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Sundance Announces 23 New Documentary Fund Grantees

by
in Filmmaking
on Oct 30, 2020

Twenty-three projects hailing from 21 countries will receive support from the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund. Announced today, the projects will receive $540,000 in unrestricted grant support with funds made possible by The Open Society Foundations and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“During a time of shared crisis, it is essential that Sundance continue its steadfast support of artists across the globe,” said Documentary Film Program Director Carrie Lozano in a press release. “These films creatively assert our common quests, conditions and resilience as they interrogate notions of individual and collective power.”

“Creative support for nonfiction storytellers feels especially urgent at the present moment,” added Documentary Film Fund Director, Hajnal Molnar-Szakacs. “These documentarians are helping us make sense of our collective history and reality, and through innovative approaches on diverse topics, helping us imagine a collective future.”

The complete list of grants is below.

Development

Breaking the Brick (Chile), dir. Carola Fuentes, Rafael Valdeavellano, prod. Rafael Valdeavellano, Carola Fuentes. After half a century living under the neoliberal economic model established by the Chicago Boys in Chile, a jaded crowd rises throughout the country demanding economic and social transformation. The awakening of the Chilean citizens and the death of a model.

The Illusion of an Everlasting Summer (Argentina), dir. Alessandra Sanguinetti, prod. Julia Solomonoff, Lúcia Reis. Spanning more than 20 years, this intimate portrait of two girls, their everyday lives, fantasies and dreams explores their realities and inequalities of growing up female in rural Argentina.

King Coal (USA), dir. Elaine McMillion Sheldon, prod. Molly Born. A lyrical essay from a lost paradise and a series of surreal documentary vignettes explore how coal is imbued in the identity and human experience of Appalachians. King Coal documents the cultural expressions that reveal the complicated relationship with what was once the area’s most dominant industry, while employing elements of magical realism to rediscover a lost dream for the region. Through an exploration of identity, King Coal serves as a visual reminder of why change is slow and painful.

Mija (USA), dir. Isabel Castro, prod. Tabs Breese. Doris is a 26-year-old music manager working to launch the career of Chicanx pop stars while navigating the emotional and financial instability of her family’s tenuous legal status.

Mother Vera (UK), dir. Cécile Embleton, Alys Tomlinson, prod. Laura Shacham. Set in a hidden Orthodox community in Belarus, this film takes us on a poetic journey following the story of enigmatic Sister Vera, whose life has dramatically transformed from one of addiction and rebellion, to redemption and transcendence. Now faced with a devastating terminal illness, Vera dedicates herself to the community that saved her.

Untitled Michael Premo film (USA), dir. Michael Premo, Details TBA.

Witnesses From the Shadows (France, Mali, South Africa), dir. Ousmane Samassekou, prod. Estelle Robin You, Andrey S Diarra, Don Edkins, Tiny Mungwe. Bordering the Sahel desert stands a house, a safe haven for African migrants on their way to Europe, or returning home. How do you prepare to face your family when you are going home with nothing, leaving your dreams behind?

PRODUCTION

Cutting Through Rocks (Iran), dir. Sara Khaki, Mohammad Reza Eyni, prod. Sara Khaki, Mohammad Reza Eyni</b, Details TBA. Hakuchu Munyata (Perú), dir. Augusto Zegarra Pineda-Arce, prod. Claudia Chavez, Paloma Iturriaga. A young indigenous man is trying to save a language from extinction. Fernando is an independent voice artist from Cusco, Perú, who dreams of dubbing TheLion King to Quechua, the language of the Incas. Pursuing this dream with his son Dylan, will make him reevaluate his own identity and role as a father.

Hummingbirds (USA), dir. Silvia Castaños, Estefanía “Beba” Contreras, Miguel Drake-McLaughlin, Diane Ng, Ana Rodriguez-Falco, Jillian Schlesinger prod. Leslie Benavides, Miguel Drake-McLaughlin, Ana Rodriguez-Falco, Jillian Schlesinger. In this uniquely collaborative coming-of-age film, inseparable best friends Silvia and Beba emerge at night to escape the cruel summer heat of their Texas border town, wandering empty streets in search of inspiration, adventure, and a sense of belonging. When forces beyond their control threaten their shared dreams and they are faced with an uncertain future, they take a stand and hold onto what they can—the moment and each other.

