Embrey Family Foundation | Impact Investing: Documentary Films
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Impact Investing: Documentary Films


Impact Partners is a film fund and advisory service committed to financing independent cinema that addresses pressing social issues. We bring together financiers and filmmakers so that, together, they can create great films that entertain audiences, enrich lives and ignite social change.

Since its inception in 2007, Impact Partners has been involved in the financing of over 60 films, including: The Cove, which won the Academy Award® for Documentary Feature; How to Survive A Plague, which was nominated for the Academy Award® for Documentary Feature; The Hunting Ground; The Queen of Versailles, which won the U.S. Directing Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival; Detropia, which won the Editing Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival; Freeheld, which won the Academy Award® for Documentary Short Film; The Garden, which was nominated for the Academy Award® for Documentary Feature and Hell and Back Again, which won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize and Cinematography Awards at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award® for Documentary Feature. Impact Partners was founded by Dan Cogan and Geralyn Dreyfous.

Documentary Film Investments with Impact Partners

Alive Inside

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.

American Promise

Director: Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson
Producer: Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson


Spanning 12 years in the lives of two families, American Promise provides a rare look into the black middle class life while exploring the common hopes and hurdles of parents navigating their children’s educational journeys. The journey begins in 1999, when filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michéle Stephenson enrolled their son Idris in the Dalton School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Michéle and Joe decided to turn the camera on themselves to film the experiences of 5-year-old Idris and his friend and classmate Seun. The documentary captures the stories of Idris, Seun, and their families from the first day of kindergarten all the way to their 2012 high school graduation. Over the 12 years, we see the boys and their families struggle with stereotypes and identity, navigate learning differences that later become diagnoses, and ultimately take increasingly divergent paths on their road to graduation. American Promise is not just a coming-of-age tale about black male achievement; it is a universal story about parental hopes and expectations. 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?

Awards: 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Special Jury Prize, 2013 New York Film Festival, Official Selection, 2013 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Grand Jury Award

ANITA: Speaking Truth to Power

Director: Freida Mock
Producer: Freida Mock

On October 11, 1991, a poised young law professor sent shock waves through the nation as she sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee intrepidly testifying to the lewd behavior of the Supreme Court nominee. Twenty years later, Academy Award winner Freida Mock brings us ANITA, which crystallizes the sexist power dynamics in the room that day and unravels the impact of the lightning-rod moment on Anita Hill’s life and the broader discussion of gender inequality in America.


BRICK follows five blue-collar transgender women home from the annual Esprit Conference for “T- Girls” in Port Angeles, Washington. We witness the loss and extraordinary risk involved as they come out for the first time, and find space to live as middle-age and senior women in the hyper-masculine culture of the Pacific Northwest.

Censored Voices

Director: Mor Loushy
Producer: Daniel Sivan, Hilla Medalia and Neta Zwebner-Zaibert

1967. The Six Day War ends with Israel’s decisive victory. The tiny country triples its size, counquering 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. 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.

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 and Rachel Grady
Producer: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Graig Atkinson

Detroit’s story has encapsulated the iconic narrative of America over the last century: The great migration of African Americans escaping Jim Crow; the ruse 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 cults 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 senese of it all, refusing to abandon hope or resistance. Their grit and pluck embody the spirit of the Moto City as it struggles to survive postindustrial America and begins to envision a radically different future.

Awards: 2012 Sundance Film Festival, US Documentary, Editing Award, 2012 Gotham Award Nominee, Best Documentary

Do I Sound Gay?

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’ so he decides to try and chance his voice. Determine to overcome this shame, David embarks on a hilarious, poignantt, 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 this stigma. As he investigates these rich cultural and linguistic origins, however, he makes an unexpected discovery: his own voice.


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 on the field. Anna, Ole, Fred and Peter are four members of the Emergencies Team- or E-Team – the bootys 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. The also immediately challenge the responsible decision makers, holding them accountable. Human rights abuses thrive on secrecy and silence, and the work of 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 been told.

Freedom Fighters

There’s a new detective agency in Dallas, Texas, started by exonerated men with decades in prison served between them. They call themselves the Freedom Fighters, and they are looking to free innocent people still behind bars. Freedom Fighters is a character-driven documentary that 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.

