Wiseman, Oppenheimer, Green among Sundance doc grantees

Upcoming films by Frederick Wiseman, Joshua Oppenheimer (pictured), Kitty Green, Matthew Heineman and Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster are among the projects to receive documentary fund grants from the Sundance Institute. The ...
November 1, 2016

Upcoming films by Frederick Wiseman, Joshua Oppenheimer (pictured), Kitty Green, Matthew Heineman and Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster are among the projects to receive documentary fund grants from the Sundance Institute.

The organization has awarded more than US$1 million for development, production, post-production and impact campaigns for the first half of 2016, as well as launched a fund for activism-led projects with the Bertha Foundation.

Wiseman, known for his doc portraits of major institutions, such as National Gallery, received a post-production grant for Ex Libris – New York Public Library, about the City of New York’s vast and complex library system.

Other post grants were awarded to Cartel Land director Matthew Heineman for City of Ghosts, billed as “the story of a new type of warfare: a battle over ideas, over hearts and minds, over clicks and views”; Cynthia Wade and Sasha Friedlander’s Mudflow, about the fallout from an unstoppable mud volcano in Indonesia; and Damon Davis and Sabaah Jordan’s Whose Streets?, about the city of Ferguson, Missouri.

Production grants went to Ukraine is Not a Brothel filmmaker Kitty Green for Casting JonBenet, billed as an “artful exploration” of the 1996 JonBenet Ramsay murder case; Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster’s Hispaniola, which follows families in the Dominican Republic who were stripped of citizenship because of their Haitian heritage; Raoul Peck’s essay film about writer James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro; and David France for Sylvia and Marsha, which traces the origin story of the trans rights movement back to a mysterious cold case.

Director Tim Hawkins and Pulse Films received development funding for XY Chelsea, about imprisoned soldier, trans woman and whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s appeal against the United States military challenging her 35-year sentence. According to a description provided by Sundance, the doc will be “told from Chelsea’s perspective, through an intimate prison diary.”

Development funds also went to Michael Milano and Orlando Bagwell’s Cleveland, about the city’s cultural impact and defining role during the Obama presidency; Rameen Aminzadeh’s Fisher Stevens-produced doc Get Up Stand Up, which follows a group of young criminal justice advocates fighting for reforms in the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner; and Cody Lucich’s Oceti Sakowen (working title), about the ongoing Native American occupation of Standing Rock, North Dakota in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Sundance Institute has also announced the second year of its Art of Nonfiction fellowship and grant recipients for its inaugural Art of Nonfiction Fund. Unveiled earlier this year, the program is an unrestricted year-long grant for filmmakers interested in inventive artistic practices.

Kitty Green, Khalik Allah, Kirsten Johnson, RaMell Ross and Brett Story will participate in the second fellowship.

Meanwhile, an untitled project from The Act of Killing director Joshua Oppenheimer is among the projects to receive financing from the Art of Nonfiction Fund. Other grantees include Leviathan directors Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s Caniba, the Ross Brothers’ Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets; Scott Cummings’ Realm of Satan (working title) and an untitled project from Approaching the Elephant helmer Amanda Rose Wilder.

Sundance Institute has also launched the Bertha Foundation Fellowship in partnership with the Bertha Foundation. The program provides docmakers with a network of financial, creative, legal and strategic resources to engage viewers through storytelling, law and activism.

Projects to receive backing from the inaugural grant are George Amponsah’s The Hard Stop; PJ Raval’s Justice for Jennifer and Sahra Mosawi’s Obstinate.

Impact funding went to Kim A. Snyder’s Newtown, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and the Spotlight Award for best pitch at an international forum in the Global South went to Uganda-based Matthew Bishanga’s Hatim’s Dreams.

Sundance also awarded grants through its social issue doc-focused Stories of Change Content Fund to feature-length, short and episodic doc and scripted projects, and through its New Frontier program, an initiative that fosters collaborations across disciplines such as interactive doc, public art, art installation and web series.

For the full list of grantees, visit the Sundance Institute’s website.

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