Since 2014, Media Impact Funders has been showcasing the work of producers dedicated to creating documentaries in the public interest through our annual Media Impact Festival.
This year’s Media Impact Festival is a partnership with the AFI DOCS Film Festival in Washington, D.C., which took place from June 14-18. Our festival celebrates the following 10 media projects, which were selected to participate in AFI’s 2017 Impact Lab. See the case statements below to learn more about their outreach goals and impact.
ACORN and the Firestorm by Reuben Atlas and Sam Pollard
This film documents the controversies surrounding ACORN, America’s largest grassroots community organizing group, which became a major player in the 2008 presidential election that resulted in Barack Obama’s victory. Big businesses, Republicans and right-wing activists took issue with the group, firing accusations of voter fraud and government waste at the left-leaning organization. The conservative opposition found unexpected allies in a pair of amateur journalists who posed as a pimp and prostitute hoping to expose ACORN via hidden camera. The ensuing political drama spawned the now-omnipresent Breitbart Media, and served as a prescient foreshadowing of today’s political climate. Read the case statement here.
Chasing Coral by Jeff Orlowski and Larissa Rhodes
This sobering virtual reality experience accompanies Jeff Orlowski’s documentary film, Chasing Coral, about the quest of a group of filmmakers and ocean scientists to provide visual proof of climate change. This exclusive underwater experience follows Zack Rago, a passionate scuba diver and researcher, as he documents the unprecedented 2016 coral bleaching event at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. Orlowski, the founder of Exposure Labs, served as director, producer and cinematographer on Chasing Ice, which screened for Congress, the White House, and the United Nations; received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song; and won a 2014 News and Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Nature Programming. Read the case statement here.
Edith + Eddie by Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright
In this short film, Edith and Eddie, ages 96 and 95, are America’s oldest interracial newlyweds. Their unusual and idyllic love story is disrupted by a family feud that threatens to tear the couple apart. Most of all, this is a film about an individual’s freedom to live and love as they wish, irrespective of their age, race or class, and shows the devastating consequences resulting from the removal of that human right. This tragic love story recently won the Short Film Audience Award at the Montclair Film Festival. Read the case statement here.
For Ahkeem by Jeremy Levine and Landon Van Soest
Beginning one year before the fatal police shooting of a black teenager in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, For Ahkeem is the coming-of-age story of Daje Shelton, a black 17-year-old girl in North St. Louis. She fights for her future as she is placed in an alternative high school and navigates marginalized neighborhoods, biased criminal justice policies and economic devastation. Over two years, we watch as Daje struggles to maintain focus in school, attends the funerals of friends killed around her, falls in love with a classmate named Antonio, and navigates a loving-but-tumultuous relationship with her mother. As events in Ferguson just 4 miles from her home seize the national spotlight, Daje learns she is pregnant. Read the case statement here.
The Force by Peter Nicks
The Force presents a cinema vérité look deep inside the long troubled Oakland Police Department as it struggles to confront federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following events in Ferguson, Missouri, and an explosive scandal. Peter Nicks is an Emmy Award winning shooter/director known for his courageous cinema vérité style. Nicks is a 2015 United States Artist Fellow in the midst of his trilogy of timely, immersive films exploring the interconnected narratives of health care, criminal justice and education in Oakland. Read the case statement here.
I Am Evidence by Trish Adlesic and Geeta Gandbhir
I Am Evidence exposes the shocking number of untested rape kits in the United States today, estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. Despite the power of DNA to solve and prevent crimes, these kits containing potentially crucial evidence languish untested in police evidence storage rooms. Behind each of these kits lies an individual’s unresolved sexual assault case. I Am Evidence introduces viewers to several of these survivors, who still await justice, as well as the prosecutors, investigators, advocates and journalists fighting on their behalf and highlights the law enforcement officials who are leading the charge to work through the backlog and pursue long-awaited justice in these cases. Read the case statement here.
Nowhere To Hide by Zaradasht Ahmed
Nowhere to Hide follows male nurse Nori Sharif through five years of dramatic change, providing unique access into one of the world’s most dangerous and inaccessible areas—the “triangle of death” in central Iraq. Initially filming stories of survivors and the hope of a better future as American and Coalition troops retreat from Iraq in 2011, conflicts continue with Iraqi militias, and the population flees accompanied by most of the hospital staff. Nori is one of the few who remain. When ISIS advances on Jalawla in 2014 and takes over the city, he too must flee with his family at a moment’s notice, and turns the camera on himself. Read the case statement here.
A Suitable Girl by Smriti Mundhra and Sarita Khurana
A Suitable Girl follows three young women in India struggling to maintain their identities and follow their dreams amid intense pressure to get married. Ritu, Dipti and Amrita represent the new India. Educated, financially stable and raised with a mix of traditional and contemporary values in the urban cities of Mumbai and New Delhi, they have access to the world in ways their mothers did not. Yet their lives take a dramatic turn when the pressure to settle down and get married hits. Documenting the arranged marriage and matchmaking process in vérité over four years, the film examines the women’s complex relationships with the institution of marriage and the many nuanced ways society molds them into traditional roles. Read the case statement here.
What Lies Upstream by Cullen Holback
In this political thriller, investigative filmmaker Cullen Hoback travels to West Virginia to uncover the truth behind a massive chemical spill that left 300,000 people without drinking water for months. But when Hoback discovers an obscene collusion between chemical corporations and the highest levels of government, the investigation spirals in a terrifying direction, and we learn the frightening truth about what lies upstream of us all. In the process, Hoback reveals the largest chemical drinking water contamination in a generation. Read the case statement here.
The Work by Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous
Set entirely inside Folsom State Prison, The Work follows three men during four days of intensive group therapy with convicts, revealing an intimate and powerful portrait of authentic human transformation that transcends what we think of as rehabilitation. Each man in the room takes his turn at delving deep and sharing something personal. The raw and revealing process that the incarcerated men undertake exceeds the expectations of the free men, ripping them out of their comfort zones and forcing them to see themselves and the prisoners in unexpected ways. The Work offers a powerful and rare look past the cinder block walls, steel doors and dehumanizing tropes of prison culture. Read the case statement here.