Commissioned to apply realistic graffiti to sets for the popular Showtime series Homeland, three artists and activists took the opportunity to critique their employer by painting satirical and damning phrases in Arabic — such as “Homeland is NOT a series” and “Homeland is racist” — that nobody on the Homeland team seemed to notice. That is, until an episode that aired worldwide in October was watched by viewers who could read Arabic. Within days, the political prank became an international media sensation.

The conspirators behind the Homeland hack, Heba Yehia Amin, Caram Kapp, and Don Karl, come from a diverse array of disciplines and backgrounds. Amin is a visual artist and professor born and based in Cairo; Kapp is a Cairo-born, Berlin-based graphic designer and multimedia artist; and Karl is a Berlin-based graffiti writer and author. When the following interview was conducted, kaleidoscopically via Google Hangout, the trio was collaborating on the edit for Homeland Is Not a Series from three separate cities.

In anticipation of bringing this latest iteration of their project to Field of Vision, the “Arabian Street Artists,” as they cheekily refer to themselves, talked about the effectiveness of humor as a weapon against intolerance, the challenges of making a movie when they don’t consider themselves filmmakers by trade, and how they’re trying to foster further discussion around Western representations of Middle Eastern culture.

So how did this start? Since you’re all coming from slightly different disciplines, as well as different areas of the world — how did you wind up collaborating on this covert sabotaging of the Homeland TV show?

Don Karl: I got a call from Homeland that they were looking for “Arabian street artists.” I reached out to several artists, and one of them was Caram, with whom I worked on several other projects — including Walls of Freedom a book about graffiti art and the Egyptian revolution. We gathered in front of a street art exhibit in Berlin, which is where I met Heba for the first time, and the question was, “Do we want to do this kind of thing? Do we need money so urgently that we need to work for Homeland?”

Heba Yehia Amin: None of us were certain that we wanted to work with them. In fact, Don struggled to find people who actually wanted to take on this job, because we so strongly oppose the politics of this show.

Karl: We had this idea spinning around that we could sabotage them, but it wasn’t really concrete.

Amin: We decided at that point to at least meet with the set designers, and see exactly that they wanted us to do. It turned out that it was a much easier set up than we thought it would be. In fact, they came with references for us — they brought images of what they wanted this graffiti to look like. And the images they brought us were of pro-Assad graffiti — they had no clue about the content of what they were showing us. So we already knew that they didn’t have a concrete idea of what they wanted us to write. They just wanted decoration on the set.

They basically said, “Write whatever you want, we just don’t want you to copy these references because of copyright issues. And oh yeah, we don’t necessarily want anything too political.” Then we discovered that there was no contract — they were making no agreement with us. So just in terms of our concerns about the legalities of doing something like this, we felt like this was really working in our favor. At that point we were really convinced about moving forward with this idea.

Caram Kapp: Visually, they did very good research. On a superficial level, the set is very convincing. When we went there, it was as if we were in parts of Lebanon. But obviously they didn’t know the deeper meaning of what they were talking about, and they’d either never talked to people from an Arab country or learned enough Arabic to be able to know what was actually going to be written on the set.

Did the three of you come up with the text for the graffiti together?

Kapp: Heba and I, and a lot of friends and relations helped us out. We asked them, “Can you send us quotes?” And we actually were prepared to do a less subversive job if the situation developed that way.

Karl: At first we worked with quotes that had double meanings — we were thinking of ways to insert the message very subtly. Then when we found that nobody looks at it, they started to write all those very blatant sayings.

Amin: Arabic proverbs in general have these double meanings, so if you don’t know the language you won’t understand the context of it. If you just take it for its literal face value, it won’t have the critical meaning we were after. But it turned out that we didn’t even need to be that subtle. So we basically improvised once we were on set. Caram and I were having a lot of fun with this, just writing really stupid stuff that was also attempting to undermine the show in a more comical way.

Now I’m not at all a graffiti artist, so that’s also comical, that I was brought on as a graffiti artist and had never held a spray can in my life. I’m very familiar with politically subversive artistic tactics, but it was interesting for me to be represented as this graffiti artist when that’s not what I am at all.

