfires related to climate change, which have occurred in a relatively short span of time. The full video is streaming now on ABC 7. 

The United Nations Association Film Festival lineup of films that focus on global human rights issues will be up on Bay Area films through Oct. 31. SDFF 2021 alumni, A Fistful of Rubbish (David Regos, 2019) about the trashed Tabernas desert in Spain, which once served as the desert backdrop to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, will have its on-screen premiere on Oct. 31 in Palo Alto. Hunger Ward (Skye Fitzgerald, 2021) about health care workers battling starvation in Yemen and Last Meal (Marcus McKenzie and Daniel Principe, 2020) about death row inmates’ last meals were two other 2021 festival selections that appeared as part of the UN screenings.

Dr. Tim Seelig, Artistic Director and Conductor of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, featured in Gay Chorus Deep South (David Charles Rodrigues, 2019), will be the third person inducted into The Academy Legends Archive in the Castro on Nov. 12. Dr. Seelig will join the esteemed company of Sister Roma and Juanita MORE! who will be there for the induction ceremony at the Swedish American Hall. The Archive will also present three community awards: the Diane Jones Solidarity Award to Leo Herrera’s work on The FATHERS Project, celebrating the generation of men lost to AIDS; The Exemplar Award to Tita Aida for her work raising HIV/AIDS awareness who is also dedicated to the Trans and Asian/Pacific Islander community; and The Architect Award to Scott Peterson for maintaining, transforming and promoting SOMA’s PowerhouseGay Chorus Deep South documents the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’s tour of the American Deep South, which was undertaken in response to a wave of discriminatory anti-LGBTQ laws that sprang up around the divisive 2016 presidential election. The film was an SDFF2020 Official Selection.


Wuhan Wuhan (Yung Chang, 2020) was 1 of 29 features shortlisted for the 2021 International Documentary Association Awards, which was announced Monday.  Wuhan Wuhan, an SDFF 2021 selection, captured life at the initial epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak and explores the universality of the pandemic experience. In total, the IDA list includea 29 feature films, two of which Ascension (Dir. Jessica Kingdon) and Summer of Soul (Dir. Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson) also received six Critics Choice Award nominations this year. Up to 10 nominees will be chosen from among the 29 shortlisted IDA features. The shortlist of short documentaries recognized 17 films; from among those, up to 10 nominees will be selected. Nominations in all categories for the IDA Awards will be announced on Nov. 15. The awards will be presented on February 5, 2022 at the awards’ first in-person ceremony since the pandemic began.

Dava Whisenant’s collaboration with filmmaker Steve Young, Photo-Op was part of the all-shorts opening night program at the Naples Film Festival. Funny and unsettling in equal measure, Photo-Op is a short doc shot on an iPhone about what you are turning over when you hand a stranger your phone to snap a photo.How To Fall In Love In A Pandemic (Michael-David McKernan, 2020) was also screened as part festival this year, which organizers say was marked by a “new fascination with short films.” How To Fall In Love In A Pandemic, is a short about two new lovers who experience an acceleration of their two-week-old relationship when the pandemic hits was an SDFF 2021 official selection. Dava Whisenant’s 2018 documentary feature, Bathtubs Over Broadway, showed at SDFF 2019. Festival organizers gave a thoughtful interview to Naples Daily News about the impact of the pandemic on the submissions they received. You can find it in English here.

Director Penny Lane’s new film, Listening To Kenny G is receiving continued adulation in the independent film world. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and received a prime spot opening DOC NYC, which will be returning to an in-person format this year. The film is also featured on culture mag Vox’s 19 must-see movies from the fall film festivals. The doc is about the extremely famous and much maligned saxophonist Kenny G, which, like Lane’s other films raises more questions than it answers and has gotten quite a bit of attention in the indie press. The documentary is upcoming on HBO. Lane’s film Nuts!was an SDFF 2018 official selection. The list includes two other docs, both soon available via streaming giants Netflix and Apple, respectively. Procession (Robert Greene, 2021), about six Kansas City men who were abused by Catholic priests and clergy as young boys that is more collaborative healing project than exposé; Todd Haynes’s Velvet Underground, a film as much about New York in the 60s and the culture and art of Andy Warhol’s Factory as it is about the band. 

DOC NYC is also the venue for the premiere of Invisible Demonsfilmmaker Rahul Jain’s new doc that captures the effects of climate change in Delhi and the environmental cost of India’s fast-growing economy, while meditating on the aesthetics of human disconnection with the natural world.  This, Jain’s second doc, had its world premiere at Cannes. His first documentary, Machines, a masterful meditation on work, was an SDFF 2018 selection.

