The American documentary Showcase

 

Creator Diplomacy: Changing The Face America Shows The World

Shortly after Election Day, 30 documentary filmmakers received an invitation from the U.S. Department of State to participate in a startup program called the American Documentary Showcase. The DOS wanted these filmmakers to present their films all over the world. FLOW, our global water crisis doc, was among those asked to participate. Read more of FLOW Producer Steven Starr's delegate introduction for ADS.

About the ADS:

ADSThe American Documentary Showcase is a curated program of contemporary documentaries that is offered to US Embassies for screening abroad. Funded by, and as a cooperative program with, the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State, the Showcase is designed to promote American documentaries and their filmmakers at international overseas venues, including US Embassy-organized events and/or US Embassy-supported international documentary film festivals.

The goal of the Showcase is to offer a broad, diversified look at life in the United States and the values of a democratic society as seen by American documentary filmmakers. The Showcase is intended to demonstrate the role documentary plays in fostering understanding and cooperation.

The American Documentary Showcase is funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to the University Film and Video Association.

Featured Films:

America's Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie
Director/Producer/Writer: David O'Shields
Producer/Executive Producer: Daryl Smith
Cinematographer: William Carlson
Editor: Clayton Condit
Composer: Brian Keane
Running Time: 60 min.
website 

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America's Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie tells the rich and complex story of one of the most astonishing alterations of nature in human history. Prior to Euro-American settlement in the 1820s, one of the major landscape features in North America was 240 million acres of tallgrass prairie. But between 1830 and 1900—in the space of a single lifetime—the tallgrass prairie was steadily transformed to farmland. This drastic change in the landscape also brought about an enormous social change for Native Americans; in an equally short time their cultural imprint was reduced in essence to a handful of place-names appearing on maps.

America's Lost Landscape examines the record of human struggle, triumph and defeat that prairie history exemplifies, including the history and culture of America's aboriginal inhabitants. The story of how and why the prairie was changed by Euro-American settlement is thoughtfully nuanced. The film also highlights prairie preservation efforts and explores how the tallgrass prairie ecosystem may serve as a model for a sustainable agriculture of the future.

The extraordinary cinematography of prairie remnants, original score and archival images are all delicately interwoven to create a powerful and moving viewing experience abut the natural and cultural history of America.

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DAVID O'SHIELDS has been a working member of the production community since 1985. In addition to his work in public television, he has extensive experience as a cameraman and director in commercial television. O'Shields founded New Light Media in 1995 to pursue his dream of making important and engaging documentary films. New Light Media's goal is to develop a diverse and distinctive body of documentaries. The natural environment, democracy, race and American history are primary areas of interest. The company is based in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and has offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

DR. DARYL SMITH is the director of the Tallgrass Prairie Center and professor of biology and science education at the University of Northern Iowa. Dr. Smith has served as head of the Department of Biology, president of the Iowa Academy of Science, board member of the Iowa Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and National Association of Biology Teachers, director of the Twelfth North American Prairie Conference and director of Iowa Prairie Conferences 1991-01. His awards include Distinguished Service—Iowa Academy of Science, Environmental Educator—Iowa Sierra Club, Conservation Educator—Iowa Wildlife Federation, Noteworthy Service—Iowa Nature Conservancy and Notable Achievement—Iowa Association of Roadside Managers. A native Iowan, Smith has been involved in prairie reconstruction and restoration for 30 years.

Another Day in Paradise
A Film by Mitchell Block, Maro Cheymayeff, Deborah Dickson
Director/Co-Producer: Deborah Dickson
Producers: Mel Gibson, Bruce Davey, Nancy Cotton, Maro Chermayeff, Mitchell Block
Cinematographers: Axel Baumann, Ulli Bonnekamp, Mark Brice, Robert Hanna, Wolfgang Held
Editor: Sabine Krayenbuehl
Composer: Christopher Tin
Running Time: 90 min.
website * article

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More than 5,000 sailors live onboard the USS Nimitz, a nuclear aircraft carrier. All have been forced to leave friends, family and loved ones behind for a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf, during which they'll face confining quarters, harsh temperatures, extreme work conditions and conflicts over faith and duty. Another Day in Paradise focuses on a pilot, Marine and sailor in different phases of fatherhood and impending fatherhood, as they struggle with family issues while serving their country in the high-stakes, dangerous environment of an aircraft carrier.

