EXCLUSIVE: A Sheila E. documentary, a film from The Two Killings of Sam Cooke director about growing up female in the Deep South, and a free speech project from Julia Bacha are among those films awarded a grant from a COVID-19 doc fund.
XTR, the documentary studio set up by RYOT co-founder Bryn Mooser, Knock Down The House producer Wavelength Productions and new partner Park Pictures, the company behind The Truffle Hunters, partnered on the Keep The Lights On Fund to help struggling documentary filmmakers finish projects hit by the shutdown.
The collaboration offered filmmakers between $5,000 and $10,000 to help support post-production budgets or filmmakers’ personal expenses during the shutdown.
Some 12 of the 15 winners are helmed by female directors.
The fund was available for U.S.-based documentary filmmakers with feature-length films in post-production, films that were scheduled for completion in 2020 prior to the pandemic, films that address contemporary issues and premium, character-driven films that have a high-likelihood of distribution. List below.
“In these challenging and uncertain times, it’s heartening to see institutions like XTR Film Society, Wavelength Productions and Park Pictures working together to support the documentary field and ensure that courageous storytelling continues to thrive. For our team, this grant couldn’t have come at a more critical time as we work hard to keep our post-production team intact and ensure excellence in our filmmaking, said filmmaker Julia Bacha.
“We are so thrilled to be able to help out so many incredible filmmakers in the doc community and were blown away by both the quality and scope of the films submitted,” added President of Wavelength Productions Joe Plummer.
Park Pictures’ Sam Bisbee, said, “Now more than ever documentary filmmakers need the opportunity to tell a diverse range of stories. Park Pictures is proud that we can support them.”
Keep The Lights On Fund:
ASTERISMS (Amie Siegel): Asterisms is a film about economic and material landscapes in the United Arab Emirates, the rarified objects, creatures and elements—- gold, sand, water, animals, workers—- that become vessels of value (and subjugation) in an increasingly re-shaped and re-rendered world.
BETWEEN THE SKY AND THE FAVELA (Peter Quandt): Between the Sky and the Favela is a feature documentary that explores the crisis of violence in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro through the stories of two aspiring teenage football players on divergent paths.
DUSTY & STONES (Jesse Rudoy): Dusty and Stones struggle to sustain a country music career in their tiny African kingdom of Swaziland and yearn for success in the United States. When a Nashville producer and a Texas battle of the bands come calling, the two cousins embark on a country music pilgrimage through the American South determined to turn their careers around and win big for Swaziland.
GIRL TALK (w/t) (Lucia Small): Filmed over four years, Girl Talk follows five teenage girls on a top ranked debate team on their quest to be the best in the U.S. In the cutthroat world of high school debate, these young women navigate the everyday challenges of teenage life while fighting against sexist double standards in debate. In the crosshairs is the “Tournament of Champions”, the most prestigious debate competition in the nation. As the debaters gain confidence and find their own voices, their struggles mirror the national fight for equality in our nation’s political corridors.
HOW TO HAVE AN AMERICAN BABY (Leslie Tai): There is a city in Southern California that is teeming with pregnant women from China. This film is a kaleidoscopic voyage into the booming shadow economy of Chinese birth tourism in Los Angeles County.
MISSISSIPPI RED (Kelly Duane de la Vega): A collection of intimate stories offering a window into growing up female in the Deep South through the lens of race, religion and the political establishment.
NO ONE TOLD ME (Zulilah Merry): A cinéma vérité-style documentary, No One Told Me provides a rare look at the postpartum period, an experience shared by women worldwide but rarely captured in documentary film. This radically intimate work follows Elise and Marc during the first six weeks of parenthood. Focusing on the new mother, it shares her profound identity shift and the significant physical, hormonal and psychological changes she faces after giving birth.
OUR MOTHER THE MOUNTAIN (Tamar Lando): Three aging and weathered New Mexico cowboys eke out a fragile survival between protected and industrial lands, in this magical hymn to the disappearing American West.
PRAY AWAY (Kristine Stolakis): Former leaders of the “pray the gay away” movement contend with the aftermath unleashed by their actions, while a survivor seeks healing and acceptance from more than a decade of trauma.
SIRENS (Rita Baghdadi): On the outskirts of Beirut, five young women navigate friendship, identity and a future spiraling out of control in their pursuit of becoming thrash metal rock stars.
UNITED STATES VS. REALITY WINNER (Sonia Kennebeck): A state of secrets and a ruthless hunt for whistleblowers – this is the story of 25-year-old NSA contractor Reality Winner who disclosed a document about Russian election interference to the media and became the number one leak target of the Trump administration.
UNTITLED: FREE SPEECH PROJECT (Julia Bacha): When a news publisher in Arkansas, an attorney in Arizona, and a speech pathologist in Texas are told they must choose between their jobs and their political beliefs, they launch legal battles that expose an attack on freedom of speech across 28 states in America.
UNTITLED: SHEILA E. DOCUMENTARY (Jennifer Steinman Sternin): The world knows her as Sheila E., the legendary Afro-Latina recording artist who rose to 1980s superstardom alongside Prince, her closest musical collaborator. But contrary to common perception that Prince “discovered” her, Sheila Escovedo was in fact a child prodigy who began playing percussion at the age of three and today is considered the best female drummer in the world. This intimate film chronicles Sheila’s dramatic life story from her immersive musical childhood through present day, as she struggles to maintain a thriving career at age 62 in the youth-obsessed music industry.
THE VOICE THROUGH THE STORM (Bella Monticelli): The story of how 77 year-old Addie Ottley, morning radio show host, becomes an unexpected hero to a tropical island forever changed by the climate crisis.