Nest Co-Founders, Filmmakers, and Friends Join the Academy

We’re proud to announce that Chicken & Egg Pictures Co-Founders and Board members Julie Parker Benello and Wendy Ettinger are now members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences!

The Academy  announced a record-setting 928 invited members, 49 percent of whom are women and 38 percent people of color.  Nine branches, including the Producers, Film Editors, and Documentary branches invited more women than men.  At Chicken & Egg Pictures, we applaud the Academy’s efforts to double the number of women and diverse members, a goal announced in 2016 and hoped to be completed by 2020.

This announcement marked a huge step in diversifying one of the most prestigious institutions in the field, bringing the overall Academy membership to 31% women. We couldn’t be more thrilled. You might have even caught  Wendy talk about it on live TV, on BBC News when the announcement was made public.  Julie and Wendy will join fellow Co-Founder (and Senior Creative Consultant) Judith Helfand, with all three Chicken & Egg Pictures Co-Founders now members of the Academy!

This year, Chicken & Egg-supported filmmakers invited to the Academy include Yance Ford (Oscar®-nominee Strong Island), Catherine Gund (Born to Fly), Sari Gilman (Kings Point, editor on Trapped), Lana Wilson (The Departure and After Tiller), Laura Nix (2018 Breakthrough Award Recipient), and Nanfu Wang (2018 Breakthrough Award Recipient, 2017 Accelerator Lab Grantee for Born In China).

New members also include Paco de Onís, editor of Nest-supported Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, as well as Toby Shimin, editor of Nest-supported 32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide. Congratulations to all!

Post by Morgan Hulquist, 2018 Communications Intern. 

Chicken & Egg Pictures at Sheffield Doc/Fest

Sheffield Doc/Fest is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and Chicken & Egg Pictures will be there with the 2018 Accelerator Lab cohort of first- and second-time female filmmakers, as well as four Nest-supported films for Sheffield goers to look out for! 

A Thousand Girls Like Me directed by Sahra Mani (2016 Diversity Fellows Initiative) at Sheffield Doc/Fest.

A Thousand Girls Like Me directed by Sahra Mani (2016 Diversity Fellows Initiative)

In Afghanistan where systematic abuses of girls rarely come to light, and seeking justice can be deadly, one young woman says “Enough.” Khatera was brutally raped by her father since the age of nine and today she raises two precious and precocious children whom he sired. Against her family’s and many Afghanis’ wishes, Khatera forces her father to stand trial. This is her incredible story of love, hope, bravery, forgiveness, and truth. Showtimes are Friday, June 8 at 3:45 PM and Sunday, June 10 at 6:30 PM. 

The Pain of Others, directed by Penny Lane (2017 Breakthrough Award Recipient)

The Pain of Others is a found footage documentary about Morgellons, a mysterious illness whose sufferers say they have parasites under the skin, long colored fibers emerging from lesions, and a host of other bizarre symptoms which could be borrowed from a horror film. The Pain of Others is composed entirely of videos shared by a group of “Morgies” who have turned to YouTube for community and to prove they’re not crazy.  Unsettling, funny and intimate, The Pain of Others is at once a body-horror documentary and a radical act of empathy.  Showtimes are Sunday, June 12 at 9:00 AM and Tuesday, June 12 at 6:00 PM. 

On Her Shoulders directed by Alexandria Bombach (2018 SXSW LUNA / Chicken & Egg Pictures Award recipient)

This empowering documentary presents 23-year-old Nadia Murad, a Yazidi genocide survivor determined to tell the world her story. Determined advocate and reluctant celebrity, she becomes the voice of her people and their best hope to spur the world to action. Showtimes are Sunday, June 10 at 3:00 PM and Monday, June 11 at 9:30 AM.

Skywards directed by Eva Weber (director of Nest-supported film Black Out, 2007)

A poetic and evocative visual study, Skywards takes the viewer on a journey into the world of pigeon flying, high above the bustling and crowded streets of Old Delhi. Showtimes are Sunday, June 10 at 5:45 PM and Tuesday,  June 12 at 9:00 AM. 

Additionally, join us for our second annual Accelerator Lab Pitch at Sheffield! The 2018 Accelerator Lab participants will pitch their projects to a live audience and will receive feedback from international decision makers and buyers. This will be an opportunity for all pass holders to hear from and meet filmmaking talent for future collaborations. The live pitch will take place Sunday, June 10 at 10:00 am.

Post by Morgan Hulquist, Summer 2018 Chicken & Egg Pictures Communications Intern.

Accelerator Lab Open Call: Apply Now!

Chicken & Egg Pictures is now accepting submissions for the 2019 Accelerator Lab Open Call!