Created from the same pool of material as the PBS series Carrier, Another Day in Paradise is an intimate, vérité film about three men—pilot Doug Booher, Marine Randy Brock and ordnanceman Chris Altice—performing disparate but connected roles on the Nimitz, from flying F-18s to maintaining the aircraft to loading bombs. Going deeply into the personal lives of these individuals, this film portrays them dealing with life as fathers and soon-to-be fathers, while also confronting and questioning issues surrounding their work onboard ship and the role of the Navy in a time of war.

Filmed between May and November 2005 onboard the USS Nimitz, Another Day in Paradise addresses the themes of love and war, examining what motivates the men and women on board the USS Nimitz. For some, it's patriotism; for some, it's each other; and for many, it's just counting the days until they get home to families and loved ones. Allowing the pilots, sailors and Marines to speak for themselves, the film offers a rare glimpse into the thoughts and lives of the people who are fighting out there for the American people.

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DEBORAH DICKSON, a three-time Academy Award nominee, is an independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, New York.

Her film Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House premiered at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival and won over 14 awards at festivals worldwide, including best documentary at the Seattle Film Festival and the Nashville Film Festival. The film was short-listed for an Academy Award nomination and broadcast on Cinemax in 2004. The Education of Gore Vidal premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on PBS' American Masters.

Frances Steloff: Memoirs of a Bookseller, which Dickson produced, directed and edited, premiered at both Sundance and Berlin, and was nominated for an Academy Award. It was broadcast on WNET. Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse (co-directed with Anne Belle) premiered at the New York Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award in 1997. Lalee's Kin (the eighth film in collaboration with Susan Froemke and Maysles Films) premiered at Sundance in 2000 and was nominated for a Spirit Award and an Academy Award. It won a DuPont Award in 2004.

In addition to Another Day in Paradise, Dickson has recently completed Witnesses To a Secret War, a documentary film about the CIA's Secret War in Laos—a side show to the war in Vietnam—and the Hmong soldiers who fought for the Americans but were left to fend for themselves after the communist takeover in 1975.

Dickson received a BA in English literature from Barnard College and an MFA in film from New York University.

Autism: The Musical
Director/Producer/Cinematographer: Tricia Regan
Producers: Perrin Chiles, Sasha Alpert
Executive Producers: Jonathan Murray, Joey Carson, Janet Grillo, David S. Glynn, Kristen Stills
Editor: Kim Roberts
Composer: Mike Semple
Running Time: 94 min.
website

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In 1980, autism was a relatively rare disorder, diagnosed in one in 10,000 children in the United States. Now it is one in 150. The dysfunctional brain and nervous system of people with autism traps them in their own self-absorption, limiting their ability to take in what the world offers and to communicate back

Autism: The Musical counters today's bleak statistics with one woman's optimistic pledge to lead a group of children with autism in defying diagnosed expectations by writing, rehearsing and performing their own full-length musical.

Following five Los Angeles children over the course of six months, director Tricia Regan captures the struggles and triumphs of their family lives and observes how this musical production gives these performers a comfort zone in which they can explore their creative sides. Once these children step out of their inner worlds, they learn to work together, moving from chaos to collaboration, rising to not only express their own inner lives of self-awareness, but to connect with each other.

Both on and off stage, Autism: The Musical is a call-to-arms, bringing attention to a modern-day epidemic, all the while celebrating the way the human spirit can overcome any challenge.

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TRICIA REGAN is an award-winning director, producer and cinematographer of documentary film and television. Her film work has been theatrically distributed and broadcast on five different continents and in six different languages and includes A Leap of Faith, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996, and Soldiers Pay (2004) which she co-directed with filmmakers David O. Russell and Juan Carlos Zaldivar. For television, Regan directs, produces and shoots for ABC, Fox, NBC, MTV, VH1, Lifetime and TLC. This is Regan's first feature film cinematography credit.

