Documenting Democracy at Chicken & Egg Pictures

As a nonprofit based in the United States, the Chicken & Egg Pictures team and many of the artist-activists we support have been closely following the recent election, watching as our country voted for a new leader in a time of global crisis. 

Films about democracy and elections have long added to conversations about the democratic process on the national and international level and told the stories of our nations. As the US election cycle comes to a close, the following documentaries by women filmmakers from the past fifteen years of our organization are on our mind. Here are a few films by Nest-supported filmmakers that have used intimate storytelling to convey the power of democracy:


Still from Councilwoman

Councilwoman, directed by Margo Guernsey, follows a hotel housekeeper from the Dominican Republic who wins a City Council seat in Providence, Rhode Island. Carmen balances cleaning hotel rooms with navigating a political establishment that does not easily acquiesce to the needs of working people.
Watch on Vimeo

Democrats Camilla Nielsson
Still from Democrats

In Democrats, directed by Camilla Nielsson, two politicians from rival parties in Zimbabwe oversee the creation of a new constitution following the election of Robert Mugabe as president in 2008.
Watch on Apple TV.

Still from And She Could Be Next

And She Could Be Next, co-directed by Grace Lee (Chicken & Egg Award Recipient) and Marjan Safinia (Chicken & Egg Pictures Board), tells the story of a defiant movement of women of color, transforming politics from the ground up. The series follows candidates and organizers across the country, asking whether democracy itself can be preserved—and made stronger—by those most marginalized, featuring history-makers including Rashida Tlaib, Stacey Abrams, Lucy McBath, Bushra Amiwala, Maria Elena Durazo, Veronica Escobar, Nse Ufot and more. Watch on PBS

Still from Once Upon a Time in Venezuela

Once Upon a Time in Venezuela, directed by Anabel Rodríguez Ríos
On Lake Maracaibo, beneath the mysterious silent Catatumbo lightning, the village of Congo Mirador is preparing for parliamentary elections. For streetwise local businesswoman and Chavist party representative Tamara, every vote counts, fought by all means. While for opposition-supporting teacher Natalie, politics is a weapon that is unsuccessfully attempting to force her from her job. And with her sharp eyes, little Yohanny sees her community sinking from sedimentation, her childhood and innocence with it. How can a small fishing village survive against corruption, pollution and political decay—a reflection of all the flaws of contemporary Venezuela? If you are in the US, tune into DOC NYC to watch from November 11 – 19. Tickets here

Still from “I Am Not Going to Change 400 Years in Four.”

I Am Not Going to Change 400 Years in Four,” directed by Angela Tucker and 2016 Chicken & Egg Award Recipient Kristi Jacobson, follows Satana Deberry as she takes the oath of office as district attorney of Durham County, North Carolina. Satana is a Black woman elected to an office historically held by white men whose “tough on crime” policies have devastated communities of color for decades. Now, she faces the complicated realities of seeking to reform a deeply flawed criminal justice system, and a community ravaged by gun violence. Her story is at once inspiring and empowering—and also a call to action, for voters across the US. “I Am Not Going to Change 400 Years in Four” was produced by Chicken & Egg Pictures in partnership with Mother Jones. Watch on Mother Jones

The Supreme Price Joanna Lipper
Still from The Supreme Price

The Supreme Price, directed by Joanna Lipper, traces the evolution of the Pro-Democracy Movement in Nigeria and efforts to increase the participation of women in leadership roles. Following the annulment of her father’s victory in Nigeria’s Presidential Election and her mother’s assassination by agents of the military dictatorship, Hafsat Abiola faces the challenge of transforming a corrupt culture of governance into a democracy capable of serving Nigeria’s most marginalized population: women.
Watch at Women Make Movies.


