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Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge

Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge

in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Open Submissions

Sundance Institute, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has launched a new project that will harness the power of independent film to create a global conversation about extreme hunger and poverty. The Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge will spur the production of documentary and narrative films – through a global open call for three-to-eight-minute submissions – that will celebrate imaginative solutions real people are creating to overcome the challenges of extreme hunger and poverty. The project supports Sundance Institute’s mission to empower independent storytellers and connect their work to communities around the world. Winning films will receive a $10,000 grant and premiere at a private event at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Users can submit through July 1, 2014.
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Big Men

Big Men

Directed by Rachel Boynton

Coming soon

In 2007 US-based Kosmos Energy discovers the first oil in the history of the West African Republic of Ghana. What follows over the next five years is a twisting tale of greed and deception, which director Rachel Boynton films with an even hand and razor-sharp journalistic skill. While in Ghana she makes side trips to nearby Nigeria, whose own oil reserves have been responsible for a vicious cycle of exploitation with little appreciable benefit to the country itself. BIG MEN takes you to places it seems you shouldn’t be allowed to enter, in scene after scene, traveling from company meetings about oil deals worth billions to gatherings of heavily armed militants preparing to strike. Called “a real-life CHINATOWN or THERE WILL BE BLOOD” by Variety critic Scott Foundas, BIG MEN is a story told as it happens, not reconstructed once the dust settles.
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”The

The Overnighters

Directed by Jesse Moss

Coming Soon

When hydraulic fracturing unlocks a vast oil field in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, tens of thousands of unemployed men descend on the state with dreams of six-figure salaries. In the tiny town of Williston, busloads of newcomers step into the sad reality of slim work prospects and nowhere to sleep. Over at Concordia Lutheran Church, Pastor Jay Reinke is hell-bent on delivering the migrants some dignity. Night after night he converts his church into a makeshift dorm and counseling center. But as broken men arrive in droves, the congregants sling criticism, neighbors get suspicious, and the town threatens an ordinance to shut Reinke down. When the Williston Herald gets wind that sex offenders are among Reinke’s “overnighters,” even the pastor’s supernatural determination can’t stop things from spinning out of control. How much will he sacrifice for his crusade of compassion? With unfettered access to electrifying and poignant moments, it’s impossible not to be riveted by the pastor’s dogged battle in a treacherous world where no man is immune to losing everything.
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If You Build It

If You Build It

Directed by Patrick Creadon

Now Playing

In “If You Build It” we spend a year in the life of one of America’s most innovative classrooms. The film follows Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller as they teach the fundamentals of design, architecture and construction to a class of high school juniors in rural North Carolina. Faced with rising unemployment rates, a struggling educational system and simmering racial tension the people of Bertie County North Carolina turn to Pilloton, Miller and their students for help. We discover that what the class designs and builds for their hometown has a chance to transform their community for generations to come. Christine O’Malley and Patrick Creadon’s two previous films “Wordplay” and “I.O.U.S.A.” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to successful theatrical releases. They have partnered with award-winning writer/producer Neal Baer (Law and Order: SVU, A Gifted Man) for this project. Baer is a pediatrician and television writer who combines his passion for medicine and storytelling to present episodes that challenge the audiences’ views on a spectrum of social and political topics.
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”After

After Tiller

Directed by Martha Shane and Lana Wilson

Past Project

Since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas in May 2009, there are only four American doctors left who openly provide third-trimester abortions. After Tiller paints a complex, compassionate portrait of these physicians—Dr. LeRoy Carhart, Dr. Warren Hern, Dr. Susan Robinson and Dr. Shelley Sella—who have become the new number-one targets of the anti-abortion movement, yet continue to risk their lives every day to do work that many believe is murder, but which they believe is profoundly important for their patients’ lives. The film weaves together revealing, in-depth interviews with the doctors with intimate vérité scenes from their lives and inside their clinics, where they counsel and care for their anxious, vulnerable patients at an important crossroads in their lives. By sharing the moving stories of several of these patients, After Tiller illuminates the experiences of women who seek late abortions and the reasons why they do so.
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The Institute

The Institute

Directed by Spencer McCall

Past Project

“To those dark horses with the spirit to look up and see… a recondite family awaits.” Welcome to the Jejune Institute, a mind-bending San Francisco phenomenon where 10,000 people became “inducted” without ever quite realizing what they’d signed up for. Was it a cult? Was it an elaborate game? Told from the participants’ perspectives, this film looks over the precipice at an emergent new art form where real world and fictional narratives collide, creating unforeseen and often unsettling consequences. Fusing elements of counter-culture, new religious movements and street art, this film invites viewers into a secret underground world teeming just beneath the surface of everyday life.
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Best Kept Secret