The Accelerator Lab is focused on identifying and supporting women nonfiction directors working on their first or second feature-length documentary. In this year-long program, ten projects will receive:

  • a $35,000 in grant funding for the production of their feature-length film;
  • monthly mentorship with members of Chicken & Egg Pictures’ senior creative team;
  • three creative retreats focused on career sustainability and creative development;
  • industry meetings at a major documentary film festival; and
  • peer support from the Accelerator Lab cohort.

A glimpse at current and past projects that Chicken & Egg has supported through the Accelerator Lab program:

Through the Night, directed by Loira Limbal (Accelerator Lab Grantee)
Through the Night, directed by Loira Limbal

Through the Night, directed by Loira Limbal

To make ends meet, Americans are working longer hours across multiple jobs. This modern reality of nonstop work has resulted in an unexpected phenomenon: the flourishing of 24-hour daycare centers. Through the Night is a verité documentary that explores the personal cost of our modern economy through the stories of two working mothers and a child care provider, whose lives intersect at a 24-hour daycare center in New Rochelle, NY.

Through the Night is a 2018 Accelerator Lab-supported film and is currently in production.

The Feeling of Being Watched, directed by Assia Boundaoui (Accelerator Lab Grantee)
The Feeling of Being Watched, directed by Assia Boundaoui

The Feeling of Being Watched, directed by Assia Boundaoui

In the Arab-American neighborhood outside of Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Assia uncovers hundreds of pages of declassified FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counterterrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S. before 9/11—code-named “Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” With unprecedented access, The Feeling of Being Watched weaves the personal and the political as it follows the filmmaker’s examination of why her community fell under blanket government surveillance. Assia struggles to disrupt the government secrecy shrouding what happened to her neighborhood in the 90’s and probes why her community feels like they’re still being watched today. In the process, she confronts long-hidden truths about the FBI’s relationship to her community. The Feeling of Being Watched follows Assia as she pieces together this secret FBI operation, while grappling with the effects of a lifetime of surveillance on herself and her family.

The Feeling of Being Watched recently premiered at the 2018 TriBeca Film Festival and is also being featured at Hot Docs.

Muhi - Generally Temporary, directed by Rina Castelnuovo and Tamir Elterman (Accelerator Lab Grantee).
Muhi – Generally Temporary, directed by Rina Castelnuovo and Tamir Elterman

Muhi – Generally Temporary, directed by Rina Castelnuovo and Tamir Elterman

Muhi, a cherubic Palestinian toddler with a life-threatening immune disorder, was transported to an Israeli hospital as a baby for emergency treatment. He and his devoted grandfather have lived there ever since, stuck in a bizarre no man’s land, with their extended family living on the other side of a fiercely guarded checkpoint. Their unique and moving story takes place within the crucible of the current relentless Israeli-Palestinian conflict that impacts everyone in its orbit.

Muhi – Generally Temporary premiered at the 2017 San Francisco International Film Festival and was featured in the Human Rights Watch Film Festival of the same year.

To check out the full list of films supported through the Accelerator Lab program, click here.

The deadline to apply is Monday, June 25th at 3:00 pm EDT. Apply now!

And sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on the Accelerator Lab and other News from the Nest!

Accelerator Lab Open Call starts May 3!

Mark your calendars! The Accelerator Lab Open Call will open on May 3, 2018, 12 pm EST.

The Accelerator Lab is focused on identifying and supporting women nonfiction directors working on their first or second feature-length documentary. Each project receives a $35,000 grant in three parts for the production of a film, to be developed over the course of the 12-month program. All directors of the ten projects come together at various points over the course of a year for an intensive period of professional development, tailored mentorship and workshops with industry experts, creatively fusing the art and craft of filmmaking with best practices and peer-to-peer support.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on the Accelerator Lab Open Call and other News from the Nest!

Past grantee projects have included:

32 Pills_Hope Litoff
32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide, directed by Hope Litoff (Accelerator Lab Grantee)

32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide, directed by Hope Litoff
Premiered at the 2017 Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival
Now available on HBO, HBO NOW, and HBO GO.

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.

The Feeling of Being Watched, directed by Assia Boundaoui (Accelerator Lab Grantee)
The Feeling of Being Watched, directed by Assia Boundaoui

The Feeling of Being Watched, directed by Assia Boundaoui
Premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

In the Arab-American neighborhood outside of Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Assia uncovers hundreds of pages of declassified FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counterterrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S. before 9/11—code-named “Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” With unprecedented access, The Feeling of Being Watched weaves the personal and the political as it follows the filmmaker’s examination of why her community fell under blanket government surveillance. Assia struggles to disrupt the government secrecy shrouding what happened to her neighborhood in the 90’s and probes why her community feels like they’re still being watched today. In the process, she confronts long-hidden truths about the FBI’s relationship to her community. The Feeling of Being Watched follows Assia as she pieces together this secret FBI operation, while grappling with the effects of a lifetime of surveillance on herself and her family.