Workhorse (Cliff Caines, 2019), an ode and essay on horse-powered labor through the contemporary experiences of three teamsters whose work and lives are intertwined with their stoic equine partners, was screened as part of London’s Forest City Film Festival last week. Workhorse was an SDFF 2020 official selection. 

My Favorite War (Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen, 2020), an animated memoir of a Soviet childhood and an antiwar film that emphasizes the importance of an individual’s right to freedom in a democratic society, was among the recently announced additions to the Manchester Animation Festival, which runs Nov. 14-19. The film will be shown in-person and online, and the festival will also live stream an interview with the film’s director. Virtual streaming is restricted to the UK. 


Documentarian Julia Bacha’s newest project, Boycott will premiere at DOC NYC. The film looks at the recent explosion of laws designed to penalize Americans who push boycotts against Israel. To do so, it tracks the story of three professionals who launch a legal battle and expose infringements on free speech in 30 U.S. states after being forced to choose between their political beliefs and their livelihoods—a news publisher from Arkansas, a speech therapist from Texas, and an Arizona attorney. Julia Bacha’s Naila and the Uprisingwas an SDFF 2020 selection.

Directors Neasa Ní Chianáin and Declan McGrath, and Producer David Rane have collaborated on a new film, Young Plato, about a Catholic elementary school teacher in Belfast who is teaching ancient Greek literature as an antidote for the recent rise in pessimism, violence, and despair, particularly among younger people. The film will have its world premiere at this year’s DOC NYC. Ní Chianáin and Rane also collaborated on the 2016 doc School Life/In Loco Parenti, which focused on innovative teachers. The earlier SDFF 2018 film follows a duo of inspirational teachers who are also married during their final year teaching at Headfort, Ireland’s only primary boarding school, which was noteworthy for its focus on modernity in the curriculum. 

British filmmaker Alfred George Bailey’s new film Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall about infamous 60s culture and music photographer Jim Marshall has been picked up by LA-based sales and distribution outfit Utopia, which will be releasing the film in select theaters nationwide until the end of the month and is also making it available on AppleTV and Altavod. The film looks at Marshall’s life behind the camera. The film originally premiered at SXSW 2019, but has just released a new trailer on youtube to advertise the film’s upcoming release on Utopia Bailey was one of the filmmakers behind the SDFF 2021 racial justice/interpretive dance doc I Still Breathe.

Award-winning composer Nainita Desai (For Sama, The Reason I Jump) is working on the music for the upcoming feature-length doc The Wall—Climb For Gold  (2022), which follows four elite women climbers as they attempt to compete in the first Olympic climbing competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Produced by Windfall Films and supported by Adidas, the unscripted feature will be among the first distributed globally by the LA-based Premiere Digital. For Sama (Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts, 2019) was an SDFF 2020 selection.


Ben Proudfoot’s collaborative short with Kris Bowers, A Concerto Is A Conversation has been selected for one of the Doha Film Institute’s Indie Hits film series. The series is one of two the DFI is putting on as part of the 2021 Qatar-USA Year of Culture, the latest in an annual cultural exchange initiative established by the Qatari Museums to deepen cultural ties with countries around the world. Indie Hits features eight films released over the past five years that have played a significant role in shaping the dynamics of independent cinema, including two features Nine Days (Edson Oda, 2020) and Minari (Lee Isaac Chung, 2020), as well as six shorts, including A Concerto Is A Conversation. DFI’s Indie Hits is complemented by a second Year of Culture program that includes five of the most iconic American indie films from 1973 to 2017. Proudfoot’s films have shown at SDFF numerous times, including 2019’s That’s My Jazz.and 2017’s Montage: Great Film Composers and the Piano.

Earlier this month, Partners In Health held its annual screening of the film that documents the organization’s birth, Bending The Arc (Kief Davidson, Pedro Kos, 2017). In the film, an extraordinary team of doctors and activists — including Paul Farmer, Jim Yong Kim, and Ophelia Dahl — whose work thirty years ago to save lives in a rural Haitian village grew into a global battle in the halls of power for the right to health for all. At the time, the public health establishment had declared it impossible to treat poor people suffering from certain deadly diseases. A small group of very young activists set out to change that, using a revolutionary model, training communities to care for themselves, and treating all people with world-class medicine, has forever changed public health. An SDFF 2018 alumni, the film’s relevance has only grown in the time since its release. It is available to stream on Netflix. 


