SFFILM: Chinonye Chukwu, Marielle Heller and Lulu Wang Tapped for Honors

Chinonye Chukwu, Marielle Heller and Lulu Wang_Split - Getty - H 2019
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Three female filmmakers behind serious Oscar contenders — Clemency's Chinonye Chukwu, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood's Marielle Heller and The Farewell's Lulu Wang — will be feted at SFFILM's 2019 Awards Night in San Francisco on Dec. 3, the nonprofit arts-education organization announced Tuesday.

"We are thrilled that SFFILM Awards Night, now fully integrated into the December calendar, has once again inspired such exceptional talent to join us," SFFILM programming director Rachel Rosen said in a statement. "These remarkable individuals were selected because their fine work embodies the values of the Bay Area — in particular, their role in championing innovative cinema, making the industry more diverse and inclusive and actively participating in the artistic and social dialogue that is so important today. We hope that by celebrating these artists, their films, and these values, SFFILM can have a positive effect on the awards conversations that dominate this time of year."

Chukwu will receive the inaugural SFFILM special award for breakthrough directing.

Heller will receive the Irving M. Levin Award for film direction, which is named after the late founder of the San Francisco International Film Festival and was previously presented to Steve McQueen (2018), Kathryn Bigelow (2017), Mira Nair (2016), Guillermo del Toro (2015), Richard Linklater (2014), Philip Kaufman (2013), Kenneth Branagh (2012), Oliver Stone (2011), Walter Salles (2010), Francis Ford Coppola (2009), Mike Leigh (2008), Spike Lee (2007) and Werner Herzog (2006).

Wang will receive the Kanbar Award for storytelling, which acknowledges the critical importance that storytelling plays in the creation of outstanding films and is named after Maurice Kanbar, a longtime member of the board of directors of SFFILM. Past recipients include Boots Riley (2018), Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (2017), Tom McCarthy (2016), Paul Schrader (2015), Stephen Gaghan (2014), Eric Roth (2013), David Webb Peoples (2012), Frank Pierson (2011) and James Schamus (2010).

Held in the Exhibition Center at the Palace of Fine Arts, the dinner and awards ceremony attracts dozens of Academy members based in the Bay Area and has been a stop on the awards season circuit since 2017, when it was moved from the spring, during the San Francisco International Film Festival, to the winter.