Beginning Filmmaking
Director/Producer/Editor: Jay Rosenblatt
Cinematographers: Thomas Logoreci, Ella Rosenblatt
Running Time: 23 min.

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It has been two-and-a half years since Ella said she wanted to be a filmmaker. Now she is turning 4, and her filmmaker dad has given her a video camera for her birthday. Beginning Filmmaking takes us through one year of trying to teach a preschooler how to make a film. Ella rises to the challenge, but on her own terms. We experience the joys and frustrations both of being a parent and of being a child, and find that you do have to be careful what you wish for.

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JAY ROSENBLATT has been making films for over 20 years. He is a recipient of a Guggenheim and a Rockefeller Fellowship. His films have received many awards and have screened throughout the world. A selection of his films had a one-week theatrical run at New York's Film Forum and throughout the country. Articles about his work have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Sight & Sound, Filmmaker and The Village Voice.

The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
Director/Producer/Cinematographer/Writer: Ellen Kuras
Co-Director/Editor/Writer: Thavisouk Phrasavath
Producer: Flora Fernandez-Marengo
Executive Producer: Cara Mertes
Composer: Howard Shore
Running Time: 96 min.
website * trailer * article * filmmaker Q&A

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Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath's debut film, The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), tells the story of a family's epic journey from war-torn Laos to the mean streets of New York. Filmed over the course of 23 years, The Betrayal movingly chronicles the family's struggle to reckon with that which was left behind while forging a new and difficult life in a foreign land. Phrasavath gives a first-hand account of his own boyhood survival of war, his later escape from persecution and arrest in Laos, his miraculous reunion with his family and their journey to America, and the second war they had to fight on the streets of New York City. Phrasavath's mother also gives powerful testimony of her unflagging efforts to single-handedly raise and shepherd a family of ten amidst almost constant danger.

In The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), Kuras and Phrasavath have created a lyrical film that fluidly incorporates archival footage, cinema vérité, interview material and visually poetic montages. The result is a story of what it means to be in exile, of the far-reaching consequences of war and of the resilient bonds of family. Phrasavath's unforgettable journey reminds us of the strength necessary to survive unthinkable conditions, and of the human spirit's inspiring capacity to adapt, rebuild and forgive.

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An unprecedented three-time recipient of the Sundance Film Festival's Best Dramatic Cinematography Award, ELLEN KURAS has worked with such acclaimed filmmakers as Tom Kalin (Swoon), Spike Lee (4 Little Girls, Summer of Sam, Bamboozled), Rebecca Miller (Personal Velocity, Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol), Nancy Savoca (If These Walls Could Talk), Jonathan Demme (Heart of Gold), and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). She has also earned the Eastman Kodak Best Cinematography Focus Award for Ellen Bruno's Samsara, an Emmy Award for her work on A Century of Women, and an Emmy Award nomination for Spike Lee's 4 Little Girls.

The Betrayal (Nerakhoon ) is Kuras' directorial debut.

Active within the Laotian-American community in the US and Canada, THAVISOUK PHRASAVATH is a creative consultant for developing Lao TV and other media.

During his early years in Brooklyn, he served as the primary liaison/translator for Laotians living in New York City and surrounding areas. His background in community work includes assisting gang prevention for youth and family crisis intervention and working with the police department as a liaison and interpreter for the Lao community in addressing domestic and gang-related issues. Formerly an Area Policy Board Member, Thavisouk has consulted for the New York City Board of Education. Thavisouk's film work extends into writing, editing, directing and shooting; he has also directed and edited music videos for independent artists, is a published poet and has won awards for his painting and illustration work. Thavisouk graduated with honors from Pratt Institute with a degree in electrical engineering. The Betrayal (Nerakhoon ) is his first film as both subject and filmmaker.

