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Chicken & Egg Announces Grant Recipients, Including a Sundance Winner and an Oscar Nominee

Chicken & Egg Announces Grant Recipients, Including a Sundance Winner and an Oscar Nominee

Chicken & Egg Pictures has announced more than a dozen grant recipients, including Allison Klayman’s debut feature documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” which received the Special Jury Prize for documentary at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival; “Saving Face,” Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Oscar-nominated short documentary; and Kristy Guevera-Flanagan and Kelcey Edwards’ documentary “WONDER WOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines,” which will have its world premiere at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival.

The grantees are part of Chicken & Egg’s first 2012 Open Call supporting projects through its new Mother Wit Human Rights Film Fund, which received more than 300 applicants. The recipients include filmmakers from Canada, Denmark and South Africa and stories based in Africa, Canada and Iran.

Over the last six years, Chicken & Egg has provided $2 million and 4,000 mentorship hours directly to women filmmakers. Support ranges from “I BELIEVE IN YOU” grants for early development, production and sustained time in the editing room to “LIBERTY grants” – funds earmarked for completion and strategy.

The full release follows.

Chicken & Egg Pictures, the award-winning hybrid film fund and non-profit production company dedicated to supporting women filmmakers, today announced more than a dozen grant recipients of its first 2012 Open Call supporting projects through its new Mother Wit Human Rights Film Fund.

The new slate of grantees marks the first time Chicken & Egg Pictures has officially funded international film projects. This first slate includes filmmakers from Canada, Denmark and South Africa and stories based in Africa, Canada and Iran.

With the announcement of these new grantees, the organization reaches a milestone in its six years of providing much-needed funding and mentoring women filmmakers. Chicken & Egg Pictures is the first organization devoted entirely to women filmmakers to provide $2 million and 4,000 mentorship hours directly to women filmmakers to nurture, support and promote their films. The Chicken & Egg Pictures model matches strategically timed financial support with rigorous, respectful and dynamic ”hands-with” mentorship, creative collaboration and community-building opportunities.

“We wanted this inaugural Mother Wit open call to both support and explore the diversity of experience as it relates to human rights and those courageous individuals who are fighting for them – from both sides of the camera,” said Chicken & Egg Pictures co-founders Julie Parker Benello, Wendy Ettinger and Judith Helfand. “We think these unique, story driven, personal and resonant films – many with strong girls and women at their center – will help expand the definition of “human rights” to include the basic right to thrive – live, work, play, eat, learn and love – in peace.”

The support ranges from I BELIEVE IN YOU grants for early development, production and sustained time in the editing room to LIBERTY grants – funds earmarked for filmmakers in the final throes of completion who need to focus all their attention on finishing their film, strategizing for their launch and executing it.

This round of LIBERTY grants include Allison Klayman’s debut feature documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, which just had its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2012 where it received the Special Jury Prize for documentary; Sari Gilman’s directing debut of the short documentary Kings Point; and Kristy Guevera-Flanagan’s feature documentary WONDER WOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, which will have its world premiere at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival next month.
Creative Producing Award
Last month at Sundance, Chicken & Egg Pictures gave its first I BELIEVE IN YOU Creative Producing Award of $10K to an emerging women producer. This year’s recipient is Nekisa Cooper, producer of the award-winning feature film Pariah.

At the ceremony held at Sundance, the Co-Founders of Chicken & Egg said this about the award: “Nekisa Cooper is one of those rare creative producers who combines artistic vision, an uncanny sense for story, the ability to deeply believe in the filmmakers she stands beside and savvy business sense. We are giving Nekisa this award in honor of her business acumen and the creative, strategic, analytical, team-building, and negotiation skills she used to get Pariah done and into theatres nationwide. We hope this $10,000 grant will enable her to continue supporting, nurturing and producing original cutting-edge work. We also hope that this award will encourage other foundations and institutions to recognize the power of Creative Producers, like Nekisa, to transform the gender, race and class divisions that inform what kinds of movies are being made and who is making them.”