Directed by Samantha Buck

Past Project

JFK High School, located in the midst of a run-down area in Newark, New Jersey, is a public school for all types of students with special education needs, ranging from those on the autism spectrum to those with multiple disabilities. Janet Mino has taught her class of young autistic men for four years. When they all graduate in the spring of 2012, they will leave the security of the public school system forever. Best Kept Secret follows Ms. Mino and her students over the year and a half before graduation. The clock is ticking to find them a place in the adult world – a job or rare placement in a recreational center – so they do not end up where their predecessors have, sitting at home, institutionalized, or on the streets.
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Remote Area Medical

Directed by Farihah Zaman and Jeff Reichert

Coming Soon

While living in the Amazon jungle, Stan Brock was inspired to organize volunteer pop-up clinics in remote regions of the world, an effort he called Remote Area Medical. That was three decades ago. Little did he know that today 60 per cent of his organization’s efforts would focus, not on faraway locales, but on his adopted country, the US. This surprising film tells the story of a three-day clinic held in the USA, in Bristol, Tennessee, a mere 115 miles from RAM headquarters. Volunteer doctors, nurses and support workers joined forces to deliver basic medical, dental and eye care to hundreds who would otherwise have none. Patients came in droves days in advance, sleeping in cars, tents or on the ground with no cover. “We cut back on places like Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Africa…simply because we’re overwhelmed with the need here,” says Stan. “Welcome to America.”
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”Twenty

Twenty Feet From Stardom

Directed by Morgan Neville

Now Playing

Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names. In his compelling new film Twenty Feet From Stardom, award-winning director Morgan Neville shines a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others. These gifted artists span a range of styles, genres and eras of popular music, but each has a uniquely fascinating and personal story to share of life spent in the shadows of superstardom. Along with rare archival footage and a peerless soundtrack, Twenty Feet From Stardom boasts intimate interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and Sting to name just a few. However, these world-famous figures take a backseat to the diverse array of backup singers whose lives and stories take center stage in the film.
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Call Me Kuchu

Call Me Kuchu

Directed by Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright

Past Project

In an office on the outskirts of Kampala, veteran activist David Kato labors to repeal Uganda’s homophobic laws and liberate his fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women, or “kuchus.” But David’s formidable task just became more difficult. A new “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” proposes the death penalty for HIV-positive gay men and prison for anyone who fails to turn in a known homosexual. David is one of the few who dare to publicly protest the country’s government and press. Working with a dedicated group of fellow activists, he fights for Kampala’s kuchus on Ugandan television, at the United Nations, and in the courts. Because, he insists, “if we keep on hiding, they will say we are not here.” With unprecedented access, Call Me Kuchu examines the astounding courage and determination required to battle an oppressive government, a vicious media and a powerful church in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
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No Place on Earth

Directed by Janet Tobias

Past Project

No Place on Earth brings to light an extra-ordinary true tale of survival that remained untold for decades. In 1993, Chris Nicola, an American cave enthusiast, was exploring the Ukraine’s “gypsum giants,” some of the longest horizontal caves in the world. Within this labyrinth, he came across signs of former human habitation: buttons, an old house key, a woman’s dress shoe. Locals told him that during World War II, there were rumours of Jewish families hiding from the Nazis in the caves. No one knew what happened to them; over ninety-five per cent of the Jews in this region of Ukraine perished in the Holocaust. It took Nicola nine years to uncover the secret that the cave survivors had kept to themselves after emigrating to Canada and the United States. Now, they were ready to tell their story.
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”Elemental"

Elemental

Directed by Gayatri Roshan and Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee

Past Project

Elemental tells the story of three individuals united by their deep connection with nature and driven to confront some of the most pressing ecological challenges of our time. The film follows Rajendra Singh, an Indian government official gone rogue, on a 40-day pilgrimage down India’s once pristine Ganges river, now polluted and dying. Facing community opposition and personal doubts, Singh works to shut down factories, halt construction of dams, and rouse the Indian public to treat their sacred “Mother Ganga” with respect. Across the globe in northern Canada, Eriel Deranger mounts her own “David and Goliath” struggle against the world’s largest industrial development, the Tar Sands, an oil deposit larger than the state of Florida. A young mother and native Denè, Deranger struggles with family challenges while campaigning tirelessly against the Tar Sands and its proposed 2,000-mile Keystone XL Pipeline, which are destroying Indigenous communities and threatening an entire continent. And in Australia, inventor and entrepreneur Jay Harman searches for investors willing to risk millions on his conviction that nature’s own systems hold the key to our world’s ecological problems. Harman finds his inspiration in the natural world’s profound architecture and creates a revolutionary device that he believes can slow down global warming, but will it work? Separated by continents yet sharing an unwavering commitment to protecting nature, the characters in this story are complex, flawed, postmodern heroes for whom stemming the tide of environmental destruction fades in and out of view – part mirage, part miracle.
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The Punk Singer

