By Ray Pride


Organization Surpasses Milestone of Over $3 Million in Grants

NEW YORK (Monday, November 25, 2013) – Chicken & Egg Pictures today announced the 23 feature-length documentary films that will receive more than $220,000 in grants from its 2013 Open Call. The organization has awarded over $3 million in grants to nearly 160 film projects and has provided over 4,500 hours of mentorship directly to filmmakers, marking a new milestone.
Grantees were selected from over 500 submissions from 33 different countries and include women filmmakers working in Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Iran and Russia.

Chicken & Egg Pictures is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to supporting women nonfiction filmmakers whose diverse voices and dynamic storytelling have the power to catalyze change, at home and around the globe. Founded in 2005 by award-winning filmmakers and producers Julie Parker Benello, Wendy Ettinger, and Judith Helfand, Chicken & Egg Pictures matches strategically timed grants with creative mentorship to help filmmakers at critical phases — from development and production through distribution and engagement. The organization has offices in Brooklyn and San Francisco.

“Chicken & Egg Pictures is at a pivotal moment in its eight year history,” said Jenni Wolfson, Executive Director of Chicken & Egg Pictures. “There is a growing recognition, domestically and internationally, that women non-fiction filmmakers have a critical role to play turning the struggles of our time into resonant, urgent and provocative stories that will inspire critical discussion, civic engagement and social change. I have no doubt, that the artists we are supporting in this round will do just that.”
As the only nonprofit film fund devoted solely to supporting women documentary directors, Chicken & Egg Picture strives to transform the landscape of nonfiction filmmaking and the world at large by putting funds directly into the hands of women filmmakers, matching money with strategic mentorship and concurrently funding festivals and field-building organizations such as AFI Docs, DOC NYC, Good Pitch, New Orleans International Film Festival, SXSW, True/False, and Working Films.
Together, these efforts elevate women directors and foster deep collaboration across the field.

Chicken & Egg Pictures also announced today that they will come on as Executive Producers of two films by current grantees primed for release in 2014: Baltimore by Emily Topper and Mary Posatko and Private Violence by Cynthia Hill.

