As one of the men says, “SPOTLIGHT was about trying to get in from the outside. In our film, we’re trying to get out.”
Impact Investing: Documentary Films
INVESTING IN DOCUMENTARY FILMS
Impact Partners is dedicated to funding independent documentary storytelling that entertains audiences, engages with pressing social issues, and propels the art of cinema forward.
Over the span of 14 years, Impact Partners has been involved in the financing of over 100 films, including: ICARUS, which won the 2018 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature; WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?, which won the 2019 Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary; DINA, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was named Best Feature by the International Documentary Association; THE EAGLE HUNTRESS, which was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary; HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE, which was nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature; THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, which won the U.S. Directing Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival; and HELL AND BACK AGAIN, which won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize and Cinematography Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature.
Documentary Film Investments with Impact Partners
Director: Richard Rowley
Producer: Karim Hajj, Jacqueline Soohen & Jamie Kalven
A documentary examining the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke and the cover-up that ensued. After the police initially declared the shooting as justified, journalists and activists fought for footage of the event to be released, sending the Chicago Police Department and local Chicago government officials into upheaval as the community demanded justice.
Director: Michael Rossato-Bennett
Producer: Michael Rossato Bennett & Alexandra McDougald
ALIVE INSIDE is a joyous cinematic exploration of music’s capacity to reawaken our souls and uncover the deepest parts of our humanity. Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music. His camera reveals the uniquely human connection we find in music and how its healing power can triumph where prescription medication falls short.
This stirring documentary follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, as he fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it. Rossato-Bennett visits family members who have witnessed the miraculous effects of personalized music on their loved ones, and offers illuminating interviews with experts including renowned neurologist and best-selling author Oliver Sacks (Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain) and musician Bobby McFerrin (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”).
An uplifting cinematic exploration of music and the mind, ALIVE INSIDE’s inspirational and emotional story left audiences humming, clapping and cheering at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award.
Director: Jamila Wignot
Producer: Lauren DeFilippo
Alvin Ailey is one of the most important choreographers in the history of modern dance. In 1958, at just 27 years-old, he founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Ailey’s vision was of Black bodies unshackled and overflowing with feeling: Confidence… sorrow… Joy… pride… beauty… possibility.
Ailey is a sensorial, archival-rich story that traces the full contours of this extraordinary artist’s biography and connects his past to our present with an intimate glimpse into the Ailey studios today, where we follow innovative hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris as he conceives a new dance inspired by Ailey’s life.
Using never-before-heard audio interviews recorded in the last year of his life, we experience Ailey’s astonishing journey in his words, starting with the textures of his childhood in Jim Crow Texas. Raised by a single mother who struggled to provide, Ailey knew hardship, but his life was rich with culture and love. He brings us into his world of blues and gospel, juke joints and church. And he tells us about the blush of young love and the awakening of his gay identity.
Director: Michéle Stephenson & Joe Brewster
Producer: Michéle Stephenson & Joe Brewster
Spanning 12 years in the lives of two families, AMERICAN PROMISE provides a rare look into black middle class life while exploring the common hopes and hurdles of parents navigating their children’s educational journeys.
The film begins in 1999, when filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michéle Stephenson turn their cameras on their son Idris and his best friend Seun as they enter kindergarten at the Dalton School, one of the country’s most prestigious private educational institutions. Together, the two families learn that opportunity is just the first step toward academic success. Over the years, the boys struggle with stereotypes, identity, and perception, both inside and outside the classroom. They ultimately take divergent paths on the road to graduation — one remains at Dalton while the other attends the Benjamin Banneker Academy, a predominantly black public school with an Afro-centric curriculum. Meanwhile, the parents wrestle with the same doubts and angst over their sons’ futures, as they juggle their high expectations with the cultural and social obstacles that their sons face.
AMERICAN PROMISE is not just a coming-of-age tale about black male achievement; it is a universal story about parental hopes and expectations. Through the intimate experiences of these two families, the documentary reveals complicated truths about parenting, while calling into question commonly held assumptions about educational access in the 21st century.
Ultimately, the film reveals that not all children and families get the same chance to succeed — asking the question of each of us: what is the American Promise?
Director: Freida Mock
Producer: Freida Mock
An entire country watched transfixed as a poised, beautiful African-American woman in a blue dress sat before a Senate committee of 14 white men and with a clear, unwavering voice recounted the repeated acts of sexual harassment she had endured while working with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. That October day in 1991 Anita Hill, a bookish law professor from Oklahoma, was thrust onto the world stage and instantly became a celebrated, hated, venerated, and divisive figure.
Anita Hill’s graphic testimony was a turning point for gender equality in the U.S. and ignited a political firestorm about sexual misconduct and power in the workplace that resonates still today. She has become an American icon, empowering millions of women and men around the world to stand up for equality and justice.
