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Sundance Institute Announces 29 Documentary Grant Recipients

Girl Model

Yesterday, the Sundance Institute announced the 29 documentary projects that have been selected to receive in total $550,000 worth of grant money from its Documentary Film Program and Fund. A lot of these are for projects in development by emerging filmmakers, but in there are also some films by more established names such as Jesse Moss (Full Battle Rattle), Lucia Small and Ed Pincus (The Axe in the Attic) and Ashley Sabin and David Redmon, who received audience engagement money for their 2011 doc Girl Model.

In a press release, Cara Mertes, the Director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund, said, “By providing financial support to nonfiction independent filmmakers, we seek to encourage the diverse exchange of ideas that is crucial to fostering an open society. These 29 stories we’ve identified reflect both the global reach of Sundance Institute as well as our commitment to supporting artists at all stages of their careers and work.”

The full list of funded projects is as follows:



Chicago Boys (Chile)

Director: Carola Fuentes

The film tells how a group of Milton Friedman’s disciples – backed by a military dictatorship in the ‘70s – managed to turn Chile into the first and most extreme model of neoliberalism in the world.

Children (Chile)

Director: Maite Alberdi

Chilean support for people with Down Syndrome ends at 25, but life expectancy is now in the 50s. A group of friends are facing a stage they were never prepared for, because no one ever expected them to grow up or get old.

Concerning Violence (Sweden)

Director: Goran Hugo Olsson

From the depths of the Swedish film archive comes newly discovered, powerful footage of the most daring moments in Third World liberation movements. Accompanied by classic text from The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon, the new film will offer timeless reflections on violence and liberation.

Eddie Adams: SAIGON ’68 (U.S.A.)

Director: Douglas Sloan

The most influential photograph to come out of the Vietnam War transformed the lives of both photographer Eddie Adams and General Loan, who summarily executed the prisoner. The film explores the surprising backstory and launches a broader inquiry into our perception and understanding of the visual image.

Flickering Time Bomb (New Zealand)

Director: Pietra Brettkelly

Three men align in a passionate campaign to save Afghanistan’s rapidly deteriorating Film Archive, in a country whose culture and history are once again under threat of an uncertain future.

Freedom Fields (Libya)

Director: Naziha Arebi

At the new dawn of a nation once cut off from the world, a dynamic group of women from fractured sides of the revolution come together with one hunger in common, to empower the women of Libya through sport. Their dream: to form the first national Libyan women’s football team.

Hotel Nueva Isla (Cuba/Spain)

Directors: Irene Gutierrez and Javier Labrador

Jorge lives with his four neighbors in the formerly luxurious Hotel Nueva Isla in Old Havana. Now in ruins, it is a shelter for people living on the fringes of society. Evacuation becomes imminent, but Jorge resists abandoning the building.

School of Last Resort (U.S.A.)

Directors: Landon Van Soest and Jeremy Levine

Three students at an experimental school for criminal youth struggle to fulfill their hopes in one of the most dangerous cities in the country.

Simple Justice (U.S.A.)

Directors: Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt

After 435 days in prison, a Chinese immigrant in Indianapolis is free on bail. Can her attorney, Linda Pence, clear the charges of murder and attempted feticide, or will she go to jail for her crime – attempting suicide while pregnant?

The Storm Makers (Cambodia / France)

Director: Guillaume Suon

Filmmaker Guillaume Suon turns his cinematic lens on globalization and contemporary Cambodia.

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (U.S.A.)

Director: Deborah S. Esquenazi

Four Chicana lesbians languish in Texas prisons, found guilty of sexually assaulting two girls ages 7 and 9. Now, advocates and attorneys believe that a spurned suitor’s revenge, homophobia and ‘junk science’ were key factors in their conviction. The film also explores the tedious process of exonerating innocents in Texas.

Untitled Colorado Documentary (U.S.A.)

Director: Eric Juhola

The film follows a landmark case in Colorado, where a 6-year-old male-to-female transgender girl is banned from using the girls’ bathroom at her elementary school.


Barring Race (U.S.A.)

Director: Noel Schwerin

At an infamous prison in California, inmates and staff confront a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and a novel anti-violence program order, revealing America’s locked down racial order, and the hidden risks of transformative change.

