Freedom of Expression Award: Joe Berlinger

Twenty-five years after his film debut, Joe Berlinger is still no stranger to controversy. Berlinger's powerful Crude (2009) highlighted Chevron's wanton destruction of the Amazon rain forest, resulting in a corporate million dollar lawsuit that cost the filmmaker more than the entire budget of the film. His portrayal of the notorious Boston gangster in Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (2014) methodically exposed corrupt misdeeds within the highest echelons of the American justice system. Intent to Destroy (2017) is Berlinger's most complex film, a comprehensive chronicle of the Armenian Genocide that simultaneously takes on Turkey's powerful denial machine; a painful erasure that has effectively silenced numerous U.S. presidents. Joe Berlinger's creative collaboration with his filmmaking partner, the late Bruce Sinofsky, resulted in their seminal Brother's Keeper (1992) and the unsparing Paradise Lost: The Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills (1996). The multiple-award-winning documentary Paradise Lost eventually spawned two sequels (the third in the series earned Berlinger and Sinofsky an Oscar nomination) and a highly publicized movement that was instrumental in bringing freedom for the wrongly convicted West Memphis Three. Berlinger has imbued all his documentary work with a compelling narrative drive often reserved for fiction storytelling, a singular style that informs all his films including his landmark behind the- scenes rock docs Metallica: Some Kind of the Monster (2004) and Under African Skies (SFJFF 2012), Paul Simon's moving journey back to his classic Graceland album.

SFJFF is honored to present this year's Freedom of Expression Award to Joe Berlinger, Jewish-American filmmaker and fervent believer in the documentary form as an instrument of change. 

Joe Berlinger will appear in person to accept the award at the Castro Theatre. His new film Intent to Destroy will be screened and followed by an onstage interview with Carrie Lozano, Director, IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund. 

Sponsored by Ray Lifchez