Children in No Man's Land
Director/Producer/Cinematographer: Anayansi Prado
Executive Producers: Julia Parker Benello, Wendy Ettinger, Judith Helfand.
Cinematographers: Heather Courtney, Kevin Leadingham
Editor: Alejandro Valdes-Rochin
Composer: Robert F. Trucios
Running Time: 39 min.
website

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Every year, more and more children are immigrating to the United States without a parent or legal guardian. At any given time, an average of 700 unaccompanied minors are being detained by the US Department of Homeland Security Department. Some of these children come to the United States seeking asylum, others with the hope of being reunited with family members already living here, and all are simply in search of a better future for themselves. These children are driven by a strong survival instinct that assures them that the US is their last resource, their salvation. They are willing to risk it all for a chance at a new life. And they do.

Children in No Man's Land is a 40-minute documentary uncovering the plight of the 100,000 unaccompanied minors crossing the US/Mexico border every year. Focusing on the Arizona/Sonora Desert border area, this work takes an up-close-and-personal look at the stories behind both successful and unsuccessful border crossing attempts by Mexican children seeking to reunite with family in the US or in pursued of work and a better future.

Through a series of interviews conducted at shelters along the Mexican border, Children in No Man's Land gives a face and a voice to a situation that might be more complex and dangerous than any of us—and certainly the children involved—can imagine. We hear from the children themselves about why they embark in such a dangerous journey and what it's been like for them so far.

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An award-winning documentary filmmaker, ANAYANSI PRADO was born in Panama and moved to the United States as a teenager. She later attended Boston University where she received a BA in film. Her debut documentary, Maid in America, about the lives of Latina immigrant women working as domestic workers in Los Angeles, screened nationally on the PBS Independent Lens series and in over 40 film festivals in the US and around the world. Prado subsequently served as an executive producer on the Discovery en Español series Voces de Cambio, about humanitarian issues in the Latino community.

Children in No Man's Land is Prado's second documentary feature.

Prado has received a Rockefeller Media Fellowship and is the recipient of two Media Grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, as well as grants from Creative Capital, the Paul Robeson Media Fund, Pacific Pioneer Fund, Independent Television Services (ITVS), The Fledgling Foundation, Chicken & Egg Pictures. She was named one of three up-and-coming Latina filmmakers in the United States by Latina Magazine.

Prado's company, Impacto Films, is geared toward the production of documentaries with a social impact. Continuing with her vision of film and visual arts as powerful tools for social impact, she recently founded The Impacto Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the empowerment of indigenous youths and their communities through hands-on training in photography, filmmaking and digital media.

Prado is currently in production of Give Us Your Retired, Your Rich, Your Americans, a documentary that explores the growing phenomenon of Americans retirees migrating to Latin America—specifically to Panama—and the effects and challenges faced by both the retirees and the local Panamanian communities in which they live.

Craft in America Episode 1: Memory; Episode 2: Landscape; Episode 3: Community
Directors: Nigel Noble (Memory), Daniel Seeger (Landscape), Hilary Birmingham (Community)
Executive Producers: Carol Sauvion, Kyra Thompson
Cinematographers: Don Lenzer (Memory, Community), Peter Pilafian (Landscape), Allan Palmer (Community)
Editors: Yaffa Lerea (Memory), Leonard Feinstein (Landscape), Lillian E. Benson, A.C.E. (Community)
Writer: Kyra Thompson
Music: Laura Karpman
Running time for Each Episode: 56 min.
website

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Whether our eyes are those of sophisticated appreciators or just people on the street, we are likely unaware of the many ways that craft and design touch our lives.

Craft in America is an amazing multimedia effort with a simple mission: To explore the vitality, history and significance of the handmade in the United States and demonstrate its impact on our nation's cultural heritage.

Craft in America is presented in three self-contained but interrelated episodes. Episode I: Memory takes a personal tour through craft's history in this country by looking at some of the pioneers of the new craft movement in America. Episode II: Landscape looks at the sublime and complex relationship between craft artists and their environment, examining the processes through which natural materials become finished works of craft as well as some of the deeper messages that creators hope to attach to their work. Episode III: Community focuses on the spiritual connection artists have to their communities through craft, thus revealing the deeply held belief that craft is about more than just the making an object; it is about connecting to one another across social and geographical divides.