Against a backdrop of sex, politics, and race, ANITA reveals the intimate story of a woman who spoke truth to power. Directed by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Freida Mock, the film is both a celebration of Anita Hill’s legacy and a rare glimpse into her private life with friends and family, many of whom were by her side that fateful day 22 years ago. Anita Hill courageously speaks openly and intimately for the first time about her experiences that led her to testify before the Senate and the obstacles she faced in simply telling the truth. She also candidly discusses what happened to her life and work in the 22 years since.
Director: Roger Ross Williams
Producers: Lisa Cortés, Nigel Sinclair, Jeanne Elfant Festa, Cassidy Hartmann
Helmed by Academy and Emmy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams, THE APOLLO chronicles the unique history and contemporary legacy of the New York City landmark, the Apollo Theater. The documentary weaves together archival footage, music, comedy and dance performances, and behind-the-scenes verité with the team that makes the theater run. THE APOLLO features interviews with artists including Patti LaBelle, Pharrell Williams, Smokey Robinson, and Jamie Foxx.
THE APOLLO covers the rich history of the storied performance space over its 85 years and follows a new production of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Meas it comes to the theater’s grand stage. The creation of this vibrant multi-media stage show frames the way in which THE APOLLO explores the current struggle of black lives in America, the role that art plays in that struggle and the broad range of African American achievement that the Apollo Theater represents.
The Apollo Theater is internationally renowned for having influenced American and pop culture more than any other entertainment venue. The space has created opportunities for new talent to be seen and has served as a launchpad for a myriad of artists including Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Luther Vandross, Dave Chappelle, Lauryn Hill, Jimi Hendrix, and more.
Director: Bonni Cohen & Jon Shenk
From the directors of AUDRIE & DAISY and AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL, ATHLETE A is a feature-length documentary about the search for truth in the aftermath of one of the greatest scandals in the history of sports. In March 2016, a team of reporters from The Indianapolis Star began investigating claims of abuse in USA Gymnastics. Two years later, an Olympic doctor is behind bars, dozens of coaches have been banned, and hundreds of survivors are speaking out, including Maggie Nichols, dubbed “Athlete A” because she was the first to report Dr. Larry Nassar’s abuse to USAG. This film follows the IndyStar reporters as they reveal the extensive cover-up that allowed abuse to thrive within elite-level gymnastics, the attorney who is fighting the institutions that failed these athletes, and most importantly, the brave whistle-blowers who refuse to be silenced. A dramatic, devastating and ultimately inspiring film, ATHLETE A celebrates the power of truth as America searches for a new way forward in this beloved sport.
Audrie & Daisy
Director: Bonni Cohen & Jon Shenk
Producer: Bonni Cohen, Richard Berge & Sara Dosa
In different parts of the country, two high school girls are assaulted at parties by boys they call their friends. Bullied online and at school in the wake of their assaults, each girl is driven to attempt suicide. AUDRIE & DAISY probes this societal trend of assault and bullying from the perspective of the boys involved, the girls who are speaking out publicly for the first time, and the wider communities who were torn apart as a result. Ultimately, the film is an exploration of truth, power, trauma and memory at a time when America’s teenagers are coming of age in this new world of social media spun wildly out of control.
Bathtubs Over Broadway
Director: Dava Whisenant
Producer: Dava Whisenant, Amanda Spain & Susan Littenberg
Comedy writer Steve Young’s assignment to scour bargain-bin vinyl for a Late Night segment becomes an unexpected, decades-spanning obsession when he stumbles upon the strange and hilarious world of industrial musicals in this musical-comedy-documentary. With Chita Rivera, Martin Short, Susan Stroman, Sheldon Harnick, Jello Biafra. Executive Produced by Impact Partners, Blumhouse, and David Letterman.
Bending the Arc
Director: Kief Davidson & Pedro Kos
Producer: Kief Davidson & Cori Shepherd Stern
Thirty years ago, as much of the world was being ravaged by horrific diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, three remarkable young people, barely out of their teens—Jim Yong Kim, Paul Farmer, Ophelia Dahl—came together in a squatter settlement in Haiti.
Determined to provide the same world-class level of medical care they would expect for their own families to the Haitians that soon became their friends, they faced obstacles so enormous they weren’t even considered surmountable by the rest of the world.
They managed to bring together the resources to build real health clinics in areas that had been ignored by everyone else—where patients were as likely to arrive by donkey as by ambulance—and stocked them with the same medical supplies that could be found in places like Harvard Medical School. (Indeed, in some cases, supplies that were found at Harvard made their way to Haiti.)
Idealistic but very inexperienced, they suffered tragic early failures that made them question the way they were delivering health care. This led them to develop, in partnership with the patients themselves and guided by medical anthropology, a revolutionary and controversial model: training their friends and neighbors—ordinary Haitian villagers—as health care workers.
