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Chicken & Egg Pictures on the 90th Academy Awards® shortlist!

The Oscars® shortlist is here, and we are ecstatic to announce that two Chicken & Egg Pictures-supported films have advanced to the next stage of the voting process for the 90th Academy Awards® in the Documentary Features category!

Congratulations to first-time filmmakers Jennifer Brea (Unrest) and Yance Ford (Strong Island), whose films have made it to the top 15 out of 170 submitted documentaries!

Unrest, directed by Jennifer Brea

Unrest, directed by Jennifer Brea

Jennifer, a Harvard PhD student, was signing a check at a restaurant when she found she could not write her own name. Months before her wedding, she became progressively more ill, losing the ability even to sit in a wheelchair. When doctors insisted that her condition was psychosomatic, she picked up her camera to document her own story and the stories of four other patients struggling with the world’s most prevalent orphaned disease.

Strong Island, directed by Yance Ford

Strong Island, directed by Yance Ford

Set in the suburbs of the black middle class, Strong Island seeks to uncover how—in the year of the Rodney King trial and the Los Angeles riots—the murder of the filmmaker’s older brother went unpunished. The film is an unflinching look at homicide, racial injustice, and the corrosive impact of grief over time.

Check out the rest of the documentary features that have advanced in the voting process here.

Nominations for the 90th Academy Awards® will be announced on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. Best of luck to Jen and Yance!

Catapult Film Fund announces its latest grantees!

We are thrilled to learn that Catapult Film Fund has recognized several of our supported filmmakers with grants this year. Catapult focuses on supporting “powerful and moving storytelling, by filmmakers with a strong voice across a broad spectrum of subject matter,” and providing funding that will enable filmmakers to move forward to the next stage of production.*  Congratulations to Jessica, Kelly, Lyric, Michèle, and Penny!

Check out more information about these films, and others, here.

The Rashomon Effect
Directed by Lyric R. Cabral (Accelerator Lab 2017) and produced by Jessica Devaney (Impact & Innovation Initiative, 2016)
What happened when unarmed Black teen Michael Brown was fatally shot by White police officer Darren Wilson?**

Mississippi Red
Directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega (Application Cycle 2013)
Mississippi Red looks at American feminism through the lens of race, religion and the political establishment as a pair of bipartisan allies fight to pass an equal pay bill in one of the most conservative states in the union.**

Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni film
Directed by Michèle Stephenson (Breakthrough Filmmaker Awards, 2016) and Joe Brewster
Through intimate vérité, archival footage, and visually innovative treatments of her poetry, Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni film pushes the boundaries of biographical documentary film to reveal the enduring influence of one of America’s greatest living artists and social commentators.**

Untitled Satanic Temple Documentary
Directed by Penny Lane (Breakthrough Filmmaker Awards, 2017)
A wildly entertaining, surprising and highly controversial look at the state of religious freedom in America today.**

 

*  = From Catapult Film Fund About Us page.

** = From Catapult Film Fund Films page.

Chicken & Egg Pictures at DOC NYC 2017!

The 2017 DOC NYC Film Festival features three films that Chicken & Egg Pictures has supported directly. Running November 9-16, 2017 in Manhattan, the DOC NYC Film Festival is America’s largest documentary film festival.

Check out the full lineup of films, shorts, panels, and showcases here!

Lovesick (World Premiere)
Directed by Priya Desai and Ann Kim

In India, a culture obsessed with marriage but where AIDS is an unspeakable disease, can you find love and companionship if you’re HIV+? Ancient tradition and the new reality of HIV collide. Lovesick is the modern love story that results. Tickets and showtimes available here.

From Lovesick by Priya Desai and Ann Kim.

32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide (NYC Premiere)
Directed by Hope Litoff

A reflection on the life and suicide of Ruth Litoff, a successful artist, a pathological liar, and the filmmaker’s sister. By looking back on Ruth’s incredible highs and lows, bursts of creative genius, depression, secrets, and lies, a vivid portrait will emerge of the brilliant woman the filmmaker is not sure she ever really knew. This is her attempt to understand what happened. Tickets and showtimes available here.

From 32 PIlls: My Sister’s Suicide by Hope Litoff.

Strong Island
Directed by Yance Ford

Set in the suburbs of the black middle class, Strong Island seeks to uncover how—in the year of the Rodney King trial and the Los Angeles riots—the murder of the filmmaker’s older brother went unpunished. The film is an unflinching look at homicide, racial injustice, and the corrosive impact of grief over time. Tickets and showtimes available here.

From Strong Island by Yance Ford.

