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Projects Highlighting Police Brutality Against Blacks Selected For SFFS' FilmHouse Residencies

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by Tambay A. Obenson
June 26, 2013 6:41 PM
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Police

You all just might be interested in knowing about 2 of the 3 projects selected for the next class of the San Francisco Film Society's FilmHouse Residencies.

The program, made possible by the generous support of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation with additional support from the San Francisco Film Commission, supports independent filmmaking via six- or twelve-month residencies to independent filmmakers in various stages of production. The residencies include a robust guest speaker series, featuring lectures and presentations by leading industry professionals; resident-led workshops and work-in-progress screenings; access to SFFS networking events; individual project consultation with SFFS Executive Director and acclaimed producer Ted Hope; and numerous other community-building programs and events.

The two projects that immediately got my attention (with respect to this blog's focus) are:

1 - Riders, from the team made up of Gerard McMurray and Ephraim Walker.

It's described as follows: Riders is about a group of rogue police officers who terrorize black residents in West Oakland by making false arrests, violently assaulting residents and committing myriad other civil rights violations. Ultimately, a 23-year-old rookie cop becomes entangled in the corruption and has to face a difficult decision between his obligation to the brotherhood of police and his own sense of morality.

Gerard McMurray is a Howard University grad, who was awarded the Director's Guild of America Student Filmmaker Award for his short film Battle Buddy, in 2011. He earned an MFA from USC's School of Cinematic Arts, also in 2011, and worked as an associate producer on Fruitvale Station.  

Ephraim Walker is a graduate of both USC Gould School of Law and USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he met McMurray and Fruitvale Station writer/director Ryan Coogler. He served as Bay Area production consultant on that film.

2 - Nocturne, by Grainger David. 

The feature narrative is described as follows: Nocturne is the story of a white cop on the verge of retirement who accidentally kills a young black teenager he suspects of a recent robbery and murder. In a moment of extreme weakness, he hides the boy's body in a woodshed—only to return a day later to discover it has disappeared.

We featured South Carolina native Grainger David's NYU Grad Film thesis The Chair, last year, when it screened at SXSW where it won a Jury Prize. It also screened at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival

Clearly there's a theme here, when you consider both of the above projects - white police officers and black victims. Topical wouldn't say? 

Worth noting is that McMurray and Walker were involved in the making of Fruitvale Station (itself a film with a similar theme). Coogler is also an alum of the Filmmaker360 program, which is the parent of the FilmHouse Residencies initiative.

The third film is a documentary that doesn't read anything like the other 2. Titled Very Semi-Serious, it takes an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the 88-year old New Yorker and introduces the cartooning legends and hopefuls who create its iconic cartoons. The project comes from Leah Wolchok, a San Francisco-based filmmaker.

The next application period opens in October for the next term of FilmHouse Residencies beginning in February 2014. For more information, visit sffs.org/Filmmaker360/FilmHouse-Residencies.

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