KEITH BEARDEN received a grant for Train Town, a experimental narrative film that will center on two middle-aged men in a small American town who attempt to live out their fantasies of a perfect world through the creation of an elaborate realistic model train diorama. The idyllic happenings in the totally controlled miniature town will be inter-cut with their own sharply contrasting real lives: one, a schoolteacher with contempt for his students, little connection to his own children and a strained relationship with his ex-wife; the other, a paranoid reactionary who shelters himself in pre-60's nostalgia and sees enemies of the American Dream in every immigrant, progressive or libertine. Train Town will examine themes of male fantasy, obsession, non-communication, fear of age and death, and the role sexual/emotional frustration plays in the seeds of fascism.
SUZI YOONESSI received support for Dear Lemon Lima, a narrative film that looks at a spell of misguided parenting that pulls together a 13-year-old Yu'pik (Western Eskimo) girl with a vivid imagination, an underdeveloped military enthusiast and a girl who has legally changed her name to the pronoun Nothing. The film thrives off the notion that life is a time to come together and celebrate common traits and differences, inspiring kindness, individuality and equality.
MITCH MCCABE received a grant for Youth Knows No Pain, a feature-length documentary about the fear of aging and one filmmaker's comical journey through America's anti-aging industry, all set against the backdrop of her father's plastic surgery practice. Traveling across America and visiting everyone from doctors to celebrities, scientists, Star Magazine editors and a cross-section of real life characters who have gone to crazy lengths to beat the clock, Youth Knows No Pain creates a tableau of the aging hysteria. As the film sheds light on both the absurdity and the biological foundation of this obsession, it entertains as it dispels myths, exposes dark truths, and confirms that one thing is for sure-the aging obsession has become a national obsession.
YUNAH HONG received a grant for Anna May Wong, a feature-length documentary about Anna May Wong's (1905-1961) struggle against racism and sexism in Hollywood in her day. A premier Chinese American film star and stage actress, Wong achieved worldwide fame in the 1920's and the 1930's. Today, her life story and career-defining struggles resonate among many young women of color who face issues of race, identity and career. This documentary will elucidate how Anna May Wong's life story is an integral part of American cultural history.
A grant was awarded to SARAH FRIEDLAND for Thing With No Name, a feature-length documentary that tracks the rebirth of a rural South African community plagued by AIDS. The film also focuses on an HIV-positive individual's recovery through treatment. The title of the film addresses the fierce taboo and stigma attached to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa. This fear of rejection is so paralyzing that the name of the virus is rarely spoken aloud, especially among those who are directly impacted by HIV/AIDS.
MATTHEW FRANK THOMAS was awarded a grant for The Kindness of Strangers, a 30-minute narrative about Lenny Barnes, a young stubborn locksmith who copes with feelings of depression, loneliness and love by stalking an older ex-lover named Brenda. After paying her an unannounced visit, Lenny must face the terrible consequences of his obsession when he discovers just how little he knows about his femme fatale. Lenny finds himself entangled in a web of deceit, murder, and a serious case of wrong place, wrong time. This work explores the emotional complexity and internal experiences of African-American men through a modern day film noir.
JENNIFER GRAUSMAN received funding for Pressure Cooker, a feature-length documentary that chronicles the senior year of several inner city public high school students as they are transformed by a teacher and her kitchen. Their unorthodox teacher is Wilma Stephenson, a 37-year veteran of Frankford High School. With high expectations, a borderline-ecclesiastical devotion to her students and a boot-camp styled approach, she pushes her students to grow, mature and aspire-both inside and outside the kitchen. Her distinctive personal approach pays off-last year her seniors won over $500,000 in scholarships. And this year she is hoping they earn even more. Pressure Cooker is a coming-of-age story about the slow, sometimes painful, process of learning and becoming. The film speaks to the essence of education.
MARYAM KESHAVARZ received support for a feature-length documentary called Persian Fashionistas: A New Generation of Revolutionaries. The film looks into the lives of a select group of Tehrani youth struggling to attain freedom under the conservative watch of the Iranian government. These youth represent a generation that has grown tired of restriction and is using fashion as a form of political resistance.
LUCI WESTPHAL was awarded support for All's Well and Fair, an hour-long documentary that gives a unique perspective on growth and identity, choice and consequence, through portraying three punk rock mothers and their children over a ten-year interval of life on the fringes of society. Giving voice to the three mothers as well as to their five children, All's Well and Fair questions the stereotypes of welfare moms and alternative culture. It also examines the pitfalls of capitalism and mass market culture and living on the cusp of poverty. Do these women lead lives of integrity outside of the mainstream system, or have they just subjected themselves and their children to living in poverty and feeding off the system? And did they actually have a choice? The documentary ultimately focuses on the idea of knowing and being yourself.
MARLO PORAS received support for The Candidate (working title), a documentary about the US Senate candidacy of 94-year-old Doris Granny D Haddock. It's a first-person portrait of Doris's remarkable transformation from renowned citizen activist to novice political candidate. The film offers an intimate look at the nation's oldest political newcomer as she struggles against the inherent liabilities of old age and challenges herself to run a US Senate campaign that personifies her democratic ideals of a government of, by and for the people. With no on-camera interviewers or outside narration, Doris's story will be told through an intricate weave of real time scenes and voice-over narration culled from original interviews. The Candidate addresses the entrenched cynicism toward the political system that leaves many skeptical about the motivations of politicians.