Film still from Liyana 

The MacArthur Foundation, a supporter of independently produced film and video for more than 30 years, today announced nine grants totaling more than $1 million for documentary film projects. The documentaries address a range of important issues, including America’s growing income gap, immigration, and the impact of natural disasters on poor communities.  

“MacArthur’s media grantmaking supports work that explores contemporary social issues with high quality reporting intended to inform, educate, and inspire reflection and action,” said Kathy Im, MacArthur’s Director for Media, Culture, and Special Initiatives. “This year’s film grantees tackle long-term and difficult issues through in-depth and compelling storytelling, illuminating under-reported domestic and international issues and creating empathy for various points of view.”

The Foundation received nearly 400 proposals in response to its most recent open call for independent documentary film proposals. After an extensive review process aided by external reviewers, the following nine projects were chosen for support:

American Exile, a documentary film about the U.S. government’s attempt to deport two brothers, both Vietnam War veterans, to Mexico after 60 years in the United States, by John J. Valadez and Carleen L. Hsu. Kitchen Sync Group ($150,000).

Betrayal of the American Dream, a documentary film exploring America’s widening income gap and its impact on the middle class, by Barbara Kopple. Cabin Creek Center ($250,000).

Charge, a documentary film that chronicles lithium extraction in Bolivia and a recent series of uprisings over control of the country’s natural resource wealth, by Michael Plunkett and Anna Rose Holmer. Cinereach, Ltd. ($120,000).

Cooked, a documentary film examining the disparate impact of natural disasters on poor neighborhoods – from the 1995 Chicago heat wave to Hurricane Sandy – and the importance of building resilient communities, by Judith Helfand. Kartemquin Educational Films ($120,000).

Landfill Harmonic, a documentary film about a youth orchestra in Paraguay whose instruments are created from recycled trash, by Alexandra Nash, Juliana Penaranda-Loftus, and Rodolfo Madero. Meetai, LLC ($80,000).

Liyana, a documentary film taking an intimate look at a group of orphans in Swaziland who explore their own lives through the art of storytelling by creating an original fairytale, by Aaron Kopp. AJK Film ($80,000).

Raising Bertie, a documentary film about an alternative high school in rural North Carolina with a focus on digital technology, and the challenges of preparing rural youth living in poverty to participate in the 21st Century economy, by Margaret Byrne. Kartemquin Educational Films ($120,000).

Reinvention Stories, a documentary project, public radio series, and collaborative website about Dayton, Ohio, and the ways in which residents and communities are adjusting to a post-industrial economy, by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. Community Media Productions ($80,000).

Rich Hill, a documentary film about the circumstances and choices facing children in an impoverished rural Midwestern town and their hopes for a brighter future, by Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo. Dinky Pictures LLC ($120,000).

The Foundation’s next open call for documentary film proposals will run from July 15–31, 2013. More information about the application process will be available in April. 

Media, Media, United States