The Punk Singer

Directed by Sini Anderson

Coming Soon

Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill and dance-punk trio Le Tigre, rose to national attention as the reluctant but never shy voice of the riot grrrl movement. She became one of the most famously outspoken feminist icons, a cultural lightning rod. Her critics wished she would just shut-up, and her fans hoped she never would. So in 2005, when Hanna stopped shouting, many wondered why. Through 20 years of archival footage and intimate interviews with Hanna, THE PUNK SINGER takes viewers on a fascinating tour of contemporary music and offers a never-before-seen view into the life of this fearless leader.
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The Central Park Five

The Central Park Five

Directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon

Past Project

In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem were arrested and later convicted of brutally beating and raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park. New York Mayor Ed Koch called it the “crime of the century” and it remains to date one of the biggest media stories of our time. The five each spent between 6 and 13 years in prison before a shocking confession from a serial rapist and DNA evidence proved their innocence. Set against a backdrop of a decaying city beset by violence and racial tension, THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE tells the story of how five lives were upended by the rush to judgment by police, a sensationalist media and a devastating miscarriage of justice.
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”In

In Our Nature

Directed by Brian Savelson

Past Project

When Brooklynite Seth (Zach Gilford) takes his girlfriend Andie (Jena Malone) to his family’s weekend house in upstate New York for a romantic getaway, they are unexpectedly joined by his estranged father Gil (John Slattery), and his much-younger new girlfriend, Vicky (Gabrielle Union). The women carefully negotiate emotional minefields as they persuade father and son to share the house for the first time since the summer vacations of Seth’s childhood. This unexpected family reunion in the great outdoors, fraught with tensions old and new, pushes them all to realize the bonds of family are always stronger and stranger than expected. From the producers of MEEK’S CUTOFF and WENDY AND LUCY, IN OUR NATURE is an earnest, delicately observed family portrait of couples at a crossroads.
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Citadel

Citadel

Directed by Ciarán Foy

Past Project

In CITADEL, young father Tommy Cowley (Aneurin Barnard) is afflicted with chronic agoraphobia after his wife is brutally killed by a gang of twisted feral children. Trapped in the dilapidated suburbia of Edenstown, he finds himself terrorized by the same gang, now intent on taking his baby daughter. Torn between the advice of an understanding nurse and a vigilante priest, Tommy sets out to learn the nightmarish truth surrounding these hooded children. He also discovers that to be free of his terror, he must finally face the demons of his past and enter the one place that he fears the most – the abandoned tower block known as the Citadel. CITADEL brings a fresh take to classic horror by raising the question: How can you protect your family from evil when you’re afraid of everything?
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An Honest Liar

An Honest Liar

Directed by Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom

On Kickstarter

As a teenager, James Randi did what most kids only dreamt of, he ran away to join a traveling circus – and he never looked back. Dubbed “The Amazing Randi”, his feats of magic and escape, and acts of mentalism made him an international celebrity. At the same time, however, he saw those same powers being used by con men, faith healers, and psychics for thievery. Knowing that it takes a thief to catch a thief, Randi dedicated his life to expose these charlatans. Today, the wizened sage of 83, with a vaudevillian’s wit and the boundless energy of a teenager, continues his mission – which has only grown more intense. AN HONEST LIAR will chronicle how a curious child rose to the ranks of showman and then advanced to renowned demystifier of paranormal claims. We will hear firsthand about his celebrated debunking of the spoon-bending Uri Geller and his many visits to the Tonight Show where he exposed the faith-healing Peter Popoff. The film will bring to life such schemes as “Project Alpha”, where two magicians posing as psychics fooled a scientific study on paranormal powers and the famous “Carlos Hoax” in which Randi unleashed a fake mystic upon the people of Australia.
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The Flat

The Flat

Directed by Arnon Goldfinger

Past Project

At age 98, director Arnon Goldfinger’s grandmother passed away, leaving him the task of clearing out the Tel Aviv flat that she and her husband shared for decades since immigrating from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Sifting through a dense mountain of photos, letters, files, and objects, Goldfinger documents himself undertaking the arduous process of making sense of a lifetime’s accumulation of possessions. In the process, he begins to uncover clues that seem to point to a greater mystery, and soon a complicated and shocking family history unfolds before his camera. What starts to take shape is the troubled and taboo history of Goldfinger’s grandparents’ lives in Germany in the tumultuous and difficult years before World War II, and the unexpected yet inevitable ethical ambiguities and repressed emotions that arise when everyday friendships suddenly cross enemy lines. In this emotionally riveting documentary, Goldfinger follows the hints his grandparents left behind to investigate long-buried family secrets and unravel the mystery of their painful past.
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Half Revolution

