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Berkeley FILM Foundation Announces 2023 Grant Recipients

By IDA Editorial Staff

Logo of the Berkeley FILM Foundation in black and white, over a gray background.

Today, the Berkeley FILM Foundation (BFF) announces that it has awarded a total of $200,000 in its 2023 grant cycle to 20 independent filmmakers and 5 student filmmakers who live, work, or attend school in the East Bay cities of Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville, or Oakland. 

Since its founding in 2009, BFF has awarded almost $2.6 million to 265 film projects that continuously push boundaries and inspire change. This years’ grantees are no different. In the BFF press release, the organization’s President and Board Chair, Abby Ginzberg, says: “This year we have funded personal stories of redemption and reflection and fiction films that artistically highlight larger cultural themes using a narrative voice. The student films are impressive analyses of crucial issues often left out of today’s headlines. These grantees prove, once again, that East Bay filmmakers are producing stories with a global reach and bringing attention to essential political and cultural topics.”

Of the grants, two of them are named in honor of BFF founders. The Saul Zaentz Award for $25,000, goes to Tracker (directed/produced by Courtney Quirin)which follows an intimate group of students admitted to Tracker Academy, a premier program in South Africa that teaches traditional wildlife tracking skills to young people. The $20,000 Al Bendich Award is granted to The Package Wars (directed by Yael Bridge and produced by Yoni Golijov, Mars Verrone and Jeremy Flood), which follows UPS workers in New York, California, and Kentucky as they prepare for an explosive labor strike, the largest seen in generations.  

For the fourth year, BFF partnered with the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation for the Jonathan Logan Elevate Award for $25,000, which supports one emerging filmmaker each year for five years “to advance social justice by empowering world-changing work in documentary, investigative journalism, and arts and culture.” This year’s Elevate Award is granted to Finding Ma (directed by Thanh Tran), a project fiscally sponsored by IDA. In the film, Tran, the film’s director, reunites his own family to heal old wounds and rebuild their bonds, starting with finding their mom who is houseless in the streets of Sacramento. 

Other films receiving 2023 grants are: 

Finding the Money (Maren Poitras, Director, Marc Smolowitz, Executive Producer)

Friendly Signs (Rahsaan “New York” Thomas, Director, Producer and Writer, Brian Asey, Director of Photography, Producer and Editor, Christine Yoo, Producer)

Gloria (Kim Blanck, Writer and Director, Caitlin Machak, Cinematographer) 

Growing Up with Ghosts  (Marilyn Mulford and Aleixo Gonzalves, Co-Directors, Co-Producers)

Holder of the Sky (Tsanavi Spoonhunter, Director)

Midwaste (Liz Roberts, Director)

Mother (Meg Shutzer and Brandon Yadigari Moreno, Co-Creators)

My Sister-In-Law the Prime Minister (Lexi Leban, Director and Producer, Violet Du Feng and S.Leo Chiang, Producers) 

¡Quba! (Kim Anno, Director and Co-Producer, Kyung Lee, Co-Producer and Editor) 

Sinking Feeling (Zachary Epcar, Director)

Sweeping Graves (Kevin Duncan Wong, Writer and Director, Vanessa Moreno Gentry, Writer and Producer) 

The 9 Lives of Barbara Dane (Maureen Gosling, Director, Jed Riffe, Producer and Nina Menéndez, Executive Producer)

The Eclipse 5:40 (Maria Victoria Ponce, Writer, Director and Producer, Liz Anderson, Producer, Alexander Fletcher, Director of Photography.) 

The Highest Standard (Isara Krieger, Director, Producer and Cinematographer, Jessica Estelle Huggins, Producer)

Tulare Lake (John Picklap, Director)

Undocumented Justice (Marlene [Mo] Morris, Director and Producer, Jed Riffe, Producer, Nicole Solis-Sison, Producer)

Wood Street Untitled Documentary (Caron Creighton, Director, Estevan Padilla, Producer)

The following grants are issued to student films:

ARTificial Intelligence (Tanay Gokhale and Zhiwei Feng, Co-Creators; University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism)

Jardines (Alfredo Torres; University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism) 

That Kid from Oakland (Pablo Hernandez and Ciella Sfirri, Co-Creators; University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism) 

The Spark (Gabriel Studer-Randall, Co-Producer and Cinematographer, Emrys Mayell, Co-Producer and Cinematographer, Brian Barth Director and Co-Producer; San Francisco State University) 

 The Weight They Carry (Grace Galletti and Zhiwei Feng, Co-Creators; UC Berkeley School of Investigative Journalism)