A big congratulations, also, to these Nest-supported filmmakers whose films are also screening at DOC NYC:

Katherine Fairfax Wright, Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall
Mohammed Naqvi, Insha’allah Democracy 
Geeta Gandbhir, Armed With Faith
Julia Bacha, Naila and the Uprising
Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman, Nobody Loves Me
Lucy Walker, Oh, What a Beautiful City (A City Symphony)
Laura Poitras, Risk

We’re Finalists for the 2017 Nonprofit Excellence Awards!

We are excited to announce that Chicken & Egg Pictures is a finalist in this year’s New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards Program. Six nonprofit organizations from across the city have been chosen as finalists.

The other organizations are Brooklyn Community Services, Children’s Aid, Food Bank For New York City, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and Girl Be Heard.

“Strong nonprofits help our communities thrive every day. These six finalists serve as models and provide innovative and replicable practices for all nonprofits,” said Sharon Stapel, President and Executive Director of NPCC. Thanks, Sharon!

The winning organizations, who will receive cash prizes as well as scholarships to Columbia Business School programs, will be announced during the Best Practices Workshop & Awards Presentation on Friday, December 1, 2017. We can’t wait!

Learn more about the award and the other finalists here.

Chicken & Egg Pictures Emmy Awards® Winners!

Winners of the 38th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards® were announced this past week, and we are ecstatic to congratulate two of our wonderful supported filmmakers and a friend of our Nest on their wins!

Thank You For Playing, directed by Malika Zouhali-Worrall and David Osit

Thank You For Playing, directed by Malika Zouhali-Worrall and David Osit (PBS ‘POV’) won for Outstanding Arts & Culture Documentary.

When one-year-old Joel is diagnosed with terminal cancer, his father Ryan begins working on an unusual and poetic video game to honor Joel’s life. Following Ryan’s family through the creation of the game and the day-to-day realities of Joel’s treatment, Thank You For Playing is a thought-provoking testimony to the empathetic power of art, examining how we process grief through technology in the twenty-first century, and the implications of documenting profound human experiences in a new artistic medium: the video game.

(T)ERROR, dir. by Lyric Cabral & David Felix Sutcliffe

(T)ERROR, directed by Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe (PBS ‘Independent Lens’) won for Outstanding Investigative Documentary.

(T)ERROR is the first documentary to place filmmakers on the ground during an active FBI counterterrorism sting operation. Through the perspective of “Shariff,”a 63-year-old Black revolutionary turned informant, viewers get an unfettered glimpse of the government’s counterterrorism tactics and the murky justifications behind them. Taut, stark and controversial, (T)ERROR illuminates the fragile relationships between individual and surveillance state in modern America, and asks who is watching the watchers.

And The Armor of Light, (PBS ‘Independent Lens’), directed by our Nest-friend and supporter Abigail Disney, won for Outstanding Social Issue DocumentaryThe Armor of Light follows the journey of an Evangelical minister trying to find the moral strength to preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America.

Many congratulations to all!

Read more about this year’s awards here.

“What interests me is how people face everydayness”: Meet Zofia Pregowska, 2017 Accelerator Lab Grantee

Part Three of a series of blog posts from Chicken & Egg Pictures’ 2017 Accelerator Lab grantees. This post is an interview with Zofia Pregowska, Chicken & Egg 2017 Accelerator Lab Participant and director of People I Know.   

Your documentary debut and short film, “Invisible,” is a portrait of Krystyna, an elderly, almost blind poet, as she prepares for a performance.  It was an official selection at more than twenty five film festivals. Why do you think such a specific story has resonated with so many people?

Krystyna is an incredibly inspiring person. Though she is closed in her little apartment, she is able to wander through worlds in her imagination. At the same time, she is extremely disciplined and hardworking. She has taught me that we ourselves give value to what we do. The film is about the power of mind and imagination–but not daydreaming. Krystyna is not waiting to be saved and does not dream about the impossible. She takes her own life in her own hands, accepting it the way it is. This doesn’t mean that she accepts that she has lost her sight and hearing–but she never allows herself to be held back by her age or her disability. And she has a great sense of humor. She faces the challenges facing each of us, the gray everydayness, and she conquers them with her humor, love for life, and poetry.

A beautiful thing about “Invisible” is how quiet the audience feels, like we’re seeing something secret, something special. Your work-in-progress, “People I Know,” tells the story of Nathalie and Michael, a young married couple living in a trailer, he, a street musician, she, an oncology nurse. What compels you, as a filmmaker, to tell such intimate stories?