Whose Streets?, directed by Sabaah Folayan, co-directed by Damon Davis (Accelerator Lab Grantee)
Whose Streets?, directed by Sabaah Folayan, co-directed by Damon Davis

Whose Streets?, directed by Sabaah Folayan, co-directed by Damon Davis
Premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival
Now available on DVD and streaming

A firsthand look at how the murder of one teenage boy became the last straw for a community under siege, Whose Streets? is a story of love, loss, conflict, and ambition. Set in Ferguson, MO, the film follows the journey of everyday people whose lives are intertwined with a burgeoning national movement for black liberation.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Supports Chicken & Egg Pictures’ Accelerator Lab

Chicken & Egg Pictures proudly announces receipt of the prestigious FilmCraft grant from the Academy Foundation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in support of the Accelerator Lab for first- and second-time filmmakers. Grants range from $5,000-$15,000, and a total of $500,000 was awarded to 51 organizations for the 2018-2019 grants year.

“It is the Grants’ privilege and responsibility to fund organizations, rising and established, that reflect both The Academy’s values and its leadership role in the arts,” said Buffy Shutt, chair of the Academy’s grants committee. Chicken & Egg Pictures’ FilmCraft grant will help fund the Accelerator Lab program and go towards fulfilling the organization’s mission to support women nonfiction filmmakers whose artful and innovative storytelling catalyzes social change. The Accelerator Lab, with a special focus on underrepresented voices and timely, urgent stories, identifies and supports emerging women filmmakers in the completion of their first or second feature-length nonfiction film. The year-long program comes with a $35,000 grant, monthly mentorship with Chicken & Egg Pictures’ senior creative team, and three multi-day creative retreats held throughout the year. The 2019 Accelerator Lab Open Call will begin on Thursday, May 3, 2018.

Through their partnership, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Chicken & Egg Pictures seek to strengthen the power of diverse women storytellers so that in turn they can change how we see, respond to, and shape the world around us.

The Nest Featured in POV Season 31

POV, the longest running independent documentary series in the US, has announced the line-up for its 31st Season! Congrats to the following Chicken & Egg Pictures-supported films that will be broadcast as part of the series:

Whose Streets?, directed by Sabaah Folayan, Damon Davis (Accelerator Lab 2016)

A firsthand look at how the murder of one teenage boy became the last straw for a community under siege, Whose Streets? is a story of love, loss, conflict, and ambition. Set in Ferguson, MO, the film follows the journey of everyday people whose lives are intertwined with a burgeoning national movement for black liberation.

PBS premiere date: July 30, 2018.

The Apology, directed by Tiffany Hsiung

This is a film about memory, told through the current relationships three women have with the people closest to them and how these relationships indelibly shape the last years of their lives. The three women – Gil Won-Ok in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China, and Lola Adela in the Philippines – are all former “comfort women” who were among the 200,000 girls and young women forced into military sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

PBS premiere date: Coming soon.

Survivors, directed by Anna Fitch, Banker White and Arthur Pratt

Through the eyes of Sierra Leonean filmmakers, Survivors presents a portrait of their country during the Ebola outbreak, exposing the complexity of the epidemic and the socio-political turmoil that lies in its wake. The film chronicles the remarkable stories of Sierra Leonean heroes during what is now widely regarded as the most acute public health crisis of the modern era.

PBS premiere date: Coming soon.

Dark Money, directed by Kimberly Reed

A century ago, corrupt money swamped Montana’s legislature, but Montanans rose up to prohibit corporate campaign contributions. Today, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision —which allows unlimited, anonymous money to pour into elections nationwide—Montana is once again fighting to preserve open and honest elections. Following an investigative reporter through a political thriller, Dark Money exposes one of the greatest threats to American democracy.

PBS premiere date: Coming soon.

Be sure to catch the season premiere of POV on Monday, June 18th at 10 pm!

Post by 2018 Spring Programs Intern Dinayuri Rodriguez.

The Nest at the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival

Chicken & Egg Pictures is happy to share that the Nest-supported film, Tre Maison Dasan, will be featured at the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival!

The festival will run from April 4-17. For more information on the programming, schedule, and tickets, visit the SFFILM website.

