Since last year’s launch of the Tribeca Film Institute Pond5 Program, we have been able to help a number of rising artists pursue their projects, awarding more than $44,000 in grants and mentorship funding to noteworthy filmmakers. We received hundreds of entries from our latest round of submissions, with projects spanning scripted and documentary works, from shorts to full-length features.
We were thoroughly impressed with the creativity and originality of the Pond5 community, but most of all, we are thrilled to support filmmakers who may otherwise be underrepresented in the industry. Congratulations to all grantees, and thank you to everyone who submitted projects for consideration.
Read on to see the projects that were selected in this round and meet the filmmakers behind them, then check out the latest press on these highly anticipated films from Variety.
Still from Blue Hour
At a neighborhood hospital, Mariano, who is receiving a prostate exam, meets China, who is waiting for the body of her dead husband. They spend the afternoon together and, as the night falls, Mariano makes a proposal that lets them imagine a different life.
Zoe Miranda is a Cuban filmmaker based between New York City and Havana. Her works are mostly focused on documentary cinema, and her films have been exhibited at IDFA, Sundance International Film Festival, Sheffield Doc/Fest, and Doc Leipzig, among others. She has received fellowships and grants from IDFA Bertha Fund, Tribeca Film Institute, Ibermedia, and Cinergia. Zoe graduated from Institute of Art Cuba with a degree in Mass Media Studies, and majored in Documentary Cinema at the International Film School of San Antonio de los Baños (EICTV, Cuba).
New York City, 2013. A young bisexual man enters an interracial relationship. In the midst of the Sandusky trial, against the backdrop of a cicada summer, he comes to terms with his own childhood trauma.
Still from Cicada; Credit: Eric Schleicher
Initially working in research at Columbia University Medical Center, Matt Fifer made the natural transition into film and television. At the New School, he studied under Sherrybaby director Laurie Collyer. He’s worked on shorts, commercials, and big-budget features like The Avengers and A Late Quartet. In 2016 and 2017, he made IndieWire’s Top 10 list for best web series of the year.
Still from For Moraime; Credit: Alfredo Alcántara
Interweaving magical-realist storytelling with observational cinema, For Moraime follows Rosa Iris, a Dominican woman who seeks to change her country’s anti-black attitudes by fighting against an antagonistic bureaucracy and the cyclical forces of history.
As a co-founding member of the Rada Film Group, filmmaker, artist, and author Michéle Stephenson pulls from her Panamanian and Haitian roots and international experience as a human rights attorney to tell provocative stories in a variety of media that speak to personal and systemic liberation. Her work has appeared on a variety of broadcast and web platforms, including PBS, Showtime, and MTV. Her most recent film, American Promise, was nominated for three Emmys, including Best Documentary and Best News Coverage of a Contemporary Issue. The film also won the Jury Prize at Sundance, and was selected for the New York Film Festival’s Main Slate Program. Stephenson was recently awarded the Creative Capital Fellowship and the inaugural Chicken & Egg Pictures Filmmaker Breakthrough Award, and is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow. Her current feature documentary work-in-progress is supported by the National Film Board of Canada and the Sundance Documentary Fund. Her community engagement accomplishments include the PUMA BritDoc Impact Award for a Film with the Greatest Impact on Society and a Revere Award Nomination from the American Publishers Association, and she is a fellow of Skoll Storytellers of Change. Her recent book, Promises Kept, written along with co-authors Joe Brewster and Hilary Beard, won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work.
Still from Our Sister; Credit: Angela Steps
A teenage girl with autism and her sister try to come to terms with their grief after the death of their younger sister.
Rosie is an Australian born filmmaker based in London. Her short films have been selected for festivals around the world, including the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, BFI Flare, London Short Film Festival, and Underwire Festival. Her most recent short film, Our Sister is funded by the BFI Network and will premiere in autumn 2019. Rosie works in drama and comedy-drama and is drawn to stories about young female characters at formative times in their lives. She is currently developing her first feature.
Still from Pier Kids; Credit: Elegance Bratton
Pier Kids follows Desean, Casper, and Krystal, three homeless queer youth who use the piers at the end of Christopher Street to build new family as they navigate prostitution, the welfare system, and their biological families in order to find stable housing.
Elegance was thrown out of his mother’s home at the age of 16 in New Jersey for being gay. He spent the next ten years homeless, seeking refuge wherever he could find it. He then joined the US Marine Corps, where he learned how to make films. Elegance’s award-winning short films have played in almost 150 film festivals worldwide, including Sundance, Outfest, and the American Black Film Festival. He is executive producer and creator of Viceland’s GLAAD-nominated series, My House. He is also the author of the Kassel Art Book Award-winning photo book Bound By Night. He served in the US Marine Corps as a combat cameraman, and holds an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and an MFA from NYU Tisch Grad Film.
Still from Sirens; Credit: Rita Baghdadi
On the outskirts of Beirut, five young women navigate friendship, identity, and the pressure to conform in their pursuit of becoming thrash-metal rock stars.
Rita Baghdadi is an award-winning Moroccan-American documentary filmmaker whose character-driven work has been supported by Tribeca, Sundance, Film Independent, ITVS, Points North Institute, and the International Documentary Association. In 2017, Rita’s documentary City Rising won three local Emmy awards including Best Social Issue Film. Her film My Country No More won Best Feature at the 2018 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and was picked up for broadcast on Independent Lens in 2019. Rita also lensed the feature documentary Served Like a Girl, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and received a nationwide theatrical release. The Hollywood Reporter recognized her camerawork as “intimate.” Rita is a co-founder of the production company Endless Eye, a documentary Advisor for Sundance Co//ab, and a member of Free the Bid, Brown Girls Doc Mafia, and Film Fatales. When she is not filming, Rita is an active mentor dedicated to empowering women and girls through film training. Currently, she is in early production on Sirens, a feature documentary about the first female metal band in the Middle East.
Belly of the Beast
Still from Belly of the Beast
Belly of the Beast intimately chronicles the journey of women fighting reproductive injustice in their communities.
Erika Cohn is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director/producer who Variety recognized as one of 2017’s top documentary filmmakers to watch. Most recently, Erika completed The Judge, a Peabody Award-winning documentary film that premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and was broadcast on PBS’ 2018 Independent Lens series. Erika co-directed/produced In Football We Trust, an Emmy award-winning documentary, which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and broadcast on PBS’ 2016 Independent Lens series. Her work has been supported by IFP, the Sundance Institute, Tribeca Institute, Hot Docs, Sheffield, ITVS, Women in Film, BAVC, and the CPB Producer’s Academy, among others.
About the Tribeca Film Institute Pond5 Program
At Pond5, we believe that every artist deserves to make a sustainable living. That’s why we’ve partnered with the Tribeca Film Institute to develop a comprehensive program that provides grants, mentorship and education to underrepresented filmmakers. To date, we have awarded over $44,000 in grants and mentorship to 13 noteworthy filmmakers. Learn more.
If you’re interested in submitting your own project, check back when submissions reopen for the next round in the Fall!