Nest-supported Films at the 2020 DOC NYC Film Festival

Our Nest-supported filmmaking community is soaring into DOC NYC Film Festival, which runs virtually from Wednesday, November 11 to Thursday, November 19. Ten supported films across many of our core programs— (Egg)celerator Lab films by emerging filmmakers, projects by advanced-career Chicken & Egg Awardees, and films from our inaugural Project: Hatched completion program—are official selections. Plus A Cops and Robbers Story, directed by directed by Ilinca Calugareanu, will make its world premiere at the New York festival! Learn more about the ten projects below, and get your tickets for DOC NYC here


Nest-supported Films

9to5: The Story of a Movement, directed by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar | Tickets here
“In the early 1970s, secretaries and other female office workers were underpaid, undervalued, unable to advance, and often subject to sexual harassment. In the wake of the Women’s Liberation Movement, a group of women in Boston finally had enough, joining together to begin 9to5, a movement that would sweep the nation with irreverent, attention-getting actions to demand meaningful change—and later inspire the eponymous hit film and song.”* 

A Cops and Robbers Story, directed by Ilinca Călugăreanu | Tickets here (World Premiere) 
In the 1980s, Corey Pegues found himself embroiled in a life of crime as a member of New York’s City’s infamous Supreme Team gang. After an incident forces Pegues away from the streets, he unexpectedly emerges as a rising star in the NYPD, his past unknown to his fellow officers. A decorated 21-year police career is threatened when his political stances and revelations about his former life cause strife within the police community. 

The Dilemma of Desire, directed by Maria Finitzo | Tickets here
An exploration of “cliteracy,” and the clash between the gender politics and the imperatives of female sexual desire.

Down a Dark Stairwell, directed by Ursula LiangTickets here
In 2014, Peter Liang, a Chinese-American police officer, shot and killed an innocent, unarmed black man named Akai Gurley in the dark stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project. In the midst of high racial tension surrounding police conduct, Liang becomes the first NYPD officer to receive a guilty verdict in such a case in over a decade. The highly publicized incident polarizes New York’s Asian and African American communities’ in this insightful look into the complexities of police reform.

Enemies of the State, directed by Sonia Kennebeck | Tickets here 
An average American family becomes entangled in a bizarre web of espionage and corporate secrets when their hacker son is targeted by the US government.

Landfall, directed by Cecilia Aldarondo | Tickets here
Through shard-like glimpses of everyday life in post-Hurricane María Puerto Rico, Landfall examines a ruined world at the brink of transformation, spinning a cautionary tale for our times.

Stateless (Apátrida), directed by Michèle Stephenson | Tickets here
Through the grassroots campaign of electoral hopeful Rosa Iris, director Michèle Stephenson’s new documentary reveals the depths of racial hatred and institutionalized oppression that divide Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Through the Night, directed by Loira Limbal |Tickets here
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.

The Letter, directed by Maia von Lekow and Chris King | Tickets here
Along the coast of Kenya, a frenzied mix of consumerism and Christianity is turning hundreds of families against their elders, branding them as witches as a means to steal their land. Ninety-two-year-old Margaret Kamango stands accused by her sons, while her strong-willed daughters try to protect her. This dangerous dispute is seen through the eyes of Margaret’s grandson, Karisa, who returns home from the city to investigate and is ultimately forced to choose which side he is on.

Once Upon A Time In Venezuela, directed by Anabel Rodríguez Ríos | Tickets here
Once Upon A Time In Venezuela follows residents of a small fishing village as they prepare for parliamentary election. Once the village of Congo Mirador was prosperous. Now it is decaying and disintegrating—a prophetic reflection of Venezuela itself.

AlumNest Films


AlumNest filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung’s short film Sing Me A Lullaby will make its US premiere; Call Center Blues, directed by Chicken & Egg Award Recipient Geeta Gandbhir will screen in the Shorts program; Dick Johnson is Dead (Kirsten Johnson), A Thousand Cuts (Ramona Diaz), and The Fight (Elyse Steinberg, Eli Despres, Josh Kriegman) are on the DOC NYC Short List for feature films; and our Co-Founder & Senior Creative Consultant Judith Helfand’s film Love & Stuff is an official selection under the Masters program (co-produced with our Co-Founder Julie Parker Benello).

*Language courtesy of DOC NYC. 

Announcing Project: Hatched 2020 Participants!

