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Spring 2017 Filmmaking Finalists Announced

San Francisco, CA — SFFILM and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation have selected 14 finalists for the latest round of SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants; more than $250,000 will be distributed to narrative feature film projects at various stages of production. SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants are awarded twice annually to narrative features that will have significant economic or professional impact on the Bay Area filmmaking community. More than $4 million has been awarded since the launch of SFFILM’s flagship grant program in 2009. Winners of the spring 2017 SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants will be announced in June.

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 50 projects since its inception, including Geremy Jasper’s Sundance breakthrough Patti Cake$, which is scheduled to close the upcoming Cannes Director’s Fortnight program, on its way to a July theatrical 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 and has created buzz all over the international festival circuit; Short Term 12 by 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).

Ryan Coogler’s 2014 film “Fruitvale Station”

SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants are made possible by the generosity of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. In addition to funding, grant 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

Spring 2017 SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grant Finalists

The Continental – Aron Kantor, writer/director; K.M. Soehnlein, cowriter – screenwriting
A young gay Latino immigrant working at New York’s legendary Continental Baths gets swept up in the burgeoning gay rights movement and the early disco scene while navigating an affair with his married boss.

87 Fleer – Alex Tse, writer/director; Matt Parker, Carly Hugo and Kelly McCormick producers – packaging
In 1990s working-class San Francisco, Tony makes the jump from junior high to high school. His diverse group of friends is splintered by a whole new world of peer pressure and cliques. Alienated and angry, a series of choices send Tony down a dark path in the search for respect.

Freeland – Kate McLean and Mario Furloni, co-writer/directors; Laura Heberton, producer – production
In the last season of black-market marijuana growing on a remote, failed commune, a mother and a daughter must reconcile their differences in order to survive in an increasingly inhospitable world.

Jinn – Nijla Mu’min, writer/director; Avril Speaks, producer – post-production
Summer is a carefree, Black teenage Instagram celebrity whose world is turned upside down when her mother abruptly converts to Islam and becomes a different person. At first resistant to the faith, she begins to reevaluate her identity after becoming attracted to a Muslim classmate, crossing the thin line between physical desire and piety.

Josephine – Beth de Araújo, writer/director – screenwriting
An obedient eight-year-old girl unintentionally witnesses a rape in Golden Gate Park. Unraveling with fear and paranoia, her subsequent violent outbursts put her family and classmates in jeopardy.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco – Joe Talbot, writer/director; Khaliah Neal and Carlton Evans, producers – production
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.  

Little Woods – Nia DaCosta, writer/director; Rachael Fung and Gabrielle Nadig, producers – post-production
For years, Ollie has illicitly helped the struggling fellow residents of her North Dakota oil boomtown access Canadian health care and medication. When the authorities catch on, she plans to abandon her crusade, only to be dragged in even deeper after a desperate plea for help from her sister, Deb.

The Lusty – Silas Howard, writer/director; Antonia Crane, cowriter; L.A. Teodosio, producer – packaging
In the late ’90s in San Francisco, due to unsavory work conditions, a dynamic group of irreverent, punk, artist, feminist strippers decide to resist sex-worker stigma and confront the exploitative labor practices at The Lusty Lady Peepshow, resulting in the first successful exotic dancer’s union in the world.

Music Moves Us – Cyrus Tabar, writer/director – screenwriting
In the near future where music is outlawed in an authoritarian state, a passionate woman and her friends in Oakland, California, throw illegal techno dance parties and broadcast on a bootleg pirate radio station to bring people together.

Raja – Deepak Rauniyar, writer/director – screenwriting
Raja is a socially rooted police procedural and a race-against-time thriller, as well as a portrait of Nepal, a complex society on the edge of a new future.

Refuge – Mohammad Gorjestani, writer/director; Malcolm Pullinger, producer – screenwriting
Set in 2025, a brewing cyberwar between the US and Iran puts Sonia, a young Iranian refugee and activist, at risk of deportation or internment. Her only escape may come at a greater price than she’s willing to pay.

A Rooster on the Fire Escape – Guetty Felin, writer/director/producer; Danielle Dreis, producer – packaging
Upon coming to America, the Celestin family was hopping to leave behind the traumas of the brutal dictatorship of their tropical native land, but the sacrifices they made for their freedom create dark spiral from which they might not recover.

Sorry to Bother You – Boots Riley, writer/director; Jonathan Duffy, George Rush and Kelly Williams, producers – production
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.

We the Animals – Jeremiah Zagar, writer/director; Jeremy Yaches and Christina King, producers – post-production
Based on the bestselling novel by Justin Torres, We the Animals explores the beautiful and savage nature of family and the viscerally charged landscape of youth through the eyes of Jonah, the youngest son of a mixed-race working-class couple as he discovers his artistic identity.     

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

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 140 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

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