Inaugurates Two New Awards to Deepen Investment in Projects that Expand Understanding of Jewish Life and Address Prejudice, Antisemitism; New Projects by Yoav Potash, Sandi DuBowski, and Eva Brzeski
Follows Successful Rounds that Provided Crucial Finishing Support to Projects by Ran Tal (1341 Frames of Love and War), Nancy Buirski (A Crime on the Bayou), Pratibha Parmar (My Name is Andrea), and Ralph Arlyck (I Like it Here)
San Francisco, CA — The Jewish Film Institute (JFI), the San Francisco-based nonprofit media arts organization and presenter of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF), announced today the recipients of its fourth cycle of JFI Completion Grants. Six independent film projects, and another project that was awarded a discretionary grant, will receive a combined $85,000 in finishing funds. The winners will be revealed publicly at the Closing Night of the 43rd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival on Sunday, July 30 at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre. SFJFF43 runs July 20 — August 6, 2023. JFI, which champions bold films and filmmakers that expand and evolve the Jewish story for audiences everywhere, has distributed $335,000 to 27 projects since 2020.
Eva Brzeski’s Daughterland, Mickey Rapkin’s The Anne Frank Gift Shop, and Tomer Slutzky and Justyna Gawelco’s Jews by Choice were each awarded grants that will help each project reach audiences. Sandi DuBowski’s Sabbath Queen was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Harvey Goldberg Memorial Award, to be given annually to an impactful project that expands our understanding of Jewish history, life, and culture. Yoav Potash’s Love, Murder and Miracles is the inaugural recipient of the Envision Award, which provides substantial support to a project that explores the complexities of shared society by combating prejudice and antisemitism. Elan Golod’s Nathan-ism was awarded the 2023 Albert & Judith Goldberg Award for Jewish Arts & Culture. A seventh project, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal’s The Story of Amy Goodman and Democracy Now!, was awarded a discretionary grant by JFI staff.
The 2023 JFI Completion Grants are made possible thanks to the support of the Albert & Judith Goldberg Foundation, Sandee Blechman and Steven Goldberg, Michelle Marcus, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the Nancy P. & Richard K. Robbins Family Foundation, and the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. More details about each supported project are available below and online at jfi.org/grants.
“JFI’s 2023 Completion Grantees are alternately delightful, challenging, thought-provoking, and, above all, deeply inspired projects which we hope will have a profound impact on conversations about Jewish life, identity, and culture,” says Lexi Leban, Executive Director, and Marcia Jarmel, Director of Filmmaker Services. “We feel that these Grantees reflect a broad, inquisitive spectrum of stories and filmmaking approaches that address urgent topics in our national conversation, introduce us to new voices behind and in front of the camera, and counteract the disturbing uptick in antisemitic sentiments recently. We could not be prouder of the excellent films that will reach audiences with JFI’s support.”
The Goldberg family added “We have already been fortunate enough to see the tremendous impact of the Albert & Judith Goldberg Award on the completion of world-class films like Tessa Louise Salomé’s The Wild One and Ran Tal’s 1341 Frames of Love and War, and now look forward to honoring the memory of Harvey Goldberg with a new annual grant that will champion original storytelling as expansive as Harvey’s interests were. JFI’s leadership in the independent filmmaking field will ensure that these vital stories continue to be told.”
The Nancy P. and Richard K. Robbins Family Foundation and the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, funders of the Envision Award, released the following statement: “The Envision Award will support the completion of powerful and important films that will help fight prejudice and extremism. We are proud to partner with the Jewish Film Institute to launch this new opportunity for independent filmmakers, and we look forward to seeing how these films inspire audiences around the world to learn, grow, and engage more deeply in their communities.”