Kamay (Afghanistan), dir. Shahrokh Bikaran, Ilyas Yourish, prod. Ilyas Yourish, Shahrokh Bikaran. After a young girl from the mountains of central Afghanistan mysteriously commits suicide inside Kabul University, her family’s calm rural life enters into a painful and exhausting process. The parents are now looking for justice in one of the most corrupt judicial systems in the world while Freshta—their younger daughter—attempts to gain admission to the same university, to complete what her sister had started. 

Mom of the Ring (China), dir. Yue Wu, prod. Vincent Du. Confronting the social expectations of being a mom, wife, and daughter-in-law, a Chinese professional boxer tries to keep her career on track while she raises her son and trains for title matches.  

There Was, There Was Not (Republic of Artsakh), dir. Emily Mkrtichian, prod. Mara Adina. In the Defacto Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, a painter is working on a series of transformative portraits of four women: A politician, an Olympic-hopeful athlete, a domestic violence activist, and a woman who disarms landmines from the war. In the middle of her project war breaks out, changing the course of each woman’s life. From taking up arms on the front lines to fleeing their homes as refugees, this film follows in intimate detail the impact of war on these four women—and the impact of art once the war is over.

WarPlay (Sweden), dir. Hemen Kurda, prod. Hanna Sköld. A young refugee boy and an exiled filmmaker collaborate to create truthful images of war and exclusion, based on childhood memories of terror and the current situation among thousands of tents in an Iraqi refugee camp. Refugee children use the camera as a communication tool, reenacting terror, healing trauma, making peace, and creating new dreams.

POST-PRODUCTION

76 Days (USA, China), dir. Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous. prod. Hao Wu, Jean Tsien. Set in the early days of COVID-19 outbreak, this raw and intimate documentary captures the struggles and human resilience in the battle to survive the pandemic in Wuhan, China.

An Act of Worship  (USA), dir. Nausheen Dadabhoy, prod. Heba Elorbany, Kristi Jacobson, Sofian Khan. An Act of Worship is an exploration of the last 20 years of Muslim life in America. Weaving together present-day vérité footage of women activists who came of age after 9/11 with materials sourced from Muslim communities across the country, the film revisits pivotal moments in US history from the perspective of Muslims, opening up a window into their world through collective memory. This is what it means to be a Muslim in America.

After Sherman  (USA), dir. Jon-Sesrie Goff, prod. Jon-Sesrie Goff, Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich, blair dorosh-walther. After Sherman is a story about inheritance and the tension that defines our collective American history. The film explores coastal South Carolina as a site of pride and racial trauma through Gullah cultural retention and land preservation.

Feyatey (Ethiopia, USA), dir. Jessica Beshir, prod. Jessica Beshir. Feyatey is the hymnal sung by Oromo farmers during the harvest of Khat, a mild narcotic leaf chewed for centuries by Sufi Muslims for religious meditations, and today’s most lucrative cash crop in Ethiopia. Feyatey is a spiritual journey through the rituals of the khat world and weaves a tapestry of intimate stories to provide a window into the hopes and aspirations of the youth living under a repressive regime.

If We Burn (Hong Kong), dir. Lynn Lee, James Leong, prod. Lynn Lee, James Leong. An urgent, immersive journey into Hong Kong’s leaderless pro-democracy protests, and a meditation on what it means to resist.

Love in the Time of Fentanyl (USA, Canada), dir. Colin Askey, prod. Monika Navarro, Robinder Uppal, Marc Serpa Francoeur, Colin Askey. A group of misfits, artists and drug users operate a renegade safe injection site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Love in the Time of Fentanyl is an intimate portrait of a community fighting to save lives and keep hope alive in a neighborhood ravaged by the overdose crisis.

The Miracle of Almeria (Belgium), dir. Moon Blaisse, prod. Emmy Oost, Katja Draaijer, Louis Mataré, David Fonjallaz. The legal and illegalized inhabitants of Almeria, the largest vegetable patch of Europe, collaborate on revealing the system of violence behind our tomatoes.

Museum of the Revolution  (Serbia, Croatia, Czech Republic), dir. Srđan Keča, prod. Vanja Jambrović, Srđan Keča. Living inside the remnants of an abandoned utopian project, a little girl and an old lady evolve an unlikely and wondrous friendship. As the city erases the spaces they inhabit, so looms an end to childhood dreams.

A Night of Knowing Nothing (India, France), dir. Payal Kapadia, prod. Thomas Hakim, Ranabir Das. Details TBA.

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