Sundance announces latest documentary grants

Record number of 25 features will receive support.

by Amber Wilkinson

The Sundance Institute Documentary Film program has announced a record number of grants to support 25 feature-length documentary projects.

The projects were chosen from more than 300 applications from 20 countries.

A spokesman said: "They reflect Sundance Institute’s celebration of the documentary genre as an increasingly important global art form and a critical cultural practice in the 21st century."

Themes covered by the projects include the experiences of soldiers in America and at war; the efforts of a South Bronx high school principal to tap into his students’ potential; the life of a small Massachusetts Catholic parish in a time of immigration; a portrait of dissent in Egypt; and the life of an army recruiter in the US.

Two UK co-productions have made the cut. Devi which features the first HIV positive women to speak publicly in India, and My Baghdad Family - about one family's experiences after the fall of Sadam.

Sundance Institute Documentary Film Programme Director Cara Mertes said: "The films funded in this round reflect the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program’s commitment to stories from societies in transition.

"From India to Chile, Pakistan, Kenya and the United States, in this round, the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund is providing resources for emerging, indigenous filmmakers, as well as the growing network of established documentary filmmakers working on global issues."

For more information about the grants and how to apply, visit

The grants awarded are as follows:

Development Grants

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, $10,000 - HOWL (US)
Using animation to explore Howl, the poetic masterpiece by Allen Ginsberg, the film documents the cultural circumstances that gave birth to it and its impact on American culture.

Christopher McLeod, $10,000 - LOSING SACRED GROUND (US)
Indigenous people around the world fight to save traditional sacred sites from resource extraction, industrial development and tourism.

This personal essay film explores growing up Iranian American at a time when the United States and Iran went from being allies to being enemies.

Jean-Marie Teno, $10,000 - THE FO AND I (Cameroon/France)
Set in the Bandjoun Kingdom of Cameroon, the filmmaker explores complex power struggles in a society still reeling from 100 years of colonial rule. Jean-Marie Teno documents power and injustice in his native Cameroon.

Susan Stern, $10,000 - OUR OIL (US)
This experimental documentary tells of Nigerians and Americans amid the poverty, corruption and violence of oil production in Nigeria, one of America’s top oil suppliers.

Fredrik Gertten, $10,000 - POISON IN A BANANA REPUBLIC (Sweden)
Banana plantation workers in Nicaragua have cancer, possibly because of exposure to pesticides. Now they march and open an historic lawsuit against companies that spray crops with banned pesticides.

James Longley, $10,000 - UNTITLED IRAN PROJECT (US)
This film explores the contemporary reality of Iran from the point of view of a young person. James Longley is a 2007 Academy Award® nominee for his previous film, Iraq In Fragments, winner of the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.

Post-Production Grants

This film is an exploration of exile, memory, longing, and democracy as seen through the experiences of renowned writer and playwright Ariel Dorfman. Peter Raymont is the recipient of 35 international awards including the Canadian Genie for best documentary for The World Is Watching. His recent film Shake Hands With The Devil won the World Documentary Audience Award at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

Susan Motamed and Melanie Judd, $30,000 - ADOPT ME, MICHAEL JORDAN (US)
This child's eye view of international adoption follows five orphaned Ethiopian friends from their orphanage in Addis Ababa to wildly different American families.

Sandhya Suri, $35,000 - DEVI (UK/INDIA)
The changing face of HIV/AIDS in India is seen through the eyes of three women.

General Pervez Musharraf’s 1999 coup in Pakistan and the filmmaker's identity as a Pakistani woman drives her search for democracy in Pakistan and her exploration of the role of women in society and in politics.

Jehane Noujaim, $30,000 - EGYPT: WE SEE YOU (US)
Three women journalists offer a behind-the-scenes look at the pro-democracy movement in Egypt today.

Natalia Almada, $30,000 - EL GENERAL (US/MEXICO)
The great-granddaughter of one of Mexico's most controversial presidents, General Plutarco Elias Calles, inherited a conflicting history that illuminates injustices prevailing since the Revolution of 1910.

Dee Rees, $30,000 - EVENTUAL SALVATION (US)
Having barely escaped with her life over a decade ago, the filmmaker's 80-year old grandmother returns to Monrovia, Liberia to rebuild her life and community.

Andres Habegger, $20,000 - FINAL IMAGE (ARGENTINA)
A Swedish-Argentinean cameraman filmed his own murder in Chile during the coup, creating one of the most famous film sequences in documentary history. His family tries to uncover the events that led to his death.

Landon Van Soest, $25,000 - GOOD FORTUNE (US)
Intimate portraits of individual Africans illuminate the massive, international efforts to alleviate poverty, which may in fact undermine the very communities they aim to benefit.

Supriyo Sen, $15,000 - HOPE DIES LAST IN WAR (INDIA)
Fifty-four Indian PoWs have languishedin Pakistani jails since the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war. This saga follows three generations of their families, struggling to get the soldiers back.

Kasim Abid, $45,000 - MY BAGHDAD FAMILY (UK/IRAQ)
A family in Baghdad grapples with massive changes in their lives after the end of Saddam's rule. Will their dreams of a new life gradually turn into a nightmare?

James Rutenbeck, $25,000 - SCENES FROM A PARISH (US)
In a hard-pressed city north of Boston, nine Catholics face obstacles that threaten to break apart the fellowship they seek.

Gary Weimberg and Catherine Ryan, $30,000 - SOLDIERS OF CONSCIENCE (US)
Eight US soldiers today face the hardest decision of their lives: to kill or not to kill. About war, peace, and the transformative power of the human conscience.

Edet Belzberg and Alan Oxman, $35,000 THE ARMY RECRUITER (US)
A top recruiter for the US Army shepherds a group of young people through enlistment, boot camp and combat.

Kirby Dick, $50,000 - THE GLASS CLOSET (US)
Examining the rise of anti-gay legislation and the forces that benefit politically from promoting public policies that deny rights to gay and lesbian citizens. Kirby Dick is an Academy Award® nominated director whose films include This Film Is Not Yet Rated and Twist Of Faith.

Katrina Browne, $45,000 - TRACES OF THE TRADE (US)
Filmmaker Katrina Browne and nine members of her family journey to Rhode Island, Ghana and Cuba, retracing the routes taken by their New England ancestors who were the largest slave-trading family in US history.

Mai Iskander, $30,000 - WE ARE THE ZABALLEEN (US/EGYPT)
The film explores the trials of the Zaballeen, Egypt's 60,000 indigenous garbage collectors, who struggle to save their jobs as Egypt modernizes its waste disposal system.

Christopher Wong, $25,000 - WHATEVER IT TAKES (US)
An Asian American rookie principal leads teachers and students to give 100 South Bronx students a new life.

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