Women In Film has announced the recipients of the organization’s 30th annual Film Finishing Fund grant program. Founded in 1973, the group focuses on advocacy and education, providing material and financial assistance to filmmakers and working to preserve the legacies of all women working in the entertainment community. The Finishing Fund provides cash grants along with in-kind production services to help complete work-in-progress films that are by, for, or about women — past recipients have gone on to win Academy, Emmy, Sundance, Berlin Film Festival and Peabody awards, among other recognitions.
Selections are viewed and winners chosen by a special jury of women in the industry. Along with the other grants given out, beginning this year Tiffany & Co. is presenting a $25,000 grant to one recipients as part of a commitment to support Women In Film educational programs. In 2015, over 250 feature-length narrative films, documentaries and shorts were submitted from around the world. Among this year’s recipients the drama AWOL, directed by Deb Shoval, was selected to receive the first annual $25,000 grant. Other winners include Children of the Mountain, directed, written, and produced by Priscilla Anany, the documentary Black Ballerina, directed and produced by Frances McElroy, and the short film Lacrimosa, directed, written and produced by Tanja Mairitsch.
The full list of winners is:
Narrative Feature Films
AWOL – Recipient Of the first annual $25,000 Grant supported by Tiffany & Co.
Director: Deb Shoval
In a post-industrial town with little economic opportunity, Joey, 18, falls for Rayna, 27, a sexy, married mother of two. Threatened by Rayna’s husband and fired from her job at the local dairy, Joey reluctantly joins the Army. Days before deployment overseas and still wildly in love, Joey returns to Pennsylvania, plotting to go AWOL with Rayna and her kids.
Children of the Mountain
Director: Priscilla Anany (Also writer and producer)
In Accra, the capital city of Ghana, Essuman, a yam seller gives birth to a son with a cleft palate. Her first instinct is to run away as the child’s father and grandmother blame her for the child’s “imperfection.” Essuman makes the attempt, but her conscience brings her back. She struggles to find help for her child.
Director: Ralitza Petrova
Producer: Rossitsa Valkanova
In a remote Bulgarian town, Gana looks after the elderly with dementia, while trafficking their ID cards on the black market. Once stolen the IDs are passed to Gana’s boyfriend Aleko, a car mechanic and runner for a crime group dealing with identity fraud. At home, Gana lives with her jobless mother, for whom she provides, and with whom she hardly speaks. Her bond with Aleko is no shelter for love either — with sexual attraction vanished, intimacy is reduced to an addiction to morphine. Nothing seems to affect Gana’s conscience, even the murder of a patient who threatens to expose the nurse’s fraudulent dealings. Things start to shake up when Gana is touched by the music of Yoan, a new patient whose ID card she has trafficked.
Documentary Feature Films
Director: Frances McElroy (Also producer)
The documentary Black Ballerina compels viewers to think about issues of diversity, inclusion and equality in a fresh way. Set in the overwhelmingly white world of classical dance, the documentary tells the stories of several black women from different generations who fell in love with ballet. Six decades ago, while pursuing dreams of dance careers, Joan Myers Brown, Delores Browne and Raven Wilkinson confronted racism, exclusion and unequal opportunity. Today, young black women continue to pursue ballet careers. The film explores the formidable challenges dancers of color still face, what’s being done about it and why it matters.
A Revolution in Four Seasons
Director: Jessie Deeter (also producer)
A Revolution in Four Seasons is the story of Emna and Jawhara, and the struggle for democracy in Tunisia, the country that kicked off the Arab Spring revolutions and which has now been honored with the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. Standing in contrast to the civil wars of Syria and Yemen and the autocratic retreat that is Egypt, and bordered by the unstable failed-state of Libya, Tunisia perseveres alone in its dogged march towards a more democratic future. The film tracks secular journalist Emna Ben Jemaa and Islamist Parliament member Jawhara Ettis over the course of Tunisia’s critical first four years post-revolution, as both work to steer the country towards their own disparate versions of the perfect democracy.
So Help You God
Director: Ashley York (also producer)
The evening of April 6, 1997, news echoed across the globe about a murder in Tennessee’s Appalachian Mountains. The story made international headlines and was deemed by the Associated Press as the fifth most popular story of 1997. York was a junior in high school at the time and shared ninth grade homeroom with Natasha Cornett, one of three teenage girls accused of the murder. Several years later and while a graduate student at the University of Southern California, she began traveling to her hometown and various prisons in the state of Tennessee to begin a series of interviews with the kids (now much older), who are serving life prison sentences.
Director: Michele Mitchell (also producer)
The Uncondemned tells the gripping and world-changing story of a group of international lawyers and activists who fought for the first-ever conviction of rape as a crime of war, and the four Rwandan women who came forward to testify for justice where there had been none.
Director: Tanja Mairitsch (also writer and producer)
Mila wakes up in an unknown world full of mysteries. On her journey through ever changing surreal landscapes she meets her lost lover Theo. Mila has to learn that love also means letting go. Lacrimosa is a story about loss and hope.
You Can Go
Director: Christine Turner
A high school administrator talks down a troubled student.