Jewish Story Partners, a new Los Angeles-based film foundation with initial funding from Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw’s Righteous Persons Foundation, named its first round of grantees Wednesday including projects from Joey Soloway (Transparent), Maxim Pozdorovkin (Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Our New President) and Luke Lorentzen (Midnight Family).
JSP awarded a total of $225,000 to ten U.S. documentary projects. The selections jury included Lou Cove, founder of Jewish arts funding collaborative CANVAS; documentary film producer Julie Goldman, and Kim Yutani, Director of Programming, Sundance Film Festival.
“We are honored to support this bold and imaginative group of filmmakers and their projects,” the trio said in a joint statement. “These excellent films reflect a broad range of Jewish experiences, from the spiritual and artistic to the cultural and political.”
JSP is led by Roberta Grossman, who serves as Producing Director, and veteran film festival programmer, former Sundance Catalyst director, and producer Caroline Libresco, as Artistic Director. It aims to promote independent Jewish films and expand the range of stories.
This year it will provide $500,000 in grants to U.S.-based feature length documentaries — to be selected by jury panels. In the coming years, JSP plans to significantly increase its funding and expand eligibility to encompass international filmmakers and fiction projects. A call for entries for a second funding round has opened for feature-length documentaries by U.S.-based producers and directors.
“I am so thrilled to work with Jewish Story Partners,” said writer and director Soloway. “We have for so long needed untold Jewish stories to come to light and enter the larger culture. This kind of funding and support, especially for independent, risk-taking films, has been sorely missing on the funding landscape.”
Jewish Story Partners’ Spring 2021 Grantees:
Coexistence My Ass!
Writer, Director, and Producer Amber Fares, Creative Producer Rachel Leah Jones
Coexistence My Ass! follows Noam Shuster, a bilingual Hebrew- and Arabic- speaking Israeli comedian who crafts a daring act out of the wild and wonderful identity politics she embodies. When #BLM-inspired protests reach Israel, Noam realizes it’s time to push her compatriots to unlearn their racism, one joke at a time.
Director Maxim Pozdorovkin, Producer Joe Bender
From the fevered imaginings of lunatics to the mainstream, The Conspiracy charts the rise of the biggest lie ever told: that a dangerous cabal of powerful Jews controls the world.
Meredith Monk: Dancing Voice, Singing Body
Directors and Producers Billy Shebar, David Roberts
Executive produced by Björk, a documentary feature fusing experimental animation, interviews, and live performance to explore the life and art of Meredith Monk, acclaimed Jewish-American singer, composer, director, and choreographer.
Director and Producer Sandi DuBowski
Rabbi follows Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie’s epic 18-year journey from drag queen rebel to rabbinical student to founder of Lab/Shul, an everybody-friendly, God-optional, artist-driven, pop-up experimental congregation, as he creatively and radically reinvents religion and ritual for a challenging 21st century.
Director Joey Soloway, Producers Matthew Perniciaro, Michael Sherman, Joey Soloway, Andrea Sperling
Joey Soloway remembers an idyllic childhood in an intentional community in the 1970s called South Commons, but in 2020 when Joey starts to reconnect with the other residents of South Commons, they find the community was not a utopia for everyone, unearthing the different realities between the Black and white residents, they come to find that the seemingly liberal community was a microcosm for racial injustice in America.
Untitled Spiritual Care Documentary
Director Luke Lorentzen, Producer Kellen Quinn
Each year at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, four residents join the team of interfaith chaplains who care for the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of thousands of patients and medical staff. Over the course of their residency, we follow these chaplains-in-training as they learn what it means – and what it takes – to bear witness and bring relief to people in need.
The Wild One
Director Tessa Louise Salomé, Co-Producer Joslyn Barnes
The Wild One illuminates the journey of an unsung artist, Jack Garfein – Holocaust survivor, Actors Studio West co-founder, Broadway director, and Hollywood filmmaker – revealing how his experience of the concentration camps propelled his provocative explorations of violence in postwar America and shaped his vision of art as a vehicle of resilience.
Jewish Story Partners deploys discretionary grants from time to time to projects that can benefit from targeted support at a critical moment. The first round of Jewish Story Partners discretionary grants are awarded to:
Directors and Producers Avishai Mekonen, Shari Rothfarb Mekonen
Heroes is the untold story of a group of Ethiopian Jewish activists who fought against dictatorship, genocide, and famine in the 1970s-1990s to ensure the survival of their ancient community and today continue to fight to empower a younger generation.
Co-Directors Josh Freund, Sam Radutzky, Producer Alex Spatt
Joyva, the 113-year-old, family-run candy company, a beloved household name amongst Jewish Americans that’s woven into the fabric of their traditions, is at risk of going out of business, along with its legacy and four generations of dreams, which the great-grandchildren must now fight to save.
Walk With Me
Director Heidi Levitt, Producers Heidi Levitt, Vanessa Perez
Walk With Me follows my husband Charlie Hess and our family’s journey over three years living with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. We will see him as the father, the creative, the husband, the patient, and his authentic self as he navigates life with a disease most people are afraid to talk about.
Initial funding for JSP is provided by the Righteous Persons Foundation, which previously supported The Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film, housed in the now-shuttered Foundation for Jewish Culture. A matching gift was received from lead partner Maimonides Fund, with additional support provided by Jim Joseph Foundation.