EXCLUSIVE: Fork Films has given out grants to 16 documentaries chosen from a pool of more than 300 applicants looking to complete films in various stages of development. The grants went projects that promote peacebuilding, human rights and social justice; the focus is to help women behind or in front of the camera complete their films. The total in grant money was $515K this year, and the film company has given out more than $4M in grants and investments to nearly 90 documentaries to date.

“Particularly during this polarizing time, I strongly believe art matters more than ever,” said Abigail E. Disney, CEO and President of Fork Films, which was founded in 2007. “Art builds empathy and coalesces. The films we selected exemplify Fork Films’ commitment to fostering a culture of understanding.”

The New York-based film production company is known for making and funding high-profile, critically acclaimed documentaries that are seen on PBS, Netflix, HBO and other major outlets. Its original productions include Pray the Devil Back to Hell; Women, War & Peace; The Trials of Spring and The Armor of Light.

The funding program is spearheaded by Kat Vecchio.

“We were blown away by the caliber of the applicants this year,” said Fork Films chief creative officer Gini Reticker. “The projects – nearly all from female filmmakers – illuminate the lives of women and marginalized populations around the globe. The personal and political are inseparable in these fearless portraits of life lived on the frontlines.”

The complete set of 2017 grantees are:

The 9 to 5 Film Project (working title)
Director: Julia Reichert
In the early 1970s, secretaries across America, fed up with low pay and disrespect, took to the streets and formed a movement, calling it 9 to 5.

11 A Day
Directors: Aideen Kane, Lucy Kennedy, Maeve O’Boyle
Producers: Aideen Kane, Lucy Kennedy
11 A Day tells the story of one of the most divisive issues in Irish history: a ban on abortion inserted into the constitution in 1983. To this day, if a woman is caught having an abortion in Ireland she could face up to 14 years in prison. This film tells the story of Ireland’s ambiguous abortion laws, the women who are suffering as a consequence and the battle that is being fiercely fought on both sides of the campaign to change reproductive rights in Ireland.

62 Days
Director: Rebecca Haimowitz
When Marlise died, the battle for her life began. 62 Days tells the story of Marlise Muñoz, a brain-dead pregnant woman whose family was forced to keep her on life support against her wishes.

93Queen
Director: Paula Eiselt
Producers: Paula Eiselt, Heidi Reinberg, Adam Bolt
93Queen follows a group of tenacious Hasidic women who are shattering the glass ceiling in their Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood to create the first all-female volunteer EMS corps in NYC.

Belly of the Beast
Director: Erika Cohn
Producers: Angela Tucker, Christen Marquez
Belly of the Beast intimately chronicles the journey of women fighting reproductive injustice
in their communities.

Ernie & Joe
Director: Jenifer McShane
A feature-length documentary film, Ernie & Joe follows two police officers with the San Antonio Police Department who are diverting people away from jail and into mental health treatment, one 911 call at a time. In the process, they are redefining not only policing and its mandate to “keep people safe,” but also helping transform the ways in which law enforcement agencies across the U.S. approach and help those who suffer from a mental health diagnosis.

Framed
Director Cassandra Herrman
Framed follows a young American in Africa and a Kenyan activist in the U.S. as they question the mission to “save” Africa, and investigate the consequences of our good will.

The Gut (working title)
Director: Jennifer Taylor
In a small blue-collar city in Vermont, Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras and a passionate group of volunteers lead the fight to resettle Syrian refugees in their town. The Rutland community sharply divides into those who embrace resettlement as an engine for economic growth and new diversity for a white and graying town, and those who fear majority-Muslim newcomers will seed terrorism and drain social services. Closely following Chris and an evolving ensemble of intersecting characters over two years, The Gut (working title) explores what happens what changes – and what doesn’t – when small-town America meets the Syrian civil war.

The Infiltrators
Director: Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera
Producers: Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera
When two young immigrant-activists get detained by Border Patrol, on purpose, their mission to expose the abuses inside a detention center becomes much more complex and dangerous than they imagined.

Leftover Women
Directors: Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia
Producers: Hilla Medalia, Shosh Shlam, Jürgen Kleinig
Leftover Women is how the Chinese describe educated women in their mid-20s who live in China’s big cities and are still single. With extraordinary access the film follows three remarkable women on a grueling quest to find Mr. Right before they turn 27, and society deems them Shengnu.

Louisiana Justice
Director: Tom Casciato
A New Orleans man, arrested at 19 for a series of crimes he did not commit, survives a quarter century in prison before being exonerated, and begins life anew determined to make a difference in his community.

Muhi – Generally Temporary
Directors: Rina Castelnuovo & Tamir Elterman
Producers: Hilla Medalia – Medalia Productions
Muhi, a brave and spirited boy from Gaza has been living in an Israeli hospital accompanied by his grandfather for the last 7 years.

Nowhere
Directors: Neil Shea & Taylor Hom
Director of Photography: Luke Padgett
In the heart of an African desert, an orphan, an exile, and a blind man find shelter from war and oppression. What comes next will be the greatest challenge of their lives.

One Bullet Afghanistan
Director: Carol Dysinger
Producer: Su Kim
In One Bullet Afghanistan, a filmmaker embedded with the military befriends the mother of an Afghan civilian casualty, a 14-year- old boy shot by unidentified forces. Over many years she follows Bibi Hajji, fighting for her family’s survival on the real frontlines of America’s longest war.

PC594: The Art of Rebellion
Director: Libby Spears
PC594 is the portrait of artist, activist, and single mother, Lydia Emily, and her inspiring struggle for creative expression and political insurrection. Fighting a crippling disease while raising a daughter with autism, Lydia dares the world to stop her from painting the murals of beauty and dissent that give her life voice.

Same God
Director: Linda Midget
In 2016, a black, female professor at Wheaton College, IL lost her job for wearing a hijab and claiming that Christians and Muslims worship the “Same God.” The ensuing controversy exposed the simmering rifts within evangelical Christians over race, Islamophobia and gender … foreshadowing the even deeper schism over Donald Trump and the shocking presidential election.