Craft in America introduces viewers to a relatively unfamiliar world through the memories, insights and experiences of craft's contemporary pioneer-practitioners. These invitingly human stories, along with the visual nature of finished craftwork and the processes that make it possible, make for powerful and affecting television.

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CAROL SAUVION is the creator and executive producer of Craft in America, and the executive director of Craft in America, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting the origins, artists and techniques of craft in the United States and their impact on our nation's cultural heritage. The Craft in America series results from the organization's mission to promote and advance original handcrafted work through programs in all media.

NIGEL NOBLE is an Academy Award-winning producer/director of films and television, whose work is characterized by a sense of compassion and a keen eye for the telling moment. His work has earned him many awards as both a director and a producer, including an Oscar, a second Oscar nomination, two Emmy Awards, two ACE awards, two Telly's and a Peabody Award. Noble recently produced They Killed Sister Dorothy, which won both Jury and Audience Best Documentary Awards at the South by Southwest Film Festival. Noble has also just completed producing and directing his third production for The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (2008 Telly Award), and has just completed the 90th anniversary film for the AFSC, the American Friends Service Committee (also a 2008 Telly Award).

DANIEL SEEGER has worked extensively as a producer, director and cameraman on many documentaries, including the award-winning Clearwater, the story of the construction and launch of the Hudson River sloop Clearwater, and her maiden voyage from Maine to New York.

HILARY BIRMINGHAM wrote and directed the critically acclaimed film Tully, which was nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards in 2003. She developed New Passages (1996), an ABC primetime special, executive-produced by Barbara Kopple; and Generations (1996), a feature documentary on the 25th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival.

Eat at Bill's: Life in the Monterey Market
Director/Producer/Cinematographer/Editor: Lisa Brenneis
Editor: Stella Dunn
Running time: 67 min.
website

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Eat at Bill's: Life in the Monterey Market is a video documentary about the phenomenon that is the Monterey Market, a small family-owned produce market in Berkeley, California. The market has served as a crossroads and wellspring, an oasis that sustains a small army of customers, artisans and farmers. What are the characteristics that sustain this successful small enterprise?

Over the last 30 years, Bill Fujimoto, the market's owner, has been a tireless supporter, mentor and customer for the hundreds of small (and formerly small) farms the market supports.

Bill's enthusiasm and experience fuel the enterprise and illuminate the market's wide world of small growers and diverse customers, which include a small army of well-known chefs and food-thinkers such as Alice Waters and Michael Pollan.

Eat at Bill's is a celebration of the Monterey Market's diverse network of customers and suppliers, and a valentine to small enterprises everywhere.

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LISA BRENNEIS grows organic citrus with her husband in Ojai, California. Eat at Bill's: Life in the Monterey Market is herfirst feature-length video documentary She supports her movie habit by writing technical reference books for Peachpit Press.

Empowering the Yard
Directors/Producers: Erin Persley, Emily Kirsch, Vincent Horner
Executive Producers: National AIDS Fund, San Francisco State University Health Equity Initiative and the Health Education and Cinema Departments at San Francisco State University
Cinematographers: Erin Persley, Vincent Horner
Editors: Erin Persley, Vincent Horner
Running time: 15 min.
website

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Set in Oklahoma, where more women are incarcerated per capita than anywhere else in the country, Empowering the Yard looks at HIV prevention from the perspective of incarcerated women who are using peer education to empower themselves, their families and their communities. The HIV Peer Education Program provides an opportunity for incarcerated women to teach each other about the issues they face, including safe sex, sexually transmitted infections, drugs and violence. The documentary follows five HIV Peer Educators who explain why incarceration rates for women are so high and speak to the self-esteem and empowerment they have gained through the HIV Peer Education Program.

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Born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Florida, where she attended the University of Florida, ERIN PERSLEY directed and edited several shorts including Berkeley of the South (2004) and Struggle for Choice (2002), which dealt with social justice subjects ranging from abortion to the anti-war student movement. Currently at the graduate film program at San Francisco State University, Persley combines her hybrid filmmaking with producing and coordinating other shorts including Fragile Distance (2007) and A Green Mountain in the Drawer (2007). Her first graduate work, Please Report Any Suspicious Activity (2007), focused on the airport institution and used poetics to explore overzealous security measures and unseen spaces. Following Empowering the Yard, Persley is currently working on her master's thesis, Living Inside Out, which concentrates on women transitioning back into society after spending time in prison. With her deep commitment to provocative documentary filmmaking, she intends to change how people interact with their community, other cultures and one another.


