Sorkin, whose “Trial of the Chicago 7” is streaming on Netflix, will receive the Kanbar award for storytelling. Zhao, the director of awards contender “Nomadland,” will receive the Irving M. Levin award for film direction.
“We are thrilled to honor such exceptional talent at our SF Film Awards Night and to bring an even wider audience together virtually this year for our annual fundraiser,” said executive director Anne Lai. “Both Aaron and Chloé’s remarkable work resonate deeply for us, not only in their beautiful cinematic expression but also in presenting deep and complex characters and questions for us as a society today. We hope that by celebrating these artists, their films, and these values, SF Film can have a positive impact on the cultural conversations that arise this time of year around highly anticipated awards contenders.”
The Kanbar award acknowledges the importance that storytelling plays in the creation of outstanding films. It’s named for Maurice Kanbar, a longtime member of the board of directors of SF Film, and a philanthropist with a particular interest in supporting independent filmmakers. Past recipients include Lulu Wang (2019), 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).
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Sorkin won an Academy Award for adapted screenplay for his “Social Network” script and was nominated for his “Moneyball” and “Molly’s Game” screenplays. He also made his directorial debut on “Molly’s Game,” starring Jessica Chastain. Sorkin created and produced NBC’s “The West Wing.”
The Irving M. Levin award for film direction is presented each year to one of the leaders in world cinema and is given in memory of the founder of the San Francisco International Film Festival, which launched in 1957. Past recipients include Marielle Heller (2019), 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).
Zhao’s first feature “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2015 and her second feature “The Rider” premiered at Cannes Film Festival’s Director’s Fortnight in 2017 and won the Art Cinema Awards. “The Rider” also won best film at the 2018 Gotham Awards.
Her latest film “Nomadland,” starring Frances McDormand, premiered last month at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion. It won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on Dec. 4 by Searchlight Pictures.