We stand in solidarity with people of color and anti-racists protesting police violence and other forms of state-sanctioned white supremacy. In support of this ongoing movement, and in-keeping with our belief in the power of documentary to help us look beyond ourselves and to foster critical thinking, we’re adding a permanent, evolving section to this website, dedicated to social justice in documentary media, Click Here to see the beginning of that page–a selection of documentary suggestions about racism in the U.S.

Congratulations to SDFF Alumni on IDA Award Wins!

Congratulations to Jim LeBrecht and Sara Bolder for Crimp Camp‘s wins! Crimp Camp won the International Documentary Association Awards for Best Feature and ABC News VideoSource Award. It also garnered an honorable mention for he Pare Lorentz Award. The film was directed and produced by LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham and produced by Sara Bolder. It is a movie that we cannot recommend highly enough for the story it tells about how disability rights became common parlance in the U.S., and how to make social change. LeBrecht has been a supporter of SDFF for many years, appearing on numerous panels, using his time to generously help guide new filmmakers. He’s also composed music and done sound design on more films than we can name.  Crip Camp was produced by Netflix and is available to stream now.

See Trailer Now!

Also, the warmest digital applause to Nels Bangerter for collecting a Best Editing Award and Best Writing Award with Director Kirsten Johnson for Dick Johnson Is DeadBangerter edited SDFF 2011 Selection Out In The Silence and 2014’s Kuma Hina. While at SDFF, he would consistently give feedback at Peer Pitch and made himself available to new filmmakers. Dick Johnson Is Dead is an imaginative and complicated piece of work in which daughter and filmmaker Kirsten Johnson explores how movies can be used to grapple with some of life’s most profound experiences. Dick Johnson Is Dead was produced on Netflix and is available to stream now.

Watch Trailer Now!

SDFF Alum Ben Proudfoot Collabs with NY Times OpDocs
Off to Sundance 2021, Shortlisted for IDA 2020

Hands of grandfather Horace Bowers from Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers’s short A Concerto Is A Conversation, one in a series of New York Times OpDoc collaborations, available to stream here.

Ben Proudfoot, whose SDFF 2020 entry That’s My Jazz, was a fan favorite, is seeing his ongoing collaborations with the New York Times OpDocs celebrated across the film world. The short A Concerto is a Conversation, co-directed by composer Kris Bowers was recently accepted to Sundance 2021, while Almost Famous: The Lost Astronaut has been shortlisted for the 2020 International Documentary Association Awards.

A Concerto is a Conversation was part of  a NY Times series, “Can’t be with your grandparents? Watch this instead,” which was released around Thanksgiving 2020, a family holiday many people endured in isolation due to pandemic-related safety precautions. The film tells the story of a virtuoso jazz pianist and film composer Kris Bowers, who also a co-directs the film, and his relationship with his grandfather Horace. The titular concerto refers to the mirrored conversations tracked by the film—one between soloist and orchestra, the other between grandfather and grandson, as Kris traverses his family’s lineage through his 91 year-old grandfather, from Jim Crow Florida to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In conversation, Kris draws a personal tale from his grandfather that seems to encompass the history of 20th Century racism in America as it goes, from the explicit segregation of the deep south to the implicit bias and quiet bigotry that compelled Horace to conduct business via mail to obscure his skin color after he’d moved west. Told in the warmly lit spaces of the family home, the short is as much an homage to the relative safety and support of family and the complex beauty of intergenerational relationships as it is about the harsh social spaces Horace has occupied throughout his life. The film is lovingly rendered and feels deeply appropriate to a moment in which so many are losing their family elders. See Proudfoot talk about the film and its upcoming Sundance appearance in this Nashville Noise interview.

Hands of grandson Kris Bowers from Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers’s short A Concerto Is A Conversation, one in a series of New York Times OpDoc collaborations. 

Congrats to SDFF Alums on their IDA 2021 Nominations!

Congratulations to Jim LeBrecht (director/producer) and Sara Bolder (producer) whose groundbreaking directorial debut Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution has been nominated for best feature film and best director. Crip Camp reflects on a summer camp located close to Woodstock, which galvanized a group of teens with disabilities, becoming activists who would take the Country by storm, forging a path that has made the world a more equal place for everyone. LeBrecht and Bolder have been a longtime friends to SDFF, with LeBrecht designing sound, composing and scoring more of our films than we can possibly count. Crip Camp is available to stream right now on Netflix, check out the trailer here.