“With this award Chicken & Egg Pictures is helping to change the narrative about the paucity of financial support available for Creative Producers,” Cooper said after receiving the award. “Specifically, these amazing women are acknowledging that my role in nurturing the vision of writers and directors and procuring the human, financial and physical resources to bring films to life, sits at the intersection of art and commerce, making the Creative Producer a Filmmaker, too. I’m so humbled to be the first recipient of this grant and look forward to hatching more diversity in storytelling through the artists I support.”

MOTHER WIT Human Rights Film Fund Grant Recipients

Last fall, more than 300 women filmmakers submitted applications for consideration. Below are the inaugural grantees from the Chicken & Egg Pictures MOTHER WIT Human Rights Film Fund Open Call announced today.

American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs
U.S. (Post-Production)
Director Grace Lee

96-year-old Grace Lee Boggs is an activist in Detroit and a voice of hope for a new generation dedicated to the next “American Revolution”. She’s traversed the major social movements of the last century – from labor to civil rights, to Black Power, feminism, and beyond, and she’s emerged with a philosophy that’s almost radical in its simplicity and clarity.

After Tiller
U.S. (Post-Production)
Directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson

AFTER TILLER goes inside the lives of the last four American doctors who still provide
late-term abortions. Since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in 2009, these men and women have become the new number-one targets of the anti-abortion movement, and now spend every day battling new legislation, protestor harassment and death threats in order to continue work that many believe is murder—but which these doctors believe literally saves women’s lives.

Break of Dawn
Denmark (Production)
Directors Berit Madsen, Mona Rafatzadeh and Michael Christoffersen

An Iranian teenage girl wants to become an astronaut. Fueled by a promise to her dead father to follow her dreams she spends her days learning astronomy and her nights watching stars. In Sephideh’s mind she’s teamed up with Albert Einstein and Anousheh Ansari, her exiled Iranian idol, and the world’s first female “space tourist”. She’s on the road to becoming the best female amateur astronomer when tradition, family and an angry uncle steps in. And the she gets a call from America – and it’s Anousheh…

Buddha of Africa (Working Title)
South Africa/Malawi (Development)
Director Nicole Schafer

Against the backdrop of China’s growing influence on the African continent, Buddha of Africa tells the intimate story of a Malawian orphan growing up in a Chinese Buddhist Orphanage in Malawi.  He learns Mandarin, practices Buddhism and becomes a young master of the ancient art of Shaolin Kung Fu. His life is transformed. But the surrounding community is suspicious of this upbringing and this new form of foreign “aid” and they question to what extent he’ll still be Malawian when he’s grown up one day.

Citizen Corp, United States
U.S. (Production)
Directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal

In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling that corporations have the same constitutional rights as citizens, cash is flowing into elections faster and with less transparency than ever. Emboldened, special interests on all sides are spending unprecedented sums to influence public opinion and to advocate for their favorite candidates. Cynicism among voters is epidemic. Citizen Corp tells a character-driven story of that landmark court decision and its impact on American democracy- in Washington, DC and nationwide.

Denmark (Production)
Director Camilla Nielsson

Democrats is a film about the creation of a new constitution in Zimbabwe. The film follows two top politicians, who have been appointed to lead the country through the democratic reform process. The two men are political opponents, but united in the ambition to make history by giving the nation a new founding document that can give birth to the future Zimbabwe.

The Graying of AIDS: Women on aging with HIV
United States (Production)
Directors Katja Heinemann and Naomi Schegloff

Sue (73, white, suburban FL) met the love of her life in her 50s.  They “fished all day and danced all night”. All that stopped when his health started changing.  But he wouldn’t talk about it. Sue was diagnosed with HIV at 58. Anna (64, widowed, black, Baltimore, MD) reconnected with a recently divorced high school friend in her mid-50s. Platonic friendship turned on-again-off-again relationship turned into AIDS. He never told her. This is a documentary short, [part of a larger web-based engagement campaign],
Is about older adults living longer with HIV/AIDS

Shadow Girl
Chile/Canada (Production)
Director Maria Teresa Larrain

In Shadow Girl, director María Teresa bravely opens up her journey into darkness and shares it with the world. Shot from the director’s point of view, the audience follows her as she enters into the unknown world of being blind, fighting to keep her dignity and her voice as an artist — searching for a new way to see the world. At once profound, mysterious, nuanced and celebratory, with the occasional dash of humor, Shadow Girl reflects our ability to overcome loss and rise from the ashes.