What compels me is the everyday quest of my characters to live a meaningful life. 90-year-old Krystyna has found her path; Michael and Nathalie, in their thirties, are at a crossroads looking for their way. What interests me is how people face everydayness. And filming people in their home is like being backstage in the theater of everyday life. What happens outside the home is a theater of social roles we play, for better or for worse.  And hopefully it is compelling to the audience because there is nothing more universal than everyday life struggles. They may take different shapes in different places, but marriage, career choices, illness, aging, everyday fears and hopes are things we all can easily relate to and [at the] same time we easily miss them in everyday life. So what I try to do is take a close look at that common reality which is often invisible, to remind myself how extraordinary, ridiculously funny, and deeply tragic it is.

How have you grown as a filmmaker since “Invisible” (it being your graduate film)? How have you been adjusting to and preparing for your first feature-length documentary?

The popularity of “Invisible” gave me a lot as I had the opportunity to travel to many international film festivals which was both an amazing inspiration and [at the] same time a reality check. Therefore, I had the opportunity to meet a great number of wonderful filmmakers, short films debutants like me as well as established ones who could share their experience. Also, my industry knowledge was practically nonexistent before that, so in that sense it was a big step for me.  I also had a chance to take part in the IDFA Academy and Uniondocs Summer Intensive in New York which was a great, enriching experience. Then, I also discovered Chicken and Egg. It would never have been possible without the Polish Film Institute’s support which made me able to travel. In the meantime I produced the children’s historical documentary short “A Brave Bunch,” which was also a great lesson for me as it was made in a completely different style of work and included child actors and around 25 crew members.  

So in that [sense] I evolved a lot, but [at the] same time it doesn’t mean making your next film is any easier than the last one. I doubt you can prepare for this kind of documentary, as you have to be open to the unexpected. It’s more like an experience of falling through the ice. Before “People I Know” I was preparing for a completely different film, the kind where you have lots more control. And then I received the call from Michael to visit him and his wife in a trailer. Once we went there with my cinematographer Tom Stankiewicz, we forgot about all other plans and we kept shooting for the last two years.  

“Invisible” captures Krystyna and her poetry using a fly-on-the-wall fashion. Will “People I Know” operate similarly stylistically?

Yes, “People I Know” will be stylistically similar in terms of creating the “feeling of being there.” I like to leave the audience alone with my characters.

Zofia Pregowska is a documentary filmmaker from Warsaw, Poland. She graduated from Warsaw Film School for film directing and her documentary debut, Invisible, premiered at IDFA  and went on to win 19 awards including the Short Documentary Jury Award at the New Orleans International Film Festival in 2014. In 2015, she made her production debut with A Brave Bunch: Uprising Through Children’s Eyes. She operates her own production company, Prego Media – Handmade Films, where she works as a director and producer.

 

Meet Hana Mire: the Filmmaker Telling the Story of Somalia’s National Women’s Basketball Team

Part Two of a series of blog posts from Chicken & Egg Pictures’ 2017 Accelerator Lab grantees. This post is an interview with Hana Mire, Chicken & Egg 2017 Accelerator Lab Participant, 2016 Diversity Initiative Fellow, and director of Rajada Dalka/Nation’s Hope.   

Tell us about your film. What stage is it currently in?

The film is about the Somalia women’s national basketball team. We’re following two young girls who were raised in Mogadishu and play for the team as, every day, they receive death threats from the terrorist organization, Al Shabaab, telling them to stop playing. At the same time, we’re following two older generation women who played basketball in Somalia before the civil war, twenty-seven years ago, who are training the girls for the Pan Arab Games.

We’re in production. The ending of the film will be the Pan Arab Games in February. Then we’ll move to the post-production.

How did you discover the female basketball players of Mogadishu and then decide they would be the subjects of your first feature film?

I used to work in a bank as a customer service agent. One day, one of my colleagues, who knew I was Somali, was reading an article. She came to me and said, Hana, you have to check out this story. And I read this story about these older generation players training these young girls in Somalia, and I was so inspired.

I did my research and reached out to the team in Somalia. I emailed them, explained who I was, and told them I was very interested in coming to Somalia to make a film. They were very supportive.

One month later, I came to Somalia with a skeleton-crew to see the girls, meet the coaches, and start the film.

Being a Somali woman who was born and raised in the U.A.E., what has been your experience being in Somalia to film Rajada Dalka?

I wanted to find Somalia through my eyes. I had never been because my parents left Somalia forty years ago and came to the United Arab Emirates.

