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.
LANRE OLABISI received support for August the First, a feature narrative whose story begins on a promising day. Preparations are wrapping up for a graduation party celebrating a principal character's educational achievement. Friends and family have agreed to reunite on the one day in his honor. As people arrive and the party begins, a dark history begins to unfold with the return of a surprise guest. Unfortunately, the reunion brings turmoil as secrets are revealed, old wounds are reopened, and bad habits are revived. Actions or inactions in the face of life's hardships etch a family dynamic, which is captured in the history of this African-American family.
JRG FOCKELE received a grant for #1 Train, a short narrative that follows two brothers, seven year-old Marc and four year-old Daniel, as they cope with the disintegration of their family. Their mother is addicted to alcohol and their father is absent from the family. In a drunken rage, the boys' mother abandons them one evening, prompting Marc and Daniel to set out to find her.
A grant was awarded to CHERIEN DABIS for Make a Wish a short narrative personal journey that follows Mariam, a young Palestinian girl, on the day of her late father's birthday. While the film does not specifically indicate how the father died, it does make political references that indicate it is related to the current political turmoil. The theme is the devastating impact of political conflict and war: love, loss and grief on a deep, personal level. The film is both a celebration of life and a work of mourning.
GABRIELLA SPIERER received funding toward the production of Raising Inmate 3851, a documentary that takes a look at the practice of prosecuting children as adults in the United States, a phenomenon that has put thousands of children behind bars with adult criminals. It unfolds in segments, using personal stories to illustrate different aspects of the problem. The idea of the film is to offer glimpses into the lives of children who committed crimes, their parents and the authorities, in order to raise questions about and provide perspectives on the real consequences of judicial and legislative policies.
A grant was awarded to LOVISA INSERRA for BUSTER, a super-8 feature-length experimental narrative about a man named Buster who spends all his time provoking strangers into fights, then refuses to defend himself as they pummel him until they grow bored. BUSTER is a grifter, sucking his brother dry, and a cancer, sabotaging his brother's relationship with his girlfriend. Think of him as the patron saint of passive aggression, the don of all losers, or maybe just a regular guy who lost his mind trying to avoid growing up. This is also the story of the people who don't run away from Buster.
A grant was awarded to EMILY and SARAH KUNSTLER for Disturbing the Universe: Radical Lawyer William Kunstler, a documentary about William Kunstler's transformation from smalltime divorce lawyer to larger-than-life defender of equal rights and justice in America, as told by his daughters. In this 90-minute documentary, the co-directors will explore their father's life, from middle-class family man, to movement lawyer, to the most hated lawyer in America (New York Times), in order to understand his political development and his role in the social change movements of which he was a part.
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.
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.
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.