2023 SFFILM Festival Winners Include ‘Earth Mama’ – IndieWire

Savanah Leaf’s debut ‘Earth Mama’ is starting to look like early awards season for distributor A24. After successful premieres at Sundance and New Directors/New Films, the drama about a young black mother’s struggle to extricate her children from the foster care system just won the Audience Award at SFFILM, aka the San Francisco International Film Festival. Notably, “Earth Mama” is a Bay Area creation by former Olympian-athlete-turned-filmmaker Leaf, who casts non-professional actors in the film.

IndieWire shares the full list of Golden Gate Award winners from the now 66th SFFILM, which took place April 12-23.

Award winners range from narrative works to documentaries and short films. The awards are also notable as the Oscars for films under 40 minutes. Past Golden Gate Award winners include Panah Panahi, Reid Davenport, Nadav Lapid, Marlon Riggs, Céline Sciamma, Jia Zhang-ke, Stanley Nelson and Tasha Van Zandt.

Winner of a new director’s award
“Snow and the Bear”
Director: Selcen Ergun (Turkey)

Jury statement: “Selcen Ergun is the winner of the New Directors Award for his debut film ‘Snow and the Bear’, which shows landscape, tension and character development while captivating us with small-town drama and eternal challenge.” man vs nature. Asli, the protagonist, emotes beautifully, mirroring Selcen’s sensitive direction, and we shuddered along with her as she searched for the truth in a never-ending winter.

McBaine Documentary Award Winner
“Smoke sauna brotherhood”
Director: Anna Hints (Estonia, France, Iceland; 2023; 89 minutes)

Jury statement: “We chose ‘Smoke Sauna Sisterhood’ for the documentary because of its fascinating intimacy, both with the participants and its visual style. Anna Hints’ subtle, deliberate cinematography transports viewers to southern Estonia, allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in the sauna tradition. Breathtaking and heartbreaking, Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a portal that allows us to feel like we are sitting on the bench with the women who have come to participate in this sacred ritual to heal.”

McBaine Bay Area Documentary Award
Home is a hotel
Director: Kevin Duncan Wong, Todd Sills + Kar Yin Tham (USA)

Jury Statement: “There is no film more timely or important for the Bay Area during the current housing crisis – ‘Home is a Hotel’ is essential viewing to foster empathy for those facing the insurmountable challenges of affordability in San Francisco.” This critically acclaimed film by local filmmakers thoughtfully captures an overlooked population that deserves our attention.”

Golden Gate narrative short winner
“Set Lam”
Director: Vincent Fontano (France)

The jury’s statement: “For the impressive use of image and sound within a poetic and unique narrative in a completely immersive environment full of authenticity, vision and emotional resonance, and guided by a confident filmmaking performance, the jury awarded the narrative prize to the following. Vincent Fontano: Set Lam.

Golden Gate Short Documentary Winner
“Direcciones” (“Addresses”)
Director: María Luisa Santos + Carlo Nasisse (Costa Rica)

The jury’s statement: “The jury awards “Direcciones” (“Addresses”) with the Documentary Films prize for the strong exploration of cultural characteristics. Through beautiful cinematography, sound and story, the film tells a complex story that transcends space and convention. In a category with very strong films, this stood out from its peers.”

Golden Gate animated short film winner
“on water”
Director: Iyabo Kwayana (USA, Singapore)

The jury’s statement: “”By Water” was created with a masterful use of mixed media, with an intimate feeling. Iyabo Kwayana leaves an unforgettable impression on the viewer with a stunning soundscape and gorgeous, tender character work. For these reasons, we are delighted to award ‘By Water’ with the Best Animated Short Award.”

Bay Area Short Film Award
“Quiet Waters”
Director: Aurora Brachman (USA; 2021)

Jury statement: “For its painfully honest portrayal, personal courage and poignant exploration of family ties, Aurora Brachman’s “Still Waters” was selected by the jury for the Bay Area Shorts Award. The jury felt that viewers were invited into intimate and sacred moments, which in turn gave space to the power of relationships and storytelling to find new meaning.”

Mid length winner
“What These Walls Won’t Hold”
Director: Adamu Chan (USA)

Jury statement: “The jury commends the film for its strong point of view and its unflinching look at life at San Quentin. Filmmaker Adamu Chan demonstrates his dedication to his craft by persevering with an inspiring and necessary tale of life incarcerated during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The jury was moved by the relationships and voices of the people captured in the film, so ‘What These Walls Can’t Stand’ was awarded the Best Medium Film Award in 2023.”

Cine Latino Jury Prize
“Daughter of Rage” (“La Hija de todas las Rabias”)
Director: Laura Baumeister (Nicaragua, Mexico, Netherlands, Germany, France, Norway, Spain)

The jury’s statement: “We chose the film for its nuanced portrait of the untold story of women – an 11-year-old girl and her mother – who survive in Nicaragua’s largest garbage dump in the midst of political turmoil. “Daughter of Rage” depicts the profound journey of a young coming-of-age girl separated from her mother. The film’s magical realism offers a unique perspective, guiding the viewer through this quiet yet captivating story.”

Golden Gate Short Family Film Award Winner
“El Moño”
Director: Luis Fernando Puente + Lizde Arias (USA)

The jury’s statement: “Due to its serious, energetic and imaginative use of storytelling, which enchants and engages audiences of all ages, the jury chose “El Moño” as the first prize winner in the family film short film category. Researching traditions between generations with the help of dazzling magical realism, the jury was captivated by life and all its whims before the eyes of a young girl. “El Moño” reminds us how important it is to believe with a little imagination.”

Family film tribute
“New Moon”
Director: Jeff Le Bars + Jérémie Balais (France, USA)

Jury statement: “The jury gives special recognition to ‘New Moon’ for its fresh and powerful use of poetic storytelling. A love letter to mothers and their sons, this film uses theatrical narration to explore the importance of dreams and wishes despite the hardships faced by black Americans growing up in the second half of the twentieth century.”

Winner of the Youth Works Award
“My Sisters in the Stars: The Story of Lee Yong-soo”
Director: Ian Kim (USA, South Korea)

Youth Works honorarium
“American Ball Game”
Director: Teja Mettu + Krish Mysoor (USA, 2022)

Audience Award – Narrative
“Mother Earth”
Director: Savanah Leaf

Audience Award – Documentary
“Home is a hotel”
Directed by Kevin Duncan Wong, Todd Sills + Kar Yin Tham

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