The Supreme Price  
U.S./Nigeria (Post-Production)
Director Joanna Lipper      
The Supreme Price tells the story of Hafsat Abiola — a daughter determined to realize her parents’ dreams of alleviating poverty and bringing democracy to Nigeria.  In 1993, whileHafsat studied at Harvard, her father, M.K.O Abiola, was elected President of Nigeria.  The military annulled the election results and seized power.  Hafsat’s father became a renowned prisoner of conscience and in response, Hafsat’s mother, Kudirat, assumed leadership of Nigeria’s pro-democracy movement, demanded that the US embargo Nigerian oil and spoke out against the military dictatorship, actions which led to her assassination.  As Nigeria transitions to civilian rule, Hafsat, now ahuman rights activist and social entrepreneur, faces the challenge of transforming a dysfunctional, fraudulent culture of political leadership into a legitimate democracy capable of serving Nigeria’s most marginalized population: women.

Sweet Dreams
Rwanda/U.S. (Post-Production)
Directors LIsa Fruchtman and Rob Fruchtman

In 1994 Rwanda suffered a devastating genocide. Close to a million minority Tutsis were killed by their neighbors, friends and even their family. Those who survived were broken, dead inside.  “How do you rebuild a human being?  The answer, according to theatre director Ingoma Nshya, was to form Rwanda’s first and only women’s drumming troupe. The requirement: leave all past categories at the gate. Powerful sounds pierce the silence of the Rwandan countryside. A group of women, 60 strong, pound out rhythms of power and joy. Sweet Dreams follows the women over the course of a year, as they discover a radical new way to heal past wounds and create a future of peace, possibility, drumming and ice cream making.

The Mouse that Roared (working title)
U.S. (Production)
Director Judith Ehrlich

The great struggle for free speech in the 21st century will be fought in cyberspace.  Birgitta Jónsdóttir, trailblazing Icelandic Parliamentarian and former WikiLeaks leader takes us inside the global fight for internet freedom as she struggles to make Iceland a unique haven for expression online and off.

Uranium Drive-in
U.S. (Post-Production)
Director Suzan Beraza

Tami Lowrance is Mayor of Naturita, a rural uranium-mining town in Colorado. She’s doing everything in her power to support this economically depressed community, which before the Chernobyl accident and Three Mile Island, was bustling. When a new uranium mill is proposed for the region, Tami and many area residents are ecstatic—they need the jobs. Others, like Rancher Heidi Redd, are not. They’re terrified about reopening “hundreds of toxic uranium mines.” They’ve seen, felt and mourned the long-term effects of uranium mining on the water, air, workers and residents of Naturita,  and they’re worried. They also just might be powerless to stop it. Uranium Drive-In closely chronicles a once robust uranium community, that’s struggling on the brink of economic death, and grappling with whether a return to mining is really good—for their families, their community and the world.

LIBERTY Grants for Those in Completion

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry  
U.S./China  (Completion and festival launch)
Director Alison Klayman

Ai Weiwei is China’s most famous international artist, and its most outspoken domestic critic. Against a backdrop of strict censorship and an unresponsive legal system, Weiwei, a dissident for the digital age, expresses himself and organizes people through art and social media.  Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry blurs the boundaries of art and politics and will inspire global audiences to “never retreat”.

Kings Point  
U.S. (Completion)
Director Sari Gilman

Kings Point is a short documentary about five Americans living in a typical retirement resort, grappling with love, loss, and the fear of dying alone. Through the experiences of Gert, Mollie, Frank, Bea, and Jane, the film provides a bittersweet look at our ambivalent relationship with freedom, self-reliance and community.