Congratulations to Jaime Meltzer and Chris Filippone, whose film Huntsville Station is up for Best Short.  Huntsville Station is a meditative look at a moment of major transition as inmates released from Texas State Penitentiary encounter the small pleasures of everyday life waiting for the bus. Meltzer’s film Informant won SDFF’s jury prize in 2012. We also highly recommend True Conviction, which speaks to the present moment. See Huntsville Station here.

Kudos to director Jerry Rothwell  whose film The Reason I Jump won the 2020 Sundance World Cinema Documentary Audience Award. A cinematic adaptation of a book written by 13 year-old Naoki Higashida, it seeks to create an immersive experience evocative of the lived experiences of nonspeaking autistic people. The film fuses Higashida’s insights with intimate portraits of 5 exceptional young people, each of whom experiences reality in a remarkably different way. The film evokes Rothwell’s early film and SDFF 2009 audience sneaker hit, Heavy Load, about a group of people with learning disabilities who start a punk band. Rothwell’s Sour Grapes (2017) and How To Change The World (2016) have also graced SDFF’s screens.

Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa by SDFF alums Barbara and Mike Attie and Janet Goldwater won the AFI Docs 2020 Grand Jury Short Award  and is shortlisted in IDA’s Best Short category. This documents an abortion helpline in Philadelphia, through which counselors field urgent calls from who people seek to end a pregnancy, but can’t afford to. “Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa” reveals the brutal impact of the Hyde Amendment, designed to prevent those struggling financially from access to abortion. The short has particular resonance this week, as the U.S. Supreme Court banned women’s access to the “abortion pill” without an in-person physician visit. Given travel restrictions around COVID 19, the ruling makes the pill almost inaccessible to women who live in health care deserts, rural areas and states with strict abortion restrictions. All three filmmakers have shown work at SDFF. Mike Attie’s Moment To Moment was an SDFF 2020 Official Selection, In Country showed in 2014, and Mr. Mack’s Kitchen in 2010. Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater have worked together on multiple projects, including Bob’s Knee, which showed as part of SDFF 2009.

If the surprise Supreme Court decision and Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa  piqued your interest in the relationship between women’s health, self-determination and citizenship, you should also take a look at SDFF2020 selection Personhood: Policing Pregnant Women In America (Jo Ardinger, 2019). Personhood tells a story that ripples far beyond the right to choose and into the lives of every pregnant person in America. It focuses on Tammy Loertscher, whose fetus was given to an attorney, while the courts denied Tammy her constitutional rights. In this timely documentary, we see her sent to jail, and then forced to challenge a Wisconsin law that eroded her privacy, her right to due process, and her body sovereignty. Personhood reveals the danger of fetal rights laws which now exist in thirty-eight states. These little known laws encourage the surveillance and criminalization of pregnant women, while disproportionately targeting lower income women and women of color. These laws lie at the intersection of the erosion of women’s rights, the war on drugs, and our mass incarceration complex. Personhood is available to stream on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.

Revisiting hillbilly

2018 Doc Resonates in the Present Day, Provides Context for Hillbilly Elegy Adaptation, and the Critical Discourse Around It

Behind-the-scenes. Production still from the making of hillbilly (Ashley York and Sally Rubin, 2018), an SDFF 2019 Official Selection that is currently available to stream on both Netflix and Amazon Prime.

When Netflix delivered Ron Howard’s film adaptation of J.D. Vance’s bestseller Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family in Crisis to the small screen after the 2020 election, it returned the autobiographical work and the ways in which it had been used during the 2016 election to heavy public scrutiny. Though Vance has been critical of the Trump administration, the book was released amid a contentious national election, and became almost omnipresent across a diverse array of media and news outlets. In general, both book and author as “authentic” voices of the rural, working-class, conservative, white Americans whose votes put President Donald Trump into office. Ironically, the veracity of the hillbilly archetype that Vance both perpetuates and criticizes was purposefully developed and maintained across American popular culture since the 1870s. That history is made tangible in Sally Rubin and Ashley York’s 2018 documentary hillbilly, the relevance of which has only grown in the years since its release. The documentary poses questions about the relationship between representation, perception and systemic oppression that have become central to understanding American cultural and political life and personal experiences within it. As Sally Rubin, co-Director of (Sally Rubin and Ashley York, 2018) wrote to us in December:

Pop culture helps to bridge divides of all kinds (regional, socio-economic, and political divides are just a few) by helping people from different backgrounds to understand viscerally the experiences of others. Pop culture, including documentary, has the potential to bridge divides deeply and quickly, through providing examples of real people living in ways that may be unfamiliar and based on mere caricatures and stereotypes.

-Sally Rubin, co-Director, hillbilly