And most remarkably—despite enormous resistance from the outside world—they treated diseases that the experts had determined could not or should not be treated in the poor because of expense and difficulty.
The groundbreaking work they began in Haiti—creating a remarkable model of how to deliver the highest-quality care in the most unlikely places—would eventually grow to have massive global effects.
They expanded beyond Haiti to Peru, then onwards to Rwanda, where they helped rebuild the country’s health care system. They averted a deadly MDR-TB epidemic, treating dying patients against official World Health Organization policy. They took on HIV/AIDS—becoming the first doctors in the world to treat patients in rural settings with full courses of anti-retrovirals.
As a result, world policies changed, deeply entrenched ideas transformed, and millions of lives were pulled back from the brink of death.
Through remarkably candid interviews and stunning never-before-seen archival and on-the-ground footage shot in the midst of a deadly epidemic, the audience is immersed in the struggle of these fiercely dedicated characters as they fight ancient diseases, scrape together funding with the lives of their friends on the line, face scorn and hostility from the global health establishment, and suffer heartbreaking mistakes from their own lack of experience.
Reaching far beyond the issue of health care, Bending the Arc shows how moral imagination, strategy, and sheer will together can change the trajectory of the world, bending the arc of the moral universe closer to justice.
Director: Robert Greene
Producer: Susan Bedusa, Douglas Tirola & Bennett Elliott
BISBEE ’17 is a nonfiction feature film by Sundance award winning director Robert Greene set in Bisbee, Arizona, an eccentric old mining town just miles away from both Tombstone and the Mexican border.
Radically combining documentary and genre elements, the film follows several members of the close knit community as they collaborate with the filmmakers to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Bisbee Deportation, where 1200 immigrant miners were violently taken from their homes by a deputized force, shipped to the desert on cattle cars and left to die.
When the last copper mines closed in 1975, the once-booming Bisbee nearly became another Arizona ghost town, but was saved by the arrival of a generation of hippies, artists and eccentrics that give the place its strange vibe today. Bisbee is considered a tiny “blue” dot in the “red” sea of Republican Arizona, but divisions between the lefties in town and the old mining families remain. Bisbee was once known as a White Man’s Camp, and that racist past lingers in the air.
As we meet the townspeople, they begin to confront the violent past of the Deportation, a long-buried secret in the old company town. As the 100th anniversary of Bisbee’s darkest day approaches, locals dress as characters on both sides of the still-polarizing event, staging dramatic recreations of scenes from the escalating miner’s strike that lead to the Deportation. Spaces in town double as past and present; reenactors become ghosts in the haunted streets of the old copper camp.
Richard plays the sheriff in a Western, Fernando portrays a Mexican miner in a Musical, a local politician is in her own telenovela. These and other enacted fantasies mingle with very real reckonings and it all builds towards a massive restaging of the Deportation itself on the exact day of its centennial anniversary.
Director: Steve Burrows
Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
After routine hip surgery leaves his mother in a coma, comedy director Steve Burrows embarks on an epic, ten-year battle with a deeply flawed healthcare system that’s primed to deny, defend and cover up.
What begins as a loving son’s video diary transforms into personal family conflicts, undercover interviews and chilling court testimony – even going perilously under cover — to seek justice and get to the truth.
BLEED OUT is a bittersweet cautionary tale that is part medical mystery, legal thriller and investigative exposé, ultimately revealing the devastating toll a profit-driven healthcare industry has on an American family.
The C Word
Director: Meghan L. O’Hara
Producer: Pascaline Servan-Schreiber & Meghan L. O’Hara
From executive producer Morgan Freeman and director Meghan O’Hara comes a bold new film and public outreach and action campaign, THE C WORD that dare to say what no one else is: the cure for cancer might be closer than we think. Both deeply personal and nationally vital, the THE C WORD irrevocably (and with a dose of humor) establishes the connection between the current cancer epidemic and our western lifestyle, and offers us real-life accounts, scientific validation, and tangible solutions to lifestyle-related diseases that plague our country.
Director: Mor Loushy
Producer: Daniel Sivan
1967. The Six Day War ends with Israel’s decisive victory. The tiny country triples its size, conquering Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. The streets overflow with victorious celebrations, but behind the euphoria hides other voices — the soldiers’ voices. One week after the war, a group of young writers, led by renowned author Amos Oz, decide to chronicle their experiences.
For two weeks Oz travelled throughout the country. Every evening, a number of young men from different regiments closed themselves up in a shelter, turned the tape recorder on and for the first and final time, spoke about what really happened during the war: pain, shame and misery. These discussions were compiled in a book, The 7th Day, which became an international bestseller. The book, however, tells only a fraction of the truth. The whole truth was censored by the army and has been hidden for all these years. The tapes expose abuse, deportation, murder of prisoners, rape, looting, lynching and degradation.
CENSORED VOICES provides a new look at Israel’s utopian war, but also a universal look — honest and pitiless — at men at war and how easily ideals evaporate on the battlefield.
