2016 Film Award

The 2016 films were selected from more than 175 submissions from across the world.
Selected film

      LEECHES

Best Narrative Short Film

Raisa lives with her Ammi and three younger sisters in Hyderabad’s Old City. When Ammi promises her 13-year old daughter, Zainab, in marriage to a foreign businessman, Raisa decides to save her little sister at any cost. In an old custom that has found new roots among poor families in Muslim ghettos, rich patrons pay for an arrangement brokered by efficient agents, while a pliant cleric draws up both marriage and divorce contracts simultaneously, so that the businessman is free to end the sham union whenever he is ready to leave the city. Desperate to find a way out for Zainab, Raisa hatches a dangerous and improbable plan involving an archaic remedy that claims to restore a girl’s virginity.

Learn about the director

Payal Sethi, Leeches Director

Payal Sethi, Leeches Director

PAYAL SETHI studied film production & history at Vassar College and the Tisch School of the Arts in New York. Post-graduation, she worked as the production and development executive at filmmaker Mira Nair’s Mirabai Films on award-winning films, such as ‘Monsoon Wedding’, ‘Vanity Fair’, and ‘The Namesake.’ After a stint as assistant director on Karan Johar’s ‘Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna,’ she switched roles and served as a screenplay programmer & industry manager for the Tribeca Film Festival, Hamptons Film Festival, Indian Film Festival of New York and Independent Feature Project. She then revamped the Sloan Foundation’s artist support program at Tribeca into the TFI SLoan Filmmaker Fund, which she ran for two years. In 2008, she joined forces with longtime colleague Pooja Kohli to launch FilmKaravan, a unique film distribution and production company. While marketing and distributing South Asian content for a U.S audience, her role at FilmKaravan also included developing & packaging scripts for international co-productions. After 10+ years of working in the industry, Payal decided to embark upon her own creative journey and made her directorial debut with the short film ‘Grant St. Shaving Co.’ Her debut film won the best film award at The Smalls Film Festival & Florence River to River Film Festival and went on to secure distribution in several territories, including Turkey, Japan, the USA & U.K. Her second film as writer, director & producer, ‘Leeches,’ will premiere at the 46th Tampere Film Festival in Finland in March 2016. Payal was recently awarded Asia Society’s New Voices Fellowship for Screenwriters for her original screenplay, ‘Panther,’ a wildlife crime thriller set in Ranthambore & Delhi. She lives in Bangalore, India and is currently working on her first feature film, ‘Ooty Queen.’

Selected film

      TILL THEN

Best Foreign Short Film Audience Choice Award

Set against the backdrop of a rapidly gentrifying Berlin, BIS GLEICH (Till Then) tells the story of Marta and Albert. An unspoken connection between these two elderly neighbors, who share a daily ritual but have never actually met, deepens when they face the inevitable…together.

Learn about the director

Benjamin Wolff

Benjamin Wolff

Director Benjamin Wolff was born in 1974 in Hamburg. He studied at the London Filmschool. In 1994 he made his first experiences as a cutterassisant after that he made experiences as a directing assistant in different production companies. He had his first job as a director in 2000 for German television. He finished the London Filmschool with the shortfilm “like a never ending Sunday”in 2001. Benjamin is also working as an author and shoots documentary movies and portraits.

Selected film

WOMAN OUTSIDE

Best Dramatic Short Film

The indifferent streets of downtown Los Angeles serve as backdrop for a tale of a mentally unstable homeless woman, who, each day, takes up a bench in Grand Park to continue her incoherent diatribe with City Hall across the street. One day, an affluently dressed business woman takes up the bench in front her. Recognizing this woman’s sadness as her own, the homeless woman finds an unexpected connection and with it, a chance at salvation. That night, the businesswoman aches in a disconnected marriage, while on the street, the homeless woman is attacked and her possessions, stolen. The next day, the homeless woman storms into the park to resume her protest again but her fury is diffused by the arrival of the businesswoman looking shattered. Desperate to be seen, desperate to be heard, the homeless woman follows her affluent counterpart down the street, onto a bus, where she tries, once again, to speak.

Learn about the director

Shelly Lauman

Shelly Laman recently earned her MFA in Directing at the American Film Institute Conservatory. From Sydney, classically trained as an actor in Melbourne at the Victorian College of the Arts, Shelly has performed for some of Australia’s most critically acclaimed theatre companies including Belvoir and Sydney Theatre Company.