When it comes to working for justice, opportunity and peace in urban America, EMILY KIRSCH exudes a fierce passion. As the Bay Area Organizer for the Green-Collar Jobs Campaign at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, California, Kirsch works with local green businesses, labor unions, environmental groups and community-based organizations to create an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty. Kirsch is a graduate of San Francisco State University with a self-designed major in urban health, justice and sustainability.


VINCENT HORNER recently completed his undergraduate coursework at San Francisco State University. He strives to continue using film and music as means to promote social justice and peace-work. He currently lives in Oakland, California.

A Fair to Remember
Director/Cinematographer: Allen Mondell
Producers/Writers: Allen Mondell, Cynthia Salzman Mondell
Cinematographer/Editor/Co-Producer: Phil Allen
Composers: Carl Finch and Brave Combo
Running time:90 min.
website

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It's a tradition etched in the personal memories of millions from around the globe—a place where generations have come to gaze upon the world's tallest cowboy, soar on North America's highest Ferris wheel and consume the most exotic delicacies this side of the Rio Grande. Now attended by three-and-a-half million people every fall, the Great State Fair of Texas not only entertains, but also reflects some of the most pivotal times in American history. A Fair to Remember takes the viewer on a roller-coaster ride chronicling the history of the fair, from its inception in 1886 to its destination today as the largest fair of its kind in the country. The film's charming characters, original music and lively animation combine with archival footage that features Elvis Presley, President Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Houdini, the Corny Dog and Big Tex. While being an evocation of everything Texan, and featuring a substantial agricultural component, this fair seeks to bring something of the nation as a whole, and the outside world in general, to its crossroads, its city and its regional audiences.

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ALLEN MONDELL and CYNTHIA SALZMAN MONDELL are the founders of Media Projects, Inc., a nonprofit video production and distribution company. Together, they have produced over 35 documentaries about historical subjects and social issues. Their films have won numerous national awards and have been selected for prestigious screenings in the United States and abroad. Some have received specialized theatrical distribution and have aired on PBS and national cable networks. The Mondells have just completed The Monster AmongUs, a documentary about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe today, and are editing A Reason to Live, a documentary about depression and suicide among young adults 15 to 24 years old. Another of their films, Sisters of '77, documenting the story of the first federally funded National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977,aired nationwide in 2005 on the award-winning public television series, Independent Lens. Highlights from the body of their work include Films from the Sixth Floor, six films about the life, death and legacy of President John F. Kennedy; West of Hester Street, a docudrama about Jewish immigration through the port of Galveston in the early 1900s; Make Me a Match, a warm-hearted look at the trials and tribulations of Jewish matchmaking in contemporary society; Funny Women, a short film celebrating 50 years of women comedians in American television; and Who Remembers Mama?, an emotional look at the economic and legal problems confronting middle-aged, divorced homemakers. Together the Mondells have received such notable awards as a Lone Star Emmy, four CINE Golden Eagles, a Bronze CINDY, three Telly Awards, a Silver Gavel from the American Bar Association, and a recognition award from the Dallas Metro Association for Outstanding Contribution to the Dallas Metro Association Counseling Profession.

FLOW: For Love Of Water
Director/Cinematographer: Irena Salina
Producer: Steven Starr
Co-Producers: Gill Holland, Yvette Tomlinson
Executive Producers: Stephen Nemeth, Caroleen Feeney, Lee Jaffe, Augusta Brown Holland, Brent Meikle, Cornalia Meikle, Hadley Meikle
Cinematographer: Pablo de Selva
Editors: Caitlin Dixon, Madeleine Gavin, Andrew Mondshein, A.C.E.
Composer: Christophe Julien
Running time: 84 min.
website * trailer * article * filmmaker Q&A

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Irena Salina's award-winning documentary is an investigation into what experts label the most important political and environmental issue of the 21st Century: The world water crisis.