The JFI Completion Grants provide critical resources for filmmakers to accelerate the final stages of their films as the funding landscape for independent filmmakers — particularly those seeking to reflect the full spectrum of Jewish experiences, identities, and histories — becomes ever more challenging. The Grants support and elevate films that challenge stereotypes and conventions, spark impactful conversations about Jewish life, and innovate storytelling forms. They are a signature piece of JFI’s continuum of support for filmmakers from incubation through exhibition. Emerging and established filmmakers benefit from peer-to-peer and industry-leading mentorship and workshops in JFI’s year-long Filmmaker Residency, the only national residency of its kind, while JFI’s vast live and online exhibition platforms, including the annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, deliver finished works to audiences throughout the Bay Area and United States.
The fourteen finalists who were reviewed by the jury were chosen from over 100 applicants, the most in the Grants’ history. The jury for the 2023 funding round included: Andrew Abrahams, producer/director and President of Open Eye Pictures; Lisa Kleiner Chanoff, producer and co-founder of Catapult Film Fund; and Lacey Schwartz Delgado, an Emmy-nominated producer, writer, director, and film outreach strategist. The jury released the following statement:
“It was a great honor and pleasure to watch the slate of film finalists for the 2023 JFI Completion Grants, and challenging to narrow down the award recipients from so many fine works. We found that the films we selected asked us to look deeper into accepted and comfortable narratives — about the nature of memory as fragmentary or contrived, the way shame or trauma can get refigured, and the interrogation of film subjects and storytellers to reckon with time or tradition. We congratulate the award winners and salute JFI for expanding the reach and breadth of Jewish film.”
The JFI Completion Grants have garnered an excellent track record for advancing compelling and provocative films that go on to critical and theatrical acclaim. Previous grantees include: Tessa Louise Salomé’s The Wild One, which won the award for Best Cinematography at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival; Ran Tal’s 1341 Frames of Love and War which screened at the 2022 Berlinale Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, and DocAviv, where it won Best Director, Best Editing, and the Kedar Foundation Awards; Nancy Buirski’s A Crime on the Bayou, which was nominated for a 2021 Critics’ Choice Documentary Award; and Kit Vincent’s Red Herring (a 2022 Discretionary Grantee), which was workshopped as part of the 2022 JFI Filmmaker Residency, premiered at True/False in 2023, and screened at Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, where it was honored with the Human Values Award.
JFI also presents the Momentum Award to a documentary project each year in collaboration with Los Angeles’ Jewish Story Partners. Recent winners include Luke Lorentzen’s A Still Small Voice which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Festival’s Directing Award for U.S. Documentary and Pratibha Parmar’s My Name is Andrea, which premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and Sheffield DocFest. For a complete list of JFI-supported films, visit jfi.org/supported-projects.
As the premier exhibitor of Jewish-content filmmaking, JFI delivers a first look at its supported films for thousands of Bay Area filmgoers. Both The Anne Frank Gift Shop and Nathan-ism, 2023 grantees, are official selections of SFJFF43 but were unfinished at the time of the Grants’ application closure. Previous grantees The Wild One, 1341 Frames of Love and War, Red Herring, A Still Small Voice, and I Like it Here, the latest film from legendary experimental filmmaker Ralph Arlyck, have just made their Bay Area Premieres this summer at SFJFF43. Tickets to all Festival programs are on sale now at sfjff.org.
Looking ahead, JFI has announced that the call for applications to the 2024 JFI Filmmakers in Residence program opens August 6, 2023. Applications are due October 6, 2023. The next call for entries to the Completion Grants opens in January 2024. Filmmakers may learn more here: jfi.org/filmmakers.
2023 JFI Completion Grant Winners
Film descriptions provided by grantees.
The Anne Frank Gift Shop
Mickey Rapkin, USA, Narrative Short
When a high-end design firm presents its plans to reimagine the gift shop at The Anne Frank Haus, the company’s overt appeals to Generation Z sparks a darkly comic debate about collective trauma, the Holocaust and tote bags. The film marks Rapkin’s directorial debut.
