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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.