Women Do Rule the Documentary World

Features
by Melissa Silverstein
September 24, 2012 12:40 PM
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Last week was Independent Film Week here in NYC.  There are a wide variety of events, panels and of course parties.  I was able to attend the Chicken and Egg Pictures event (which was beyond packed) that honored the Sundance Documentary Film Program and Fund. 

Recent stats showed that women directed 39% of documentaries at the top film festivals in the US during the last year and that women make up 31% of the creatives teams working on documentaries.

I am a big fan of Chicken & Egg Pictures (founded by Julie Parker Benello, Judith Helfand and Wendy Ettinger) which funds women's documentary projects (and soon feature projects) and what the event last week showed me is that while women make up almost 40% of the directors, their influence and impact is the driving force in the documentary world. 

Sundance is clearly the most important entity in the country, and maybe the world, for documentary film development.  And women are the ones who run the Sundance documentary program.  (They also run the feature programs, but we'll leave that to another time.) It was started by Diane Weyerman and now is run by Cara Mertes and a group of women.  Having women in these key decision making positions matters.  The diversity and interest in a wide variety of stories filters out all around them.  Projects they are interested in others become interested in.

In the last 10 years the program and fund has worked on 425 films.  They give awards, they have labs, they have producing summits, they show works in progress, and they go around the world to find the stories that need to be told.

As someone at the event said (sorry I don't know who it was) - "filmmakers individually make art and collectively they make culture."

I also want to give a shout out to the Chicken & Egg grantees whose films were featured at the event.  They look fantastic.

After Tiller, by Martha Shane & Lana Wilson

American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, by Grace Lee

The Blind Cinema Club, by Jennifer REdfearn

The New Black, by Yoruba Richen

Solarize This, by Shalini Kantayya

Strong Island, by Yance Ford

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