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The Fledgling Fund Announces Film Media & Field Building Grants

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by Tambay A. Obenson
July 17, 2014 3:02 PM
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VIRUNGA - Directed by Orlando von Einsiedel

The Fledgling Fund is a private foundation driven by the passionate belief that film can inspire a better world. The foundation's goal is to use film to engage communities on timely issues, educate students about complex topics, bring people together around a common story, spark online and offline conversation, explore complicated issues and understand how seemingly distant policies affect individuals, families and communities, strengthen social movements and inspire action.

The foundation supports grantees in their efforts to produce films that promote the above goals, through grants that include outreach and audience engagement, as well as mentorship that will assist filmmakers in navigating an evolving field and identifying resources that can advance their projects.

The foundation has announced its latest round of grants from a highly competitive selection of project entrees. These picks are, the foundation believes, have the potential for deep audience engagement and social change. 

Also, worth noting, 2 past Fledgling grantees received Primetime Emmy Awards last week: "Brave Miss World" from director Cecilia Peck was nominated for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking. And "The Square," from director Jehane Noujaim was nominated for Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming, Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming, Directing for Nonfiction Programming and Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special. 

So the below grantees are certainly in good company, and off to auspicious starts, given their Fledgling Fund recognition.

Highlights of individual projects and causes that will be of interest to this blog, given its stated missions (and there appear to be a few), are forthcoming.

In the meantime, the full list follows:

15 TO LIFE


Directed by Nadine Pequeneza

15 TO LIFE is about the inhumanity of condemning children to die in prison and the battle to reform the world’s most punitive juvenile justice system. For more than a decade Kenneth Young believed he would die behind bars, until in 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled life sentences for children who haven’t killed illegal. 15 TO LIFE will premiere on POV in August 2014. >> Fledgling has committed $25K to support outreach and engagement, our third grant to this project. This project is part of The Fledgling Engagement Lab.

BROKEN HEART LAND

Directed by Jeremy and Randy Stulberg

When Zack Harrington, a gay teen from Norman, Oklahoma commits suicide after attending a city council meeting bitterly divided over LBGTQ rights, his conservative family learns how the searing pain of prejudice and misinformation led their son to hide his HIV and forgo treatment. After a divisive political campaign pits his mother against anti-gay citizens, her family shares her transformation from private citizens to public advocates. BROKEN HEART LAND will have a national PBS broadcast and a robust campaign. >> Fledgling has committed $20K to kickstart their regional heartland screening tour.

THE BULLY PROJECT

Directed by Lee Hirsch

BULLY opens a window onto the pained and often endangered lives of bullied kids, revealing a problem that transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders. It documents the responses of teachers and administrators to aggressive behaviors that defy “kids will be kids” clichés, and it captures a growing movement for change. The Bully Project uses the film to raise awareness and deepen engagement around this issue. In the Fall of 2014, they are working with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to extend the campaign. 160 mayors have already joined the effort. >> Fledgling has committed $25K to support the Bully Projects' “Mayors Campaign to End Bullying”. This is our fourth grant to this project.

THE CRASH REEL

Directed by Lucy Walker

THE CRASH REEL is a powerful tale of survival from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and raises crucial questions about sports safety. As the 2010 Winter Olympics approached, Kevin Pearce was considered the only snowboarder who could beat legend Shaun White. Attempting a new trick, Kevin crashed, sustaining a TBI. When he recovers from his coma, he wants to get straight back on his snowboard, despite strong warnings. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on HBO. >>Fledgling has committed $20K for outreach and community screenings targeting youth. This is our third grant to this project.

THE DREAMCATCHERS

Directed by Kim Longinotto

THE DREAMCATCHERS follows Brenda Myers-Powell and Stephanie Daniels-Wilson, two former prostitutes, who use their inside knowledge to help women selling sex on the streets of Chicago and prevent young girls from doing the same. The film will reveal the true devastation of sexual exploitation. Through these interventions, we will see how Brenda and Stephanie turn lives around. The film is planning a Spring 2015 festival premiere. >> Fledgling has committed $20K for outreach and engagement planning.

ENTER THE FAUN

Directed by Tamar Rogoff and Daisy Wright

The unlikely collaboration between a veteran choreographer and a young actor with cerebral palsy delivers astonishing proof that each and every body is capable of transformation. While Tamar Rogoff trains Gregg Mozgala to become a dancer, they discover that his physical limitations and her lack of traditional medical training are not an obstacle, but rather the source of their unprecedented physical discoveries. Enter The Faun is the story of a joyous, obsessed journey towards opening night, that challenges the boundaries of medicine and art, as well as the limitations associated with disability. >> Fledgling has committed $22K to support outreach and engagement focused on expanding interactions and understanding between the CP/disability community and the medical establishment.

