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.
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.
MITCH DEOUDES was awarded support for The Death of Doctor Island, an experimental 35mm narrative that tells the story of a mentally ill boy trapped on what appears to be a deserted island, told as a cycle of seven installments. According to Deoudes, the film is an experiment in immersion and persistence in cinema, which touches on themes of morality, socialization, and sacrifice.
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.
Support was awarded to IAN OLDS for Watch it Burn, an hour-long documentary that follows Christian Parenti of The Nation magazine as he pursues a story on the state of Afghanistan five years after September 11th. What emerges is an intimate how the sausage gets made look at journalism in a war zone and, more importantly, a portrait of everyday Afghans trying to cope with the aftermath of America's forgotten war.
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.
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.