Dear Mr. Brody
Director: Keith Maitland
Producer: Megan Gilbride, Melissa Robyn Glassman & Sarah Wilson
In January 1970, hippie-millionaire Michael Brody Jr. announces to the world that he’s giving away $25 million to usher in a new era of peace and love, igniting a psychedelic spiral of events. In a frenzied few weeks, Brody and his young wife are mobbed by the public, scrutinized by the media, and overwhelmed by the crush of personal letters responding to his extraordinary offer.
Fifty years later, it’s the discovery of twelve large boxes of unopened letters in an LA storage unit that inspires DEAR MR. BRODY. Neither Michael Brody Jr.’s story, nor the thousands of stories in the letters have ever been told — until now.
Death by Design
Director: Sue Williams
Producer: Sue Williams
Consumers love – and live on – their smartphones, tablets and laptops. A cascade of new devices pours endlessly into the market, promising even better communication, non-stop entertainment and instant information. The numbers are staggering. By 2020, four billion people will have a personal computer. Five billion will own a mobile phone.
But this revolution has a dark side that the electronics industry doesn’t want you to see.
In an investigation that spans the globe, award-winning filmmaker Sue Williams investigates the underbelly of the international electronics industry and reveals how even the tiniest devices have deadly environmental and health costs. From the intensely secretive factories in China, to a ravaged New York community and the high tech corridors of Silicon Valley, the film tells a story of environmental degradation, of health tragedies, and the fast approaching tipping point between consumerism and sustainability.
Director: Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady
Detroit’s story has encapsulated the iconic narrative of America over the last century — the Great Migration of African Americans escaping Jim Crow; the rise of manufacturing and the middle class; the love affair with automobiles; the flowering of the American dream; and now…the collapse of the economy and the fading American mythos. With its vivid, painterly palette and haunting score, DETROPIA sculpts a dreamlike collage of a grand city teetering on the brink of dissolution. These soulful pragmatists and stalwart philosophers strive to make ends meet and make sense of it all, refusing to abandon hope or resistance. Their grit and pluck embody the spirit of the Motor City as it struggles to survive postindustrial America and begins to envision a radically different future.
Divide and Conqueror
Director: Alexis Bloom
Producer: Will Cohen
This film is an “origin story”—the story of our current moment in American life—told through the triumph and tragedy of Roger Ailes, founder of Fox News. It’s a chronicle of American cultural and political life from the 1950s up to the present day, and a story of serial abuse—of cruelty, both personal and public.
Roger Ailes’ ego drove Republican politics for decades, steering the conservative movement from Nixon, to the Tea Party, to Trump. His accomplishment? He turned television into a coliseum of rage. Through the fiery invective of his shows, Ailes created an empire and divided a nation.
And, like a true Shakespearean figure, uncontrollable desire was his undoing. Ailes was finally toppled when victims of his sexual harassment stepped forward. The accounts of these women—raw and infuriating—are the emotional heart of the film, the axis around which Ailes’ story reluctantly turns. In this film they are the avenging angels, but Roger’s legacy with Fox News lives on.
Do I Sound Gay?
Director: David Thorpe
Producer: Howard Gertler
A confidence-shattering break up has a strange effect on middle-aged gay director David Thorpe: It resurrects his long-dormant shame about “sounding gay” and he decides to try to change his voice. Determined to overcome this shame, David embarks on a hilarious, poignant, taboo-shattering exploration of the phenomenon of the “gay voice.” Using self-deprecating humor and confessional intimacy, DO I SOUND GAY? traces David’s personal journey to understand the scientific, historical and cultural origins of “sounding gay” and how members of the gay community feel about its stigma. As he investigates these rich cultural and linguistic origins, however, he makes an unexpected discovery: his own voice. Featuring Margaret Cho, Tim Gunn, Dan Savage, David Sedaris and George Takei.
The Eagle Huntress
Director: Otto Bell
Producer: Stacey Reiss & Morgan Spurlock
THE EAGLE HUNTRESS follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl, as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter, and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been typically been handed down from father to son for centuries.
Director: Ross Kauffman & Katy Chevigny
Producer: Marilyn Ness
E-TEAM is driven by the high-stakes investigative work of four intrepid human rights workers, offering a rare look at their lives at home and dramatic work in the field. Anna, Ole, Fred and Peter are four members of the Emergencies Team — or E-Team — the boots on the ground division of a respected, international human rights group. Arriving as soon as possible after allegations of human rights abuse surface, the E-Team uncovers crucial evidence to determine if further investigation is warranted and, if so, to investigate, document, and capture the world’s attention. They also immediately challenge the responsible decision makers, holding them accountable. Human rights abuses thrive on secrecy and silence, and the work of the E-Team, backed by their international human rights organization, has shone light in dark places and given voice to thousands whose stories would never otherwise have been told.