GIDEON'S ARMY OUTREACH FOR JUSTICE

Directed by Dawn Porter

The greatest civil and human rights abuses exist in our criminal justice system. Public defenders, the ultimate guardians of our Constitution, are overwhelmed. The results are catastrophic; lives and families destroyed, communities decimated. With a mission to inspire, mobilize and train legal professionals to provide the highest quality defense representation to people unable to afford an attorney, Gideon's Promise works to ensure that society’s most vulnerable have the same access to meaningful criminal justice as everyone else. GIDEON’S ARMY directed by Dawn Porter follows three Gideon's Promise trained defenders in their emotional quest for equality in indigent defense. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and had an HBO broadcast. >> Fledgling has committed $15K to Gideon’s Promise to deepen the film’s outreach and engagement. This is our third grant to support outreach for Gideon’s Army.

IN MY FATHER'S HOUSE

Directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg

IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE follows a father and son struggling to reconnect and build a future together while navigating a turbulent background of homelessness, addiction and the unrelenting violence of Chicago’s South Side. When increasing violence pushes Grammy award winning rapper Che “Rhymefest” Smith to move his family to a safer neighborhood, his quest leads him unexpectedly to the place his father called home. Che begins to examine the legacy of his broken family and sets out to connect with his homeless and alcoholic father. >> Fledgling has committed $15K to develop an engagement plan targeting youth.

LEAVING THE LIFE

Directed by Tim Matsui

Set in Seattle, LEAVING THE LIVE gives voice and meaning to the crisis of minors who are forced and coerced into the American sex trade. It will be part of a multi-platform initiative, designed to facilitate a collective action-oriented dialogue around the crisis of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking of children in the U.S. >>Fledgling has committed $25K to support the development of an outreach and audience engagement campaign.

MARMATO

Directed by Mark Grieco

If Colombia is the focal point of the new 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 dollars in gold, but its 8,000 inhabitants are at risk of being displaced by an open-pit mining project. MARMATO chronicles how the townspeople confront a Canadian mining company that wants the gold beneath their homes. >> Fledgling has committed $20K to support outreach and engagement. This is our third grant to this project.

THE MASK YOU LIVE IN

Directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Compared to girls, research shows that boys in the U.S. are more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, prescribed stimulant medications, fail out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or take their own lives. The Mask You Live In explores how our culture’s narrow definition of masculinity is harming our boys, men, and society at large and unveils what we can do about it. The film will spark a national conversation that redefines masculinity to include care and compassion and empower men to be forces for justice. Building on their success with MISS REPRESENTATION, the team is planning a robust engagement campaign. >> Fledgling has committed $20K to support outreach and engagement planning.

THE NEWBURGH STING

Directed by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner

Through a personal, dramatic look at the case of the "Newburgh Four," THE NEWBURGH STING exposes the FBI's nationwide practice of targeting and entrapping Muslims, convincing men to commit Jihad, then selling their arrests to the public as victories in the War on Terror. The film exposes fault lines in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts that have dangerous international implications. The film premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and will have a July 2014 HBO Broadcast. >> Fledgling has committed $22K to support outreach and engagement planning.

REMOTE AREA MEDICAL

Directed by Farihah Zaman and Jeff Reichert

The debate about U.S. health care has been raging, but what's been lost in the discussion are the Americans who live without solutions for their most basic needs. REMOTE AREA MEDICAL documents the annual three-day "pop-up" clinic organized by the non-profit Remote Area Medical (RAM) in Bristol, Tennessee. It is a film about people, about a proud Appalachian community banding together to provide some relief for friends and neighbors who are simply out of options. The film will be released theatrically in Fall 2014. >>Fledgling has committed $20K to support community screenings to build support for RAM and for access to affordable health care.

RICH HILL

Directed by Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo

RICH HILL chronicles the turbulent lives of three children and their families in a rural Missouri town who face heartbreaking choices and dream of a better future. The film captures the complicated relationships between poverty and family bonds, between community pride and desperation. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and is now poised to begin an extensive outreach and engagement campaign focused on reaching similar communities as Rich Hill. >> Fledgling has committed $30K to support outreach and audience engagement. This is our second grant to this project.

SEED: THE UNTOLD STORY

Directed by Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz

SEED: THE UNTOLD STORY tells the harrowing and heartening story of humans’ long standing relationship with seeds. Seeds lie at the crux of the world’s cultures and ecosystems. As many irreplaceable seeds near extinction, SEED follows farmers, scientists, and seed collectors protecting 12,000 years of agriculture. Their story unveils a David and Goliath battle for the future of our seeds and an impending global food crisis. >> Fledgling has committed $25K to support outreach and engagement planning. SEED is part of The Fledgling Engagement Lab.

