Bay Area Documentary Filmmakers, Meet the Berkeley FILM Foundation

As many East Bay residents will tell you, their quiet little hamlets of Berkeley and Oakland exist in the looming shadows of mighty San Francisco just across the Bay Bridge. The big city gets all the love and most East Bay residents prefer it that way — although this perception is quickly changing.

Thanks to the dot com boom, artists and filmmakers are being pushed out of San Francisco and across the Bay where — for now, at least — rents are relatively cheaper. And we can't help but wonder if this slow influx east will also have a profound impact on the arts funding in the region (spoiler alert: it will). Take the area of independent film, for example.

The Bay Area is home to many progressive film foundations, most notably the San Francisco Film Society. As we noted in a recent post, the society has a number of ongoing grant making programs including two brand-new initiatives for producers. But as with most things in the area, there are tremendously vibrant and exciting things happening across the Bay, and the world of independent film is no exception.

We're specifically talking about the Berkeley FILM Foundation (BFF). The foundation recently awarded $130,000 from its 2014 film and video grant program to 16 filmmakers, including two student filmmakers. The BFF gave this year’s $25,000 Saul Zaentz Award to "Ghost Town to Havana" by filmmaker Eugene Corr.

Since its inception in 2008, the BFF — which is funded by the City of Berkeley, Wareham Development, and the Saul Zaentz Company — has awarded close to $800,000 to almost 90 film projects. As noted by BFF Executive Director David Bergad, "several films funded by the BFF have found audiences at the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca, DocuWeeks, Silver Docs, and one has garnered an Oscar nomination."

The BFF is focused exclusively on social, historical and innovative documentary and dramatic works, and this year's grand prize winner, the aforementioned "Ghost Town to Havana," certainly seems to fit the bill. The film is an intimate portrait of two coaches — Nicolas Reyes, a coach in Havana, Cuba, and Roscoe Bryant, a coach in Oakland, CA — and their youth baseball teams. In May of 2010, the two coaches meet and their teams get the chance to play together in Havana. To quote the BFF press release, "It is a celebration of life, community, boyhood and baseball."

For deeper analysis on BFF's counterpart across the Bay, the San Francisco Film Society, click here.