Documentary Film Fund

Romeo Is Bleeding by Jason Zeldes
The SFFS Documentary Film Fund (DFF) supports riveting documentaries in postproduction distinguished by compelling stories, intriguing characters and an innovative visual approach. Since its launch in 2011, the SFFS Documentary Film Fund has distributed more than $450,000 to advance new work by filmmakers nationwide. Expected to grow in the coming years as further underwriting is secured, the 2015 Documentary Film Fund is made possible thanks to a generous gift from Jennifer Battat and the Jenerosity Foundation.

DFF grants are awarded once each year. Exact amounts of individual grants and the number of grants made will be determined on an annual basis. As with all Film Society grants, in addition to the cash awards, recipients will gain access to numerous benefits through Filmmaker360, the Film Society's comprehensive and dynamic filmmaker services program.

The SFFS Documentary Film Fund has an excellent track record for championing compelling films that have gone on to earn great acclaim. Previous DFF winners include Zachary Heinzerling's Cutie and the Boxer, which won Sundance's Directing Award for documentary, was distributed theatrically by RADiUS-TWC and was nominated for the 2014 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature; Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson's American Promise, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and won the festival's Special Jury Prize in the documentary category; and Jason Zeldes's Romeo Is Bleeding, which had its World Premiere at the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival on April 29.


The Island and the Whales — Mike Day, director — $35,000
The pilot whale hunters of the Nordic Faroe Islands believe that hunting is vital to their way of life, but when a local doctor makes a grim discovery about the effects of marine pollution, environmental changes threaten to end the controversial tradition and change the community forever. For more information visit

Learning to Forget — Kaspar Astrup Schröder, director; Katherine Sahlstrom, producer — $15,000
In China, more people are on death row than in the rest of the world combined. The children of the convicts are most often left alone, stigmatized and living in the streets. Some of these abandoned kids are picked up by an orphanage founded by a former prison guard; here they learn to live a life without parents and prepare for a world outside where they have to prove wrong the many misconceptions about them. For more information visit

The Oakland Police Project — Peter Nicks, director — $25,000
The Oakland Police Project is a film about police power and restraint, unfolding deep inside the famously troubled Oakland Police Department. The film presents in intimate detail the rare perspective of beleaguered officers who are often viewed as oppressors in the community they serve, even as they and their young chief struggle to rebuild trust in the face of mass protests, budget cuts and more violent crimes per officer than any city in America. For more information visit

Read more about our 2015 DFF projects and filmmakers here.