Karl: We were misinterpreted in all kinds of ways. We were called a collection of Muslim street artists, and that doesn’t fit any of us.

Amin: We’ve played with it. We named ourselves the Arabian Street Artists because when the set designers were communicating with us via email, they kept referring to us as the Arabian street artists. We found this quite funny.

Karl: I became an Arab, even though I’m so German.

Amin: We also played with it in the text itself. These Orientalist texts like 1001 Arabian Nights — like “1001 Jokes,” or “1001 Calamities.” We played with that Orientalist depiction that was imposed on us.

Kapp: Once we realized that we could get away with it, we started becoming really spontaneous. We began to tell more jokes after being very serious in the beginning. It was very liberating.

Did anybody notice what you were writing on the walls? Or is it something you had to reveal afterwards?

Karl: I heard from one guy, who was working on set and read it but didn’t tell anyone, because he hated the show himself. Maybe others saw it and didn’t tell. All these lawyers and people looking at every frame, hundreds of people looking at it before it airs, and they have not one person who understands or reads Arabic?

Amin: We were asked to write signs for these makeshift storefronts in this supposed refugee camp. And Caram came up with this really great sign for a falafel joint, where he wrote, “Falafel and Alcohol Made with the Hands of Faiza.” And in his mind he created this whole character of Faiza being a Christian Syrian refugee remembering the old times, this whole comical narrative of who the characters of the refugee camp are.

And the next day we got an email from the set designer and she said, “Somebody just told me that you wrote falafel and alcohol on the sign — why would you do that?” So Caram responds to her very seriously, and says, “Well, you know, this store belongs to Faiza from Syria,” and he gives her this whole backstory of who Faiza is to justify what he put on the sign. After this email we didn’t hear anything back so we were thinking they probably noticed all the other graffiti we put in there as well. So we weren’t sure that any of it was going to show up — that they would have covered it up or taken it out in postproduction.

But then the episode airs, and that’s not what happened at all.

Amin: We were caught off guard. None of us were prepared. I was in the airport when Caram and Don sent me screenshots of the episode. We decided that we needed to write a statement as quickly as possible, which the three of us put together in a day or two. Then we posted it on my website and shared it through social media, and within an hour we started getting messages. The first big paper that wrote about it was Time magazine — they sent me an email saying we want some feedback and before we could even write them back they posted the article. And from there it went viral in a matter of hours.

Kapp: After that it was three days of absolute media mayhem. The phone was ringing about 50 times an hour.

Karl: I gave a shaky handheld phone interview with somebody, I didn’t know who, and it turned out to be AJ+. Three million people saw it.

Kapp: I was brought into a studio interview, watching the news, and I thought to myself — there’s stuff erupting in Palestine, there’s Nigerian stuff going on at the same time, and this is the headline story from the Middle East?

Karl: It was discomforting in a way, but at least it was something to make people laugh.

Amin: It wasn’t just that we made people laugh — it was also a form of criticism. It was in keeping with a point we were making, the idea that media manipulates the narrative, how the region is depicted. The fact that we became a big story kind of furthered our point of what the focus is on in the region. We tried to use the opportunity to talk about those issues — about what consequences a show like Homeland and many others have on an entire region — and not just about our media hack.

Karl: It started a discussion. You could see on CNN people talking about the racism of Homeland, and then good journalists started to write articles that went much deeper, that didn’t just talk about the hack but really about the issues we touched on.

So that’s what happened in the public sphere, but now there’s this other piece, this film you’ve been working on. Do you consider this all part of the same project?

Amin: When Caram and I were on set we were documenting the graffiti, but very secretly. We didn’t have the idea that we were going to make a film, we were just documenting. Then we got an email from Laura [Poitras] who expressed that she really enjoyed the hack and was straightforward about wanting to collaborate with us. From there we’ve been playing around with the footage, trying to further the point that we’ve already made, as well as address some of these deeper issues.

