The Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) has given nine docs a total of US$175,000 as part of its TFI Documentary Fund, while the second annual TFI/ESPN prize was awarded to The Punch (pictured).
The TFI Documentary Fund assists character-driven non-fiction filmmaking from around the globe, and this year more than 500 submissions from 70 countries applied. The winning documentary projects are all in-progress.
Four filmmakers were previous recipients of TFI funding – Penny Lane (Our Nixon) was a 2012 TFI Documentary Fund grantee, Mohammed Naqvi (Big River) was a TAA and Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund alum, Maite Alberdi (El Salvavidas) was a TFI Latin Fund Bloomberg Fellow, and Omar Shami won a TFI Award at the 2013 Greenhouse Pitching Forum.
Descriptions for this year’s grantees, provided by the TFI, are below:
A Ballerina’s Tale
Directed by Nelson D. George, produced by Leslie Norville
A feature documentary on African-American ballerina Misty Copeland that examines her prodigious rise, and her potentially career-ending injury alongside themes of race and body image in the elite ballet world. The film also includes exclusive, never-before-seen performance footage of Misty performing several solo pieces.
Directed by Victor Kossakovsky, produced by Aimara Reques
Filming on a floating iceberg, from the moment it breaks off from the polar ice sheet to its final meltdown, Kossakovsky’s Aquarela reveals both the comedy and tragedy, the pathos and beauty of our complex relationship with water.
Diamond, Silver & Gold
Directed and produced by Jason Kohn, produced by Jared Goldman and Amanda Branson Gill
A story about the origins of life, synthetic diamonds and other nagging issues.
Directed and produced by Penny Lane
The mostly-true story of John Brinkley, who built an empire with a goat testicle impotence cure and a million watt radio station.
Directed and produced by Mohammed Naqvi, produced by Jared Ian Goldman
Exiled former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, despite having a flawed legacy as a dictator and being sought for arrest on murder charges, decides to return to Pakistan and run for President.
Written and directed by Maite Alberdi, produced by Clara Taricco
Six elderly women have religiously gathered for tea once a month for the past 60 years. In these meetings they argue and care for each other, they remember their past, try to adapt to social change and share their last years while forgetting completely the short time they have left.
Directed by Drew Xanthopoulos, produced by David Hartstein
Set in remote American edge-lands, The Sensitives is a delicate, humanizing vérité documentary that captures the retreat from mainstream society of those on the run from the toxic triggers of a debilitating illness.
The Wolfpack Project
Directed by Crystal S. Moselle, produced by Izabella V. Tzenkova
Six eccentric teenage brothers growing up in the Lower East Side projects are locked away from society by their father. Their only window into the outside world is watching movies. To handle isolation, they begin re-enacting their favorite films – and when one of the brothers breaks free, it changes everything.
Villages of the Absent
Directed by Omar Shami, written and produced by Ola Shami
This poetic documentary depicts the slow passage of time in Ain Bal, a village drowning in memories of a livelier past and now inhabited by a few elders, a mute lady, and a schizophrenic man.
The TFI/ESPN Prize is awarded to a feature-length documentary that focuses on sports, competition and athleticism and is a character-driven story. The in-progress winner is Andre Hörmann’s The Punch, produced by Ingmar Trost. The doc tells the story of a father and son who share a “fragile dream in their little boxing community.”
In addition, the Influence Award went to Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer’s Check It. The TFI award, in partnership with Europe-based Influence Film Foundation, gives an annual matching grant to an in-progress doc that creates meaningful dialog about an under-represented or overlooked issue.
This year’s winner, Check It, tells the story of a gay African-American gang struggling to survive in one of Washington DC’s roughest neighborhoods. The formerly bullied ninth graders are trying to escape gang life through fashion.
“This year’s Fund winners are covering exceptionally compelling, poignant and enlightening stories and subjects. Whether following a father/son’s boxing dream or revealing a gay Washington DC gang’s attempt to transform through fashion, TFI Documentary Fund films uncover character-driven experiences that prove humanity is all around us,” said Ryan Harrington, director of documentary programming at TFI.
“Honoring films with an honest and meaningful storytelling approach, the grants further the mission of the TFI Documentary Fund by supporting new storytelling, unheard voices and unexplored environments,” he added. “Through festival and distribution strategy sessions, fundraising support, industry introductions, labs and workshops, the TFI Documentary Fund and its generous partners are committed to supporting filmmakers at every step of the creative process.”