SFFilm Awards Total of $125,000 in Post-Production Grants to 5 Documentaries, Including Film on Poet Nikki Giovanni
Among other grantees, The Neutral Ground tells story of fight over Confederate monuments in New Orleans
SFFilm has announced five winners of its prestigious 2019 Documentary Film Fund grants to support nonfiction films in post-production.
Each of the films will receive $25,000, for a total of $125,000 in awards. Among the winners revealed Wednesday is Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, a documentary about famed poet Nikki Giovanni directed and produced by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson and edited by Fiona Otway.
According to SFFilm, Going to Mars "pushes the boundaries of biographical documentary film to reveal the enduring influence of one of America’s greatest living artists and social commentators."
These works reflect our world today as we grapple with the past and how it has brought us to this moment, while looking to the future with hope, innovation, and uncertainty.
Grant winner The Neutral Ground directed by CJ Hunt, produced by Darcy McKinnon and edited by Jane Geisler takes place in New Orleans, which like a number of other cities in the South has seen controversy over monuments to the Confederacy.
"The film follows writer and comedian CJ Hunt as he documents the struggle to remove and the struggle to preserve New Orleans’ confederate monuments," SFFilm notes. "After witnessing this fight in his adopted city, Hunt then explores how we understand a collective history as a nation with a contentious past."
Grantee Light Darkness Light, directed and produced by Landon Van Soest and produced by Paul Trillo, Tom Yellin, and Jo Budzilowicz, tells the story of a blind Anglican priest who "becomes one of the first people in the world to attempt sight with an implanted bionic eye."
Apolonia, Apolonia, directed by Lea Glob, produced by Sidsel Lønvig Siersted and edited by Thor Ochsner, revolves around the art scene in multiple cities. "...With bohemian Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, New York, and Los Angeles as backdrops," SFFilm writes, "this coming-of-age story portrays a French-Polish female painter’s personal and artistic development, from the maturing of a talent to the leap into the commercial art scene."
Mayor, directed and produced by David Osit and edited by Eric Daniel Metzgar, "follows a charismatic leader’s quest to build the city of the future in a land paralyzed by its past."
The SFFilm Documentary Film Fund was "created to support non-fiction films that are distinguished by compelling stories, intriguing characters, and an innovative visual approach." The fund has awarded more than $900,000 since its inception in 2011.
Past grant winners include Honeyland, directed by Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska; Hale County This Morning, This Evening, directed by RaMell Ross; Jawline, directed by Liza Mandelup; Peter Nicks' The Force, and Midnight Traveler, directed by Hassan Fazili.
This year's grant winners were chosen from among 12 finalists. Five jurors made the selections: Jennifer Battat, founder of the Jenerosity Foundation; Lauren Kushner, Interim Director of Artist Development at SFFILM; James LeBrecht, filmmaker and sound designer; Abby Sun, programming consultant, and Caroline von Kühn, former Director of Artist Development at SFFILM.
“It is our great honor to support these five special documentaries,” the jury said in a statement provided by SFFilm. “These works reflect our world today as we grapple with the past and how it has brought us to this moment, while looking to the future with hope, innovation, and uncertainty. Using humor, ambitious creativity, and extremely close access, these filmmakers have allowed the protagonists of their films to speak freely for themselves as they navigate everything from the biggest challenges faced by humanity to the most intimate introspection about their own deeply personal challenges.”
The 63rd edition of the SFFilm Festival, meanwhile, is set for April 8-21, 2020.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.