STRONG ISLAND

Directed by Yance Ford

STRONG ISLAND examines the violent death of Director Yance Ford's brother over 20 years ago. In 1992, William Ford Jr., a black 24-year-old teacher, confronted a white 19-year-old auto body-shop owner about the quality of a repair. This common scenario turned deadly when another young white mechanic shot Ford once in the chest, killing him. Though Ford was unarmed, the mechanic claimed he fired in self-defense. When an all-white Grand Jury decided that no crime had been committed, the killer returned to his life and Ford’s family retreated into a devastating silence. STRONG ISLAND chronicles Ford’s attempt to unravel the truth and is an unflinching look at the Ford family’s implosion. >> Fledgling has committed $15K to support outreach and audience engagement planning.

TOUGH LOVE

Directed by Stephanie Wang-Breal

Offering a rare look at the inner workings of the American child welfare system, TOUGH LOVE chronicles the lives of two parents - one in Seattle and one in NYC - as each fights to be reunited with children taken out of their custody. We witness first-hand the crushing bureaucracy of America’s child welfare and foster care systems. Moreover, we come to understand the powerful role poverty and prejudice play in keeping parents and children apart - and the challenges parents must overcome in order to put their families back together. >> Fledgling has committed $25K to support further development of the outreach and engagement campaign and early screenings at professional conferences.

THE TRIALS OF SPRING

Directed by Gini Reticker

THE TRIALS OF SPRING is an unprecedented multimedia initiative, focusing on women’s unyielding struggle to shape a better future for the Middle East and North Africa region. The film centers on five dynamic Egyptian and Tunisian women who have devoted themselves to the original goals of the Arab uprisings - “Bread, freedom, and social justice!” - despite efforts to silence them. Digital storytelling for the film’s website will include original content about inspiring women in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia. >> Fledgling has committed $20K to support the development of a comprehensive outreach and engagement strategy.

VIRUNGA

Directed by Orlando von Einsiedel

Against a backdrop of renewed civil war and a ruthless British oil company SOCO, VIRUNGA follows the true story of brave individuals risking their lives to save Virunga National Park, a place that holds the best chance for creating lasting peace in eastern Congo. VIRUNGA is about the Congo and the centuries old cycle of foreign interests pillaging the country’s resources and in doing so, feeding into the processes that lead to violence. >> Fledgling has committed $30K to support outreach and engagement.

FIELDBUILDING GRANTS

AFI DOCS

AFI DOCS is an internationally recognized event that honors excellence in non-fiction filmmaking, supports the diverse voices and free expression of independent storytellers and celebrates the power of documentary to improve our understanding of the world. The festival took place from June 18-22, 2014 in Washington, DC. The festival featured an intensive, two-day Policy Engagement Initiative specifically designed to advance the work of documentary filmmakers by connecting them with policymakers. >> Fledgling committed $10K to the festival to support their catalyst screenings.

AGING IN MAINE

In 2014 Camden International Film Festival launched the AGING IN MAINE Screening Tour, a new program that brought screenings of award-winning documentary films and discussions to Maine communities. AGING IN MAINE is a unique program that connects Maine-based nonprofit leaders with documentary films and filmmakers to develop community-based social action campaigns designed to engage communities in a thoughtful inter-generational dialogue about aging. >> Fledgling has committed $15K to support the extension of the project. This is our second grant to this project.

AMBULANTE CALIFORNIA

AMBULANTE is the furthest reaching documentary festival in Mexico. Besides screenings, AMBULATE organizes workshops, discussions with filmmakers, film industry members, plays and drive-in theater screenings. Its primary goal is to activate audiences within a population often underserved or outright overlooked by the mainstream multi-media industry. In 2014, AMBULANTE will expand to California with the long-term objective of implementing future models in other heavily Latino-populated states like Texas, Arizona, Chicago and New York. >> Fledgling has committed $20K to support this project.

FIRELIGHT MEDIA PRODUCERS LAB

The FIRELIGHT MEDIA PRODUCERS LAB serves emerging documentary filmmakers from the African American, Latino/a, Asian American, Native American, Arab American, and Pacific Islander communities. Its goal is to build the capacity of emerging independent producers of color to produce and distribute their first or second feature-length documentary films, and to build community among them. >> Fledgling has committed $10K to support this program. This is our fourth grant to this program.

REEL POWER

REEL POWER is a project of Working Films that is positioning documentaries in target states throughout the U.S. to address climate change and destructive energy practices. Bidder 70, Cape Spin, Come Hell or High Water, Deep Down, Dirty Business, Gasland I and II, Split Estate, Sun Come Up and a compilation of short films that make up Coal Ash Stories are among the currently featured media projects. A critical component of REEL POWER is focused on training to increase the capacity and commitment of issue leaders and organizations to utilize film and interactive media as a valuable component of their work. >> Fledgling has committed $15K to support the next phase of this project.

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