BEAUTIFUL SIN (Completion) *
Director: Gabriela Quirós
Beautiful Sin tells the decade-long story of three infertile couples who take their government before an international human rights court to demand the right to use the one medical treatment that could help them conceive. Costa Rica is the only country in the world that has banned in vitro fertilization (IVF), a fertility treatment in which doctors create embryos in the lab, after it was once legal.
Directors: Holly Morris and Anne Bogart
As Fukushima smolders, the story of an extraordinary group of defiant old women rises from the ashes of Chernobyl to inform the nuclear debate. In the radioactive Dead Zone surrounding Chernobyl’s Reactor No. 4, some 200 “babushkas” cling to their ancestral homeland. Why they chose to return to their ancestral lands, defying the authorities and endangering their health, is a remarkable tale—about the pull of home, the power of shaping one’s destiny and the subjective nature of risk.
BRICK (Development)
Directors: Jessica Dimmock and Christopher LaMarca
BRICK witnesses the loss and extraordinary risk involved as five fathers and grandfathers find space to live as transgendered women in the hyper-masculine culture of the Pacific Northwest.
COCAINE PRISON (Post Production)
Directors: Violeta Ayala
From inside one of Bolivia’s most notorious prisons a cocaine worker, a drug mule, and his younger sister reveal the country’s relationship with cocaine. Cocaine Prison bridges the ever-widening gap between the North and the South and brings a new perspective to the War on Drugs as it is waged in the Andes.
Director: Kim Longinotto
The Dreamcatchers follows two ex-prostitutes, Brenda Meyers-Powell and Stephanie Daniels-Wilson, as they work tirelessly to help young girls in the south side of Chicago stand up to pimps who try to recruit them with promises of love and easy money.
DRIVING WITH SELVI (Post Production)
Director: Elisa Paloschi
Driving with Selvi follows the nine year journey of a young woman who defies strict patriarchal traditions when she escapes an abusive child marriage to become South India’s first female taxi driver.
THE HAND THAT FEEDS (Post Production)
Directors: Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick
Shy sandwich-maker Mahoma López and his undocumented immigrant coworkers set out to end abusive conditions at a New York restaurant chain owned by powerful investors. The epic power struggle that ensues turns a single city block into a battlefield in America’s new wage wars.
THE HOMESTRETCH (Post Production)
Directors: Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly
Three homeless teenagers brave Chicago winters, the pressures of high school, and life alone on the streets to build a brighter future. Against all odds, these kids defy stereotypes as they create new, surprising definitions of home, but can they recover from the traumas of abandonment and homelessness and build the future they dream of?
Director: Lucy Walker
A stunningly courageous young woman takes the boldest step imaginable, supported by her mother and loving friends.
MUDFLOW (Development)
Director: Cynthia Wade
Mudflow is the story of a giant, spewing, hot toxic mudflow in Indonesia, believed to be caused by poorly executed natural gas drilling. This eruption is one of the largest man-made disasters of recent times, yet relatively unknown beyond Indonesia. The mud volcano has been erupting violently for more than seven years, swallowing schools, villages and factories. It has permanently displaced 35,000 people and international scientists believe the mudflow will continue for another 20 years.
THE RETURN (Production)
Directors: Kelly Duane de la Vega & Katie Galloway
In 2012 California voters made history by passing a law shortening sentences of the currently incarcerated and, overnight, making thousands of “lifers” eligible for release. The Return weaves the stories of those at the epicenter of this unprecedented policy change: prisoners suddenly freed, families turned upside down, attorneys and judges wrestling with an untested law and reentry providers negotiating unfathomable transitions as they embark on what some hope is a harbinger of a national turn away from mass incarceration.
Director: Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami
Sonita is an 18 year-old, undocumented female Afghan immigrant who lives in Iran. She has formed a rap group with friends as an outlet for their problems, when her family plans to marry her off for 6000 USD.
Director: Deborah S. Esquenazi
Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four documents the painful reality of how homophobia, “junk science,” and the Satanic ritual abuse panic of the late 1980s and early 1990s created a frenzy of pressure to punish four innocent gay women. Three of these women were sentenced to 15 years in prison while the fourth woman was convicted to 37 years behind bars. The film also explores the long, tedious, yet dramatic process required in Texas to exonerate falsely convicted innocents.
TRAPPED (Development) *
Director: Dawn Porter
Trapped follows the impact of Alabama’s new legislation requiring abortion providers to comply with unnecessary restrictions that may well force them to close down. Native Alabama resident June Ayers has operated an abortion clinic in Alabama for 35 years but now no physicians in the state will perform the procedure. Native Alabama physician Willie Parker lives in Chicago but agreed to fly to Alabama twice a month to perform abortions. Together with the nurses who run the clinic they are fighting to keep the right to choose for the women of Montgomery.
VESSEL (Post Production) *
Director: Diana Whitten
There is a captain who sails her ship through loopholes in international law, providing abortions at sea for women with no other safe option. Her actions shock the church, infuriate governments, exhilarate the media, and provoke mass debate on shore, but they break no law; instead, she claims to save lives. Vessel is her story.
YULA’S DREAM (Post Production)
Director: Hanna Polak