Salina builds a case against the growing privatization of the world's dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching focus on politics, pollution, human rights and the emergence of a domineering world water cartel.

Interviews with scientists and activists intelligently reveal the rapidly building crisis, at both the global and human scale, and the film introduces many of the governmental and corporate culprits behind the water grab, while begging the question, "Can anyone really own water?"

Beyond identifying the problem, FLOW also gives viewers a look at the people and institutions providing practical solutions to the water crisis and those developing new technologies, which are fast becoming blueprints for a successful global and economic turnaround.

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Born in France, IRENA SALINA started her career at 15 as a radio journalist in Paris, then worked in production in various capacities on numerous US films before writing and directing her first short, See You on Monday, sponsored by LifeTime Television for the Hamptons Film Festival. Her first film, Ghost Bird: The Life and Art of Judith Deim (2000), is an award-winning documentary that delves into the remarkable life of St. Louis-born artist Judith Deim. Ghost Bird was featured at many festivals, won Best Documentary at the 15th Fort Lauderdale Film Festival, the Presidents' Award at Mexico's prestigious Ajijic Film Festival, and is an Evergreen Audience Favorite on the Sundance Channel.

STEVEN STARR is the founder of the award-winning online creator platform Revver.com, previously managed KPFK-FM, largest community radio signal in the U.S., co-founded P2P pioneer Uprizer, user-generated platform LA.IndyMedia. Prior to that, writer/director and/or producer of various award-winning films such as Joey Breaker and Johnny Suede, co-creator/producer of The State for MTV/CBS, headed the New York film office for the William Morris Agency, working with clients such as Ang Lee, Tim Robbins, Larry David, Joseph Papp and Andy Warhol, and started off as a concert promoter for Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Frontrunners
Director: Caroline Suh
Producer: Erika Frankel
Cinematographer: Gregory Mitnick
Editor: Jane Rizzo
Running time: 83 min.
website * article *

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Frontrunners, a feature-length documentary, follows the most recent elections for student body president at the ultra-competitive Stuyvesant High School in New York City, and explores how politics works at its most nascent level.

As the film unfolds, the candidates might seem like archetypes. There is the favorite, a popular heartthrob; the rich cheerleader; the slacker jock; and a lone wolf. But each ends up being more complex than they might first appear.

The candidates worry about their images and see their shortcomings, and they pick running mates accordingly. Can you really win without an Asian on your ticket—when the voting public is more than 50 percent Asian? Is an all-female ticket automatically a loser? Will anyone vote for an outsider? And who will be charismatic enough to win the televised debate and knowledgeable enough about the real issues to impress the newspaper editorial board?

In politics, nothing is inevitable, especially at Stuyvesant, where the voting public is made up of skeptical students who may be the best and brightest in the country. And Stuyvesant's 3,200 students, from the five boroughs, reflect the diversity of the entire nation—teenagers of all ethnicities and economic backgrounds, children of privilege mixing with first generation immigrants, all there based on merit.

As Frontrunners unfolds, the story takes on undertones familiar to anyone who has been a spectator to a national campaign, revealing that young people have an implicit understanding of how strategy, race, gender, personality, platforms, charisma, height and hairstyle figure into a winning campaign.

Teenagers, it turns out, are also political animals. But in the end, Frontrunners is also about a bunch of very smart, very funny teenagers who take things seriously, regardless of the stakes.

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CAROLINE SUH has produced numerous documentaries for PBS, Trio (Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate), History Channel (10 Days: Antietam), A&E and Sundance Channel (Iconoclasts), among others. Frontrunners is her first documentary feature as director. Suh currently has two feature documentaries in development.

The Garden
Director/Producer/Cinematographer/Editor: Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Executive Producers:Julie Bergman Sender, Stuart Sender
Editors: Alex Blatt, Tyson Fitzgerald
Composers: Doug DeAngelis, Gabriel Tenorio
Running time: 80 min.
website * trailer * filmmaker Q&A

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The 14-acre community garden at 41st and Alameda in South Central Los Angeles is the largest of its kind in the United States. Started as a form of healing after the devastating LA riots in 1992, the South Central Farmers have since created a miracle in one of the country's most blighted neighborhoods: Growing their own food…Feeding their families…Creating a community.