Do you consider yourselves filmmakers?

Kapp: We’ve all worked with film at some point in our lives. Heba uses it in her practice, Don has worked with an animation studio for awhile, and I’ve made a documentary film. But like graffiti, it’s not our main area of expertise. It’s another tool in our toolkit.

How do you employ it as a tool? And since it’s not your primary area of expertise, what have been some of the challenges posed by the form?

[All three start laughing.]

Kapp: You’re asking the most pertinent question to ask at this point.

Karl: We’re challenged for sure.

Kapp: Let’s put it this way: This is a very organic process that we’re engaged in. Basically from the time Laura contacted us, we’ve been working nonstop. Creating new versions, discussing what can be done with it. It’s the challenges of doing something professional that’s spontaneous.

Amin: We’re trying to live up to what we’ve already done. We feel that pressure in some ways. But we also want to use the opportunity to add to it, to not just reiterate what we’ve done. We want to deal with racism and visual representation, which is a very heavy story, but in a way that lightens them up a bit so that we can talk about them, which is why our graffiti hack worked in the first place. It was through that humor that people were able to access it on such a wide scale.

Kapp: This is also something we’re struggling really hard to achieve, the balance between this very sarcastic, very satirical, comedic voice and something on a slightly more abstract level. And to hear an actual Syrian talk about Syria, which doesn’t happen too often.

Whose voice is it in the film?

Kapp: The voice is from a Syrian man who knows many sides of the Syrian uprising. I got the idea that this is actually the guy to talk to. He knows all these facets of life in Syria of life during the revolution, then the whole aspect of being a refugee.

Amin: We’re trying to very carefully work with this text as a way of representing a particular voice, but also putting it within a real context, because this set and this series is surreal.

There is a sense of déjà vu, with that voice walking us through that imagery — Is it a movie set? Is it a real refugee camp? — that is really disorienting and compelling.

Karl: We tried to play with that, with what we called the first Arabian zombie movie, but without going over the top with it. The challenge right now is that I think we have too many ideas for a short movie.

Kapp: The greatest challenge for us is not to undermine what we already did and lessen it.

Who are you working with on the edit? Have you brought another member onto your team?

Karl: Ahmed Hanifa is the editor, and he’s also responsible for all the incredible graphic work.

Amin: Our ideas have been quite abstract, so he’s very integral to the process of deciding how the visuals might turn out. He’s helping us define what we’re doing — his creative energy is a big part of it.

Kapp: We mostly discuss the structural issues among ourselves. We had one discussion about what it might look like and he took it from there and he’s doing this amazing job.

You’ve rolled with things from the beginning, from a for-hire gig that became a media hack, and from managing a media storm to making a film of your own. How do you feel about going out into the world with this film?

Amin: The hope is that this instigates something. We hope it doesn’t end at this act that we did. Our hope is that we can continue this dialogue in other ways, and really address these serious issues.

Karl: It’s not something else or a part two, it’s an extension of what we did.

Kapp: We’re doing something called the Global Watermelon, which brings people together to have a good laugh and celebrate … I don’t know … watermelons.

What is that?

Amin: That was the biggest, most popular graffiti, the one the media most often talked about — “Homeland is a Watermelon.” [The word watermelon can be used to indicate that something is a sham or a joke.] So we’re claiming that. We’re claiming the watermelon. The revolution is on.

Kapp: The watermelon uprising.

Karl: Don’t tell him our secret plan!

Field_Notes

Interviews with the filmmakers, announcements and other news from Field of Vision.

See All →

Field of Vision has partnered with Doc Society and Sundance Institute to launch Independent Documentary: Filming in the Time of Corona, a new Risk Assessment Guide for independent documentary filmmakers who are considering starting or resuming production during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

Many filmmakers are asking themselves — and others in the documentary field — the big question: Should I be filming at all?

As our field discusses and debates this particular question — and its ethical and and public health implications — Field of Vision, Doc Society, Sundance Institute, and our co-signatories are offering a “living document” that provides guidelines, a checklist, and questions for independent documentary film teams to ask themselves, each other and their partners. It is our hope that this guide will help filmmakers make informed decisions and help keep everyone safe.

