Wrongful conviction, genocide docs among MacArthur grantees

Jamie Meltzer's wrongful convictions doc Freedom Fighters, which participated in last November's IDFA Forum, is among 18 projects receiving MacArthur Foundation grants totaling US$2 million.
January 15, 2014

Jamie Meltzer’s wrongful convictions doc Freedom Fighters (pictured), which participated in last November’s IDFA Forum, is among 18 projects receiving MacArthur Foundation grants totaling US$2 million.

The supporter of independent film and video, which has been issuing grants for 30 years, received about 500 proposals in response to its annual call for documentary film proposals.  The selected projects receive no-strings-attached grants from $50,000 to $225,000 and generally tackle a range of pressing social issues, such as immigration, genocide and education.

“MacArthur’s media grant-making supports work that combines exceptional storytelling with high quality journalism about under-reported but important social issues,” said MacArthur president Robert Gallucci in a statement. “This year’s documentaries illuminate serious issues in approachable, creative, and engaging ways, including two multi-platform projects that will be interactive and encourage audiences to share their own stories.”

This year’s recipients of the $225,000 grant are New York filmmakers Pamela Yates, Peter Kinoy and Paco de Onis and their documentary 500 Years, which follows the 2013 genocide trial of former Guatemalan president Efrain Rios Montt, who stood trial for the killing of 1,700 Maya Ixil people between 1982 and 1983.

A $200,000 grant went to Voting Wars, Ian Inaba’s examination of the politics around voting in the U.S. and their impact on the integrity of elections.

The group receiving $150,000 includes Freedom Fighters and immigration doc The Arrivals, while reproductive health care project Trapped and Chicago education doc The Schools Project are each getting $125,000. The $100,000 grantees are Wounds We Carry, Saving Mes Aynak, Peacekeepers, Map Your World, In The Game, Care, Carbon Trade-Off and The Big Battle.

Finally, Out of State will receive $75,000, while projects getting $50,000 include Cocaine Prison, Hazing and Immigrant Nation.

The foundation’s next call for documentary film proposals will be announced this spring.

The list of selected documentary projects and their synopses follow below:

500 Years, which examines the impact of the genocide trial of former Guatemalan President General Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala, by Pamela Yates, Peter Kinoy, and Paco de Onis, Skylight Pictures ($225,000).

The Arrivals, the intimate story of two undocumented immigrants in dogged pursuit of their own “American dream.” by Heidi Ewing, Loki Films ($150,000).

The Big Battle, about the nationwide fight to define a new immigration policy and what it means to be American, in Congress and beyond, by Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini, Epidavros Project, Inc. ($100,000).

Carbon Trade-Off, about the promise and challenges facing carbon trading in California and Mexico, by Aaron Soto-Karlin and David Soto-Karlin, Nomoha Media LLC ($100,000).

Care, about the challenges facing home-based elder care providers, by Deirdre Fishel and Tony Heriza, Community Media Productions ($100,000).

Cocaine Prison, about the drug trade and the price paid by those at its lowest echelons, by Violeta Ayala, United Notions Film ($50,000).

Freedom Fighters, about a group of exonerated men who start a detective agency to overturn wrongful convictions, by Jamie Meltzer, Freedom Fighters Documentary, LLC, ($150,000).

Hazing, about the cultural practice of hazing, by Byron Hurt, God Bless the Child Productions, LLC ($50,000).

Immigrant Nation, a multi-platform project that explores the interconnectedness of U.S. immigrants, past and present, by Theo Rigby, Immigrant Nation, LLC ($50,000).

In the Game, about the experiences and aspirations of Latina adolescents and the role of soccer in their lives, by Maria Finitzo, Kartemquin Films ($100,000).

Map Your World, an interactive web platform enabling global youth to map their communities’ assets and challenges, and create media to catalyze positive change. by Nicole Newnham, Jenni Nelson, and Wendy Levy, Global Peace Film Festival ($100,000).

Out of State, about the experiences of native Hawaiian inmates sent to a private penitentiary in Arizona, by Ciara Lacy, Out of State, LLC ($75,000).

Peacekeepers, about an all-female Bangladeshi UN peacekeeping troop deployed to Haiti, by Geeta Gandbhir and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, G2P2 Films ($100,000).

Saving Mes Aynak, about preserving archaeological treasures found in Afghanistan at a site made available by the government for mining by a Chinese company, by Brent Huffman, Northwestern University ($100,000).

The Schools Project, which examines the affects of the 2013 closing of 47 public schools in Chicago, by Bob Hercules, Greg Jacobs, Jon Siskel, Melissa Sterne, Rachel Dickson, Danny Alpert, Gordon Quinn, Jeff McCarter, Keith Walker, Media Process Educational Films ($125,000).

Trapped, about the lack of accessible reproductive health care for low-income and African American women in the American South, by Dawn Porter, Trilogy Films ($125,000).

Voting Wars, which examines the recent debates and changes to voting requirements in the United States, by Ian Inaba, CEL Education Fund ($200,000).

Wounds We Carry, about the process of reconciliation among survivors of Cambodia’s killing fields, by Michael Siv, Center for Asian American Media ($100,000).

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