Mentored by Academy Award winner Jane Campion, she is also the recipient of prestigious awards including the Glorias Fellowship, 2014 Mary Pickford Foundation Endowed Scholarship, Holleigh Bernson Memorial Scholarship and the AFI Scholarship, 2 years in a row. Her first short TWO DUCKS was the winner of the Audience Choice award at the 2009 World of Women Film Festival in Sydney. Gender, body and voicelessness are main themes of her work. She is currently based in Los Angeles.

Selected film

BRIDGING EMCEES

Emerging Filmmaker Award

An MC (a Master of Ceremonies) is considered to be the host of a stage performance as well as a rapper and/or lyricist. This documentary follows over 10 exemplary female MCs who tell their struggles as emerging artists in the Bay Area music scene. These women are placed in a position of being over-sexualized, pitted against one another, and forced to conform to gender stereotypes.
Unfortunately, the case for struggling female musicians is that the mainstream music executives typically showcase only one female MC who is willing to both demoralize and sexualize herself for fame. This leaves other female MCs who are not willing to do the same at the wayside of the music scene.

We watch as the artists dissect and discuss how the hip hop community has evolved and what it has become for female artists as of today. These women feel that it is important to change hip hop’s discourse concerning female artists for both their own community and the world at large. As role models to their local communities these women encourage other young women to follow their passion in music and to not subscribe to the prevalent female stereotypes they may see in the music scene.

Learn about the director

Kelly Jo Noonan

Kelly Jo Noonan

Kelly Jo Noonan, director: Kelly Jo graduated from SFSU in May of 2011 with a BA in Creative Arts with an emphasis in Cinema. In high school she was apart of an ‘ArtQuest’ program all four years in the studies and production of Film, Photography and Music. During her third year of high school she went to an Art Boarding School; The Oxbow School, where she learned to work in multiple mediums of art including: sculpture, painting, photography (digital and darkroom) and printmaking. In her most recent years she has worked as a Freelance Photographer, and as a Director, Assistant Director, Director of Photography, or Camera Operator for a number of student and independent films.

 

 

Laura Valladao

Laura Valladao

Laura Valladao, director: Laura is an independent filmmaker, originally based in the Bay Area. She is passionate about telling stories with images, she often works in the Camera and Lighting Departments on music videos, commercials, and independent films. An alumni of SFSU, Laura is currently pursuing her MFA in Cinematography at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

 

 

 

Megan Loretz

Megan Loretz

Megan Loretz, editor and producer: Megan graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Film and Digital Media with a concentration in Production and a minor in Psychology. She currently works as the Director of Programs at the Community Media Center of Marin since 2010. Megan is passionate about documentary and autobiographical film making.

Selected film

      UNRAVEL

Best Short Documentary

Unravel follows waste clothing on a journey across India, revealing how Western consumption habits are seen on the other side of the globe. Reshma, a young and perceptive worker in a textile recycling mill, dreams of travelling to the countries the cast off clothes are from. While Reshma and other women work, they construct an image of the West that the clothes spark in their imaginations, and share the rumours that travel with them. The film is based on the research of anthropologist Dr. Lucy Norris.

Learn about the director

Meghna Gupta

Meghna Gupta

Meghna’s work is characterised by intimate, accessible and striking storytelling. Whether it’s working with character-based narratives or complex, non-linear material, she creates universal stories to engage diverse audiences.

Alongside live-action, she produces and directs content for the corporate, charity and educational sectors

 

Selected film

THE WAY BACK TO YARASQUIN

The Way Back to Yarasquib - Lipstick & Politics Special Jury Award

Mayra Orellana-Powell’s childhood was similar to many children growing up in rural coffee communities around the world, except for one thing: Mayra’s determined spirit. The second person in her village with a college education and study in the U.S., Mayra provided for herself as an independent, unmarried woman. Mayra dreams big.

This story captures Mayra’s journey from the U.S. back to her hometown in Santa Elena, where she connects small coffee farmers to the specialty coffee market in an effort to raise the standard of living for these farming families. Beyond the exploration for coffee, this story emotionally captures the human side of coffee in a way that will inspire the role coffee lovers play in the sustainable development of rural communities like Santa Elena.

Learn about the director

Sarah Gerber

Sarah Gerber

Sarah Gerber is a filmmaker and Bay Area native working in Berkeley, CA. Her creative eye started it’s development at the tender age of twelve with black and white film photography. This tactile artistic approach spans her work even now, despite the digital age, in both film making and photography. She has gained notoriety with her recent documentary—The Way Back to Yarasquin—which follows a story in coffee-producing Honduras. Sarah has a passion for story-telling that is authentic, culturally relevant, and compelling. Her work lives at the intersection of art and activism, and where art meets tech.