1/2 Revolution

Directed by Omar Shargawi and Karim El Hakim

Past Project

½ Revolution is a personal, intimate story from the Arab Spring: a group of friends living in downtown Cairo struggle to stay together during the first chaotic days of the Egyptian Revolution. As waves of protests escalate in their neighborhood next to Tahrir Square, directors Omar Shargawi and Karim El Hakim take to the streets to capture the historical events unfolding around them. But as the violence and uncertainty builds, Karim and his young family’s apartment becomes an epicenter of activity as worried friends and neighbors flock together in a bid to survive the counter punches thrown by police and the armed gangs of pro-Mubarak thugs swarming the streets under their balcony. The film is the first film that considers the 25th of January revolution an incomplete revolution, which has been proven by the latest events in Egypt. The film’s name was decided on from the first days of its shooting, where Omar and Karim considered that the title reflects on what happened to the ongoing Egyptian revolution.
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Sleepwalk With Me

Sleepwalk With Me

Directed by Mike Birbiglia

Past Project

Winner of a 2012 Audience Award at Sundance, comedian Mike Birbiglia wrote, directed and stars in this sincere and hilarious film, based on his off-Broadway show and bestselling book. It’s also the first movie co-written by Ira Glass and co-produced by “This American Life.” The story: when an aspiring stand-up fails to express his true feelings about his girlfriend and his stalled career, his anxiety comes out in increasingly funny and dangerous sleepwalking incidents. SLEEPWALK WITH ME features Lauren Ambrose (“Six Feet Under”), Carol Kane (“Taxi”), James Rebhorn (“Meet the Parents”), Cristin Milioti (star of Broadway’s “Once”), plus comedians Marc Maron, Kristen Schaal, Wyatt Cenac, Jesse Klein, Henry Phillips and David Wain.
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Red Hook Summer

Red Hook Summer

Directed by Spike Lee

Past Project

The latest in Spike Lee’s Chronicles of Brooklyn series (which also include SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT, DO THE RIGHT THING, CROOKLYN, CLOCKERS, and HE GOT GAME), RED HOOK SUMMER tells the story of Flik Royale, a sullen young boy from middle-class Atlanta who has come to spend the summer with his deeply religious grandfather, Bishop Enoch Rouse, in the housing projects of Red Hook. Having never met before, things quickly get off on the wrong foot as Bishop Enoch relentlessly attempts to convert Flik into a follower of Jesus Christ. Between his grandfather’s constant preaching and the culture shock of inner-city life, Flik’s summer appears to be a total disaster–until he meets Chazz Morningstar, a pretty girl his age, who shows Flik the brighter side of Brooklyn. Through her love and the love of his grandfather, Flik begins to realize that the world is a lot bigger, and perhaps a lot better, than he’d ever imagined.
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The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room

Directed by Peter Nicks

Past Project

THE WAITING ROOM is a character-driven documentary film that uses extraordinary access to go behind the doors of an American public hospital struggling to care for a community of largely uninsured patients. The film – using a blend of cinema verité and characters’ voiceover – offers a raw, intimate, and even uplifting look at how patients, staff and caregivers each cope with disease, bureaucracy and hard choices. THE WAITING ROOM lays bare the struggle and determination of both a community and an institution coping with limited resources and no road map for navigating a health care landscape marked by historic economic and political dysfunction. It is a film about one hospital, its multifaceted community, and how our common vulnerability to illness binds us together as humans.
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Somewhere Between

Somewhere Between

Directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton

Past Project

Four baby girls are born in China to families who are unable to keep them largely because of China’s “One Child Policy.” Instead of being raised by their biological parents the baby girls are given to orphanages then eventually adopted by American families and whisked halfway around the world to the United States. They grow up with Sesame Street, hip-hop, and Twitter. They describe themselves as “bananas:” white on the inside and yellow on the outside. All is well, until they hit their teen years, when their past pulls at them, and they start to wonder, “Who am I?” Since 1989, 150,000 children from China have been adopted around the world. Eighty thousand of those children live in the U.S.—in all 50 states. Documentaries have been made before about international adoption, but have always been from the point of view of the adoptive, Caucasian parents or the adult adoptee. Young minority girls’ voices are rarely heard. SOMEWHERE BETWEEN lets four girls tell their own stories, and the film unfolds completely from their point of view. We gain access to their deepest thoughts—about their families, their feelings of being an “other,” and their powerful connections to a past that most of them cannot recall.
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5 Broken Cameras

5 Broken Cameras

Directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi

Past Project

An extraordinary work of both cinematic and political activism, 5 BROKEN CAMERAS is a deeply personal, first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. Shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, the footage was later given to Israeli co-director Guy Davidi to edit. Structured around the violent destruction of each one of Burnat’s cameras, the filmmakers’ collaboration follows one family’s evolution over five years of village turmoil. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost. “I feel like the camera protects me,” he says, “but it’s an illusion.”
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Strong

Strong!