How to Change the World

In 1971, a group of friends sail into a nuclear test zone and their protest captures the world’s imagination, giving birth to Greenpeace and defining the modern green movement. Media savvy from the beginning, these pioneers captured their seat-of-their pants activist adventures on 16mm film. From this vivid archive and sly narration by Robert Hunter, an early guiding force of the organization, Jerry Rothwell has created a thrilling, sometimes terrifying film. When youthful energy comes up against the complexities of a growing organization, and idealism meets compromise, the group find their battle to save the planet forces them also to fight each other. This insightful film is also a vibrant, moving reflection on the struggle to balance the political and the personal.

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.

Awards: 2013 Academy Award Nominee, Best Documentary Feature, 2012 Gotham Award Winner, Best Documentary, 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Official Selection

The Hunting Ground

Director: Kirby Dick
Producer: Amy Ziering

From the filmmakers of ‘The Invisible War’ comes a startling expose of rape crimes on U.S college campuses, their institutional cover ups, and the devastating toll they take on students and their families. Every day more than 1,000 women are rapes or sexually assaulted on college campuses, yet only a small percentage of these assaults ever get reported, and justice for the survivors is rare. Weaving together personal testimony, investigating filmmaking and extensive expert interviews, the film uncovers the deeply ingrained culture of rape that plagues colleges and universities. Out of the strength and determination of the survivors and advocates, a new student movement is born, one that may revolutionize the way campuses and the country look at sexual assault.

The Island President

Director: Jon Shenk

Producer: Jon Shenk, Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen

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 1200 islands of the Maldives enough to make them uninhabitable.

Awards: 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, Winner People’s Choice Award Best Documentary, 2012 Sundance Hilton Lightstay Sustainability Award


Directors: Chris Jordan and 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 General Goes Home

Director: Mohammed Naqvi
Executive Producer: Dan Cogan
Producer: Mohammed Naqvi, Jared Ian Goldman

The General Goes Home is a fly-on-the-wall exploration of Pervez Musharraf, one of the world’s most polarizing leaders. A four star General and form President of Pakistan, Musharraf lives in self-exile in Dubai, longing to return to Pakistan, but haunted by his legacy as a double dealer and dictator. The General Goes Home chronicles Musharraf’s attempt at returning to politics as Pakistan destabilizes and begins transforming itself into a hard-line Islamic state.

The Newburgh Sting

Director: David Heilbroner and Kate Davis

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, luring unsuspecting believers into traps where they agree to acts of terrorism, then selling their arrests to the public as major law enforcement coups. Shot with the cooperation of defendants, lawyers 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 wild plot involving bombing a wealthy suburban synagogue and using Stinger Missiles to shoot down a US supply plane. A plot then pawned off on the public as a heroic counter-terror victory. It is a deeply sobering examination of how the War on Terror is really fought in our own communities.

Our Nixon

Director: Penny Lane
Producer: Brian Frye, Penny Lane

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 portriat of the Nixon presidency as never seen before.

Awards: 2013 New Directors/New Films, Closing Night Film, 2013 Gotham Award Nominee, Best Documentary

The Overnighters

Director: Jesse Moss
Producer: Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine

Despite the current economic crises 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 Willison is scarce and expensive, newcomers arrive daily at Concordia Lutheran Church seeking help. Pastor Jay Reinke invites these ‘overnighters’ to stay a night, a week, or sometimes 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.

Remote Area Medical

Director: Jeff Reichert, Farihah Zaman
Producer: Dan O’Meara, Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman

Remote Area Medical documents the annual two-day pop-up medical clinic put on by 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

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.

Who is Dayani Cristal?

Director: Marc Silver
Producer: Gael Garcia Bernal, Lucas Ochoa, and Thomas Benski

‘Who is Dayani Cristal?’ is a radical fusion of fictional and documentary filmmaking. Director Marc Silver and actor Gael Garcia Bernal lure us into a mystery, and through suspense and drama, tell the story of one man’s epic journey from his home in Honduras to his final living moments near the border between Mexico and the United States. The film interweaves the verité story of the discovery of a body in the desert and the ensuing investigation into the identity of this man with the name ‘Dayani Crystal’ tattooed on his back- with a fictional reimagining of his journey from Honduras right up to his death in this desert outside of Tucson, Arizona.