Tre Maison Dasan, directed by Denali Tiller

Tre Maison Dasan is a story that explores parental incarceration through the eyes of three boys—Tre, Maison, and Dasan. Following their interweaving trajectories through boyhood marked by the criminal justice system, and told directly through the child’s perspective, the film unveils the challenges of growing up and what it means to become a man in America.

The following films directed by filmmakers who have been supported by the Nest in the past will also be screening at the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival!

Still from Inventing Tomorrow, directed by Laura Nix

Inventing Tomorrow directed by Laura Nix (Breakthrough Film Awards recipient 2018)
The Pushouts directed by Katie Galloway (director of the Nest-supported film, The Return)
Skywards directed by Eva Weber (director of the Nest-supported film, Black Out)

Post by 2018 Spring Programs Intern Dinayuri Rodriguez.

The Nest at Tribeca

Left to right: Blowin’ Up, The Feeling of Being Watched, Roll Red Roll, and United Skates

Four Chicken & Egg Pictures-supported films are heading to the Tribeca Film Festival (April 18-29) this year. Congratulations to all the filmmakers for their exciting premieres!

Blowin’ Up by Stephanie Wang-Breal
Blowin’ Up looks at sex work, prostitution, and human trafficking through the lens of New York State’s criminal justice system. The film captures the growing pains of our nation’s first human trafficking intervention court in Queens, New York, and how we define trafficking and prostitution from many different perspectives: the criminal justice system, the social welfare system, and, most importantly, the women and girls who are at the center of it all.

The Feeling of Being Watched by Assia Boundaoui
In the Arab-American neighborhood outside of Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Assia uncovers hundreds of pages of declassified FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counterterrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S. before 9/11––code-named “Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” With unprecedented access, The Feeling of Being Watched weaves the personal and the political as it follows the filmmaker’s examination of why her community fell under blanket government surveillance. Assia struggles to disrupt the government secrecy shrouding what happened to her neighborhood in the 90’s and probes why her community feels like they’re still being watched today. In the process, she confronts long-hidden truths about the FBI’s relationship to her community. The Feeling of Being Watched follows Assia as she pieces together this secret FBI operation, while grappling with the effects of a lifetime of surveillance on herself and her family.

Roll Red Roll by Nancy Schwartzman
Go behind the headlines of notorious high school sexual assault to witness the social media fueled “boys will be boys” culture that let it happen.

In small-town Ohio, at a pre-season football party, a horrible incident took place. What transpired would garner national attention and result in the sentencing of two key offenders. As amateur crime blogger Alex Goddard uncovers disturbing evidence on Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter, documenting the assault of a teenage girl by members of the beloved high school football team, questions linger around the collusion of teen and adult bystanders. Roll Red Roll explores the complex motivations of both perpetrators and bystanders in this story, to unearth the attitudes at the core of their behavior. The Steubenville story acts as a cautionary tale of what can happen when adults look the other way and deny that rape culture exists. With unprecedented access to police documents, exhibits and evidence, the documentary feature unflinchingly asks: “why didn’t anyone stop it?”

United Skates by Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler
When America’s last standing roller rinks are threatened with closure, a community of thousands battle in a racially charged environment to save an underground subculture–-one that has remained undiscovered by the mainstream for generations, yet has given rise to some of the world’s greatest musical talent.

And a special congratulations to filmmaker Madeleine Sackler for It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It, who was previously supported by Chicken & Egg Pictures for her film, Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus.

The Tribeca Film Festival’s full program will be available March 15.

Announcing our 2018 Accelerator Lab grantees!

Chicken & Egg Pictures is proud to announce the third cohort of our Accelerator Lab for first- and second-time filmmakers!

The Accelerator Lab is focused on identifying and supporting women nonfiction directors working on their first or second feature-length documentary. This program brings together ten projects helmed by first- or second-time directors, with a special focus on underrepresented voices.

“Community-building is key to this program,” says Chicken & Egg Pictures Program Director Lucila Moctezuma. “While the Accelerator Lab for first- and second-time filmmakers certainly helps women filmmakers to enter the industry pipeline, it also provides them with a community of support that helps them to stay in the pipeline. The reality of being a film director is that it can often feel daunting and isolating. By explicitly encouraging peer-to-peer mentorship among our cohort, we provide emerging filmmakers with a chance to bond with and learn from one another, to help one another carve a space for themselves in the industry, and to equip them with the strength of a community they can rely on throughout their careers.”

Synopses of the 2018 Accelerator Lab grantees’ compelling projects are below, and you can get to know the directors by viewing the linked project pages. Grantees will work on these films during their program year.

Our next open call for the Accelerator Lab will take place in the spring of 2018. For additional information on the program, including application criteria, please visit our Programs page.

