The American Stories Fund is a new initiative in partnership with Points North Institute and CNN Films. The fund provides $10,000 emergency grants to five documentary filmmakers from underrepresented backgrounds to continue production or post-production through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The five filmmaking teams were also invited to connect with additional funders, distributors and creative partners via film industry meetings during the 16th Camden International Film Festival, which took place from October 1st – 12th, 2020.
Pitch panelists have included representatives from:
Ford Foundation, ITVS, Sundance Institute, POV, Impact Partners, Doc Society, HBO, Tribeca Film Institute, Cinereach, International Documentary Association, SFFILM, Catapult Film Fund, RYOT, Chicago Media Project, A&E, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Fork Films, The Fledgling Fund and CNN Films, among others.
Alumni films include:
THE FEELING OF BEING WATCHED
ALL THAT PASSES BY THROUGH A WINDOW THAT DOESN’T OPEN
THE CAGE FIGHTER
THE REAGAN SHOW
2020 AMERICAN STORIES GRANTEES
American women today are more likely to die in childbirth than their own mothers. A Black woman with a Ph.D. is three times more likely to die in childbirth than a white woman with an eighth-grade education living below the poverty line. 60% of these deaths are preventable. This is the U.S. maternal health system.
Aftershock follows the Benton-Gibson/Maynard family as they fight against this broken system. Through their search for justice as well as through other grieving families in this dreaded-club, we re-examine the little-known history of birthing in America and uncover a web of medical, corporate, and insurance malfeasance which—, intentional or not—, is tantamount to an industrial collusion with deadly consequences.
Directed and Produced by Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee
About the Director
Paula Eiselt is an independent filmmaker based in New York. Her award-winning documentary feature debut 93Queen was released theatrically across the U.S and Canada, and broadcast nationally on PBS’s POV, ARTE in France and Germany, UR in Sweden, yes DocU in Israel, and CBC in Canada. 93Queen will be released on HBO Max in September 2020. The film played over 70 film festivals worldwide, won the prestigious Hot Docs First Look Pitch Prize, and was selected into the U.S. State Department’s American Film Showcase.
Paula is currently an Artist-in-Residence at Concordia Studio.
Her work has been supported by ITVS, the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Fund, Open Society Foundation , Just Films | Ford Foundation, NYSCA, Fork Films, Gucci Tribeca Doc Fund, the Oath Foundation, IDA Pare Lorentz Doc Fund, Chicago Media Project, Picture Motion, the Hartley Film Foundation, IFP, and Women Make Movies.
She also works as the Creative Consultant for the Jewish Writers Initiative and serves on the board of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. In 2019, Paula was named one of Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36” for her role in amplifying women’s voices. She is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a double major in Film Production and Cinema Studies.
Doris Muñoz excels in discovering and successfully launching young musicians of color. While helping these artists navigate a treacherously competitive business, Doris also must support her immigrant family. Set against aggressive anti-immigration policy and a music industry in crisis, Mija tells the story of a young Chicana woman discovering herself through the hardships of what it means to succeed in the United States.
Directed by Isabel Castro
Produced by Tabs Breese
About the Director
Isabel Castro is a Mexican-American filmmaker who aims to shine a light on civil rights injustice and into the hidden corners of the immigrant experience in America.
Isabel directed, produced, and lensed the documentary short USA v Scott (Tribeca 2020, Camden Film Festival 2020, The New Yorker) a film that explores the legality and ethics of humanitarian aid for migrants, Darlin (Tribeca 2019, NYT OpDocs), which was nominated for a News Emmy in 2020, follows a Honduran family in the months after their separation under the zero tolerance policy; and the Netflix docu-series Pandemic. Her directorial debut Crossing Over (Univison/Participant Media), about transgender asylum seekers, won a 2015 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary. Castro has worked as a multimedia journalist for The New York Times, as a producer at The Marshall Project, on two seasons of the Emmy-award winning series VICE on HBO, and as a producer covering civil rights and policy at VICE News Tonight on HBO, where her work was nominated for an Emmy in 2017. She is an Artist-in-Residence at Concordia Studio and an SFFILM/Catapult Fund Fellow. Mija is her first feature film.
