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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.