Director: Drew Xanthopoulos
Producer: Megan Gilbride
Two biologists set out on an undertaking as colossal as their subjects: deciphering the complex communication of whales. Dr Michelle Fournet and Dr Ellen Garland journey to opposite hemispheres to uncover a culture eons older than our own.
The Feeling of Being Watched
Director: Assia Boundaoui
Producer: Assia Boundaoui & Jessica Devaney
In the Arab-American neighborhood outside of Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Assia uncovers hundreds of pages of declassified FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counterterrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S. before 9-11 – code-named “Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” With unprecedented access, The Feeling of Being Watched weaves the personal and the political as it follows the filmmaker’s examination of why her community fell under blanket government surveillance. Assia struggles to disrupt the government secrecy shrouding what happened to her neighborhood in the 90’s and probes why her community feels like they’re still being watched today. In the process, she confronts long-hidden truths about the FBI’s relationship to her community. The Feeling of Being Watched follows Assia as she pieces together this secret FBI operation, while grappling with the effects of a lifetime of surveillance on herself and her family.
The Fourth Estate - Showtime Documentary Series
How to Change the World
Director: Jerry Rothwell
Producer: Al Morrow
In 1971 a small group of activists set sail from Vancouver, Canada in an old fishing boat. Their mission was to stop Nixon’s atomic test bomb in Amchitka, Alaska. Chronicling this untold story at the birth of the modern environmental movement and with access to dramatic archive footage unseen for over 40 years, the film centres on eco-hero Robert Hunter and his part in the creation of the global organization we now know as Greenpeace.
Alongside a group of like-minded and idealistic young friends in the ‘70s, Hunter would be instrumental in altering the way we look at the world and our place within it. These early pioneers captured their daring and sometimes jaw-dropping actions on film and from this director Jerry Rothwell has made a thrilling, sometimes terrifying film. A prizewinner at the Sundance Film Festival it is one of the must-see documentaries of 2015.
How to Survive a Plague
Director: David France
Producer: Howard Gertler
Faced with their own mortality, an improbable group of young people, many of them HIV-positive young men, broke the mold as radical warriors taking on Washington and the medical establishment.
HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE is the story of two coalitions—ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group)—whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to patients in record time. With unfettered access to a treasure trove of never-before-seen archival footage from the 1980s and ’90s, filmmaker David France puts the viewer smack in the middle of the controversial actions, the heated meetings, the heartbreaking failures, and the exultant breakthroughs of heroes in the making.
The Hunting Ground
Director: Kirby Dick
Producer: Amy Ziering
From the Academy Award-nominated filmmaking team behind THE INVISIBLE WAR, comes a startling exposé of rape crimes on U.S. campuses, institutional cover-ups and the brutal social toll on victims and their families. Weaving together verité footage and first-person testimonies, the film follows survivors as they pursue their education while fighting for justice — despite harsh retaliation, harassment and pushback at every level.
Director: Christina Clusiau & Shaul Schwarz
Producer: Christina Clusiau & Shaul Schwarz
In the groundbreaking six-part documentary series IMMIGRATION NATION, acclaimed filmmaking team Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau offer an unprecedented look at the processes, pitfalls and pain of immigration in America. Shot over the course of three years, Schwarz and Clusiau capture the daily workings of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, activists, lawmakers, attorneys and a wide swath of undocumented immigrants, from desperate recent arrivals to longtime residents to deported U.S. military combat veterans.
With an unrelenting flow of migrant workers continuing across the U.S. border, the pressure on ICE to enforce the administration’s zero-tolerance policies puts immigrants in the crosshairs. But how do we fix a system that seems beyond repair? How do we apply common sense to something that’s evolved from one of humanitarian concern to an us-versus-them political flashpoint? Has the story of America—the one that inspired our own immigrant relatives to risk death for a better life—been rewritten so broadly that the “land of the free” is a luxury afforded now only to a few?
As ineffective deterrence and militarized tactics continue, IMMIGRATION NATION provides an urgent, unbiased portrait of a country in crisis; one that demands unflinching attention and action.
Director: Mohammed Naqvi
Producer: Jared I. Goldman
Filmmaker Mohammed Naqvi will vote for the first time during Pakistan’s elections. His priority is backing a candidate who will prevent Pakistan from becoming a terrorist state. But Mo has a tough choice – either vote for religious hardliners or for secular liberal leader General Musharraf, a former military dictator. INSHA’ALLAH DEMOCRACY chronicles one voter’s journey: to see if democracy is compatible with an unstable Muslim country.
The Island President
Director: Jon Shenk & Bonni Cohen
Producer: Bonni Cohen
Jon Shenk’s The Island President is the story of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, a man confronting a problem greater than any other world leader has ever faced—the literal survival of his country and everyone in it. After bringing democracy to the Maldives after thirty years of despotic rule, Nasheed is now faced with an even greater challenge: as one of the most low-lying countries in the world, a rise of three feet in sea level would submerge the 1200 islands of the Maldives enough to make them uninhabitable.