Directed by Julie Wyman

Past Project

Cheryl Haworth defies categories. A 12th generation patriotic American, a visual artist, and, since age 14, America’s top Olympic weightlifter, she is an elite at the international level, ranked well above all men and women on Team USA. But at 5’ 8” inches and weighing over 300 pounds, she doesn’t easily fit into standard chairs, clothing sizes or pre-conceptions. STRONG! follows Haworth from the highs of her spectacular rise, through the lows of battling injuries and grappling with the contradiction of having of a body that is at once celebrated within her sport but shunned by mainstream culture. Through Haworth’s journey we learn not only about the sport of lifting weight, but also the state of being weighty: the consequences and possibilities of a having a body that doesn’t fit.
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Welcome to the Machine

Welcome to the Machine

Directed by Avi Zev Weider

Past Project

After three years of trying to have a child, filmmaker Avi Zev Weider and his wife
Alexandra tried IVF and immediately became pregnant – with triplets. In grappling with this life-changing experience, it was evident that technology was having a real affect on Avi’s life; his babies were conceived via a technical process, born in a high-tech neo-natal intensive care unit and kept alive inside a series of machines. In short, Avi’s children came into this world and were made viable thanks to technology. And so, much bigger questions, ones difficult to even formulate, loomed large as the triplets came home. In seeking to clarify these questions, and deal with his new and difficult reality, the filmmaker engages futurists, scientists, scholars, anti-technology advocates and even Ted Kaczynski, aka the ‘Unabomber,’ to uncover a big-picture view of our ongoing relationship to technology.
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The Sisterhood of Night

The Sisterhood of Night

Directed by Caryn Waechter

Past Project

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser has another feature film in the works, this time based on his lauded short story, THE SISTERHOOD OF NIGHT. A teenage girl says she’s the victim of a secret network called The Sisterhood of Night, catalyzing a maelstrom of events that brings everyone’s secrets to the surface. The screen adaptation, written by Marilyn Fu, is a modern twist on the Salem witch trials and looks at how the digital realm has transformed teen life and created a new culture of sharing.
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Ethel

Ethel

Directed by Rory Kennedy

Past Project

ETHEL is a feature length documentary about the remarkable life of Ethel Kennedy, told by those who know Ethel best: her family. Directed by her Emmy-Award winning daughter, Rory Kennedy, the film features candid interviews with Ethel and seven of her children. The film is a personal portrait of Ethel’s political awakening, the life she shared with Robert F. Kennedy, and the years following his death when she raised their eleven children on her own. Intimate, funny, and deeply moving, ETHEL offers a rare look inside a political dynasty strengthened by family bonds, a compassion for others, and a wisdom forged from both hardship and triumph.
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Addiction Incorporated

Addiction Incorporated

Directed by Charles Evans Jr.

Past Project

In 1994, scientist Victor DeNoble becomes the first whistle-blower to reveal the tobacco industry’s efforts to manufacture “a maximally addictive” product. Charles Evans Jr. tells the riveting story of DeNoble’s journey from research scientist working for Philip Morris (where employees signed secrecy agreements) to star informant — before Congressional committees, the FDA and Al Gore’s Tobacco Settlement Committee — and peripatetic anti-smoking advocate extraordinaire. Evans marshals classic footage: the CEOs of the seven leading tobacco companies who testify under oath that they do not believe that nicotine is addictive; Rep. Thomas J. Bliley, Jr. (R-VA) likening the government’s treatment of the tobacco industry to McCarthyism; the $10 billion lawsuit filed by Philip Morris against ABC. Today, the story continues to unfold: the FDA is requiring that cigarette packages include graphic labels of rotting teeth and blackened lungs, by fall 2012. The tobacco companies are threatening legal action — again.
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Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse

Directed by Frederick Wiseman

Past Project

Celebrated documentary director Frederick Wiseman spent ten weeks with his camera exploring one of the most mythic places dedicated to women: THE CRAZY HORSE. Wiseman’s impeccable eye allows us to enter into this intriguing international temple of the Parisian club world and to discover what makes the Crazy Horse tick: elegance, perfectionism and a grueling schedule (with two shows a night and three on Saturdays, seven days a week). The film follows the rehearsals and performances for a new show called “DÉSIRS,” staged by Philippe Decouflé, a celebrated French choreographer, as well as the backstage preparations of the dancers (make-up and costume fittings) and also the various issues involved in the planning of the show and the administration of the club. The show DÉSIRS is an artistic, modern, humorous and colorful spectacle that is the pinnacle of ‘nude chic.’
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Being Elmo

Being Elmo

Directed by Constance Marks

Past Project

Every day, millions tune in to Sesame Street to see one of the world’s most adored and recognizable characters—a furry red monster named Elmo. Yet, with all of Elmo’s fame, the man behind the icon is able to walk down the street without being recognized. Meet Kevin Clash. As a teenager growing up in Baltimore in the 1970s, Kevin had very different aspirations from his classmates—he wanted to be a puppeteer. More specifically, he wanted to be part of Jim Henson’s team, the creative force responsible for delivering the magic of Sesame Street on a daily basis. With a supportive family behind him, Kevin made his dreams come true. Combining amazing archival footage with material from the present day, filmmaker Constance Marks explores Kevin’s story in vivid detail and chronicles the meteoric rise of Jim Henson in the process. The film has won numerous awards at film festivals, including a Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
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Hell and Back Again

