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$490,000 Awarded to the 20 Winners of the 2021 SFFILM Rainin Grants



$490,000 in Grants Awarded to Twenty Narrative Feature Projects in Various Stages of Production


San Francisco, CA – SFFILM, in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, announced today the projects that will receive a total of $490,000 in funding in the latest round of SFFILM Rainin Grants along with the two recipients of the SFFILM Rainin Filmmakers with Disabilities Grant.Twenty filmmaking teams were granted funding to support the next stage of their creative process, in screenwriting and development. SFFILM Rainin Grants are awarded annually to filmmakers whose narrative feature films meaningfully explore pressing social issues and/or have significant economic or professional impact on the Bay Area filmmaking community. The SFFILM Rainin Filmmakers with Disabilities Grant has been introduced to provide additional support to Rainin applicants whose films specifically address stories from the disability community.

The next application period for SFFILM Rainin Grants opens Winter 2021; for more information visit

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 Grant program has awarded over $5 million to more than 100 projects since its inception, including Channing Godfrey Peoples’ Miss Juneteenth, which premiered to great acclaim at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival; Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco, which won a record number of juried prizes at Sundance 2019 and was released in theaters nationwide by A24; Nijla Mu’min’s Jinn, which won a Special Jury Award at SXSW 2018 following its premiere there; Boots Riley’s indie breakthrough Sorry to Bother You, which had a successful release in 2018 through Annapurna Pictures before winning an Indie Spirit Award for Best First Feature; Reinaldo Marcus Green’s Monsters and Men, which won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance 2018; Short Term 12, Destin Cretton’s sophomore feature which won both the Narrative Grand Jury Award and Audience Award at SXSW 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).





The panelists who reviewed the finalists’ submissions are Cullen Conley, Manager, Mosaic; Gabriel Mayer, Creative Executive, Killer Films; Lauren McBride, Artist Development Director, SFFILM; Rosa Morales, Artist Development Associate Manager: Narrative Film, SFFILM; Ted Russell, Director, Arts Strategy & Ventures, Kenneth Rainin Foundation. 


The panel noted in a statement: “We were fascinated with the breadth of life experience, genre, scope, and diverse voices in this remarkable group of filmmakers. Their narratives explore personal, cultural, and historical depths of storytelling. We often see projects in which diverse identities are at the forefront, pushed as a commodity. But in this slate of films we were impressed by how deeply the writers explore humanity first. They have demonstrated passionate and unique points of view. We are thrilled to work with this talented group and are proud to support both the projects and the artists behind them.”



Ale and the Boxer

Alexandre Moratto, writer/director/producer; Ramin Bahrani, producer - $25,000 for screenwriting


A tumultuous love story about two young gay Latinx lovers — Ale, fighting to survive during the economic recession and the pandemic, and Samuel, an amateur boxer on the rise with pent-up violence.



Kurt Orderson, director—$25,000 for screenwriting


A talented but impulsive graffiti artist makes the connection between his art and ancient San rockart forms still alive in his hometown. On the journey, he takes up the calling to explore a deeper magic that exists to renew a culture made a crime. In the end, he must learn that realizing his full purpose means accepting the ultimate fate in a city designed to kill him.


Coyote Boys

Haley Elizabeth Anderson, writer/director—$25,000 for development


A stream of days that make up the life and journey of a young train-hopping graffiti writer, Coyote Boys is a contemporary odyssey through fringe communities, centered on rootless youth experiencing loss and loneliness—trying to find alternative ways of surviving 21st century America.



Lucretia Stinnette, director; Mel Jones and Darren Colston, producers—$25,000 for screenwriting


In West Oakland a young woman finds herself without a place to call home, timed out foster care, and a survivor of sexual exploitation. Without a roof over her head, and caught in a system that would rather forget her, she must not only find a way to survive, but discover who she truly is. But can she find a way forward without confronting her past?


Dìdi (弟弟)

Sean Wang, writer/director/producer—$25,000 for screenwriting


Fremont, CA. 2008. In the last month of summer before high school begins, an impressionable Taiwanese-American boy learns what his family can’t teach him: how to skate, how to flirt, and how to love your mom.


Earth Mama

Savannah Leaf, writer/director/producer; Cody Ryder and Danielle Massie, producers—$25,000 for development


Gia, a young mother reaching the end of her third pregnancy, struggles with the uncertain future of her unborn child, her other two children having already been taken from her by Child Protective Services.


Fancy Dance

Erica Tremblay, writer/director/producer; Miciana Alise, writer—$25,000 for screenwriting


Following the disappearance of her sister, a Native American hustler kidnaps her niece from her white grandparents and sets out for the state powwow in the hopes of keeping what’s left of their family intact.


God Help the Gayes (They're Getting Divorced)

Huriyyah Muhammad, writer/ director/producer—$25,000 for screenwriting


As the world awaits a new ruling from the Supreme Court that could effectively reverse marriage equality, a local celebrity couple, Pam and Rosa Gaye, are thrust into the spotlight and hands of a publicity seeking marriage counselor when Rosa announces she wants a divorce.


Magnolia Bloom

Phillip Youmans, writer/ director—$25,000 for development


Magnolia Bloom is a story of young love and rebellion in 1960s New Orleans. 



