By: Kyrie Sismaet By: Kyrie Sismaet | December 19, 2022 | People Lifestyle Parties News and Features City Life Culture Celebrity Awards Events Women of Influence Latest Television Movies Entertainment Community Interviews Apple News List - Entertainment
It was a star-studded evening full of well-earned honors, generous philanthropy, and a charmingly heartwarming air of film appreciation as celebrities graced the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts December 5th for SFFilm's Awards Night. SFFilm's enduring reverence to our contemporary "return to cinema" truly proved triumphant this year, as several ingeniously award-winning films further helped cement that the magic of film is formidably undying.
Such recent films include the beloved Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the playfully brilliant Everything Everywhere All At Once, the critically poignant Women Talking, and the riveting Babylon, set for release later this month. Such exemplary acts not only showcase the passion and creativity that goes into filmmaking, but also platforms the importance of cinema for community, joy, and empowerment, which this awards night all commemorated. See the highlights of this spectacular event below.
Presented by the incomparable Joan Chen, the gala's three-course dinner kicked off with Stephanie Hsu receiving The George Gund III Award For Breakthrough Performance for her role as Joy Wang/Jobu Tupaki in Daniel's Everything Everywhere All at Once. Playing a dual role as both the film's antagonist and as the daughter of Michelle Yeoh's Evelyn, Stephanie magnificently portrayed the generational complexities of queerness and mother/daughter relationships.
When asked about how she has seen this film help others in a similar dynamic, Stephanie recalls, "What I think is really beautiful about this film is that so many people have brought their parents to see it and so many people have used this film to come out to their parents, and that's been amazing. When my mom saw it, the first thing she said wasn't, 'that's not you,' she said, 'that's me.'" I can feel that this movie helped her heal."
Following Stephanie's inspiring speech came a montage of Oakland-born director Ryan Coogler's outstanding films, which included Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, for which he received the Irving M. Levin Award For Film Direction. Actress Danai Gurira presented this prestigious award with a preamble on just how innovative and precise Ryan's eye and care for cinema are, venerating, "it is beyond rare to find someone whose sum of parts are wildly talented and simultaneously solid, honest, direct, gentle, deeply thoughtful, and grounded in integrity."
After Danai's extolling eloquence came Ryan himself, who led the crowd through the hardships of his life with vivid imagery of comparing entering the filmmaking industry to "seeing a plane in the sky and wondering how to get up there." Through financial difficulties Ryan persevered until he met "the great Anne Lai" at the Sundance Institute Screenwriting Lab. Lai was one of the catalysts for Ryan to receive a grant that allowed him to create the pivotal Fruitvale Station, which only further propelled him to adding films Creed and Black Panther to his repertoire.
In between the awards came a fun auction to support the future of film, and after this philanthropic engagement came Margot Robbie's Babylon co-star Diego Calva on stage to present her Maria Manetti Shrem Award for Acting. "Margot- you're so great. I learned so much working with you. I really believed that working with you made me a better actor and you took me to places I never believed I could be." Such high praise flowed effortlessly from Calva right before Margot entered to comically quip at how she fractured his ribs during filming.
Calling Calva her "on-screen soulmate," her experience in Babylon allowed her to harness her natural acting prowess into character Nellie, who is, as Margot proudly describes, "ambitious, and brash, and talented, and damaged, and causes a lot of damage." She jokes about how she embodied this working with Calva, and ultimately how she relates to Nellie. "She dreams big, she dreams of being a part of something bigger than her, that's something that's going to last, and I feel that way too. I think cinema at its best can do that." Margot finished her speech recognizing her other honorees and reiterating how, "it's been a great year for cinema."
Closing out the night was Mariecar Mendoza, who gleefully presented the SFFILM Award for Storytelling to talented luminary Sarah Polley for her writing and directorial work in Women Talking. A film about women in a Mennonite colony grappling with a revelation, Sarah is no stranger to addressing the uncomfortable, which Mariecar elucidated with overflowing fervor. When asked what drew Sarah to taking on such a compelling topic, she thoughtfully enlightened, "I loved that there was this opportunity to tell this incredible, high-stakes story that had a sense of urgency about it and asked bigger, stickier, more difficult questions around faith and forgiveness."
Aside from the curated Star Gimlet libations, the glamorous decor, and captivating high fashion, what unequivocally defined the night was the genuine gratitude, admiration, and humanness that reverberated from the stage with these unparalleled talents. With the exponential future of film in the trusted hands such caring models like Stephanie, Ryan, Margot, and Sarah, we can't wait to see what awe-inspiring films will be awarded at this time next year.
Photography by: Courtesy of Miikka Skaffari / Stringer; SFFILM, Photo by Drew Altizer Photography