But now, bulldozers are poised to level their 14-acre oasis.

The Garden follows the plight of the farmers, from the tilled soil of this urban farm to the polished marble of City Hall. Mostly immigrants from Latin America, from countries where they feared for their lives if they were to speak out, they organize, fight back and demand answers:

Why was the land sold to a wealthy developer for millions less than fair-market value? Why was the transaction done in a closed-door session of the LA City Council? Why has it never been made public?

And the powers-that-be have the same response: "The garden is wonderful, but there is nothing more we can do."

If everyone told you nothing more could be done, would you give up?

The Garden has the pulse of vérité with the narrative pull of fiction, telling the story of the country's largest urban farm, backroom deals, land developers, green politics, money, poverty, power and racial discord. The film explores and exposes the fault lines in American society and raises crucial and challenging questions about liberty, equality and justice for the poorest and most vulnerable among us.

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SCOTT HAMILTON KENNEDY's debut documentary, OT: our town, was an official selection and won awards at some of the top film festivals in the world. In its theatrical release, OT garnered rave reviews and was selected for several "best of" lists. OT was also honored by being "short-listed" for an Oscar nomination and was nominated for Best Documentary at the Independent Spirit Awards. Kennedy started his career in music videos, making several number-one internationally aired videos. As a director, Kennedy has worked with Showtime, CBS, AMC, Roger Corman and Mattel. Kennedy is currently developing his narrative feature script Up River, an urban adventure set on the LA River, which he developed through the Film Independent Directors Lab. He is also in post-production on a reality series entitled Fame High, about the LA County High School for the Arts, which follows freshman and seniors through a school year as they try to become successful actors, singers, dancers and musicians.

The Hobart Shakespearians
Director/Producer: Mel Stuart
Executive Producer: Sandra Sheppard
Cinematographer/Editor/Co-Producer: Alex Rotaru
Running time: 52 min.
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Imagine the sight and sound of American nine- and eleven-year-old children performing Shakespeare's Hamlet or Henry V—and understanding every word they recite. Imagine them performing well enough to elicit praise from such accomplished Shakespearean actors as Ian McKellen and Michael York, and to be invited to perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company in England. Such a spectacle would be highly impressive in the toniest of America's private schools. But what if the kids were the children of recent Latino and Asian immigrants attending a large Los Angeles inner-city public school in one of America's toughest neighborhoods?

That is the astonishing story told by the documentary The Hobart Shakespeareans, which discovers how one man's uncommon commitment and resourcefulness have opened up worlds of opportunity for his "disadvantaged" students—and perhaps have demonstrated a way forward for America's beleaguered public education system.

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MEL STUART was born in New York, and during his college years aspired to become a composer. After graduating from New York University, however, he decided to change direction and began to pursue a career as a filmmaker. In 1954, he began working as an assistant editor for a company that made commercials. There, Stuart became a special assistant to avant-garde filmmaker Mary Ellen Bute. Several years later, Stuart obtained a position as a film researcher for Walter Cronkite's breakthrough series, The 20th Century. In 1959, David Wolper asked Stuart to join a newly formed production company. For the next 17 years, Stuart served as a key executive with the Wolper Organization. During that time he produced and directed dozens of documentaries, including The Making of the President, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Four Days in November and Wattstax. He also directed various features including Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.

In 1977 the Wolper Organization was acquired by Warner Brothers. Since that time, Stuart has been an independent producer and director. Among his productions have been documentaries such as Man Ray: Prophet of the Avant-Garde and Billy Wilder: The Human Comedy, AFI's 100 Years-100 Movies and Inside the KGB.

Stuart's latest directing efforts have been a series dealing with the lives of well-known American poets and The Hobart Shakespeareans. Among the many acknowledgments of his work have been four Emmys, a Peabody Award, an Academy Award nomination and numerous awards from festivals around the world.