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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.