 

 

Selected film

 FRAME BY FRAME

Frame by Frame - Best Documentary Feature Film

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, taking a photo was a crime. After the regime fell from power in 2001, a fledgling free press emerged and a photography revolution was born. Now, as foreign troops and media withdraw, Afghanistan is left to stand on its own, and so are its journalists. Set in a modern Afghanistan bursting with color and character, FRAME BY FRAME follows four Afghan photojournalists as they navigate an emerging and dangerous media landscape – reframing Afghanistan for the world, and for themselves. Through cinema vérité, intimate interviews, powerful photojournalism, and never-before-seen archival footage shot in secret during the Taliban regime, the film connects audiences with four humans in the pursuit of the truth.

Learn about the director

Alexandria Bombach & Mo Scarpelli

Alexandria Bombach & Mo Scarpelli

When Alexandria and Mo first landed in Kabul in 2012, they were struck by the beauty, hope and complexity of a country that is often represented as war-torn and hopeless. With collective experience shooting non-fiction stories in more than 20 countries around the world, they teamed up to raise $75,000 for the film on Kickstarter, and then returned to Afghanistan in 2013 to find more in-depth perspective of Afghanistan through the eyes of local photojournalists.

 

SPECIAL RECOGNITION

Selected film

MILK

Directed by Gabriella Moses
13 min.

Nina, a 9-year-old outcast Dominican girl with albinism, finds herself the target of a jealous classmate’s witch hunt.

Learn about the director

Gabriella A. Moses

Gabriella A. Moses

Gabriella A. Moses is a freelance Director, Writer and Production Designer based in Brooklyn, NY. She is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Her thesis film Las Mañanitas was accepted to numerous festivals and screening series including Sunscreen Film Festival, Cine Las Americas and NYU’s First Run Film Festival where it won Best Ensemble Cast, Production Design and Score and the Katra Film Fest Series where it won Best Film.

Gabriella was selected by the Hispanic Coalition of NY as one of their 2015 Rising Latino Stars. She also served as a Shadow Director for the 2015 ABC Diversity Showcase. Her feature film script for Leche was a Semi-Finalist for the Latino Screenwriting Project sponsored by the Sundance Institute. She has directed commercials, music videos and just completed two shorts for 2015 festival submissions: Sticky Fingers and Leche.

 

 

SPECIAL RECOGNITION

Selected film

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF REGINA JONES

Directed by Gail Twersky Reimer
11 min.

In the Footsteps of Regina Jonas was inspired by a trip, undertaken by America’s pioneering women rabbis, to remember and memorialize the forgotten first woman to be ordained as a rabbi — Regina Jonas. The film follows Rabbi Priesand, (America’s first woman rabbi ordained in 1972, nearly four decades after Jonas), and her colleagues Rabbi Amy Eilberg, Rabbi Sandy Sasso, and Rabba Sara Hurwitz, the first to be ordained by their respective movements, as they walk the Berlin streets that Jonas walked, pour over Jonas’ archive discovered after the fall of the Berlin wall, travel to Terezin, site of the concentration camp to which Jonas was deported before being sent to the gas chambers in Auschwitz, and honor her memory at a moving ceremony at the Terezin columbarium. Deeply moved by Jonas’ faith, determination and perseverance, and distressed by how easily she and her singular achievements were forgotten, the rabbis claim her as their ancestor, pledging to keep her memory alive.

Learn about the director

Gail T. Reimer

Gail T. Reimer

Gail Twersky Reimer recently stepped down from her position as executive director of the Jewish Women’s Archive, the not-for-profit organization she founded in 1995 to document and make known the stories, struggles, and achievements of Jewish women, both celebrated and unheralded. Reimer led the organization for its first two decades, initiating plans for its pioneering digital archive, oral history projects, and educational programs, producing Making Trouble, JWA’s film on women comedians, and teaching and lecturing widely on Jewish women’s history. Reimer’s leadership of JWA has been acknowledged with numerous awards including the Dr. Benjamin J. Shevach Memorial Award for distinguished achievement in Jewish educational leadership by Hebrew College of Boston (2011); the American Jewish Distinguished Service Award from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (2012) and the Lee Max Friedman award for distinguished service in the field of American Jewish History by the American Jewish Historical Society (2014).

Reimer holds a PhD in English and American Literature and has co-edited two anthologies of Jewish women’s writings – Reading Ruth: Women Reclaim a Sacred Story and Beginning Anew: A Woman’s Companion to the High Holy Days.