The Island President captures Nasheed’s first year of office, culminating in his trip to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, where the film provides a rare glimpse of the political horse-trading that goes on at such a top-level global assembly. Nasheed is unusually candid about revealing his strategies—leveraging the Maldives’ underdog position as a tiny country, harnessing the power of media, and overcoming deadlocks through an appeal to unity with other developing nations. When hope fades for a written accord to be signed, Nasheed makes a stirring speech which salvages an agreement. Despite the modest size of his country, Mohamed Nasheed has become one of the leading international voices for urgent action on climate change.
Director: Jessica Earnshaw
Producer: Jessica Earnshaw, Holly Meehl & Nimisha Mukerji
A deeply intimate portrait of mothers and daughters and the effects of trauma, JACINTA follows a young woman in and out of prison as she attempts to break free from an inherited cycle of addiction, incarceration, and crime.
Director: Lauren Greenfield
Producer: Frank Evers
Centered on the indomitable character of Imelda Marcos, THE KINGMAKER examines, with intimate access, the Marcos family’s improbable return to power in the Philippines. The film explores the disturbing legacy of the Marcos regime and chronicles Imelda’s present-day push to help her son, Bongbong, win the vice presidency. To this end, Imelda confidently rewrites her family’s history of corruption, replacing it with a narrative of a matriarch’s extravagant love for her country. In an age when fake news manipulates elections, Imelda’s comeback story serves as a dark fairy tale.
Love & Stuff
Director: Judith Helfand
Producer: Judith Helfand, Hilla Medalia, Julie Parker Benello
Seven months after helping her terminally ill mother die in home-hospice, filmmaker Judith Helfand becomes a “new old” single mother at 50. Overnight, she’s pushed to deal with her “stuff”: 63 boxes of her parents’ heirlooms overwhelming her office-turned-future-baby’s room, the weight her mother had begged her to lose, and the reality of being a half-century older than her daughter.
Director: Chris Jordan & Sabine Emiliani
Producer: Stephanie Levy
MIDWAY, a Message from the Gyre is a short film. It is a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch. Returning to the island over several years, our team is witnessing the cycles of life and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. With photographer Chris Jordan as our guide, we walk through the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on. And in this process, we find an unexpected route to a transformational experience of beauty, acceptance, and understanding.
The Newburgh Sting
Director: Kate Davis & David Heilbroner
Producer: David Heilbroner & Davis and Heilbroner
Through a dramatic, insider look at the case of the “Newburgh Four,” THE NEWBURGH STING exposes the FBI’s nationwide practice of targeting Muslim communities by luring unsuspecting citizens into traps where they agree to commit acts of terrorism, and then selling their arrests to the public as major law enforcement coups. As told by the defendants, lawyers, local Imams and a former career FBI agent, the film depicts how four men living at the margins of society were entrapped by an FBI informant and lured into a wild plot involving bombing a wealthy Riverdale synagogue and shooting Stinger Missiles to take down a US supply plane. Their arrest was pawned off on the public as a counter-terror victory. A deeply sobering examination of post 9-11 Islamophobia and how the War on Terror is really fought in our own communities.
Director: Andrew Cohn
Producer: Stephen Bannatyne & Jason Orans
NIGHT SCHOOL is a feature-length, verite documentary about adult education and the dropout epidemic plaguing inner-city America. The film is an inside look at a cutting-edge high school located in one of the most violent neighborhoods in America, and the brave students who attend it. Night School closely follows three students over the course of an entire school year, as they attempt to improve their lives and face their fears and attitudes about education. Following students with a variety of different challenges, Night School is not just a film about adult education, but an intimate and deeply personal look at the roadblocks many individuals face as they attempt to move upward in society. In a place where simply surviving often trumps education, these students boldly challenge the notion that folks at the bottom are takers, and not makers.
No Man's Land
Director: David Garrett Byars
Producer: Morgan Spurlock, Jeremy Chilnick, David Holbrooke, David Osit, Rachel Traub, Stash Wislocki
With unfettered access, Director and Director of Photography David Byars gives a detailed, on-the-ground account of the 2016 standoff between protestors occupying Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and federal authorities. After the leaders of this occupation put out a call to arms via social media, the Malheur occupiers quickly bolstered their numbers with a stew of right-wing militia, protestors, and onlookers.
What began as a protest to condemn the sentencing of two ranchers quickly morphed into a catchall for those eager to register their militant antipathy toward the federal government. During the 41-day siege, the filmmakers were granted remarkable access to the inner workings of the insurrection as the occupiers went about the daily business of engaging in an armed occupation.
NO MAN’S LAND documents the occupation from inception to its dramatic demise and tells the story of those on the inside of this movement – the ideologues, the disenfranchised, and the dangerously quixotic, attempting to uncover what draws Americans to the edge of revolution.