The stories my mom told me were so different from what the media told me. Growing up in the U.A.E., every time I turned on the TV and people were talking about Somalia, they were showing the poverty and filming the war. I was never turning on the TV and seeing something positive about my country. I wanted to come closer to this culture.  

When I went to Somalia to meet the team and film them, it was eye-opening for me. It was my first time in Somalia, and it was such an inspirational trip. Everything I was seeing, I was seeing for the first time. All the colors—all the beautiful colors that the women would wear! I was so in love with the people, the dances, the clothes, the poetry, the city, the story, and everything! And I felt so welcome. People really opened their doors to me. One day, I was waiting for my driver and people kept coming up to me saying, do you need anything? Do you need a ride? Are you lost?  

I thought, this is something you don’t see. This is not something being shown to anyone. You see in the media that we are aggressive, that we are fighting, that we are dying. That’s all I had ever heard from people—Somali people are dying because they have no water, no access to food. But it’s not the whole country that’s in that position. I’m not denying that there is poverty. Everywhere, there’s poverty. But my film is going to show how these girls live. They’re struggling, how any other person is struggling. Like anyone living in New York City and working and living. Paying their rent, providing, and paying the bills. It’s the same life, I would say. These girls are happy in their home. That’s what I want to show. They don’t have to be in the US! They don’t have to be in Europe to be happy!

The only thing they need is to have security, to have a secure country that can support them.

How can we, as an audience, relate to these women who risk everything to play the sport they love? 

I think the film will inspire people who are going through similar conditions, or any conditions with an obstacle in front of them. You would not expect someone who receives death threats on a daily basis to continue playing basketball!

If someone told me, I’m going to kill you unless you stop making films, I would stop and think about me. We all get to live just one time in this world. We have to achieve what we really want and what we believe in.

And that’s why I relate to these girls. Initially, I had to hide the fact that I was studying filmmaking from my family. Like the girls in Mogadishu had to hide from their families that they were risking their lives playing basketball.

Are they supportive now?

They changed their minds; my whole family changed their minds. Because they saw that I’m very persistent when I find a story that is really important to me and a story that really matters. And this story matters.

They also got pretty encouraged when they found out I had been funded by organizations all the way in the US. They were like, okay, so she’s being supported internationally; this filmmaking thing is real, not just to her. So, they left me with that.

Glad we could help!

United Arab Emirates-based independent Somali filmmaker Hana Mire is the director and producer of the forthcoming documentary and her feature directorial debut, Rajada Dalka. She has taken film production courses at New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi, has directed and produced short documentaries, and in 2013, she won an award at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival for her mini-doc, Silent Art. Last year, she was a Documentary Intensive Fellow at UnionDocs and a Diversity Fellows Initiative filmmaker.

Post by Morgan Hulquist, Summer 2017 Chicken & Egg Pictures Communications Intern.

Chicken & Egg Pictures at the Emmys®!

Row 1 (left to right): Among the Believers, The Hand That Feeds, Meet the Patels; Row 2 (left to right): No Más Bebés, The Return, Southwest of Salem; Row 3 (left to right):Thank You For Playing, (T)ERROR, What Tomorrow Brings

What a week for wonderful news at Chicken & Egg Pictures!

Nominees for the 38th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards® were announced yesterday and we were overloaded with joy to see so many Nest-supported films and filmmakers included. Congratulations to all and good luck!

Among the Believers, directed by Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Naqvi (World ‘Doc World’) Nominated for Outstanding Politics and Government Documentary

The Hand That Feeds, directed by Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick (World ‘America ReFramed’) Nominated for Outstanding Business and Economic Documentary

Meet the Patelsdirected by Geeta Patel and Ravi Patel (PBS ‘Independent Lens’) Nominated for Outstanding Arts & Culture Documentary

No Más Bebés, directed by Renee Tajima-Peña (PBS ‘Independent Lens’) Nominated for Outstanding Historical Documentary

The Return, directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway (PBS ‘POV’) Nominated for Outstanding Current Affairs Documentary

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four, directed by Deborah S. Esquenazi (Investigation Discovery) Nominated for Outstanding Social Issue Documentary

Thank You For Playing, directed by Malika Zouhali-Worrall and David Osit (PBS ‘POV’) Nominated for Best Documentary, Outstanding Arts & Culture Documentary, and Outstanding Editing: Documentary

(T)ERROR, directed by Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe (PBS ‘Independent Lens’) Nominated for Outstanding Investigative Documentary

What Tomorrow Brings, directed by Beth Murphy (PBS ‘POV’) Nominated for Outstanding Current Affairs Documentary

And a special congratulations to 2017 Accelerator Lab grantee Nanfu Wang for Hooligan Sparrow, (PBS ‘POV’), which was nominated for Outstanding Politics and Government Documentary and Outstanding Editing: Documentary; and our Nest-friend and supporter Abigail Disney for The Armor of Light, (PBS ‘Independent Lens’), nominated for Outstanding Social Issue Documentary.

