Friday, January 21, 2011

Ford Foundation Pumps $50 Million into Documentaries

Some rare good news for documentary producers and fans.

This week the Ford Foundation launched a $50-million, 5-year initiative to find and support "next-generation" nonfiction filmmakers whose themes address urgent social issues.

The new project is called JustFilms. According to Ford Foundation president Luis Ubiñas: "With the growth of the Web and social networks, the potential global audience for filmed content with a social conscience has exploded. We want JustFilms to support visionary filmmakers from around the world... and help them reach and engage audiences."

JustFilms will also leverage the foundation's global network of 10 regional offices to identify and lift new talent from around the world and to strengthen emerging communities of documentary filmmakers.

JustFilms will focus on film, video and digital works that show courageous people confronting difficult issues and actively pursuing a more just, secure and sustainable world. The initiative will pursue three distinct funding paths, each receiving roughly one-third of its annual overall budget:

•Partnerships with major organizations such as the Sundance Institute, the Independent Television Service and others.

•An ongoing open application process that will help JustFilms stay attuned to fresh ideas and stories wherever they may emerge.

•Partnership with other Ford Foundation grant-making programs where the introduction of documentary film could help draw attention to an issue or advance a movement.
Directing the JustFilms initiative will be Orlando Bagwell (pictured), an award-winning filmmaker ("Eyes on the Prize") who has served as a program officer and director in the foundation's Freedom of Expression team for the past six years.

Some examples of works JustFilms is already supporting:

•"Women, War & Peace," a four-part PBS special, examines the enormously disproportionate suffering of women in today's wars, but also how they are emerging as leaders in brokering peace and forging new international laws governing conflict.

•"Higher Ground" explores the efforts of Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed to petition world leaders to save his island from rising sea levels as a result of climate change.

•"Detroit Hustles Harder" (working title) chronicles the lives of courageous individuals who have made the conscious choice to stay in Detroit to help turn the city around. Their lives and dedication represent not only what can transform the city, but what can renew America.

According to the JustFilms Website, the foundation seeks to:

•Enlarge the conversation on issues of importance by investing in documentary films that capture people’s imaginations and engage them in shaping their futures.

•Expand the community of independent documentary filmmakers and lift the voices of new and innovative filmmakers from around the world.

•Help filmmakers craft important stories, and also develop strategies for finding and building audiences across a variety of platforms.
Learn more about JustFilms here.

Explore the documentaries the foundation has previously supported here.

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