Written by Ted Hope
What would Variety, Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, The Wrap, MovieCityNews, Filmmaker Magazine & Deadline report if a single film company took the following awards at Sundance this year?
I can’t help but think they would announce the arrival of a powerhouse.
Well, allow me the pleasure of breaking such an announcement. In case you missed it: a filmmaking renaissance is happening in The Bay Area. All of the following films that premiered at Sundance and won an award there had a major Bay Area connection: Fruitvale, Afternoon Delight, Cutie and the Boxer, Inequality For All, and American Promise.
I don’t know when was the last time a film won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance as Fruitvale did this year. Not only is director Ryan Coogler from Oakland, not only was the story and subject from The Bay Area, not only was the film shot in The Bay Area, and not only was it mixed at Skywalker, but the San Francisco Film Society & The Kenneth Rainin Foundation granted the film $200,000.
If that wasn’t enough to crow about, allow me the thrill of mentioning that this is the second year in a row that a film supported by the San Francisco Film Society & The Kenneth Rainin Foundation won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Yup, Beasts Of The Southern Wild received similar support last year as Fruitvale did this year. Do we need non-profit support in order to make ambitious socially relevant cinema in America? It sure damn looks that way, and if it is not necessary, it sure helps! A market-driven entertainment economy encourages one thing; if we want diversity we must support our cultural institutions (and build new ones!).
Yes, it’s true that the Directing Award at Sundance is one of the great honors. Yes, the aforementioned Afternoon Delight won that award for Narrative, and Cutie and the Boxer, directed by Zachary Heinzerling, won for Documentary. The San Francisco Film Society’s Doc Film Fund gave Cutie and the Boxer‘s $50,000… That ain’t chicken feed. And that’s a Bay Area connection for both sections’ Directing Award. It must be something in the water!
But The Bay Area’s dominance continues on from there. It kind of takes your breathe away, doesn’t it? The other winner of a Special Jury Prize For Documentary Film, Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson’s American Promise, also received funding from The San Francisco Film Society. How great is it to give money away to films that lift our culture up? I suppose you don’t know that feeling until you’ve done it, but know what? You too can do it and I will tell you how below…
Yup. Five films. Count ‘em and tells what it all adds up to…
That is five films, six awards, at Sundance 2013 with Bay Area connections. Pretty awesome. In addition to all of that, the Bay Area was represented by other filmmakers at Sundance too; Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman were there with TWO films, one narrative, one doc: Lovelace and The Battle For AmFar. The list goes on and on and on.
That is not a rumbling you are feeling underground, that is the roar of a community’s heart beating as one, and quite rapidly at that mind you. You don’t just have to be from Poland to have that flutter (if you watched the Awards, you will understand the reference).
I am investing my time, labor, & mind to help building a better infrastructure for such cinema through the SFFS. But it takes more. Money almost always helps. Please consider doing what you can to keep this exciting time alive. Join SFFS & become a member. Support SFFS here. It takes more than a village if we are going to build it better. We can only do it together.
The San Francisco International Film Festival is the longest running film festival in the Americas. I hope to see you there this year (April 25- May 9th); we have some great stuff planned for you. The San Francisco Film Society was founded 56 years ago. It was built by the passion and commitment of several key individuals. We lost one of those individuals just as the Sundance Film Festival began this year. George Gund’s love and knowledge of cinema was as legendary as his great spirit and generosity. I can not help but think of how wide his grin would be now in knowing the legacy his support has helped build. Thank you, George.