Saving Face
U.S./Pakistan (Completion)
Directors Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy

With over a hundred cases reported every year, acid attacks are an extreme form of domestic violence in Pakistan. SAVING FACE follows plastic surgeon Dr. Jawad as he travels to Pakistan and treats survivors of acid violence who are attempting to restore their lives and to seek remedies in Pakistani society. While being treated by Dr. Jawad, these women fight for justice through the Pakistani legal system and partner with a handful of women in the Pakistani Parliament who take up the issue of acid violence on a federal level.

WONDER WOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines
U.S. (Completion)
Director Kristy Guevara-Flanagan

WONDER WOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines examines the fascinating evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman. From the birth of the comic book superheroine in the 1940s to the blockbusters of today, WONDER WOMEN! looks at how popular representations of powerful women often reflect society’s anxieties about women’s liberation. WONDER WOMEN! goes behind the scenes with Lynda Carter, Lindsay Wagner, comic writers and artists, and real life superheroines such as Gloria Steinem, Shelby Knox and others who offer an enlightening and entertaining counterpoint to the male dominated superhero genre.


Call Me Kuchu          
Uganda/U.S. (Re-grant for Completion)
Directors Katherine Fairfax Wright & Malika Zouhali-Worrall

In Uganda, a new bill threatens to make homosexuality punishable by death. David Kato – Uganda’s first openly gay man – and his fellow activists work against the clock to defeat the legislation while combatting vicious persecution in their daily lives. But no one is prepared for the brutal murder that shakes their movement to its core and sends shockwaves around the world

Oscar’s Comeback
U.S. (Post Production)
Directors Lisa Collins and Mark Schwartzburt

Sometimes, what you think is Black and White — isn’t! … Two worlds collide when an unlikely all-White small town champions its unlikely Black ‘native son’ — early 1900s controversial filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux, known to some as the ‘Godfather of Independent Cinema’. From historical reenactments, to heated debates, to ‘corporate’ take-over, witness the melodrama and hijinks — behind-the-scenes — fueling the annual ‘Oscar Micheaux Film & Book Festival’ held in Gregory, South Dakota.

Strong Island
U.S. (Production)
Director Yance Ford

Set in the suburbs of the black middle class, Strong Island chronicles the director’s investigation into her brother’s violent death twenty years ago. Providing insight into the complexities of fear, guilt, violence and criminal justice, Strong Island reveals the human dimension of tragedy and how easily things fall apart.

Watchers of the Sky            
U.S. (Re-grant for Post Production)
Director Edet Belzberg

Watchers of the Sky interweaves multiple modern stories of remarkable courage while setting out to uncover the forgotten life of Raphael Lemkin, the man who invented the word ‘genocide’. Inspired by Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “A Problem From Hell”, WATCHERS OF THE SKY traverses time and continents to explore genocide and the cycle of violence, taking you on a journey from Nuremberg to Rwanda, from Bosnia to Darfur, and from apathy to action.

About Chicken & Egg Pictures
Founded in 2005 by award-winning independent filmmakers Julie Parker Benello, Wendy Ettinger and Judith Helfand, Chicken & Egg Pictures is a film fund and non-profit production company dedicated to supporting women filmmakers who are as passionate about the art and craft of storytelling as they are about the human rights, global health and environmental justice issues they are embracing, translating and exploring on film. In 2010, Chicken & Egg Pictures received the Loreen Arbus Award from New York Women in Film and Television, honoring Those Who Take Action and Effect Change, through making a significant contribution to promoting the advancement of women in the entertainment industry.

Films that have received support from Chicken & Egg Pictures include: The Academy Awards® winner Freeheld by Cynthia Wade (Best Documentary Short, 2008), Lioness by Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers, Connected by Tiffany Shlain, Orgasm Inc. by Liz Canner, Eventual Salvation by Dee Rees, Body Typed by Jesse Epstein and The Oath by Laura Poitras. More information about these and other projects is available at www.chickeneggpics.org and the organization’s blog at chickeneggpics.blogspot.com

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