Social issues dominate the films that have been selected to be workshopped at this year’s Tribeca Film Institute’s retreat, in partnership with the Points North Institute and CNN Films.
Now in its third year, the selected projects represent a variety of themes focused on American culture and social issues, from Islamic radicalization, to immigration, birth tourism, reproductive rights and even national parks.
“There is a seriousness in the time we are in and they are exploring complex issues. I don’t think it’s just chance that we had a strong selection of issues based films,” said Courtney Sexton, VP, CNN Films, in an interview with realscreen. “This feels right for where we are as a country and where filmmakers are today.”
The retreat kicks off June 19 in Camden and Rockport, Maine and will run for six days, giving five U.S.- based doc filmmaking teams the professional guidance and mentorship to help them advance their filmmaking careers.
“The goals of the retreat are to get the filmmakers out of their day-to-day space when they are at the tender moment of crafting their documentary stories. It also creates collaboration among the filmmakers — a safe space for opening up and talking about where they are with their projects,” Amy Hobby, executive director, Tribeca Film Institute, told realscreen.
This year’s industry mentors and experts include director/producer Kristi Jacobson (A Place at the Table, Solitary); director/producer/writer Amir Bar-Lev (My Kid Could Paint That, The Tillman Story, Long Strange Trip); Andrea Meditch, founding director of Back Allie Entertainment (Man on Wire , Encounters at the End of the World); Courtney Sexton, vice president of CNN Films; editor/producer Jean Tsien (Miss Sharon Jones!, Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing); and Sue Turley, president, ro*co films productions.
This year’s participants are (descriptions courtesy of TFI):
Belly of the Beast – Erika Cohn (Director/Producer); Angela Tucker (Producer)
Belly of the Beast intimately chronicles the journey of women fighting reproductive injustice in their communities.
Border South– Raul O. Paz Pastrana (Director/Producer/Cinematographer); Ellen Knechel (Editor/Co-Producer)
Since 2014 Mexico has deported more immigrants than the United States, becoming an expansion of the U.S. Southern Border and forever changing the migrant trail. Through a series of portraits Border South melds ethnography and cinema-verité to explore the harsh physical environment and brutal journey of undocumented Central American immigrants crossing Mexico towards the United States under these new conditions.
How to Have an American Baby – Leslie Tai (Director/Producer); Jillian Schultz (Co-Producer)
There is a city in Southern California that is teeming with pregnant women from China. Through a network of deeply personal vignettes, this film traces the human supply chain of the booming shadow economy of Chinese birth tourism from Beijing and Shanghai to Los Angeles—chronicling the fortunes and tragedies that befall the ordinary people caught in the web of its influence.
The Mountain and the Magic City – Bridget Besaw (Director/Producer); Ben Severance (Director/Producer)
In the shadow of a mountain, a place once known as the Magic City stands as a symbol of the American heartland, abandoned by industry and disappearing back into the forest. The Mountain and the Magic City is an intimate portrait of neighbors forced to confront the issues dividing America today when a controversial national park comes to town.
The Youth – Eunice Lau (Director/Producer); Arthur Nazaryan (Director/Producer)
The Youth explores a father’s search for answers after his firstborn is arrested in an FBI sting operation and accused of attempting to join ISIS in Syria. Through the journey of Yusuf Abdurahman and his family, The Youth will confront issues of Islamophobia, the rise of radical Islam, and seek to understand what it means to be Muslim in contemporary America.
Of the five projects that participated in the retreat in 2016, both The Family I Had (co-directed and co-produced by Katie Green and Carlye Rubin) and No Man’s Land (originally Malheur) (directed and produced by David Byars and produced by Stash Wislocki) were completed and premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. Although the two films made it to the festival, being in the retreat is not a guarantee of being accepted into the festival.