We’d like to acknowledge our gratitude to all of the the co-signatories of the Risk Assessment Guide, who helped consult on, and improve the guide: Asian American Documentary Network (ADoc), Asociación de Documentalistas de Puerto Rico (ADocPR), ACOS (A Culture Of Safety) Alliance, Ambulante, American Documentary/POV, Black Public Media, Brown Girls Doc Mafia, Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Chicken & Egg, DOCUBOX, Impact Partners, Indian Documentary Foundation, Latino Public Broadcasting, National Association of Latino Producers (NALIP), Pacific Islanders in Communications, Perspective Fund, Scottish Documentary Institute, Topic, Vision Maker Media: Native Stories for Public Broadcasting, and others.

This is a rapidly changing situation as well as a long-term reality. Those of us in the documentary field will need to be mindful, flexible, and diligent as our risk assessment continues to evolve in order to keep not only our community safe but also the communities we collaborate with in the stories we tell. This new normal is unprecedented, but our documentary community is nothing if not committed to responding to this profoundly unique situation.

The guide will be updated as the situation develops and as we receive additional feedback from filmmakers and support organizations.

Field_Notes

Interviews with the filmmakers, announcements and other news from Field of Vision.

See All →

This list has been compiled as a guide to help documentary filmmakers in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its impact on the filmmaking community.

We’re going to keep adding to this document as we find any more support available to the community.

We’re also hoping to provide more initiatives and services ourselves, and you’ll be able to find all of those as we add them on this page.

This guide is separated into the following sections:

  • Field of Vision Resources
  • General Data and Preparation
  • Industry Work Information
  • Relief Funds for Filmmakers & Small Business
  • Current Project Funding
  • COVID-19 Financial Help: Resource Lists and Guides
  • Industry COVID-19 News
  • Festival Status & Updates
  • Other Resources

This is a living document and will be updated as more information becomes available.

We'd like to acknowledge and thank the organizations who have made their own compilations of resources available to the community, including: Creative Capital, Brown Girls Doc Mafia, Washington Filmworks, Coronavirus Resource Kit, Collective Care By State, Dear Producer Blog, and Independent Cinema Office.

If you know of any other support available to filmmakers, please email saeedah@fieldofvision.org with information.

Field of Vision Resources

Mentorship & Consultation Service

Our virtual "office hours" service is available for filmmakers, and offers consultation on a variety of areas. We’re prioritising filmmakers who’ve been affected by festival postponements and production changes, but will also be available to offer a range of mentorship and consultation around a variety of areas.

We have booked up our first 200 allocated meetings, but are running a waitlist and hope to open up more slots asap. The waitlist is here

Documentary Freelancer Relief Fund

A $250,000 fund to provide grants for freelancers working in the Documentary field. The fund distributes unrestricted grants of up to $2000 to support personal financial needs during the COVID19 pandemic to freelancers who have experienced hardship from loss of income or opportunity as a result of the pandemic.

The fund is open to freelancers working. worldwide

The fund will open next on May 6th from 9am ET until May 8th at 6pm ET or until we reach 750 applications.

Information about the fund can be found here.

Field of Vision Project Funding

Field of Vision provides funding for both Short, Feature-length and Episodic projects at all stages of development, production and post-production. We have no deadlines and commission and fund on a rolling basis. We are looking for a strong artistic vision and approach and films that tell the stories of our world from new perspectives.

