By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Ford Foundation JustFilms Supports Eight Films Set for World Premiere at Sundance Film Festival

Initiative supports works that address urgent social issues

NEW YORK, Jan. 18, 2013 — JustFilms, the Ford Foundation’s social justice film fund, is providing major support to eight independent films selected for competition and premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the world’s leading showcase for independent filmmaking.

Launched in 2011, JustFilms fosters film and media makers who are creating passionate and purposeful narratives. Film is an ideal medium to present a wide range of complex issues in a way that engages and inspires. Over the course of two years, JustFilms has given grants totaling $20 million to hundreds of exceptionally talented individuals and has partnered with numerous organizations such as the Sundance Institute, ITVS, HBO, Tribeca Film Institute, the Princess Grace Foundation and many others.

One of the five JustFilms-funded projects that premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, “How to Survive a Plague,” has been nominated for a 2013 Academy Award in the category of Best Documentary Feature. This powerful, inspiring movie exemplifies film’s ability to educate and motivate.

“We are constantly thinking of ways to inspire and bring attention to the intractable issues of our time,” said Darren Walker, vice president of Ford’s Education, Creativity and Free Expression program. “Our JustFilms initiative seeks inventive ways to creatively, financially and programmatically support underrepresented and deserving filmmakers who highlight courageous people confronting difficult issues and actively pursuing a more just, secure and sustainable world.”

The Ford Foundation works with many partners in an effort to lift up worthy films during the long cycle of production. In addition to the films that received major support from the Ford Foundation, twelve films premiering at this year’s festival were produced by the foundation in collaboration with the Sundance Documentary Film Program. A partnership with ITVS yielded “Fallen City” by Qi Zhao, furthering the international perspective of JustFilms. And the film “When I Walk,” a moving chronicle of filmmaker Jason DaSilva’s experience of learning to live with multiple sclerosis, received a finishing grant from the Princess Grace Foundation in support of South East Asian American filmmakers, funded by the Ford Foundation for this very purpose.

“Through collaboration with our valued partners we endeavor to find support for under-represented and deserving filmmakers,” said Orlando Bagwell, director of Ford’s JustFilms initiative. “The fruits of those labors are on display at International Festivals like Sundance, in creative and dramatic films that bring social justice issues to the forefront.”

The Ford Foundation’s JustFilms initiative builds on the foundation’s longtime support for scores of documentaries, including such landmark productions as “Eyes on the Prize,” “State of Fear” and “Why Democracy” It also leverages the foundation’s global network of 10 regional offices to identify and lift new talent from around the world and to strengthen emerging communities of documentary filmmakers.

The eight films premiering at the Sundance Film Festival with major financial support from JustFilms are:

American Promise (US Documentary Competition)
Directors: Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson
As two African-American boys journey from kindergarten through high school graduation at an elite prep school, they encounter hurdles both in and out of the classroom.

Citizen Koch (US Documentary Competition)
Directors: Carl Deal and Tia Lessin
Following the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United, corporate money played a political role during a contentious decision on organized labor in the state of Wisconsin.

Gideon’s Army (US Documentary Competition)
Director: Dawn Porter
Three young public defenders in the Deep South face long hours, heavy caseloads and minimal resources in their efforts to ensure that justice is served.

God Loves Uganda (US Documentary Competition)
Director: Roger Ross Williams
With values imported from America’s Christian Right, missionaries in Uganda attempt to eliminate “sexual sin” and advance anti-gay legislation.

Mother of George (US Dramatic Competition)
Director: Andrew Dosunmu
One immigrant struggles to balance the expectations of her native Basotho culture and the opportunities of her new life in America.

Outlawed in Pakistan (Shorts Competition)
Directors: Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann
Pakistani teenager Kainat Soomro, accuses four men from her village of gang-raping her. She takes her case to the Pakistani courts and faces a deeply flawed criminal justice system.

Valentine Road (US Documentary Competition)
Director: Marta Cunningham
In 2008 a 8th grader’s murder of his classmate shocked the nation. But both the murderer and the victim had troubled lives that complicate our very notion of justice.