Meryam Joobeur, director/producer; Maria Gracia Turgeon, Annick Blanc

Nadim Cheikhrouha, Sarra Ben Hassen, producers—$25,000 for screenwriting


Salha, a mother gifted with prophetic dreams, lives in an isolated village in Tunisia. When her eldest son’s sudden return from Syria coincides with a series of strange disappearances in their community, Salha’s maternal love is tested and the family faces how guilt can haunt the human spirit.


Ohijee's Past Lives

Malik Isasis, writer/director/producer—$25,000 for screenwriting 


Ohijee Vati-Myers is a comic book artist. One day while in the comic book store, he meets a woman. They hit it off, and spend the rest of the day walking the city. They end up at her apartment where they spend the night together. The next morning, he awakes in his apartment with signs of never having met the woman.



Natalie Jasmine Harris, writer/director/producer; Natalie Holley, producer—$25,000 for screenwriting


For 17-year-old queer Celeste, senior year in her affluent Black community means following family tradition and becoming a debutante… but she longs for a different kind of coming out.



Vishaal Reddy, producer; Neal Ludevig, producer; Shravya Kag, creative consultant; Raj Trivedi, creative consultant—$25,000 for screenwriting


An Indian-American drag queen on the verge of stardom returns home to celebrate Diwali with his conservative parents who he hasn't spoken to in 5 years due to his choice of profession. At this part for Diwali, his life is turned upside down when his parents surprisingly announce they have been divorced for ten years, his mother is gay, and they are selling the childhood home -- causing chaos, laughs, and heartfelt drama.


Scary Lovely

Johnny Alvarez, writer, director, producer—$25,000 for screenwriting

A middle-aged gay man forges an unlikely friendship with his dead lover’s beneficiary as they’re drawn together by matters of the paranormal.


Since I Laid My Burden Down

Brontez Purnell, producer; Savannah Knoop, writer; Ro Haber, director—$25,000 for screenwriting


DeShawn is living fast and wild in a post-Utopian Oakland. Bathhouses, brawls, and endless hookups have continued well into his thirties. The night his Uncle dies, his hair turns abruptly gray, and he returns to his childhood home of Alabama for answers. DeShawn must confront the ghosts of his past, the dead men who seduced and failed him, and the firebrand women who made him, in order to find peace, and finally lay his burden down.


The Return

Mary Ann Anane, writer/director—$25,000 for screenwriting


Trying to escape her current life rut, Olivia, an early-thirties Black American, finds herself foreign in Ghana caring for Irene, an animatic Ghanaian older woman with early-onset Alzheimer who’s planning her own funeral.


Tokyo For Ever

Andrés Piñeros, writer/ director; Federico Piñeros, producer—$25,000 for screenwriting


In Colombia, in a road on the slopes of an abyss in the Chicamocha canyon, Tokyo, a fourteen-year-old boy forced to work as a road mechanic, must face his conscience and responsibility for the disappearance of his younger brother, to confess to his parents the whereabouts of his corpse.


Untitled Texas Latina Project

Chelsea Hernandez, Sharon Arteaga, Lizette Barrera, Jazmin Diaz, and Iliana Sosa, writers/ directors—$25,000 for screenwriting


Five Mexican-American women across various cities in Texas attempt to forge connections in familiar spaces while their identities are challenged.




I Didn’t See You There

Reid Davenport, director/cinematographer; Keith Wilson, producer; Todd Chandler, editor; Jim LeBrecht,  post-production mixer; Alysa Nahmias, executive producer


Spurred by the spectacle of a circus tent that goes up outside his Oakland apartment, a disabled filmmaker launches into an unflinching meditation on freakdom, (in)visibility, and the pursuit of individual agency. Shot entirely from his literal physical perspective, both from his wheelchair and his two feet, the filmmaker’s gaze and thoughts oscillate between how he is seen, his distant family, and whether his films have fallen into the legacy of the Freak Show.


Untitled Dwarfism Project

Julie Wyman, director/producer; Jessica Devaney, Anya Rous, Nic Novicki, executive producers


There’s a new drug on the horizon that promises to make people with dwarfism taller—and it’s threatening to erase the very community it aims to serve. As Little People grapple with their uncertain future, director Julie Wyman confronts her own complicated diagnosis of dwarfism. At the heart of the film lies the question: if you could give up the qualities that make you different, would you? And at what cost?





SFFILM Makers, the artist development program of SFFILM, provides critical support to filmmakers worldwide. Through grants, residencies and year-round programming, SFFILM Makers supports independent filmmakers in all stages of development. SFFILM’s FilmHouse residency program provides Bay Area-based documentary and narrative filmmakers with artistic guidance, office space, a vibrant creative community, and support from established film industry professionals. SFFILM Makers is also home to the SFFILM Rainin Grant program, the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the US. Each year, SFFILM Makers gives nearly $1M in grants to filmmakers and has supported projects including Fernando Frias’ I’m No Longer Here, Channing Godfrey Peoples’ Miss Juneteenth, RaMell Ross’ Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska’s Honeyland, and Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station. 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 75,000 film lovers and media education programs to more than 15,000 students, teachers, and families 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



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