Hell and Back Again

Directed by Danfung Dennis

Past Project

What does it mean to lead men in war? What does it mean to come home -injured physically and psychologically – and build a life anew? Hell and Back Again is a cinematically revolutionary film that asks and answers these questions with a power and intimacy no previous film about the conflict in Afghanistan has been able to achieve.
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Resurrect Dead

Resurrect Dead

Directed by Jon Foy

Past Project

Strangeness is afoot. Most people don’t notice the hundreds of cryptic tiled messages about resurrecting the dead that have been appearing in city streets over the past three decades. But Justin Duerr does. For years, finding an answer to this long-standing urban mystery has been his obsession. He has been collecting clues that the tiler has embedded in the streets of major cities across the U.S. and South America. But as Justin starts piecing together key events of the past he finds a story that is more surreal than he imagined, and one that hits disturbingly close to home.
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My Reincarnation

My Reincarnation

Directed by Jennifer Fox

Past Project

My Reincarnation is an epic father-son drama, spanning two decades and three generations, about spirituality, cultural survival, identity, inheritance, family, growing old, growing up, faith, meditation, religion, magic, dreaming, Buddhism, Dzogchen — and past and future lives. The film follows the renowned reincarnate Tibetan spiritual master, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, as he struggles to save his spiritual tradition, and his Italian born son, Yeshi, who stubbornly refuses to follow in his father’s footsteps…
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Elevate

Elevate

Directed by Anne Buford

Past Project

Filmed over four years, from the dilapidated cement courts of Senegal to upscale American prep schools, Elevate documents the extraordinary personal journeys of four particularly tall West African Muslim teenage boys with NBA dreams. Recruited for both their physical and academic skills, Assane, Dethie, Byago and Aziz accept basketball scholarships to schools in the United States – and face the daunting challenges of alienation, a foreign language, American-style basketball and an unfamiliar American culture rife with African stereotypes. But with courage, humor, and remarkable resilience, they relentlessly pursue their dreams – to obtain an education and a shot at the NBA.
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Crime After Crime

Crime After Crime

Directed by Yoav Potash

Past Project

Twenty-six years in prison could not crush the spirit of Deborah Peagler, despite the injustice she experienced, first at the hands of a duplicitous boyfriend who beat her and forced her into prostitution, and later by prosecutors who used the threat of the death penalty to corner her into a life behind bars for her connection to the murder of her abuser. Her story takes an unexpected turn two decades later when a pair of rookie land-use attorneys volunteer to try to set her free.
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Sholem Aleichem

Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness

Directed by Joseph Dorman

Past Project

A riveting portrait of the great writer whose stories became the basis of the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness tells the tale of the rebellious genius who created an entirely new literature. Plumbing the depths of a Jewish world locked in crisis and on the cusp of profound change, he captured that world with brilliant humor. Sholem Aleichem was not just a witness to the creation of a new modern Jewish identity, but one of the very men who shaped it.
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Programming the Nation

Programming the Nation

Directed by Jeff Warrick

Past Project

Director, Jeff Warrick, leads this documentary journey through the subconscious mind while exploring the alleged usage of subliminal messaging in advertising, music, film, television, anti-theft devices, political propaganda, military psychological operations, and advanced weapons development, to determine if such tactics have succeeded in Programming the Nation?
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Louder Than a Bomb

Louder Than a Bomb

Directed by Greg Jacobs

Past Project

Louder Than a Bomb is an award winning feature documentary that tells the story of four Chicago high school poetry teams as they prepare to compete in the world’s largest youth slam. By turns hopeful and heartbreaking, the film captures the turbulent lives of these unforgettable kids, exploring the ways writing shapes their world, and vice versa. Louder Than a Bomb is not about “high school poetry” as we often think of it. It’s about language as a joyful release, irrepressibly talented teenagers obsessed with making words dance. While the topics they tackle are often deeply personal, what they put into their poems—and what they get out of them—is universal: the defining work of finding one’s voice.

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Blank City

Blank City

Directed by Celine Danhier

Past Project

Blank City tells the long-overdue tale of the motley crew of renegade filmmakers that emerged from an economically bankrupt and dangerous period of New York history. It’s a fascinating look at the way this misfit cinema used the deserted, bombed-out Lower East Side landscapes to craft daring works that would go on to profoundly influence Independent Film today. Unlike the much-celebrated punk music scene, this era’s thrilling and confrontational underground film movement has never before been chronicled. Directed by French newcomer Celine Danhier, Blank City captures the idiosyncratic, explosive energy of the “No Wave Cinema” and “Cinema of Transgression” movements. Featured players include acclaimed directors Jim Jarmusch and John Waters, actor-writer-director Steve Buscemi, Blondie’s Debbie Harry, Hip Hop legend Fab 5 Freddy, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, photographer Richard Kern as well as Amos Poe, James Nares, Eric Mitchell, Susan Seidelman, Beth B, Scott B, Charlie Ahearn and Nick Zedd. Fittingly, the soundtrack includes: Patti Smith, Television, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, The Contortions, The Bush Tetras, Sonic Youth and many more.

