Finalists Announced for Fall 2017 SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants

14 Film Projects Eligible for $250,000; Winners in Nation’s Largest Grantmaking Program for Narrative Feature Films to Be Announced in November


San Francisco, CA — SFFILM and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation have selected 14 finalists for the latest round of SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants; $250,000 will be distributed to narrative feature film projects at various stages of production. SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants are awarded twice annually to narrative features that tackle social justice issues and will have significant economic or professional impact on the Bay Area filmmaking community. More than $4 million has been awarded since the launch of SFFILM's flagship grant program in 2009. Winners of the fall 2017 SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants will be announced in November.

SFFILM, in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, is the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the United States. The SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grant program has funded more than 50 projects since its inception, including Geremy Jasper's Sundance breakthrough Patti Cake$, which closed the 2017 Cannes Director's Fortnight program, ahead of its summer release; Alex and Andrew Smith's Walking Out starring Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival; Chloé Zhao's Songs My Brothers Taught Me, which screened at Sundance and Cannes in 2015; Short Term 12, Destin Cretton's sophomore feature which won both the Narrative Grand Jury Award and Audience Award at South by Southwest 2013; Ryan Coogler's debut feature Fruitvale Station, which won the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, the Un Certain Regard Avenir Prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the narrative category at Sundance 2013; and Ben Zeitlin's debut phenomenon Beasts of the Southern Wild, which won Sundance's Grand Jury Prize and Cannes' Camera d'Or in 2012 and earned four Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture).  

SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grants are made possible by the generosity of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. In addition to funding, grant recipients also receive various benefits through SFFILM Makers, SFFILM's comprehensive artist development program. These benefits, customized to every individual production, can include one-on-one project consultations, creative development, additional fundraising assistance, resource and service recommendations, and networking opportunities, among many others. For more information visit  


American Babylon
Yvan Iturriaga, writer/director – screenwriting
A gripping tale of love and revolution set in the gritty streets of Oakland, California in the months leading up to 9/11.  

Bitter Melon
H.P. Mendoza, writer/director – post-production
A Filipino-American family reunites in San Francisco for a Christmas party only to discover that one of the sons, Troy, is ruling the house with fear and violence. What starts as a light holiday party turns dark as the youngest son, Declan, masterminds a plan to murder the physically and emotionally abusive Troy.  

Babak Jalali, writer/director; Marjaneh Moghimi, producer – development
Troubled, edgy, unconventional Donya—an Afghani translator formerly working for the US military—now spends her days writing fortunes for a Chinese fortune cookie factory in San Francisco. As she struggles to put her life back in order, in a moment of sudden revelation, she sends out a message, wrapped in a fortune cookie-an act that sends her on an odyssey of deceit, mystery, and redemption.  

The House without Windows
Ani Simon-Kennedy, writer/director – screenwriting
Based on true events, The House Without Windows tells the story of a child prodigy novelist in the 1920s who resists growing up by retreating even deeper into her imagination, to tragic consequences. Her triple disappearance—in real life at the age of 25, in her first novel, and, finally, from the pages of history—stands in stark contrast to her erstwhile fame as America's next great writer.  

Jules of Light and Dark
Daniel Laabs, writer/director; Jeff Walker, Liz Cardenas Franke, and Russell Sheaffer, producers – post-production
A young woman, Maya, struggles to rebuild her life after surviving a devastating car wreck with her girlfriend. The two are found and rescued by an oil worker, Freddy, who forges an unlikely friendship with Maya in this Texas-set drama.  

Last Black Man in San Francisco
Joe Talbot, writer/director; Khaliah Neal, producer – production
Jimmie Fails dreams of buying back the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Now living in the city's last, dwindling Black neighborhood with his oddball best friend Prentice, he searches for belonging in the rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind.  

The Lusty
Silas Howard, co-writer/director; Antonia Crane, co-writer; L.A. Teodosio, producer – development
In the late '90s in San Francisco, due to unsavory work conditions, a dynamic group of irreverent punk artist feminist strippers decides to resist sex-worker stigma and confront the exploitative labor practices at the Lusty Lady Peepshow, resulting in the first successful exotic dancers' union in the world.  

Me, My Mom and Sharmila
Fawzia Mirza, writer/director; Terrie Samundra producer/co-writer – screenwriting
A queer, Pakistani teen, her Muslim immigrant mother, and a Bollywood heroine's destinies intertwine in this bittersweet coming of age tale.  

Monsters and Men
Reinaldo Marcus Green, director; Josh Penn and Elizabeth Lodge Stepp. producers – post-production
Monsters and Men is an interwoven narrative about police violence, racial profiling, and the power of perspective. The story is told in three chapters, each shifting perspective to different protagonists who are from the same Brooklyn neighborhood: first, a man who captures an act of police violence on his cellphone, then, an African-American police officer working in the precinct, and finally, a high-school baseball phenom.  

Mountain Rest
Alexandra Eaton, writer/director; Marcia Mayer, Fernando Loureiro, and Roberto Vasconcellos, producers – post-production
After sequestering herself to a small mountain town, an aging actress calls her estranged daughter and granddaughter home for reconciliation and one final celebration.  

Mr. Rob 
Fawaz Al-Matrouk, writer/director – screenwriting
The true story of Rob Lawrie, an ex-soldier who left his family in England to help migrants at the infamous Jungle refugee camp in France. Lawrie risked everything to rescue a four-year-old girl, entrusted to him by her father, but was arrested and charged with human smuggling.  

Eva Vives, director; Natalie Qasabian, Eric Fleischman, and Sean Tabibian producers – post-production
Just as Nina Geld's brilliant and angry stand-up comedy kicks her career into high gear, her romantic life gets complicated, forcing her to reckon with what it means to be creative, authentic, and a woman in today's culture.   

Deepak Rauniyar, writer/director – screenwriting
Raja is a socially-rooted police procedural, a race-against-time thriller, as well as a portrait of Nepal-a complex society on the edge of a new future.  

Maris Curran, writer/director/producer; Jon Coplon and Marcia Mayer, producers – development
Selene fears she has laryngitis again. On a routine doctor visit to get antibiotics, she is diagnosed with a rare condition that leaves her permanently voiceless. As her world turns upside down and she struggles to communicate and adapt, she discovers that this limitation leads to the opening of a new world.   

SFFILM Makers (formerly "Filmmaker360"), the organization's artist development program, provides significant financial and creative resources to independent filmmakers through grants, fellowships, residencies, fiscal sponsorship, and more. Since 2009, nearly $5 million has been disbursed to more than 150 film projects in various stages of production. Highlights include the SFFILM / Rainin Filmmaking Grant; a joint effort with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to cultivate stories rooted in science and technology; and the Documentary Film Fund, a partnership with the Jenerosity Foundation. For more information, visit

SFFILM is a nonprofit organization with a mission to champion the world's finest films and filmmakers through programs anchored in and inspired by the spirit and values of the San Francisco Bay Area. Presenter of the San Francisco International Film Festival, SFFILM is a year-round organization delivering screenings and events to more than 100,000 film lovers and media education programs to more than 10,000 students and teachers annually. In addition to its public programs, SFFILM supports the careers of independent filmmakers from the Bay Area and beyond with grants, residencies, and other creative development services. For more information visit   This press release is available online at