The 2014 Media Impact Festival celebrated the social impact of media, and its capacity to transform society. This yearlong showcase is the next evolution of the Film + Video Festival, which Media Impact Funders presented with the Council on Foundations for many years.

To build upon notable work in the emerging field of documentary impact analysis, we partnered with BRITDOC to feature the five finalists selected for their 2013 PUMA Impact Award. The BRITDOC team has distinguished itself through an innovative and rigorous approach to evaluating films as powerful tools for strategic communication. Adapting their methodology, our nominators have chosen five additional films to be highlighted, for a total of 10 selections — each of which was considered for the awards below.

We’ve assembled case studies examining the outreach campaigns for each of 2014’s selections — read them here to learn more about how these high-impact films moved audiences and influencers to action.

2014 winners

The Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film & Digital Media:

Invisible War



The Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film & Digital Media is named in honor of a man who broke traditional molds of documentary filmmaking and put social justice and democratic ideals at the forefront of his work. Hampton (1940-98) was one of the 20th century’s most influential documentary filmmakers. His work chronicled America’s great political and social movements and set new standards for broadcast quality.


The Woodward A. Wickham Award for Excellence in Media Philanthropy:

The Ford Foundation for ​American Promise



The Woodward A. Wickham Award for Excellence in Media Philanthropy recognizes a foundation that has demonstrated vision in its media grantmaking. Woodward (Woody) A. Wickham was Vice President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and a legendary leader in the independent film and media fields.

2014 Media Impact Festival Selections

After Tiller
Since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in 2009, there are only four American doctors left who openly provide third-trimester abortions. After Tiller paints a portrait of these physicians through interviews and vérité scenes from their lives and clinics. The film’s outreach campaign successfully targeted pro-choice groups, medical students, young people and those living in states with 20-week bans in order to create awareness for the nuanced issue of late-term abortion access, and rallied volunteers to fight an Albuquerque ballot measure, which would have severely decreased access to third-trimester abortions.

American Promise
In 1999, filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson turned cameras on two families – including their own — as they enrolled their sons at a prestigious prep school. Thirteen years later, the result is American Promise, which provides a look into the lives of two middle class black families as they navigate race, class, parenthood and education. Alongside screenings of the film, a sophisticated outreach campaign provides workshops and support guides for parents, educators, and students.

A Place at the Table
A Place at the Table
shows viewers how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for America through the lens of three people who are struggling with food insecurity in three very different parts of the country. Through community screenings and meetings with policymakers, the film has expanded awareness of hunger issues in America, and led to legislative action to help feed struggling families.

tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, the film explores the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry. The attention garnered by the film’s network television run has generated a significant public outcry against Seaworld’s Orca treatment, followed by a decrease in Seaworld attendance.

Over 13 million American kids are bullied each year, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people. Bully brings human scale to this startling statistic, offering an unflinching look at how bullying has touched five kids and their families. The filmmakers launched The Bully Project, a nationwide campaign to stop bullying in schools through community outreach with parents and administrators, dialogue with students, and legislative action.

Gasland Parts I & II
In the original Gasland, filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, and embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination around the new technology known as “fracking.” Part II continues this journey in light of new developments in the oil industry, and controversy around the original film. The associated campaign has been widely praised for introducing the topic of fracking into the larger environmental and energy discussions, in spite of fierce backlash from the oil industry, and has been central to the formation of many grassroots anti-fracking groups in key spots around the world.

Give Up Tomorrow
A tropical storm beats down on an island in the Philippines, two sisters leave work and never make it home….. Paco Larrañaga, a 19 year old student, is sentenced to death for their rape and murder despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence. Seven years in the making, the film reflects schisms of race, class and political power at the core of the Philippines’ tumultuous democracy that clashing families, institutions, and individuals face over Paco’s freedom. Thanks to the outreach efforts of the filmmakers, Paco has been granted parole in a Spanish prison, though they continue to successfully campaign against the death penalty in Asia and worldwide.

The Act of Killing
In a country where killers are celebrated as heroes, the filmmakers challenge unrepentant death squad leader Anwar Congo and his friends to dramatize their role in the Indonesian genocide. But their idea of being in a movie is not to provide testimony for a documentary: they want to be stars in their favourite film genres — gangster, western, musical. The powerful portrait of these killers portraying themselves and their victims has changed the frame on the 1965 genocide, shifting Indonesians’ understanding of their recent history, and paving the way for the possibility of a truth and reconciliation down the road.

The Interrupters
The Interrupters
tells the moving and surprising stories of three “Violence Interrupters” who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. Shot over the course of a year, the film captures a period in Chicago when it became a national symbol for the violence in US cities. The film’s outreach campaign has helped their organization, CeaseFire, and similar groups fighting urban violence to create meaningful conversations about possible solutions, and their interactive web site, Interrupt Violence, supports related discussions among community members

The Invisible War
The Invisible War
is a groundbreaking investigative documentary about one of America’s most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military. The film paints a startling picture of the extent of the problem — 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted during military service. The film has been screened for former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, White House officials, and Senators, all of whom have pledged to combat sexual assault in the military with new regulations and legislation.

Special thanks to our selection committee:

  • Renee Branch, Council on Foundations
  • Sonya Childress, Firelight Media
  • Juliette Feeney-Timsit, After_FACT
  • Rachel Grady, Loki Films
  • Kathy Im, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Beth Janson, Tribeca Film Institute
  • Joy Thomas Moore, Consultant
  • Debika Shome, Harmony Institute
  • Sky Sitney, Georgetown University
  • Rahdi Taylor, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program

We are very grateful to the Rita Allen Foundation for generous support of this Media Impact Festival.