On the Record
Director: Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering
Producer: Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering
A brilliant former hip hop executive grapples with whether to go public about her rape by one of the most powerful men in the music industry. A gripping and profound examination of race, gender, intersectionality, and the toll sexual abuse takes on survivors and on society at large.
Our New President
Director: Maxim Pozdorovkin
Producer: Joe Bender & Dan Cogan
The story of Donald Trump’s election told entirely through Russian propaganda. By turns horrifying and hilarious, the film is a satirical portrait of Russian meddling in the 2016 election that reveals an empire of fake news and the tactics of modern day information warfare.
Director: Penny Lane
Producer: Bryan L. Frye
Throughout Richard Nixon’s presidency, three of his top White House aides obsessively documented their experiences with Super 8 home movie cameras. Young, idealistic and dedicated, they had no idea that a few years later they’d all be in prison. This unique and personal visual record, created by H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin, was seized by the FBI during the Watergate investigation, then filed away and forgotten for almost 40 years. OUR NIXON is an all-archival documentary presenting those home movies for the first time, along with other rare footage, creating an intimate and complex portrait of the Nixon presidency as never seen before.
Despite the current economic crisis in the United States, the oil business is booming in Williston, North Dakota. Thousands of desperate men and women flock to the region in search of the American Dream: a living wage job. Because housing in Williston is scarce and expensive, newcomers arrive daily at Concordia Lutheran Church seeking help. Pastor Jay Reinke invites these “Overnighters” to stay or a night, a week or sometimes even longer as they look for work. It’s a decision that puts him in conflict with his Congregation, his neighbors and the local newspaper. As Pastor Jay fights for these men, he is drawn deeper into their troubled lives, setting in motion a chain of events that spirals out of control, and eventually forces the Pastor to confess a secret with shattering consequences.
Director: Jessica Dimmock & Christopher LaMarca
Producer: Kate Barry
THE PEARL explores the raw emotional and physical experience of being a middle aged to senior transgender woman against the backdrop of post-industrial logging towns in the Pacific Northwest. The film leans into the struggle of those who were reared and successful as men and have reached middle age or later with a burdensome secret that they can no longer keep. The power of the film lies in the shared experience of vulnerability, the uncomfortable edge that the characters live with everyday as they bravely step out into a world that is not ready to accept them.
Director: Robert Greene
Producer: Susan Bedusa, Bennett Elliott & Douglas Tirola
Six midwestern men — all survivors of childhood sexual assault at the hands of Catholic priests and clergy — come together in a drama therapy-inspired experiment designed to collectively work through their trauma. As part of a radically collaborative filmmaking process, they create fictional scenes based on memories, dreams and experiences, meant to explore the church rituals, culture and hierarchies that enabled silence around their abuse. In the face of a failed legal system, we watch these men reclaim the spaces that allowed their assault, revealing the possibility for catharsis and redemption through a new-found fraternity.
The Reagan Show
Director: Pacho Velez
Producer: Sierra Pettengill
THE REAGAN SHOW follows the Reagan Administration’s attempts to stage manage his presidency. Through an internal archive of taping sessions, public events, summit meetings – and the resulting press coverage – the film tracks the administration’s use of political theater to manufacture the public’s view of US-USSR relations at the close of the Cold War.
Remote Area Medical
Director: Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman
Producer: Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman
A debate over healthcare has been raging nationwide, but what’s been lost in the discussion of mandates, payers, pre-existing conditions and deficits are the American citizens who live every day without proper access to healthcare, afraid of injury and suffering through minor illnesses in the hopes that they’ll just get better on their own. REMOTE AREA MEDICAL documents the annual two-day “pop-up” medical clinic put on by the non-profit Remote Area Medical (RAM) in the NASCAR speedway in Bristol, TN. Even though this small town is only a few hundred miles from our nation’s capitol, access to proper medical care for many in region might as well be worlds away. Instead of a film about policy, about which system is better, will cover more, or cost less, REMOTE AREA MEDICAL is a film about people, about a one-of-a-kind experience and an unlikely community that arises in the same place every year.
Song of Lahore
Director: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy & Andy Schocken
Producer: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy & Andy Schocken
SONG OF LAHORE examines the lives and the cultural heritage of Pakistan’s classical musicians, and asks whether there is still room for them in a society roiled by social and religious upheaval. After toiling in obscurity for years, an innovative album leads Sachal Studios to international acclaim, and a triumphant concert with Wynton Marsalis and his orchestra at Jazz at Lincoln Center. This feature length documentary by Academy Award winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken follows their dramatic journey, and asks if they will ever find an audience at home.
Director: Matt Wolf
Producer: Stacey Reiss
In 1991, a group of countercultural visionaries built an enormous replica of earth’s ecosystem called Biosphere 2. When eight “biospherians” lived sealed inside, they faced ecological calamities and cult accusations. Their epic adventure is a cautionary tale but also a testament to the power of small groups reimagining the world.
