Last Friday, the world premiere of “Time is Illmatic”—a documentary that delves into the making of the hip-hop artist Nas’s 1994 debut album—kicked off the opening night of the Tribeca Film Festival. Marking twenty years after the release of “Illmatic,” the film explores Nas’s personal story and considers how his work captures the socio-political outlook, enduring spirit and collective angst of a generation of young black men searching for their voice in America.

This is the first time a film backed by the Tribeca Film Institute (TFI), the festival’s nonprofit organization and a partner of the foundation, has been chosen to open the festival. Beth Janson, TFI’s executive director, told The Wall Street Journal she was attracted to the film because it wasn’t just another music documentary. “It really read as a father-son story first, and then as a portrait of growing up in a very specific part of New York City which we often don’t see accurate portrayals of,” she said. The WSJ article describes the long process of making the film, which included a critical 2013 grant from Ford Foundation JustFilms.

“1971,” another foundation-supported film premiering at the festival, tells the story behind a break-in at an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania during the height of the Vietnam War. Eight citizens removed every file in the office, yielding a trove of evidence about the domestic surveillance of U.S. citizens. The documentary uses archival footage and interviews to reveal the identity of the perpetrators for the first time, and to raise provocative questions about our current era of surveillance and security.


On April 26, JustFilms is proud to support TFI Interactive, a daylong forum and “Interactive Playground” featuring leading innovators in media, journalism, gaming and technology. Among the day’s dynamic presentations, Ben Moskowitz of Mozilla will discuss what social issue storytellers can learn from the privacy debate, New Arts AXIS Director Wendy Levy will explore how documentary filmmakers and photographers are connecting audiences to issues they care about, and artist Jonathan Harris will reflect on the disconnect between what we imagine technology will do for us, and how it actually impacts our lives.

Join the conversation at #TFIi.

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The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.