Off the coast of Maine, America’s addiction and environmental crises meet at a crossroads as Colleen Francke leads a team of women in recovery from substance use disorder building a seaweed farm in Casco Bay. Facing opposition from local fishermen, risking financial stability, and fighting through her own recovery journey, Colleen will discover what it takes to lead these women into a new coastal economy – rehabilitating both the water and themselves along the way.
Directed by Heidi Burkey
Produced by Julie Hook
About the Director
Based in Los Angeles, Heidi Burkey is a documentary filmmaker committed to elevating stories that explore social, political and environmental issues through the lens of the human experience. Her work has been distributed on Netflix, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Fusion TV, and DirectTV. Heidi’s debut feature, Jedi Junior High, a coming-of-age documentary following middle schoolers performing a Star Wars musical, was distributed by Mar Vista Entertainment in 2015. In 2018, she directed a six-part TV documentary series for AT&T’s The Audience Network called, The Pitch, which explored the sub-culture of football fans in the UK. Working for Fusion’s Digital Documentary team, she produced a 30 minute primetime special that aired on Fusion TV and 5 documentary short films that collectively garnered over 400K views on Fusion’s YouTube channel. Heidi is a member of Film Fatales, Women in Moving Pictures, The Video Consortium, and the IDA.
I inherited a plot of land off the Santee river and began to travel home to make a film about it, reconnecting with my father who is in the leadership of the A.M.E connectional church in South Carolina. The film I’d set out to make was violently interrupted by the murder of 9 people at my parent’s church in 2015. My relationship with my father is at the heart of the film that unfolds instead, as I follow him serving as interim pastor in the aftermath of the murders. This is a story of American inheritance.
Directed by Jon-Sesrie Goff
Produced by Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich, blair dorosh-walther
About the Director
Jon-Sesrie Goff is a multidisciplinary artist, curator, and arts administrator. He believes cinema has the power to explore the intersection of race, power, identity, gender and the environment by unearthing the visceral representational value and authenticity behind the images propelled across varying diasporas. With over 15 years experience in media and film production, Jon has an MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke University and offered his lens to a variety of projects spanning many genres including the recently released and award-winning documentaries, including Out in the Night (POV, Logo 2015), Evolution of a Criminal (Independent Lens 2015) and Spit on the Broom (2019), among several other projects. He is in production for his feature directorial debut After Sherman.
Standing Above the Clouds
Standing Above the Clouds is a story of the Mana Wahine o Mauna Kea (women warriors who are guardians of the mountain). The film follows three Native Hawaiian families who have become leaders in the global movement to prevent the construction of an 18-story, Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the last pristine section of Mauna Kea, on Hawai’i’s Big Island. As the documentary unfolds from the vision that started the movement in 2010 to eventual victory, our team follows Pua Case, Leina’ala Sleightholm, Mehana Kihoi and their families exploring what it’s like raising your children on the frontline, facing arrest while defending a sacred place, and sustaining a movement centered in ceremony and sacredness.
Directed by Jalena Keane-Lee
Produced by Amber Espinosa-Jones, Pua Case (Cultural Producer)
About the Director
Jalena Keane-Lee is a director, cinematographer, and producer who explores intergenerational trauma and healing through an intersectional lens. Jalena is the co-founder of Breaktide Productions, an all women of color video production company that has carried out national video campaigns for brands like Nike and Thinx. Their branded content has won two Cannes Lion awards — and in 2019, were named to Yerba Buena Center for the Artsʻ 100 list of changemakers. Jalena produced a short film for Independent Lens and her films have screened at the UN, HIFF, CAAMFest, and LAAPFF. She has been supported by NeXt Doc, The Jacob Burns Creative Culture Fellowship, PIC, and Nia Tero.