Director: Amanda Lipitz
Producer: Steven Cantor
Baltimore is a city that is fighting to save its youth. This documentary chronicles the trials and triumphs of the Senior girls on the high school’s Step Team as they prepare to be the first in their families to go to college – and the first graduating class of The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. STEP is more than just a hobby for these girls, it is the outlet that keeps them united and fighting for their goals.
Director: Jeff Daniels
Producer: Amanda Spain
THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE meets THE ATOMIC CAFE in this archive-based feature documentary that views the dramatic climax of the Cold War through the lens of a commercial television network, as it produces America’s most watched, most controversial made-for-TV-movie, THE DAY AFTER (1983).
This film addresses a universal challenge – grasping how vast global issues such as climate change, the refugee crisis and in this case nuclear proliferation affect us personally. We have much to learn from how this television network took a subject so terrifying, so unpalatable and turned it into a prime-time sensation. With irreverent humor and sobering apocalyptic vision, this film reveals how a commercial broadcaster seized a moment of unprecedented television viewership, made an emotional connection with an audience of over 100 million and forced an urgent conversation with the US President on how to collectively confront and resolve the most pressing issue of the time – nuclear proliferation.
Strong plot points are illustrated through immersive archive and contemporary interviews with the larger than life subjects who were there – a TV-executive with unprecedented vision aspiring to produce a politically controversial movie, a headstrong Hollywood director aiming to unseat a president, a family- friendly commercial network struggling to think out of its conservative box, an actor-turned-president who is both moved and threatened by this TV-movie, and a White House debating the merits and messaging of a public response.
Director: Jamie Meltzer
Producer: David Alvarado & Kate McLean
There’s a new detective agency in Dallas, Texas, started by a group of exonerated men with decades in prison served between them.
Chris Scott was sitting in a support group meeting for men all bound together by the painful experience of wasting years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, when he was struck by a realization: there was a dream team right in front of him, ready to step into action. He and his friends had first-hand knowledge of how wrongful convictions happen. Together, they could start an investigative unit, a detective agency of sorts, to look for innocent people still incarcerated. They would draw from what they knew, as well as from the expertise of the attorneys who helped get them out of prison. Calling themselves the “Freedom Fighters,” their goal would be to free the wrongly accused who are still behind bars.
This character-driven documentary follows these change-makers as they rebuild their lives and families, learn to investigate cases, work to support each other, and campaign to fix the criminal justice system.
Director: Jennifer Brea
Producer: Lindsey Dryden, Patricia E. Gillespie & Deborah Hoffman
When Harvard PhD student Jennifer Brea is struck down at 28 by a fever that leaves her bedridden, doctors tell her it’s “all in her head.” Determined to live, she sets out on a virtual journey to document her story and that of four other families fighting a disease medicine forgot.
Who is Dayani Cristal?
Director: Marc Silver
Producer: Gael García Bernal, Lucas Ochoa, Thomas Benski
Deep in the sun-blistered Sonora desert beneath a cicada tree, border police discover a decomposing male body. Lifting a tattered t-shirt, they expose a tattoo that reads “DayaniCristal.” Who is this person? What brought him here? How did he die? And who — or what — is Dayani Cristal?
Following a team of dedicated staff from the Pima County Morgue in Arizona, director Marc Silver seeks to answer these questions and give this anonymous man an identity. As the forensic investigation unfolds, Mexican actor and activist Gael García Bernal retraces this man’s steps along the migrant trail in Central America. In an effort to understand what it must have felt like to make this final journey, he embeds himself among migrant travelers on their own mission to cross the border. He experiences first-hand the dangers they face and learns of their motivations, hopes and fears. As we travel north, these voices from the other side of the border wall give us a rare insight into the human stories which are so often ignored in the immigration debate.
WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL? tells the story of a migrant who found himself in the deadly stretch of desert known as “the corridor of death” and shows how one life becomes testimony to the tragic results of the U.S. war on immigration. As the real-life drama unfolds we see this John Doe, denied an identity at his point of death, become a living and breathing human being with an important life story.
Won't You Be My Neighbor
Director: Morgan Neville
Producer: Caryn Capotosto & Nicholas Ma
Fred Rogers led a singular life. He was a puppeteer. A minister. A musician. An educator. A father, a husband, and a neighbor. Fred Rogers spent 50 years on children’s television beseeching us to love and to allow ourselves to be loved. With television as his pulpit, he helped transform the very concept of childhood. He used puppets and play to explore the most complicated issues of the day—race, disability, equality and tragedy. He spoke directly to children and they responded by forging a lifelong bond with him—by the millions. And yet today his impact is unclear. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? explores the question of whether or not we have lived up to Fred’s ideal. Are we all good neighbors?