Chicken & Egg Pictures is proud to announce the first-ever participants of our newest program Project: Hatched, a completion fund which provides a $20,000 grant to selected directors in the lead up to their film premiere. $15,000 of the grant is for finishing funds and $5,000 is earmarked for impact strategy development. Participants also receive ten hours of mentorship focusing on festival premiere support, impact and distribution strategy, and professional development.

We also partnered with our friends at The Fledgling Fund for the
Chicken & Egg Pictures/Fledgling Fund Impact Grant, which provides an additional $20,000 to a Project: Hatched film whose campaign strategy has the ability to shape national and international conversations around the world’s most pressing issues. Congratulations to Coded Bias, directed by Shalini Kantayya, for being the first recipient of the Chicken & Egg Pictures/Fledgling Fund Impact Grant! 

Coded Bias (Chicken & Egg Pictures/Fledgling Fund Impact Grant recipient), directed by Shalini Kantayya, explores the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s startling discovery that facial recognition does not see dark-skinned faces accurately, and her subsequent journey to push for the first-ever US legislation to govern against bias in artificial intelligence.*

The Fight
, co-directed by Elyse SteinbergJosh Kriegman, and
Eli Despres, documents a team of scrappy ACLU lawyers battling Trump’s historic assault on civil liberties.*

Once Upon a Time in Venezuela, directed by Anabel Rodríguez, follows residents of a small fishing village as they prepare for parliamentary election. Once the village of Congo Mirador was prosperous. Now it is decaying and disintegrating—a prophetic reflection of Venezuela itself.*

*Premiering at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.   

A Full Nest at Sundance at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival features line-up was announced today, Wednesday December 4, and we are egg-static for the following women filmmakers, who will be premiering their films at the festival in Park City, Utah from Thursday, January 23 to Sunday, February 2, 2020.

Production still from A Thousand Cuts, directed by Ramona Diaz: Angel Alim with her sister, Maryanne, in a jeepney. Photo by Miguel V. Fabie for CineDiaz.

Coded Bias
Directed by Shalini Kantayya (Project: Hatched 2020)

Exploring the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s startling discovery that facial recognition does not see dark-skinned faces accurately, and her journey to push for the first-ever legislation in the US to govern against bias in the algorithms that impact us all.

Once Upon a Time in Venezuela 
Directed by Anabel Rodríguez (Project: Hatched 2020)

Once, the village of Congo Mirador was prosperous. Now it is decaying and disintegrating—a prophetic reflection of Venezuela itself.

The Fight
Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres (Project: Hatched 2020)

Inside the ACLU, a team of scrappy lawyers battle Trump’s historic assault on civil liberties.

A Thousand Cuts
Directed by Ramona Diaz (2018 Chicken & Egg Award recipient)*

Nowhere is the worldwide erosion of democracy, fueled by social media disinformation campaigns, more starkly evident than in the authoritarian regime of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Journalist Maria Ressa places the tools of the free press—and her freedom—on the line in defense of truth and democracy.

Dick Johnson Is Dead
Directed by Recipient Kirsten Johnson (2017 Chicken & Egg Award recipient)*

With this inventive portrait, a cameraperson seeks a way to keep her 86-year-old father alive forever. Utilizing moviemaking magic and her family’s dark humor, she celebrates Dr. Dick Johnson’s last years by staging fantasies of death and beyond. Together, dad and daughter confront the great inevitability awaiting us all.

*These films were in development during the filmmaker’s Chicken & Egg Award year.

In addition to these directly supported films, our AlumNest filmmakers (the 300+ talented, diverse women nonfiction directors that we have supported throughout our fifteen years as an organization) are also premiering their films at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival:

Aggie
Directed by Catherine Gund (Born to Fly, Dispatches from Cleveland, and What’s on Your Plate?)

The Last Thing He Wanted
Directed by Dee Rees (Eventual Salvation)

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana
Directed by Lana Wilson (2019 Chicken & Egg Award recipient)

Untitled Kirby Dick/Amy Ziering Film
Directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering (The Invisible War)

The Mole Agent
Directed by Maite Alberdi (2020 Chicken & Egg Award recipient) 

Congratulations to these incredible women filmmakers on their Sundance-bound films. We’ll see you in Park City!