Funding ops: Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund

The deadline for this year's Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund is approaching. Melanie Sevcenko looks at the history of the fund and the kind of projects it's looking to back.
January 19, 2009

To pick up where mainstream media left off, the Tribeca Film Festival created the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, which provides finishing funds for feature length documentaries that campaign for social change and critical issues. Eligible films have just over two weeks to make the deadline on February 5th to receive grants that range from $10,000 to $25,000 – a total of $100,000 is available in the fund. Now in its second edition, Gucci requires all submitted films to be in the production or post-production phase and completed by 2010 for an intended premiere screening. Both accomplished and first-time filmmakers are welcome to apply with their projects.

Although films selected for the fund should have mainstream U.S. audience appeal and sustain a festival and/or theatrical run, in slight contradiction, Gucci Tribeca seeks docs that ‘challenge the status quo not just as it pertains to subject matter but also to form.’ Can this balance be struck? To ask for stories that are not picked up by mainstream media, which use a non-traditional approach and draw attention to marginalized groups and people who fight for socio-political change, but still conform to mainstream taste – well, that’s a very fine line to walk in cinema. But it is possible, clearly, with such recipient films as Sons of Perdition, by Jennilyn Merten & Tyler Measom, which takes a look at polygamist teens that have become religious refugees in mainstream America, or Delta Boys, by Andrew Berends, about young rebellious men who battle for the localization of Nigeria’s oil on the brutal Niger Delta.

The Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund does choose its words carefully. With films that tackle world affairs, domestic issues, social movements and conflicts, what they’re really looking for are films that ‘emphasize a story – not a lesson – with the intention to inspire an audience.’ Insightful, but not preachy. Funded films must provide comprehensive coverage of issues that are dodged in the mainstream media, while employing a crafty filmmaking technique that takes risks and pushes genre limits. Touchy parameters indeed, but a rightful demand for quality as these days we look to indie media, the Internet and festival films to tell us what is really going on in the world, when faced with a corporately constructed media flow.

Winners of the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund will be notified by June 1, 2009. Last year, twelve finalist documentaries where selected by the Tribeca Film Institute, before a committee of filmmakers, actors and industry professionals, including Gael Garcia Bernal, Rory Kennedy, Diego Luna, Albert Maysles, Alex Gibney and Diane Weyermann, chose the winning seven films. This year, it’s likely the numbers will be similar, as Tribeca says that no fewer than four films will be awarded finishing funds.

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.