Chameleon (Canada)

Director: Ryan Mullins

Chameleon is a chronicle of the extraordinary escapades of Anas Aremeyaw Anas, a deep-cover investigative journalist in Ghana.

Elephant in the Room (Working Title) (U.S.A.)

Directors: Lucia Small and Ed Pincus

Two filmmakers of different generations turn the camera on each other to explore friendship, legacy and living with terminal illness. A film that spans the years of their friendship, Elephant in the Room (working title) offers a raw, personal glimpse into a creative partnership and the delicate process of capturing life’s precious moments.

The Hand that Feeds (U.S.A.)

Directors: Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick

Twelve undocumented immigrant workers take on a well-known New York City restaurant chain owned by powerful investors. This David-and-Goliath story explores what it takes for ordinary people to stand up for their dignity, and win.

The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor (U.S.A.)

Director: Arthur Dong

The periods before, during, and after the Khmer Rouge’s tyrannical rule over Cambodia are seen through the eyes of Dr. Haing S. Ngor, who escaped to America and recreated his experiences in The Killing Fields, winning an Oscar® for his first film. He became the de facto worldwide ambassador for truth and justice in his homeland, only to be gunned down in Chinatown Los Angeles – a case still muddled with transnational conspiracy theories.

Marmato (U.S.A.)

Director: Mark Grieco

If Colombia is the new El Dorado of the global gold rush then Marmato, a mining town with over 500 years of history, is the new frontier. In its mountain there are $20 billion in gold, but its 8,000 inhabitants are at risk of being displaced by an open-pit mining project planned by a Canadian mining company.

Midway (U.S.A.)

Director: Chris Jordan

Both elegy and warning, Midway explores the interconnectedness of species, with the albatross on Midway as a mirror of our humanity.

The Overnighters (U.S.A.)

Director: Jesse Moss

Moths to a flame, broken, desperate men chase their dreams and run from their demons in the North Dakota oil fields. A local Pastor risks everything to help them.

Private Violence (U.S.A.)

Director: Cynthia Hill

Have you ever wondered, “Why doesn’t she leave?” Private Violence follows domestic violence advocate Kit Gruelle as she accompanies women on the pathway from victim to survivor.

Radical Love (U.S.A.)

Director: Hillevi Loven

Cole, a transgender Christian teen in rural North Carolina, searches for love and a spiritual community to call home.

Street Fighting Man (U.S.A.)

Director: Andrew James

In a new America where the promise of education, safety and shelter are in jeopardy, three Detroit men fight to build something lasting for themselves and future generations.

Untitled Project (Faroe Islands/UK)

Director: Mike Day

The pilot whale hunters of the Nordic Faroe Islands believe that hunting is vital to their way of life, but when a local doctor makes a grim discovery about the effects of marine pollution, environmental changes threaten to end the controversial tradition and change the community forever.


The Dream of Shahrazad (South Africa)

Director: Francois Verster

Weaving together music, politics and storytelling, this film explores recent Middle East events through the metaphor of The 1001 Nights.

Out in The Night (formerly The Fire Next Time) (U.S.A.)

Director: Blair Doroshwalther

A lifetime demanding self-defense. One night they fought back.


25 To Life (U.S.A.)

Director: Mike Brown

William “Reds” Brawner kept his HIV status a secret for over twenty years. Now Will seeks redemption from his nebulous and promiscuous past as he builds his own family. Audience Engagement support will be applied to the films’ outreach goals: to help decrease unsafe practices among the target population, reveal complexity in adult relationships, and dispel fear and misunderstandings surrounding the epidemic.

A Fierce Green Fire (U.S.A.)

Director: Mark Kitchell

Narrated by Robert Redford, Ashley Judd, Van Jones, Isabel Allende and Meryl Streep, this exploration of the environmental movement looks at fifty years of global activism and the battle for a living planet. The Audience Engagement award supports work with environmental groups large and small as they mobilize and build grassroots campaigns.

Girl Model (U.S.A.)

Directors: Ashley Sabin and David Redmon

Girl Model follows a 13-year-old Siberian girl and the American scout who discovers her through the complex, global human supply chain of the unregulated and often murky world of the international modeling industry. The Audience Engagement award supports a girl-fueled campaign to encourage the Department of Labor to extend child labor protections to under age models.

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