To see our criteria please visit our submissions guidelines here

Shorts

https://fieldofvision.org/submit-short

Features & Episodic

https://fieldofvision.org/submit-feature

General Data and Preparation

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, it is important to stay up to date with information related to public health and civic engagement. Below are sources for general information and statistics about the outbreak:

COVID-19 Data Pack from Information is Beautiful

Symptoms and Statistics

Emergency Kit- Al Jazeera

Legal rights in a quarantine

Industry Work Information

The nature of our industry makes work stoppage and social distancing difficult. Below are resources for filmmakers who have to travel, work on location, or work from home for the first time:

The Economic Impact of Coronavirus Survey

Travel and On Set Information

How to travel during the international coronavirus outbreak

On Set Tips: From Washington’s Film Worker (bottom of page)

Film and TV Charity Covid-19 Advice

Working from Home

Work from home securely

These are the internet providers offering free Wi-Fi during coronavirus

Avid free 90-day licenses

FREE Temporary Licenses and More to Help You Work from Home

How to Disinfect Camera Equipment and Spaces

Series of webinars for the suddenly remote workforce

Other Industry Resources

What You Should Know About Online Tools During the COVID-19 Crisis

Pro Bono PR Services for Films with Festival Cancellations

Ways to Help Artists and Creatives During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Ideas for responding to COVID-19 in the Film Industry

Cash Flow for Filmmakers Webinar

Please note: Specific filming restrictions can vary from state to state, country to country, and so on. You should check with your local film office regarding filming on location at this time.

Relief Funds for Filmmakers and Small Business

Below are new funds set up specifically to relieve filmmakers during this time:

Artist Relief - This fund will distribute $5,000 grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19. It was designed by Americans for the Arts to better identify and address the needs of artists.

BFI and the Film and TV Charity’s Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund - BFI and Film and TV Charity have partnered to create a new industry-backed Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund to help support the creative community in the UK.

Covid-19 Freelance Artist Resource - A list specifically designed to serve all types of freelance artists and those interested in supporting the independent artist community during this time

COVID-19 WOC Artists Relief Fund - This fund is specifically for women of color working artists or creatives that have been directly impacted financially in light of COVID-19.

Disability Arts New Commissions - Disability Arts Online is a UK-based small organisation, committed to supporting their community during this time they’ve allocated £8,000 to new commissions for artists with disabilities.

Facebook Small Business Grants Program - Facebook is providing assistance in cash grants and ad credits.

Freelancers Relief Fund - Freelancers Relief Fund will provide financial assistance of up to $1,000 to freelancers who are experiencing sudden hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether as a result of illness, lost work, or caregiving responsibilities.

Global Open Call for Art - Amplifier has created an open call for work that focuses on public health, flattening the curve, and mental health during this global crisis. The organization will award $1,000 apiece to 50 artists, with new winning works announced each week, starting the first week of April.

NYFA Emergency Grants - Resources for arts and cultural organizations based here in New York and elsewhere.

PEN Writers’ Emergency Fund - PEN America will distribute grants of $500 to $1,000 based on applications that demonstrate an inability to meet an acute financial need, especially one resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Rauschenberg Emergency Grants Program - Expected to be rolled out in late May or early June the grant will provide visual artists, media artists, and choreographers up to $5,000 worth of assistance for medical emergencies.

Relief Fund for Hollywood Support Staff - The entertainment organizations #PayUpHollywood, Scriptnotes Podcast and YEA! have teamed up to create the Hollywood Support Staff COVID-19 Relief Fund, aimed to assist LA-based support staffers affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns.

SAG-AFTRA Disaster Relief - Financial help to SAG-AFTRA members who have been impacted by this pandemic

Current Project Funding

Compiled Lists of Project Funding

American Documentary’s Filmmaker Resources - An extensive list of US and international funding sources

Doc Society Resource List - These links and documents are designed to connect you to the organisations you need to know to get your doc funded and make it all happen.

The EDN DOCalendar - The EDN DOCalendar provides an overview of what's happening in the international documentary industry.

International Documentary Association - Fiscal Sponsorship & Grants - A searchable database of available grants and fellowships

Upcoming Funding Deadlines

Here are a few upcoming deadlines for key funding opportunities. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, but we’ll be adding to it over time

April

SFFILM Documentary Film Fund

The SFFILM Documentary Film Fund (DFF) supports engaging documentaries in post-production which exhibit compelling stories, intriguing characters and an innovative visual approach.