A picture book, multimedia exhibition and documentary on Oscar-nominated animated documentary short Kapaemahu (Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, 2019) has been announced. The picture book will tell the short film’s central legend about how four extraordinary two-spirit/mahu individuals brought healing arts to Hawaii from Tahiti. The animated legend will also be at the cent er of an immersive multimedia exhibit at the Bishop Museum. The film, an SDFF 2021 selection, was the first native Hawaiian film to clear the first round of voting to become an official Oscar® shortlist film in the animated short film category. The gorgeous work of the film is now evolving into other formats, all exploring the rich history brought to life by the animation. See the full story here.

One All The Waydirector David Baram’s short that tracks a trio of men, including the filmmaker’s father, as they search for New Jersey’s best “Hot Texas Weiner” got written up by Film Threat this week. The popular SDFF 2021 film, which ends up telling the story of Paterson, the U.S.’s first manufacturing center that became a hub for immigrant laborers for nearly two centuries, accounting for the town’s diversity, received an overall positive review from the online film mag. Phil Volker, whose physical and spiritual journey during treatment for stage 4 cancer inspired thousands, died on Oct. 10 at the age of 72. Volker became the subject of two documentaries by filmmaker Annie O’Neil, Phil’s Camino (2016) and Phil’s Camino: So Far, So Good (2018), when he found his dream of pilgrimage to the ancient, 500-mile-long Camino de Santiago derailed by his cancer treatments, and was inspired to build his own Camino in the forest behind his Seattle-area home, where he ended up hiking the distance of the Spanish trail. The film also chronicles Volker’s eventual voyage to fulfill his dream at the real Camino in 2014. Volker also established a community of Camino devotees online that remains active into the present day. Phil’s Camino was and SDFF 2018 Official Selection.

Phil Volker, whose physical and spiritual journey during treatment for stage 4 cancer inspired thousands, died on Oct. 10 at the age of 72. Volker became the subject of two documentaries by filmmaker Annie O’Neil, Phil’s Camino (2016) and Phil’s Camino: So Far, So Good (2018), when he found his dream of pilgrimage to the ancient, 500-mile-long Camino de Santiago derailed by his cancer treatments, and was inspired to build his own Camino in the forest behind his Seattle-area home, where he ended up hiking the distance of the Spanish trail. The film also chronicles Volker’s eventual voyage to fulfill his dream at the real Camino in 2014. Volker also established a community of Camino devotees online that remains active into the present day. Phil’s Camino was and SDFF 2018 Official Selection.


If you missed The Worlds of Urusla K. Le Guin (Arwen Curry, 2018) at SDFF 2019 or Best of the Fest, look for it on PBS’s  American Masterswhere it will be streaming for free through Oct. 31.The film has been made available through a partnership with All Arts’ Ballerina Book Club, which selected Ursula K. Le Guin’s masterpiece The Left Hand of Darkness  as their October book of the month. 

Filmmaker Adam Mazo’s new film Bounty will premiere via streaming through the Maine Historical Society and the Portland Press Herald on Nov. 11. The doc is follows citizens of the Penobscot Nation who bring their families to Boston to read their ancestors’ death warrants, which were part of a 1755 colonial government proclamation that paid settlers to murder the tribespeople. Mazo’s project with Ben Pender-Cudlip, Dawnland, was an Emmy® award winning film and SDFF 2019 official selection. Pre-registrationis required for this online screening. Dawnland has also been shown at a number of special screenings for Native American Heritage Month this October, including University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where Mazo did a post-screening Q&A. 

Gilda Shepperd’s Since I Been Downwill stream from Nov. 21-28 by UC Santa Cruz’s Visualizing Abolitionproject, and will be accompanied by an interview between Sheppard and author adrienne maree brown on 11/26.  Shepperd’s doc approaches intersecting criminal justice and carceral issues by focusing on victims of the 1980s drug war who continue to languish behind bars. Visualizing Abolition is a group of graduate students and faculty aiming to expand discourse on mass incarceration and policing through art, and just received an almost $2 million grant. Registration is required. Since I Been Down will also show at Nashville’s 12th Annual Black Film Festival, which was recently reschedule for Dec. 2-5 and will be a hybrid streaming and in-person fest.

If you have news about an SDFF alumni, please contact us at info@sebastopolfilm.org so we can broadcast it! 

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