Yula’s Dream is an extraordinary, thirteen-year personal journey about one of the bleakest urban places in the world: a “svalka” outside of Moscow. The largest garbage dump in Europe is where our story takes place. People struggle to live here, including eleven-year-old Yula, our protagonist, who we follow until she is twenty-five. During her adolescence she loses her father, falls in love, gets pregnant, and gives her child up for adoption. Finally one day she breaks out and leaves the garbage dump behind.
Prior Chicken & Egg Pictures Grantees Receiving Additional Funding
A QUIET INQUISITION (Post Production) *
Directors: Holen Sabrina Kahn & Alessandra Zeka
At a public hospital in Nicaragua, OBGYN Dr. Carla Cerrato must choose between following a law that bans all abortions and endangers her patients, or take the risk, and provide the care she knows can save a woman’s life. As Carla and her colleagues navigate this dangerous dilemma, the impact of this law emerges, illuminating the tangible reality of prohibition against the backdrop of a political, religious and historically complex national identity.
Directors: Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Naqvi
Maulana Abdul Aziz, the cleric of Pakistan’s most fundamentalist Islamic Seminary, declares a holy war against the government in hopes of establishing an Islamic utopia.  The government retaliates by destroying his seminary and killing hundreds of his students.  Among the Believers follows his personal quest, while charting the coming-of-age stories of two of his students whose futures are caught up in Aziz’s ideological war.
THE BILL (Production) *
Director: Ramona Diaz
A political firestorm hits the Philippines when a proposed reproductive health law pits tradition against reform, bringing the culture war into the streets and churches. The stage is set for a showdown between timeless antagonists: those who resist change and those who embrace it. While the bill’s defeat or passage holds profound implications for this Catholic country, the twelfth most populous in the world, the spectacle also illuminates the universal drama inherent in change.
Director: Jennifer Redfearn & Tim Metzger
In the heart of Havana, an enigmatic city infused with vibrant art, world-class music, and vivid displays of faith, we find an unusual story depicting the fiery Cuban spirit. Every month, scores of blind and visually impaired people – revolutionary elders, bold musicians, and curious children – meet to watch Cuban films accompanied by detailed audio descriptions. Among the filmgoers are Milly and Lis, two young women coming of age during a time of change in Cuba. Over the course of three years, the film follows their dramatic personal stories as well as the growth of this unique cinema club.
IN THE MIDDLE (Production)
Director: Lorena Luciano
Risking their lives by crossing the unforgiving waters of the Mediterranean Sea dividing Italy from Africa, two Arab families reach the Italian shores. One of them is shattered by a deadly shipwreck in the same waters they’d hoped would rescript their lives.  The other is transferred to a small impoverished town where the local Mayor is caught in between the mounting frustration of the refugees and a largely inert central government. In the Middle portrays the collision between two worlds unfolding in a remote Italian island, epicenter of a struggling economy that has little to offer to the newcomers.
LAND OF OPPORTUNITY (Interactive Transmedia Platform)
Director: Luisa Dantas
Rooted in post-Katrina New Orleans, Land of Opportunity is an ongoing exploration of the often contentious process of community redevelopment in the face of crisis/disaster. Through perspectives that travel across media, including a film and new experimental interactive web platform, the project explores the fundamental question: What kinds of communities do we want to (re)build in the 21st century?  From New Orleans to New York, from Katrina to Sandy, we, along with partners in sister cities, create and curate multifaceted stories highlighting a diversity of voices and approaches designed to foster engagement and inspire action around the core issues happening to cities and towns near us all.
TOUGH LOVE (Post Production)
Director: Stephanie Wang-Breal
Tough Love explores our nation’s child welfare system from the perspective of parents who want to prove to the courts and the system that they deserve a second chance to be a parent and have a family.
Films that have received funding and mentorship support from Chicken & Egg Pictures include: Freeheld by Cynthia Wade (Academy Award® winner, Best Documentary Short Subject, 2008) and Saving Face by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Daniel Junge (Academy Award® winner, Best Documentary Short Subject, 2012); The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement by Gail Dolgin and Robin Fryday, and Kings Point, by Sari Gilman (both Academy Award® nominees); Semper Fi: Always Faithful by Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon (Ridenhour Prize, 2012, Emmy 2013 nominee); Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry by Alison Klayman (Special Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival, 2012 and Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, 2012); Call Me Kuchu by Katherine Fairfax-Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall (Teddy Award, Berlin Film Festival, 2012) and Brooklyn Castle by Katie Dellamaggiore (NAACP Image Awards 2013 nominee).
Among the approximately 150 feature documentaries that have qualified for Academy Award® consideration this year are numerous Chicken & Egg Pictures grantee films including: After TillerCall Me Kuchu, Gideon’s Army, The New Black, A Place at the Table, The Square, Sweet Dreams and Valentine Road.
* Five films receiving grants today – Beautiful SinThe BillTrappedA Quiet Inquisition and Vessel –  are part of Chicken & Egg Pictures “Reel Reproductive Justice” cohort. After TillerNo Más Bebés Por Vida and Young Lakota (having its broadcast debut tonight on Independent Lens on PBS) were among the initial films to be supported.
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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon