Dessa Darlling, Cedar Cultural Center 2011, image by Ben LaFond
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Support was awarded to MOON MOLSON for MEADOWLANDZ, a narrative short about a crew of four black street kids who find a drunken African passed out in the hallway of their tenement building. When it is revealed that the drunk is actually the father of Marquis, one of the four teens in the crew, the young men find themselves on a rag-tag journey through the urban darkness in search of a place for the unconscious man to sleep. As the night dwindles on, tensions flare and a final explosion of street codes, machismo and youthful pride threaten to make the place they find for the drunken man to sleep, the bottom of a swamp between New York City and New Jersey-the murky, reed-clotted depths of The Meadows. Although MEADOWLANDZ is a hip-hop neo-noir, instead of glorifying the street culture of violence and misogyny typical of this urban youth culture, the film indicts it as a dangerous code of conduct found in terminal machismo values. The film is a parable on the dangers of peer pressure and humiliation.
ADAM ZUCKER was awarded a grant for a feature-length documentary called Greensboro-Closer to the Truth, which has its roots in the Greensboro Massacre of 1979. This killing of five civil rights and labor activists by Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis occurred with foreknowledge of local police and the FBI. Despite extensive television footage of the murders, no one was ever convicted. For nearly a quarter century, the city of Greensboro has lived in the shadow of these events. Its long history at the forefront of the civil rights movement-the Woolworth's sit-ins of 1961-had been cut short. Mistrust and finger pointing has continued to this day, leaving a polarized community still grappling with the ripple effects of the killings. Now the survivors have convinced the North Carolina community to finally get to the bottom of the alleged conspiracy. To accomplish this, they have amassed a coalition of support, and will stage a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the tragedy. This film provides background on the killings and the progression of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
RACHEL PERKOFF was awarded a grant for a feature-length documentary called Another Lost Angel. On June 26, 1980, Kat Perkoff, the sister of the filmmaker, died in a white Mercedes after it veered off a highway, hit a concrete bridge support and split cleanly in half. Kat's high-drama, high-impact death was in some way an inexorable conclusion to a life lived with voracious and feverish intensity. In her brief 23 years, Kat Perkoff inhabited many personae: runaway, drug smuggler, gay bar manager, writer, local icon, and key player in the murky underworld of the New Orleans lesbian mafia-a demimonde populated by pimps, prostitutes and corrupt cops. Even for the fast lane of the French Quarter in the early 1970's, Kat's life hurtled along at several times the average speed. Another Lost Angel explores Kat's poetic life and violent death. The official report of the New Orleans Police Department states that Kat's death was caused by accidental collision. But rumors at the time pointed to a hit, mafia score, and a police cover-up. The filmmaker's quest to remember and reconstruct has become the catalyst for a broader meditation on collective memory, amnesia, fate and biography.
RAY TINTORI received a grant for Glory at Sea!, a narrative short that takes place in 2008 New Orleans after another Katrina-like storm. The story's hero, Jake, and his girlfriend Tess sink into the clutches of Hell-not a fiery inferno, but an expanse of condemned souls planted like cornstalks at the bottom of the ocean. As Tess sinks into the sand, Jake is suddenly spat back up toward the surface. He emerges from the water, half alive, and finds himself in a mangled, dystopic American landscape. He begins constructing a raft out of the rubble of the city, planning on going to sea alone to rescue Tess. As he builds, survivors who also have loved ones lost in the underwater Hades begin to emerge from the bombed-out wasteland. Defying a clergy that declares Jake a pariah and his mission an affront to God's will, a community of fierce and devastated people join him in his epic task, seemingly doomed to failure. Jake's raft slowly transforms from a mere vehicle into a sprawling shrine of memorials and sentiments dedicated to the victims lost beneath the water. Driven by longing, desire, and their refusal to accept the idea that their loved ones were meant to die, they set sail to stage a veritable prison break from death itself. Glory at Sea! Is a film about love, loss, and hope, built from the rubble that still blankets every corner of New Orleans.
Springboard for the Arts, St. Paul, Minnesota, as fiscal sponsor for Kathy McTavish, Duluth, Minnesota, received $9,000 in support of the development and production of a new work, the origin of birds. Springboard’s mission is to cultivate a vibrant arts community by connecting artists with the skills, contacts, information, and services they need to make a living and a life. A cellist, composer, and multimedia artist, McTavish blends cello, found sound, electronic effects, and abstract, layered, still-motion film. the origin of birds includes new compositions and stories presented in a transmedia platform, utilizing the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms using current digital technologies. The immersive installation of the origin of birds includes multiple projections, live cello performance, and portals into an interactive web environment for viewers with mobile devices.