Film Alumni Named Finalists for SSFILM Rainin Grant; Anika Benkov '22 Wins

Aisha Amin
Carlos Barragán
December 07, 2023


Anika Benkov ‘22 (CC’ 16) has been awarded a 2023 SFFILM Rainin Grant Rainin grant for their feature script The Binding of Itzik. Benkov, alongside 16 other recipients, will receive up to $25,000 to develop their social justice-minded narrative project in San Francisco.

“Giving independent films and filmmakers the resources they need to thrive is the core of our work at SFFILM,” SFFILM executive director Anne Lai said. “Our long partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation has helped to develop filmmakers from around the world whose voices and stories may not have had the chance to become films without this kind of essential support.” 

See a full list of the SFFILM Rainin Grant recipients here, and see a trailer for The Binding of Itzik below. 

Original: November 17, 2023

Last month, the San Francisco Film Society (SSFILM) announced the finalists for the 2023 SFFILM Rainin Grant, the flagship artist development program offered by SFFILM Makers in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. 

Twenty-eight filmmaking teams have been shortlisted as contenders to receive funding and professional support for their narrative projects at different stages of production, and four Film alumni have made the list. 

Two of these filmmakers, Sushma Khadepaun '22 and Valerie Castillo-Martinez '16, are finalists for a grant to finish development of Anita, written and directed by Khadepaun and produced by Castillo-Martinez. The film follows an ambitious woman who escapes her conservative, small-town life in India by orchestrating her own arranged marriage to a man visiting from the US. But when her fierce pursuit of the American Dream begins to threaten her marriage, she realizes that in order to achieve true independence she must confront the very life she escaped.

Stephanie Falkeis '22 is in the running for a grant to complete the development of her feature film script, Requiem For A Glacier. A feminist anti-western set in a dying landscape, the film follows a young glaciologist who reluctantly returns to her estranged home in the remote Alps, tasked with assessing the local glacier for its development potential as a ski resort. She is forced to confront her estrangement from her own activist roots when challenged by her charismatic vigilante-activist mother, who's on the last legs of a long fight defending the glacier from destruction.

Lastly, Anika Benkov '22 (CC '16) is up for a grant to develop their feature script The Binding of Izak, which follows a middle aged Hasidic bookbinder who stumbles across a craigslist ad offering “binding lessons for submissive women,” and becomes tied up in a passionate BDSM affair with a stranger who threatens to change his quiet life forever. 

The SFFILM Rainin Grant program is the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the US, and supports films that address social justice issues—the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges.

Recipients are offered a cash grant up to $25,000 for screenwriting and development, and up to $50,000 for post production, as well as a two-month residency at FilmHouse, SFFILM's premier artist residency space.