Eva Brzeski, USA, Documentary Feature
A father attempts to hide his mysterious past for his whole life. His daughter spends 35 years trying to get him to share his secrets.
Jews by Choice
Tomer Slutzsky, Justyna Gawelko, Poland, Documentary Feature
In a picturesque Czech town, an alliance of ordinary citizens become inspired to renovate their local synagogue, convert to Judaism, and give birth to the first Jewish community in the region since the Holocaust. As they fight for recognition from the Jewish authorities, internal strife threatens the future of their close-knit fellowship.
Love, Murder and Miracles
Yoav Potash, USA, Documentary Feature
Winner, Envision Award for the film’s singular ability to envision a world free of prejudice and hate.
In a small, Polish town where Jews were murdered after World War II, an aging eyewitness risks imprisonment to search for the Jewish boy she loved 73 years ago. Bringing the past to life with evocative animation, Love, Murder and Miracles depicts a quest against war, hate, and time itself.
Elan Golod, USA, Documentary Feature
Winner, Albert & Judith Goldberg Award for a film that celebrates Jewish arts and culture.
At the end of World War II, Nathan Hilu, an 18-year-old Jewish US Army private, was assigned to guard the top Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg Trials. With brutish lines and annotated pastel sketches, Hilu obsessively documented those memories for the next 70 years. What begins as a peek at a unique witness to history grows into an absorbing study of the function of art as archive and invention.
Sandi DuBowski, USA, Documentary Feature
Winner, Harvey Goldberg Memorial Award for a film that impacts our understanding of Jewish history, life, and culture.
Filmed over 20 years, Sabbath Queen follows Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie’s epic journey as the dynastic heir of thirty-nine generations of Orthodox rabbis who rejects his destiny and becomes a drag-queen rebel, a queer father, and the founder of Lab/Shul: an everybody-friendly, God-optional, artist-driven, pop-up experimental congregation. Sabbath Queen joins director Sandi DuBowski and his rabbi, Amichai, on a lifelong and cinematic quest to creatively and radically reinvent religion, ritual, and love for a challenging, rapidly changing twenty-first century.
The Story of Amy Goodman and Democracy Now!
Tia Lessin, Carl Deal, USA, Documentary Feature
In an era of corporate news media consolidation, where divisive voices incite racial violence and entertainment trumps facts, Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! take us to the frontlines in the battle for truth and independence in journalism.
The Jewish Film Institute (JFI) is a San Francisco Bay Area-based nonprofit organization that champions bold films and filmmakers that expand and evolve the Jewish story for audiences everywhere. Presenter of the annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF), the longest-running and most celebrated festival of its kind in the world, JFI is a year-round organization delivering screenings and events to more than 40,000 film lovers annually. SFJFF is known for its provocative, independent programming that has helped to launch the careers of emerging filmmakers and highlighted previously untold stories from Jewish communities around the world. JFI’s free, online programs serve thousands of viewers, educators, and researches worldwide each year. In addition to its public programs, JFI supports the careers of filmmakers from the Bay Area and beyond, from incubation through exhibition, through its grants, residencies, and other creative development services. For more information, visit jfi.org.
JFI Filmmaker Services, the Jewish Film Institute’s artist support programs, provide substantial strategic and material support to emerging and established filmmakers whose projects explore the full plurality and complexity of Jewish history, life, and identity. JFI offers a continuum of support for filmmakers from ideation and production through exhibition, via the JFI Completion Grants and Filmmakers in Residence programs, as well JFI’s exhibition platforms. Since 2014, the Residency has served as the only U.S.-based program of its kind for the incubation and development of independently produced, Jewish-content media projects. Open to filmmakers and storytellers around the world, the Residency is a yearlong, intensive artist development initiative that provides creative, marketing, and production support. Since 2020, the Completion Grants have awarded crucial finishing funds to more than twenty-five projects which have premiered to critical and widespread acclaim at leading film festivals worldwide. For more information, visit jfi.org/filmmakers.