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Zero Bridge

Zero Bridge

Directed by Tariq Tapa

Past Project

In the tradition of hard-hitting neo-realist filmmaking comes the debut feature of Tariq Tapa, a US-born filmmaker of Kashmiri/Jewish-American descent. Having spent his childhood summers in India-controlled Kashmir with his father’s family, he was committed to making a film of quotidian life, far from Bollywood fantasies and Western news reports of terrorism: Dilawar is a teenage pickpocket whose escape plans are complicated when he develops an uneasy alliance with a woman (herself fleeing an arranged marriage) whose passport he has stolen. Zero Bridge is a story of two young people’s struggle to retain their humanity, despite poverty, the traditional culture into which they’ve been born, and the fatalism, sexism and casual cruelty of their families.

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Fambul Tok

Fambul Tok

Directed by Sara Terry

Past Project

Victims and perpetrators of Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war come together for the first time in an unprecedented program of tradition-based truth-telling and forgiveness ceremonies. Through reviving their ancient practice of fambul tok (family talk), Sierra Leoneans are building sustainable peace at the grass-roots level – succeeding where the international community’s post-conflict efforts failed. Filled with lessons for the West, this film explores the depths of a culture that believes that true justice lies in redemption and healing for individuals – and that forgiveness is the surest path to restoring dignity and building strong communities.

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Topp Twins

Topp Twins

Directed by Leanne Pooley

Past Project

The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls is the first time that the irrepressible Kiwi
entertainment double act, Jools and Lynda Topp’s extraordinary personal story has
been told. The film offers a revealing look into the lives of the World’s only comedic,
country singing, dancing, and yodeling lesbian twin sisters. As well as rarely seen
archive footage and home movies, the film features a series of special interviews with
some of the Topp’s infamous comedy alter-egos including candid chats with the two
Kens, Camp Mother and Camp Leader, the Bowling Ladies and the Posh Socialite
sisters, Prue and Dilly.

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Waste Land

Waste Land

Directed by Lucy Walker

Past Project

Filmed over nearly three years, Waste Land follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores” – self designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives. Director Lucy Walker (Devil’s Playground, Blindsight, Countdown to Zero) has great access to the entire process and, in the end, offers stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.

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Howl

Howl

Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

Past Project

Starring James Franco in a career-defining performance as Allen Ginsberg, Howl is the story young poet’s seminal work broke down societal barriers in the face of an infamous public obscenity trial. In his famously confessional style, Ginsberg – poet, counter-culture icon, and chronicler of the Beat Generation – recounts the road trips, love affairs, and search for personal liberation that led to Howl, the most timeless work of his career. Howl interweaves three stories: the unfolding of the landmark 1957 obscenity trial; an imaginative animated ride through the prophetic masterpiece; and a unique portrait of a man who found new ways to express himself, and in doing so, changed his own life and galvanized a generation.

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A Film Unfinished

A Film Unfinished

Directed by Yael Hersonski

Past Project

At the end of WWII, 60 minutes of raw film, having sat undisturbed in an East German archive, was discovered. Shot by the Nazis in Warsaw in May 1942, and labeled simply “Ghetto,” this footage quickly became a resource for historians seeking an authentic record of the Warsaw Ghetto. However, the later discovery of a long-missing reel, inclusive of multiple takes and cameraman staging scenes, complicated earlier readings of the footage. A Film Unfinished presents the raw footage in its entirety, carefully noting fictionalized sequences (including a staged dinner party) falsely showing “the good life” enjoyed by Jewish urbanites, and probes deep into the making of a now-infamous Nazi propaganda film. A Film Unfinished is a film of enormous import, documenting some of the worst horrors of our time and exposing the efforts of its perpetrators to propel their agenda and cast it in a favorable light.

