A heartfelt congratulations to SDFF alum Skye Fitzgerald, whose deeply humanistic observational doc, Hunger Ward: The Last Hope Against War and Starvation, was recently nominated for an Academy Award® for live-action documentary short. A visceral and intensely emotional document of a doctor and nurse attempting to save starving Yemeni children, the film gives a human aspect to six years of war and famine. The film is the third in Fitzgerald’s “Humanitarian Cinema Trilogy,” which also includes 50 Feet from Syria (2015, 39 mins), a film focused on doctors working on the Syrian border, and SDFF 2019 selection Lifeboat (2018, 34 mins), which showcased the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean by following search and rescue operations off the Libyan Coast. The uncompromising commitment to empathy as a filmmaking practice that defines this trio of films appears in its fullest aspect in Hunger Ward, which renders its subjects emotionally legible and ineluctably human.


As with the other films in Fitzgerald’s Humanist Cinema Trilogy, Hunger Ward has not only met with critical enthusiasm, it has also found itself in excellent company after being picked up by MTV Documentary Films in late February. While such a sobering, difficult piece of work may seem like an odd match for MTV at first glance, the music giant’s documentary filmmaking department has begun acquiring an impressive slate of films over the past year, from SDFF fave Gay Chorus Deep South (David Charles Rodrigues, 2019), to much-anticipated short A Life Too Short (Safyah Usmani, 2021) to Oscar contender 76 Days (Hao Wu, 2020), which was shot inside Wuhan hospitals during the early COVID days. Hunger Ward is set to premiere on ViacommCBS digital linear streaming platform Pluto TV on March 1, where it will join a growing roster of compelling documentaries. In addition, Hunger Ward will continue to stream at film festivals and special events, many of which include panel discussions and/or Q&As. The details for these upcoming screenings are available on the film’s website under “See The Film.”


Fitzgerald’s “Humanitarian Cinema” films, Hunger Ward included, have been honored by critics, appearing on Academy Awards® shortlists, garnering nominations for Emmy’s®, and IDA awards. However, while his artistry as a filmmaker has been critically acclaimed, his work is also hugely important in calling attention to humanitarian issues by capturing the emotional stakes of his subjects without losing sight of the political, economic and systemic issues that produce human suffering and desperation in the first place. The humanitarian issues at the center of his films emotionally palpable, immediate and actionable. To that end, the Hunger Ward website includes supplemental information on the crisis in Yemen and ways to get involved.

Watch Hunger Ward Trailer  l  Visit Hunger Ward Website
Hunger Ward Screening Events (below)


Date How to RSVP Hosted By
Tue 3/2, 6pm EST email to: Spin Film
Thu 3/4, 9pm EST Museum of Tolerance (L.A.)
Mon, 3/8, 1pm EST email to: Spin Film


Congratulations to Jim LeBrecht and Sara Bolder for Crimp Camp’s recent Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature, and for the flurry of wins that led up to it! 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. With over 170 film credits to his name, LeBrecht is a Bay Area film luminary, who founded Berkeley Sound Artists (BSA), which specializes in post production audio for documentaries and has operated for over 20 years. He was added to SF Film’s Essential List, honoring Bay Area film luminaries in 2017, has penned and published articles on sound in documentary, and given master classes in sound design for institutions like the International Documentary Association. LeBrecht has been a supporter of SDFF for many years, appearing on numerous panels, guiding and encouraging new filmmakers. He’s also composed music and done sound design on more films than we can name. His credits include the Academy Award-winning The Blood of Yingzhou District (Ruby Yang, 2006) and Emmy/Academy Award-winning shortform doc, 4.1 Miles (Daphne Matrziaraki, 2017), which is available to stream on PBS’s POV. Recent SDFF films include The Pushouts, Bathtubs Over Broadway and From Baghdad to the Bay. On top of all of his film ventures, LeBrecht has been a lifelong, ardent disability rights advocate, and it is this purpose and passion that Crip Camp captures.

Crip Camp was produced by Netflix and Higher Grounds Productions (co-founded by Michelle and Barack Obama) is available to stream now.

See Trailer Now!


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.

Sebastopol film festival

SDFF 2018 filmmaker and conflict photographer Kate Brooks participated in a live, online education event for Earth Day, “Confronting Extinction,” which is now available via free streaming. The Last Animals filmmaker and conflict photographer Kate Brooks spoke on filmmaking/journalism as methods activism and conservation during an Earth Day presented by The Last Animals Foundation and The event was hosted by 17 year-old British activist Bella Lack, and includes two 40-minute panels. Kate appears in the first, “Confronting Extinction,” but a related and quite topical panel “Impacts of Illegal Wildlife Markets,” is also streaming for free now, and focuses on the impacts of poaching and wildlife market. Organizers recommend watching The Last Animals in preparation for the live lessons.

The Last Animals (Kate Brooks, 2017) is about an extraordinary group of people who go to great lengths to save the planet’s last animals. This documentary follows the conservationists, scientists, and activists battling poachers and trafficking syndicates to protect elephants and rhinos from extinction. The Last Animals follows the struggle on Africa’s front lines, behind the scenes in Asian markets, and here, the U.S. The film takes an intense look at the global response to this slaughter and the measures to genetically rescue the Northern White rhinos from the edge of extinction.