Grants & Fellowships

Documentary Film Fund

This grant is no longer accepting applications. Submissions will reopen in March of 2019.


The SFFILM Documentary Film Fund (DFF) supports riveting documentaries in post-production distinguished by compelling stories, intriguing characters and an innovative visual approach. Since its launch in 2011, the SFFILM Documentary Film Fund has distributed more than $650,000 to advance new work by filmmakers nationwide.

DFF grants, awarded once each year to documentary feature projects, are open to filmmakers internationally. Exact amounts of individual grants and the number of grants made will be determined on an annual basis. As with all SFFILM grants, in addition to the cash awards, recipients will gain access to numerous benefits through SFFILM Makers, the comprehensive and dynamic artist development program. The SFFILM Documentary Film Fund has an excellent track record for championing compelling films that have gone on to earn great acclaim. Previous DFF winners include Zachary Heinzerling's Cutie and the Boxer, which won Sundance's Directing Award for documentary and was nominated for the 2014 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature; Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson's American Promise, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and won the festival's Special Jury Prize in the documentary category; and Jason Zeldes's Romeo Is Bleeding, which had its World Premiere at the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival.


The Feeling of Being Watched - Assia Boundaoui, director/producer; Jessica Devaney, producer - $25,000

When a filmmaker investigates rumors of surveillance in her Arab-American neighborhood in Chicago, she uncovers one of the largest FBI terrorism probes conducted before 9/11 and reveals its enduring impact on the community.  
Hale County, This Morning, This Evening - RaMell Ross, director; Joslyn Barnes and Su Kim, producers - $15,000
What is the experience of coming-of-age in the Black Belt region of the US? This film presents the lives of two young men in a series of visual movements that replace narrative arc with orchestral form.

Heaven Through the Back Door - Anna Fitch and Banker White, co-director/producers; Sara Dosa, producer - $20,000
Heaven Through the Backdoor is a contemplative documentary that tells the story of Yo (Yolanda Shae), a fiercely independent 88-year old woman whose unique brand of individualist feminism impacts how she chooses to live in the final years of her life. (Former SFFILM FilmHouse resident; Bay Area-based project)
How to Have an American Baby - Leslie Tai, director/producer; Jillian Schultz, co-producer - $20,000
There is a city in Southern California that abounds with pregnant women from China. Told through multiple perspectives, How to Have an American Baby is a kaleidoscopic voyage behind the closed doors of the Chinese birth tourism industry. (SFFILM FilmHouse resident; SFFILM fiscally sponsored filmmaker; Bay Area-based project)

A Machine to Live In - Yoni Goldstein and Meredith Zielke, co-directors; Sebastian Alvarez, producer; Andrew Benz, co-producer - $20,000
Hovering over what remains of Brazil's modernist future, this film looks at how social control, rational design, and space-age architecture gave rise to a vast landscape of transcendental and mystical utopias. (Bay Area-based project)  

Midnight Family - Luke Lorentzen, director; Kellen Quinn, producer; Daniela Alatorre, and Elena Fortes, co-producers - $25,000
In Mexico City, 16-year-old Juan Ochoa struggles to legitimize his family's unlicensed ambulance business, as corrupt police in the neighborhood begin to target this cutthroat industry.