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2014 TFI Documentary Fund Grantees Include Nelson George's Misty Copeland Doc & Others

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by Tambay A. Obenson
January 14, 2014 10:09 AM
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Congratulations to Nelson George and his Misty Copeland project, A Ballerina's Tale; and also, a documentary I'm learning about for the very first time, titled Check It, about a gay African American gang in Washington, DC, from directors Dana Flor & Toby Oppenheimer. I'll see what I can dig up on it and return with a profile later.The full story via press release from the Tribeca Film Institute...Today TFI announced the grantees for the 2014 TFI Documentary Fund. After more than 500 submissions from 70 countries, 11 projects will receive a total of $175,000 to fund their projects in various stages of development through post-production. This is an increase of $15,000 from last year.


The fund aims to advance character-driven, non-fiction filmmaking featuring creative and unexplored perspectives from around the world.

For the second year, the TFI/ESPN Prize is awarded to a feature-length work-in-progress documentary that presents sports, competition and athleticism as a backdrop with a character-driven story.

Last year's recipient of the prize, The Battered Bastards of Baseball, will be premiering at Sundance this week.

And the fund has unveiled the Influence Award this year, which is a partnership with the Europe-based Influence Film Foundation, and provides an annual matching grant to a feature-length work-in-progress documentary that sparks meaningful dialogue around an area or issue that has been overlooked or under-represented in the media.

Highlights include Penny Lane, who is following up her attention-grabbing feature debut Our Nixon with the equally interesting NutsTAA and Gucci Tribeca Doc Fund alum Mohammed Naqvi's look at exiled former Pakistani President Pervez MusharrafPrideNelson George's latest film spotlights African-American ballerina Misty Copeland in A Ballerina's Tale; and seven years after making the powerful doc Manda Bala (Send a Bullet), Jason Kohn returns with Diamond, Silver & Gold.

The grantees are listed below:

A BALLERINA’S TALE: Directed by Nelson D. George; Produced by Leslie Norville -- A feature documentary on African American ballerina Misty Copeland that examines her prodigious rise, and her potentially career-ending injury alongside themes of race and body image in the elite ballet world. The film also includes exclusive, never before seen, performance footage of Misty performing several solo pieces.

AQUARELA: Directed by Victor Kossakovsky; Produced by Aimara Reques -- Filming on a floating iceberg, from the moment it breaks off from the polar ice sheet to its final meltdown, Kossakovsky’s Aquarela reveals both the comedy and tragedy, the pathos and beauty of our complex relationship with water.

DIAMOND, SILVER & GOLD: Directed and Produced by Jason Kohn; Produced by Jared Goldman & Amanda Branson Gill -- A story about the origins of life, synthetic diamonds and other nagging issues…

NUTS: Directed and Produced by Penny Lane* -- The mostly-true story of John Brinkley, who built an empire with a goat testicle impotence cure and a million watt radio station. *2012 TFI Documentary Fund grantee

PRIDE: Directed and Produced by Mohammed Naqvi*; Produced by Jared Ian Goldman -- Exiled former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, despite having a flawed legacy as a dictator and being sought for arrest on murder charges, decides to return to Pakistan and run for President. *TAA and Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund alum

TEA TIME: Written and Directed by Maite Alberdi*; Produced by Clara Taricco -- Six elderly women have religiously gathered for tea once a month for the past sixty years. In these meetings they argue and care for each other, they remember their past, try to adapt to social change and share their last years while forgetting completely the short time they have left. *TFI Latin Fund Bloomberg Fellow

THE SENSITIVES: Directed by Drew Xanthopoulos; Produced by David Hartstein -- Set in remote American edgelands, The Sensitives is a delicate, humanizing verité documentary that captures the retreat from mainstream society of those on the run from the toxic triggers of a debilitating illness.

THE WOLFPACK PROJECT: Directed by Crystal S. Moselle; Produced by Izabella V. Tzenkova -- Six eccentric teenage brothers growing up in the Lower East Side projects are locked away from society by their father. Their only window into the outside world is watching movies. To handle isolation, they begin reenacting their favorite films - and when one of the brothers breaks free, it changes everything.

VILLAGES OF THE ABSENT*: Directed by Omar Shami; Written and Produced by Ola Shami -- This poetic documentary depicts the slow passage of time in Ain Bal, a village drowning in memories of a livelier past and now inhabited by a few elders, a mute lady, and a schizophrenic man. *Recipient of the TFI Award at the 2013 Greenhouse Pitching Forum


The TFI/ESPN Prize
The TFI/ESPN Prize is an annual grant extension of the TFI Documentary Fund given to a feature-length work-in-progress documentary that presents sports, competition and athleticism as a backdrop within a character-driven story. The second annual TFI/ESPN Prize winner is:

THE PUNCH: Directed by Andre Hörmann; Produced by Ingmar Trost -- The Punch tells the story of a fateful relationship of a father and his son living a shared fragile dream in their little boxing community. A tale about failure and hope – and what it means to live with dignity.


Influence Award
The Influence Award is an extension of the TFI Documentary Fund through a partnership with the Europe-based Influence Film Foundation, which supports documentaries through grants, equity investments and audience development. The award provides an annual matching grant to a feature-length work-in-progress documentary that sparks meaningful dialogue around an area or issue that has been overlooked or under-represented in the media. This year’s Influence Award winner is:

CHECK IT: Directed and Produced by Dana Flor & Toby Oppenheimer -- Check It is about a gay African-American gang struggling to survive in one of Washington D.C.’s roughest neighborhoods.  Started by a group of bullied 9th graders, the crew is trying to claw themselves out of gang life through an unlikely avenue: fashion.

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