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Women in Film Announces 30th Annual Finishing Fund Recipients

Women in Film Announces 30th Annual Finishing Fund Recipients

Three narrative features, four documentary features and a pair of shorts — all from female filmmakers — have been selected to receive Women in Film’s finishing funds this year. 

WIF’s 30th annual finishing-fund-grant cycle received over 250 applications this year. The fund provides cash grants and in-kind production services to complete films that fit the established criteria of being by, for or about women.

Deb Shoval’s “AWOL,” about a lesbian affair between a teenage soldier and her mother-of-two lover, won the inaugural $25,000 grant from Tiffany & Co. 

Read more about the 2015 Women in Film Finishing Fund winners below. Descriptions courtesy of WIF.

Narrative Feature Films


Directed by Deb

In a post-industrial town
with little economic opportunity, Joey, 18, falls for Rayna, 27, a sexy,
married mother of two. Threatened by Rayna’s husband and fired from her job at
the local dairy, Joey reluctantly joins the Army. Days before deployment
overseas and still wildly in love, Joey returns to Pennsylvania, plotting to go
AWOL with Rayna and her kids.

BIO: Deb Shoval was raised by her Israeli father and American mother in a small
Pennsylvania coal town, where she now owns Fertile Grounds, a 37-acre certified
organic vegetable farm. Shoval’s short film AWOL
premiered at Sundance in 2011, winning the Women In Film Grant from Kodak,
Technicolor, and CalmDown Productions. The feature version of AWOL, starring Lola Kirke, is currently
in post-production. AWOL the feature has received grants from the Jerome
Foundation and Frameline and was chosen for Film Independent’s Fast Track,
IFP’s Narrative Completion Lab, and US Works in Progress Paris. At the Tribeca
Film Festival this spring, Ms. Shoval received the IWC Schaffhausen “For the
Love of Cinema” award. Shoval divides her time between Pennsylvania and New
York City, where she lives with her wife, educator and playwright Tala

Children of the

written, and produced by Priscilla Anany

In Accra, the capital city of
Ghana, Essuman(33), a yam seller gives birth to a son with a cleft palate. Her
first instinct is to run away as the child’s father, and her mother-in-law
blames her for the child’s “imperfection.” Essuman makes the attempt, but her
conscience brings her back. She struggles to find a cure for her child.

SNAPSHOT BIO: Born in Ghana,
West Africa in 1983, Priscilla grew up in a few other African countries
including Togo and Nigeria as her father taught sculpture-making at various
universities along the West African coast. She moved to the United States in
2003 to continue her education. Priscilla started her Ghana-based production
company, i60 Productions, in 2011. At i60. Priscilla works as a producer and
fixer for international producers looking to shoot their films, TV commercials,
and other media projects in West Africa. Aside from that, Priscilla is focused
on making her own films. She shot her first feature film Children of the Mountain in July 2014 and the film is currently in
post-production. She is currently developing her second feature film Green Bird.


Directed by Ralitza Petrova/Produced by Rossitsa Valkanova

In a remote Bulgarian town,
Gana looks after the elderly with dementia, while trafficking their ID cards on
the black market. Once stolen the IDs are passed to Gana’s boyfriend Aleko, a
car mechanic and runner for a crime group dealing with identity fraud. At home,
Gana lives with her jobless mother, for whom she provides, and with whom she
hardly speaks. Her bond with Aleko is no shelter for love either — with sexual
attraction vanished, intimacy is reduced to an addiction to morphine. Nothing
seems to affect Gana’s conscience, even the murder of a patient who threatens
to expose the nurse’s fraudulent dealings. Things start to shake up when
Gana is touched by the music of Yoan, a new patient whose ID card she has

BIO: Rossitsa graduated in 1982 from the National Academy of Theatre and Film,
Sofia as a film director. She directed several shorts and documentaries before
founding a production company, KLAS Film in 1995. She is a member of national
and international film selection committees and juries, and a member of the
European Film Academy. Among the titles produced by KLAS Film are Letter to America (2001), Christmas Tree Upside Down (2006), Investigation (2007), Shelter (2010), The Prosecutor, the Defender, the Father and his Son (2015).

Documentary Feature Films

Black Ballerina

Directed and
produced by Frances McElroy

The documentary Black Ballerina compels viewers to think
about issues of diversity, inclusion and equality in a fresh way. Set in the
overwhelmingly white world of classical dance, the documentary tells the
stories of several black women from different generations who fell in love with
ballet. Six decades ago, while pursuing dreams of dance careers, Joan Myers
Brown, Delores Browne and Raven Wilkinson confronted racism, exclusion and
unequal opportunity. Today, young black women continue to pursue ballet
careers. The film explores the formidable challenges dancers of color still
face, what’s being done about it and why it matters.

SNAPSHOT BIO: Frances McElroyis Producer/Director of Black Ballerina. As a seasoned documentary filmmaker and a 2009 Pew
Fellow in the Arts, her mission is two-fold: first is to create issue-driven
documentaries and videos for PBS and non-profit organizations; second is to
make her work available for use by community, educational, cultural and
advocacy organizations to stimulate dialogue about contemporary concerns. Her
work’s focus is to give voice to the overlooked, raise questions about
injustice and demonstrate the transformative power of art and place. Her major
films, seen on PBS, include: Mirror Dance,
Making Waves, and An Angel In The Village. Frances’
current documentary, Black Ballerina,
is in post-production. In addition to a recent grant from Women In Film,
funders include the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council
on the Arts and the Leeway and Montgomery County Foundations. 