Congratulations to our newest grantees, and wishing you a fantastic year!

 

Ilinca Calugareanu

A Cops and Robbers Story, directed by Ilinca Calugareanu (ROMANIA / UK)

Corey Pegues, one of the highest ranking black executives in the NYPD, reveals a few months after retirement that before joining the NYPD he worked the streets dealing crack cocaine for one of the most notorious drug gangs in the US, the Supreme Team. To many he is either a perp in cop costume or a criminal turned hero. But who is the real Corey Pegues?

 

Siyi Chen

People’s Hospital, directed by Siyi Chen (CHINA / US)

As the Chinese society criticizes dysfunctional hospitals, a doctor’s daughter revisits the small-town hospital where she grew up—this time with a camera, in the middle of a chaotic ER.

 

Sonia Kennebeck

Enemies of the State, directed by Sonia Kennebeck (MALAYSIA / GERMANY / US)

An average American family becomes entangled in a bizarre web of espionage and corporate secrets when their hacker son is targeted by the U.S. government.

 

 

The Youth, directed by Eunice Lau (SINGAPORE / US) and Arthur Nazaryan (US)

The Youth is an unflinching look at the forces that drive one to adopt an extreme ideology. Through the eyes of a father who seeks to understand how his son is radicalized by the propaganda of the Islamic State Army, The Youth reveals how a Muslim American family is affected by the geopolitics and polemics that fuel the resurgence of reactionary and right-wing political movements. Through this intimate lens on the Somali community in Minnesota, The Youth explores the racism and prejudices against immigrants, the rise of radical Islam, and what it means to be Muslim in contemporary America.

 

Madeleine Leroyer

Number 387, directed by Madeleine Leroyer (FRANCE)

This is the story of a Greek physician who collects pendants and bracelets.
This is the story of an Italian woman who has been fighting for 15 years to “make bodies talk.”
This is the story of those who watch over the forgotten migrants.
Since the beginning of 2016, 3,649 migrants have died while attempting to reach Europe by sea. 3,649 names, the vast majority of which have been diluted in the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean.
What happens to the dead? Who identifies them?
What do the mothers, the brothers do to try to find their missing loved ones?
For years, medical examiners have been trying to give back a name, dignity, a memory to these forgotten souls.
This film tells their story.

 

Marie Lidén

Electric Malady, directed by Marie Lidén (SWEDEN / UK)

Director Marie Lidén grew up with a mother who suffered from an illness that the world did not recognize—Electrosensitivity. Years later, in a technologically advanced world, Marie gives a poignant account of the lives of two electrosensitives: William, a 41-year-old Swedish man, and Tyler, a 13-year-old Canadian boy. Using Marie’s own family story as a thread, the film explores William and Tyler’s isolated worlds and their families’ unrelenting commitment to help their children.

 

Loira Limbal

Through The Night, directed by Loira Limbal (US)

To make ends meet, Americans are working longer hours across multiple jobs. This modern reality of non-stop work has resulted in an unexpected phenomenon: the flourishing of 24-hour daycare centers. Through the Night is a verité documentary that explores the personal cost of our modern economy through the stories of two working mothers and a child care provider, whose lives intersect at a 24-hour daycare center in New Rochelle, NY.

 

Jacqueline Olive

 Always in Season, directed by Jacqueline Olive (US)

As the trauma of a century of lynching African Americans bleeds into the present, Always in Season follows relatives of the perpetrators and victims in communities across the country who’re seeking justice and reconciliation in the midst of racial profiling and police shootings. In Bladenboro, NC, the film connects historic racial terrorism to racial violence today with the story of Claudia Lacy who grieves as she fights to get an FBI investigation opened into the death of her seventeen-year-old son, Lennon Lacy, found hanging from a swing set on August 29, 2014. Claudia, like many others, believes Lennon was lynched.

 

Jennifer Redfearn

Reentry (working title), directed by Jennifer Redfearn (US)

Women are now the fastest growing population in the U.S. criminal justice system, increasing at nearly double the rate of men. The majority of women going into prison are serving time for drug related charges. This immersive, character-driven film follows three women—who are part of a new reentry program in Cleveland, Ohio—as they prepare to leave prison, reunite with their children, and find jobs after serving time for drug related charges.

 

Writing With Fire, directed by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh (INDIA)

In one of the most socially oppressive and patriarchal states of India emerges a newspaper run entirely by rural women. Meera, its popular reporter, decides to magnify the paper’s impact with an audacious move—to transform from print to a digital news agency. Working in media dark villages, mocked and discouraged, this is the story of a visionary woman’s feisty spirit in building what will probably be the world’s first digital news agency run entirely by rural women.

 

“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.