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Boxing Gym

Boxing Gym

Directed by Frederick Wiseman

Past Project

The subject of the film is an Austin, Texas institution, Lord’s Gym, which was founded sixteen years ago by Richard Lord, a former professional boxer. A wide variety of people of all ages, races, ethnicities and social classes train at the gym: men, women, children, doctors, lawyers, judges, business men and women, immigrants, professional boxers and people who want to become professional boxers alongside amateurs who love the sport and teenagers who are trying to develop strength and assertiveness. The gym is an example of the American “melting pot” where people meet, talk, and train.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

Directed by Tamra Davis

Past Project

Centered on a rare interview that director and friend Tamra Davis shot with Basquiat over twenty years ago, this definitive documentary chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of the young artist. In the crime-ridden NYC of the 1970s, he covers the city with the graffiti tag SAMO. The artist was 25 years old at the height of his career, and today his canvases sell for more than a million dollars. With compassion and psychological insight, Tamra Davis details the mysteries that surround this charismatic young man, an artist of enormous talent whose fortunes mirrored the rollercoaster quality of the downtown scene he seemed to embody. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child features interviews with Julian Schnabel, Larry Gagosian, Bruno Bischofberger, Tony Shafrazi, Fab 5 Freddy, Jeffrey Deitch, Glenn O’Brien, Maripol, Kai Eric, Nicholas Taylor, Fred Hoffmann, Michael Holman, Diego Cortez, Annina Nosei, Suzanne Mallouk, Rene Ricard, Kenny Scharf, among many others.

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The Kids Grow Up

The Kids Grow Up

Directed by Doug Block

Past Project

Documentary filmmaker Doug Block (51 Birch Street) has captured much of his daughter Lucy’s life on camera, both to her delight and dismay. Now his only child is turning 18 and soon she’ll be leaving home for college. Lucy’s imminent departure is the springboard for The Kids Grow Up, a humorous and poignant first-person look at father-daughter relationships, modern-day parenting, and the looming empty nest.

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Off and Running

Off and Running

Directed by Nicole Opper

Past Project

With white Jewish lesbians for parents and two adopted brothers – one mixed-race and one Korean – Brooklyn teen Avery grew up in a unique and loving household. But when her curiosity about her African-American roots grows, she decides to contact her birth mother. This choice propels Avery into her own complicated exploration of race, identity, and family that threatens to distance her from the parents she’s always known. She begins staying away from home, starts skipping school, and risks losing her shot at the college track career she had always dreamed of. But when Avery decides to pick up the pieces of her life and make sense of her identity, the results are inspiring. Off and Running follows Avery to the brink of adulthood, exploring the strength of family bonds and the lengths people must go to become themselves.

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la danse

La Danse

Directed by Frederick Wiseman

Past Project

Documentary master Frederick Wiseman’s 38th film in a career that has spanned more than that number of years, turns his attention to one of the world’s greatest ballet companies, the Paris Opera Ballet. John Davey’s camera roams the vast Palais Garnier, an opulent 19th century pile of a building: from its crystal chandelier-laden corridors to its labyrinthine underground chambers, from its light-filled rehearsal studios to its luxurious theater replete with 2,200 scarlet velvet seats and Marc Chagall ceiling.

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Four Seasons Lodge

Four Seasons Lodge

Directed by Andrew Jacobs

Past Project

Haunted by the past but driven by an unquenchable passion for living, an aging group of Holocaust survivors gathers each summer at an idyllic hideaway in the Catskills, where they savor tightly bonded friendships, find new love and celebrate their survival. Directed by New York Times journalist Andrew Jacobs, with the legendary Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens) contributing cinematography, Four Seasons Lodge is an inspiring and surprisingly funny documentary that captures what may be the final season for a remarkable tribe of survivors who have found that dancing, laughter and late-night revelry may be the best revenge.

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William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within

Directed by Yony Leyser

Past Project

Yony Leyser’s William S. Burroughs: A Man Within is a probing yet loving portrait of the man who shattered the boundaries of queer and drug culture in the 1950’s. With works like “Naked Lunch,” “Junkie,” and “Queer,” Burroughs at once savaged conservative ideals, spawned countercultural movements, and reconfigured the 20th century.

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A Good Man

A Good Man

Directed by Safina Uberoi

Past Project

Chris Rohrlach, the good man of the title, looks like an ordinary Australian ‘bloke’. A farmer from northern New South Wales, we discover Chris mustering sheep. But Chris’s is an extraordinary story. Fourteen years ago, his pregnant girlfriend Rachel had a massive stroke which left her incurably quadriplegic, unable to move her arms and legs or even speak. Chris was undeterred, for him Rachel was still Rachel, and he married her shortly after their baby was born. That baby is now a teenage boy and Chris and Rachel have just found out they are having another child! If that was not enough responsibility for Chris, life on the farm is tough and he desperately needs a second income. To the horror of many local townspeople, Chris decides to open a small legal brothel. This is an extraordinary story of love, commitment, the uniquely Australian culture of country people, and a resilience that seems to know no bounds.

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Women Without Men

Women Without Men

Directed by Shirin Neshat

Past Project

Women Without Men is Shirin Neshat’s independent film adaptation of Shahrnush Parsipur’s magic realist novel. The story chronicles the intertwining lives of four Iranian women during the summer of 1953; a cataclysmic moment in Iranian history when an American led, British backed coup d’état brought down the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, and reinstalled the Shah to power.

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