Who is Dayani Cristal? (US Documentary Competition)
Director: Marc Silver
After one migrant finds himself in a deadly stretch of Arizona desert known as “the corridor of death,” his life becomes testimony to the tragic results of the U.S. war on immigration.

JustFilms will also host two panel discussions at the Sundance Festival, at which filmmakers and others will focus on the medium’s ability to foment change.

Turning the Tide (Friday, January 18, 1-2:30 pm) 

Changing the direction of national discourse can seem an impossible task, but sometimes film can inspire a sea change. From immigration to health to the economy, this year’s films suggest that political dialogue is inextricably bound to cultural expression. Artists and activists Pablo Larrain (No), Gael Garcia Bernal (Who Is Dayani Cristal?, No), Jehane Noujaim (The Square) and Robert Reich(Inequality for All) join moderator Orlando Bagwell (Ford Foundation JustFilms) to explore the ways film can activate grassroots campaigns that alter the course of history.

OP-DOCS (Tuesday, January 22, 4-6 pm)

Op-Docs is The New York Times editorial department’s forum for short, opinionated documentaries, created by both renowned and emerging filmmakers, and produced with wide creative latitude and a range of artistic styles, covering current affairs, contemporary life and historical subjects. Filmmakers Heidi Ewing (Detropia),Laura Poitras (The Oath),Dawn Porter (Gideon’s Army) and Roger Ross Williams (God Loves Uganda ) join Orlando Bagwell (Ford Foundation JustFilms) and Jason Spingarn-Koff (The New York Times) to discuss the new frontiers of online documentaries and the intersection of filmmaking and opinion journalism.

MORE INFORMATION

To view the films the Ford Foundation has supported over its history, visit the foundation’s Film Collection.

Learn more about JustFilms’ strategy and partners, and explore its grant making.

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 75 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Leave a Reply

Quote Unquotesee all »

Tsangari: With my next film, White Knuckles, it comes with a budget — it’s going to be a huge new world for me. As always when I enter into a new thing, don’t you wonder how it’s going to be and how much of yourself you are going to have to sacrifice? The ballet of all of this. I’m already imaging the choreography — not of the camera, but the choreography of actually bringing it to life. It is as fascinating as the shooting itself. I find the producing as exciting as the directing. The one informs the other. There is this producer-director hat that I constantly wear. I’ve been thinking about these early auteurs, like Howard Hawks and John Ford and Preston Sturges—all of these guys basically were hired by the studio, and I doubt they had final cut, and somehow they had films that now we can say they had their signatures.  There are different ways of being creative within the parameters and limitations of production. The only thing you cannot negotiate is stupidity.
Filmmaker: And unfortunately, there is an abundance of that in the world.
Tsangari: This is the only big risk: stupidity. Everything else is completely worked out in the end.
~ Chevalier‘s Rachel Athina Tsangari

“The middle-range movies that I was doing have largely either stopped being made, or they’ve moved to television, now that television is a go-to medium for directors who can’t get work in theatricals, because there are so few theatricals being made. But also with the new miniseries concept, you can tell a long story in detail without having to cram it all into 90 minutes. You don’t have to cut the characters and take out the secondary people. You can actually put them all on a big canvas. And it is a big canvas, because people have bigger screens now, so there’s no aesthetic difference between the way you shoot a movie and the way you shoot a TV show.

“Which is all for the good. But what’s happened in the interim is that theatrical movies being a spectacle business are now either giant blockbuster movies that run three hours—even superhero movies run three hours, they used to run like 58 minutes!—and the others, which are dysfunctional family independent movies or the slob comedy or the kiddie movie, and those are all low-budget. So the middle ground of movies that were about things, they’re just gone. Or else they’re on HBO. Like the Bryan Cranston LBJ movie, which years ago would’ve been made for theaters.

“You’ve got people like Paul Schrader and Walter Hill who can’t get their movies theatrically distributed because there’s no market for it. So they end up going to VOD, and VOD is a model from which no one makes any money, because most of the time, as soon as they get on the site, they’re pirated. So the whole model of the system right now is completely broken. And whether or not anybody’s going to try to fix, or if it even can be fixed, I don’t know. But it’s certainly not the same business that I got into in the ’70s.”
~ Joe Dante

Z Weekend Report