JustFilms returns to Sundance with four new films and expanded partnerships

JustFilms, the Ford Foundation’s film and digital storytelling initiative, has provided support to four films selected to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival—the world’s leading showcase for independent filmmaking. Through regrant funding to Sundance’s Documentary Film Program, JustFilms also supported an additional three film and digital projects—Cartel Land, Censored Voices, and Western. The annual festival also brings together many Ford Foundation–funded organizations that support these filmmakers through mentoring and regranting to fund convenings and fellowships.

By supporting creative visual storytelling, JustFilms highlights issues of justice, rights, and equity; and spurs change by nurturing exceptional artistry from filmmakers and artists engaging with stories of challenge and triumph. Launched in 2011, the Ford Foundation’s five-year, $50 million dollar commitment has enabled artists and organizations globally in their efforts to lift up quality films and digital projects tackling urgent social justice issues in innovative and inspiring ways.

This year JustFilms increased its focus on partnerships, in an effort to support a truly global class of filmmakers. Multiyear partners include Sundance Institute for the Documentary Film Program, New Frontier and the Native and Indigenous Program, Tribeca Film Institute for the Tribeca New Media Fund, ITVS for its Global Women and Girls Lead project and BritDoc Foundation, which launched the Good Pitch initiative globally, connecting filmmakers with coalitions of supporters to maximize their impact on social issues.

“JustFilms provides support for storytellers from around the globe, united by their ability to use the power of narrative to transform our world view,” said Cara Mertes, director of JustFilms. “As inequality defines the life experience of so many, Ford’s social justice mandate compels us to seek ways, like creative visual storytelling, to understand that every person has dignity and purpose, and to support societies that act on this knowledge.”

Ford Foundation staff from across initiatives, who work together with JustFilms to contribute to the quality and impact of these projects, will attend the annual gathering.

“Creativity unlocks civic dialogue and broadens understanding of the complexities of human life,” said Hilary Pennington, Vice President, Education, Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation. “As a social justice organization, we believe firmly that tackling our most pressing social problems requires expressive, independent storytelling.”

Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival with financial and creative support from JustFilms:

Directed by Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman

A biographical celebration of Ousmane Sembéne, the "father of African cinema," and his monumental, 50-year-long battle to give Africans a voice.

Best of Enemies
Directed by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon

A behind-the-scenes account of the explosive 1968 televised debates between liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley Jr., and their rancorous disagreements about politics, God, and sex.

3 ½ Minutes
Directed by Marc Silver

A dissection of the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, the aftermath of this systemic tragedy, and the contradictions within the American criminal justice system.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Directed by Stanley Nelson

The first feature-length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its role in the cultural and political awakening of black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails.

JustFilms will also hold a private session on digital safety and security for filmmakers at the festival. The session will bring together documentary filmmakers, journalists, digital security experts, and media lawyers to learn from each other about the challenges involving the safety and security of film teams, subjects, and sources, and footage, data, and information—as well as to share information about resources that that will be available to the field in the future.

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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.