Three documentary filmmakers have been presented the 2019 SFFILM Catapult Film Fellowships to produce their budding documentaries.
Now in its second year, the grant program – produced by non-profit organization SFFILM and the Catapult Film Fund – runs August through December and includes a US$10,000 grant and residency at FilmHouse, SFFILM’s artist community space.
Fellows Ilse Fernandez (pictured, right), Allison Otto (left) and Yusef Srouji are also offered mentorship from SFFILM and Catapult Film Fund staff to evolve the projects through development and into production.
“We are honored to be able to support these three projects, which are all vastly different in terms of their artistic approach, point of access, and story, but united in their dedication to unearthing deeper truths and dismantling widely held assumptions,” the deciding jury said in a statement.
Below are descriptions of the 2019 SFFILM Catapult Film Fellowship projects:
Ilse Fernandez – Exodus Stories: Voices from the Caravan
Fernandez has produced and directed documentary programming and unscripted series for networks including ABC, NBC, Vice, MTV, Netflix, Univision, Discovery Channel, A&E, National Geographic, History Channel and TLC.
She worked as a director and field producer on five seasons of the A&E series Intervention and was the showrunner on Viceland’s eight-part documentary series Cyberwar. Recently, she both directed and executive produced Spotify’s first documentary series, Music Happens Here.
The feature-length documentary, Exodus Stories: Voices from the Caravan, weaves together the harrowing experiences of three Central American immigrants who flee violence to join a migrant caravan and eventually make their case for asylum in the United States.
Allison Otto – The Heist
As a documentary filmmaker, cinematographer and visual journalist, Otto’s clients have included National Geographic, BBC, NBC, the Sierra Club, Atlas Obscura and Lonely Planet. In 2013, she released her first film, Keeper of the Mountains.
The Heist seeks to unravel the theft of Willem de Kooning’s seminal work, “Woman-Ochre,” which was sliced from its frame on the walls of an Arizona art museum in 1985. More than 30 years later, in a remote New Mexico town, the $160 million painting was rediscovered hanging behind the bedroom door of Jerry and Rita Alter, two mild-mannered schoolteachers who had recently passed away.
Yusef Srouji – Suha
Srouji is a first-time documentary filmmaker whose work centers around understanding the dynamics of occupation in Palestine, and community resilience in conflict zones.
Srouji spent the first part of his childhood in Palestine, then relocated to Qatar with his family at the end of the Second Intifada. The documentary uses home footage captured by Srouji’s mother, Suha, to shed light on the daily impacts of war and the resilience of a family living in the midst of Palestine’s Second Intifada.