2016 Film Awards

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

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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.’

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.