A Revolution in
Four Seasons

Directed and
produced by Jessie Deeter

A Revolution in Four Seasons is the
story of Emna and Jawhara, and the struggle for democracy in Tunisia, the
country that kicked off the Arab Spring revolutions and which has now been
honored with the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. Standing in contrast to the civil wars
of Syria and Yemen and the autocratic retreat that is Egypt, and bordered by
the unstable failed-state of Libya, Tunisia perseveres alone in its dogged
march towards a more democratic future. Our film tracks secular journalist
Emna Ben Jemaa and Islamist Parliament member Jawhara Ettis over the course of
Tunisia’s critical first four years post-revolution, as both work to steer the
country towards their own disparate versions of the perfect democracy.

SNAPSHOT BIO: Jessie has been producing, reporting and directing
documentaries for more than a decade. She produced and directed Spark: A Burning Man Story, which
premiered at the SXSW film festival and aired on Showtime in 2013. She
produced  Revenge of the Electric Car, which had its debut at the Tribeca
Film Festival in April 2011 and aired on PBS’s Independent Lens in April 2012.
She directed and produced Death by Fire, a documentary that led PBS’s
FRONTLINE season in October 2010. She was the Producer of Who Killed the Electric Car?
which premiered at Sundance and was released by Sony Pictures Classics in 2006.
She is currently producing a documentary about artificial intelligence that
should debut in 2017. Jessie has a
Masters of Journalism from UC Berkeley and recently spent nine months as a
Fulbright Scholar in Oman, Morocco and Tunisia.

So Help You God

Directed and
produced by Ashley York

The evening of April 6, 1997,
news echoed across the globe about a murder in Tennessee’s Appalachian
Mountains. The story made international headlines and was deemed by the
Associated Press as the fifth most popular story of 1997. York was a junior in
high school at the time and shared ninth grade homeroom with Natasha Cornett,
one of three teenage girls accused of the murder. Several years later and while
a graduate student at the University of Southern California, she began
traveling to her hometown and various prisons in the state of Tennessee to
begin a series of interviews with the kids (now much older), who are serving
life prison sentences.

SNAPSHOT BIO: Ashley York is a
mediamaker and film producer who is interested in documentaries, socially
conscious media, and emerging modes of storytelling. She has worked on Academy
Award®-winning teams and as a producer on projects that have premiered at the
Sundance, Berlin, and SXSW film festivals as well as on Netflix, Oprah
Winfrey’s Network, A&E, IFC, HBO, Discovery International, and the Sundance
She co-directed and produced Tig, a Netflix Original documentary and
Official Selection of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, Hot Docs Canadian
International Documentary Film Festival, Outfest, and IDFA. Ashley was one of
nine women debuting a feature film at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. 

The Uncondemned

Directed and
produced by Michele Mitchell

The Uncondemned tells the gripping and world-changing story of a group of
international lawyers and activists who fought for the first-ever conviction of
rape as a crime of war, and the four Rwandan women who came forward to testify
for justice where there had been none.

Mitchell is the producer/writer/co-director of The Uncondemned. She produced, directed and wrote her first
documentary, Haiti: Where Did the Money
? (PBS) which won the 2013 national Edward R. Murrow award for Best TV
Documentary, a Gracie Award for Best Investigative Program, CINE Special Jury
Award for Best Investigative Documentary and a CINE Golden Eagle, among many
others. A former award-winning investigative reporter for “NOW with Bill
Moyers” (PBS) and political anchor for CNN HLN, Michele is the author of
three books and has reported extensively from the Middle East, Southeast Asia,
East Africa, Haiti and most of the 50 United States. She began her career on
Capitol Hill. The Uncondemned is her
first feature documentary.  


Short Films


written, and produced by Tanja Mairitsch

Mila wakes up in an unknown
world full of mysteries. On her journey through ever changing surreal
landscapes she meets her lost lover Theo. Mila has to learn that love also
means letting go.  Lacrimosa
is a story about loss and hope.

SNAPSHOT BIO: Tanja was born in Austria. She moved to Los Angeles to study
Film and TV Directing at the American Film Institute (AFI), where she was
awarded with the prestigious Mary Pickford Scholarship for Outstanding
Achievements in film directing and the AFI Richard P. Rogers Spirit of
Excellence Award.
Her thesis film Fueling the Fire won the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Student
Film Award.
The film went on to win 16 “Best Short Film” or
“Best Director” awards and screened at over 30 international film festivals. Fueling the Fire received an exclusive
broadcast deal with HBO/CINEMAX. Tanja decided to explore the uncharted
territory of underwater cinematography in her latest project, the short film Lacrimosa.

You Can Go

Directed by
Christine Turner

A high school administrator
talks down a troubled student.  

SNAPSHOT BIO: Christine Turner is a filmmaker and documentary television
producer based in New York. Her feature directorial debut, Homegoings, about a renowned funeral director in Harlem, premiered
at Documentary Fortnight at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), NY and opened the
26th season of the acclaimed PBS series, POV. Previously Christine’s fiction
short, Rubber Soles, screened at the
Tribeca Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival and aired on
“Reel New York” on PBS. She received her BFA in Film & Television from New
York University.  

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