 

We’re Semifinalists for the 2017 Nonprofit Excellence Awards!

Chicken & Egg Pictures is proud to announce that we are semifinalists for this year’s New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards Program. Ten nonprofit groups from across the city have been chosen as semifinalists and will be competing for up to $60,000 in cash prizes and scholarships to Columbia Business School programs.

“As an organization that thrives on learning, innovation and high standards of management, making it to the semi-final round of the Nonprofit Excellence Awards means so much to us. We are committed to building leadership across all staff and are looking forward to gaining valuable feedback on our management practices from going through this rigorous awards application process. We believe that it will better equip us to fulfill our mission of supporting women nonfiction filmmakers and advancing gender equity in the film industry,” said Jenni Wolfson, Executive Director, Chicken & Egg Pictures.

The winning organizations will be announced during the Best Practices Workshop & Awards Presentation on Friday, December 1, 2017.

Learn more about the prestigious award and the other semifinalists here.

Congratulations to our Sheffield Doc/Fest 2017 Winners!  

The Sheffield Doc/Fest 2017 just wrapped and we are proud to announce the Chicken & Egg-supported filmmakers who were awarded at Sheffield Doc/Fest this year: Yance Ford for Strong Island, Jennifer Brea for Unrest and Unrest (VR)*, and Violeta Ayala for The Fight*.  

Still from Strong Island

Strong Island
Directed by Yance Ford
Tim Hetherington Award, presented by Dogwoof and the Tim Hetherington Trust.

Set in the suburbs of the black middle class, Strong Island seeks to uncover how—in the year of the Rodney King trial and the Los Angeles riots—the murder of the filmmaker’s older brother went unpunished. The film is an unflinching look at homicide, racial injustice, and the corrosive impact of grief over time.

Called a “brave, revealing film” and a “stylish and wrenching rumination on familial grief” by the New York Times, Strong Island was one of six films considered for the Tim Hetherington award which recognizes films and filmmakers for reflecting journalist Tim Hetherington’s legacy. It is streaming now on Netflix.

Congratulations Yance!

Still from Unrest

Unrest and Unrest (VR)
Directed by Jennifer Brea
Illuminate Award supported by Welcome; Alternate Realities VR Award.

Unrest tells the story of Jennifer by Jennifer, a Harvard Ph.D. student, who was signing a check at a restaurant when she found she could not write her own name. Months before her wedding, she became progressively more ill, losing the ability even to sit in a wheelchair. When doctors insisted that her condition was psychosomatic, she picked up her camera to document her own story and the stories of four other patients struggling with the world’s most prevalent orphaned disease.

Unrest (VR) is the virtual reality project based on the Chicken & Egg-supported documentary. Tiffany Pritchard from Filmmaker Magazine writes, “Unrest (VR) is a 10-minute immersive experience that takes place from a bed, where I lay down and, with an Oculus Rift, experienced what it’s like to be confined to a room with the debilitating illness ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis). Through a nod of my head, I was navigated through insightful experiences that provided scientific inner workings of our brains.”

Congratulations to Jennifer for her two wins!

Still from Cocaine Prison

The Fight
Directed by Violeta Ayala and Daniel Fallshaw
Doc/Dispatch Prize supported by Deutsche Welle.

The Fight is a short documentary, produced by The Guardian, which tells the story of disabled people in Bolivia fighting for their rights by journeying across the Andes to La Paz, where they are met with violence by police.

Violeta’s Nest-supported film, Cocaine Prison, documents the inside of one of Bolivia’s most notorious prisons, telling the story of a cocaine worker fighting for freedom, a drug mule who dreams of being a drug boss, and his younger sister, to reveal the country’s relationship with cocaine. Cocaine Prison bridges the ever-widening gap between the North and the South and brings a new perspective to the War on Drugs as it is waged in the Andes.

Congratulations Violeta!

*Chicken & Egg Pictures did not support Unrest (VR) or The Fight directly, but did support both Jennifer and Violeta in their feature-length films. Jennifer Brea received a grant for Unreal, and Violeta Ayala received a grant for Cocaine Prison.

Post by Morgan Hulquist, Summer 2017 Chicken & Egg Pictures Communications Intern