Deadline: April 30th, 2020

Stage: Late Production and Post-Production

Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund

Provides funds to feature-length documentaries which highlight and humanize issues of social importance from around the world.

Deadline: April 30th, 2020

Stage: Production or Post-Production

May

Rogovy/Miller Packan Doc Fund

Supports Docs that address social issues that inspire others.

Stage: Advanced Development, Production or Post-Production

William Greaves Fund

Firelight’s William Greaves Fund is a research and development grant that supports nonfiction filmmakers of color based in the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Brazil.

Stage: Development

June

IDA/Pare Lorentz

2020 funding focus is on criminal justice.

Stage: Early Production

Sundance Doc Fund

The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund provides grants to filmmakers worldwide for feature-length projects that display artful and innovative film language and techniques, rigorous research, originality, project feasibility, contemporary cultural relevance, and the potential to reach and connect with its intended audience.

Stage: Development, Production & Post-Production

July

ITVS Open Call

The documentary can be on any subject, viewpoint or style as long as it is in active production already, as evidenced via a ten to fifteen-minute work in progress sample. *not a grant, co-production agreement.

Deadline: July and then re-opens again in Feb 2021.

Stage: Production

NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theater

NYC Women’s Fund provides grants to encourage and support the creation of digital, film, music, television, and live theatre content that reflects the voices and perspectives of all who identify as women.

Deadline:*Opens Summer 2020/check site for updates.

Stage: Post-Production/Finishing Funds

September

ITVS Diversity Development Fund

The Fund looks to support exceptional stories by filmmakers from diverse backgrounds: stories that take creative risks, inspire dialogue, and are rarely seen on public media.

Stage: Development

Puffin Foundation

The Puffin Foundation has sought to open the doors of artistic expression by providing grants to artists and art organizations who are often excluded from mainstream opportunities due to their race, gender, or social philosophy.

Stage: Any

October

Tribeca Film Institute Doc Fund

The TFI fund sponsors documentaries that spotlight contemporary themes with unique, creative filmmaking.

Deadline: Opens in the fall.

Stage: Any stage of development or production

Fledgling Film Fund

Most recently interested in climate change, but social justice/impact is at the core of the fund.

Deadline: Re-opens in the Fall. *check site for updates

Stage: Typically Post

Rolling Deadlines

Perspective Fund

Perspective provides grant support to independently produced documentary films that highlight social justice and human rights issues, that align with our priority areas.

Stage: Any stage of development or production

Catapult Film Fund

Catapult is not tied to any specific social issue agenda. We support and encourage filmmakers to tell a full range of stories on film in whatever form fits the film and artist.

Stage: Development

Cinereach Feature Film Fund

Cinereach awards grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to support any stage of feature film production

Stage: Any stage of development or production.

COVID-19 Financial Help: Resource Lists and Guides

Creative Capital List - Creative capital aggregated list of resources for artists working in all disciplines, as well as arts philanthropists, and arts professionals.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance - The US Department of Labor’s Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program provides temporary benefits to people who, due to a major disaster, lost or had their employment or self-employment interrupted.

Emergency Funds for Freelancers - A list of mutual aid funds that distribute emergency grants to artists, creative professionals and freelancers facing financial hardships

Firelight SBA Loan Consultation - With the support of the Perspective Fund, Firelight Media is offering 30 minute one-on-one consultations for filmmakers of color who are applying for US Coronavirus Federal Relief.

IFP Resources for Filmmakers - Independent Filmmaker Project has curated a list of resource pages and opportunities we’ve found particularly useful and inspiring in these uncertain times.

ITVS: Applying for Federal Coronavirus Relief as a Filmmaker - Firelight Media, IDA, and ITVS are hosting a series of hour-long webinars to learn the basics of applying for the various SBA programs.

National Endowment for the Arts: COVID-19 Resources for Artists and Arts Organizations - A list of organizations that are currently providing frequently updated news and resources for artists and arts organizations.

New York State: Resources for New York State Arts and Cultural Organizations - The New York State Council on the Arts is compiling and daily updating resources to support New York State's artists and arts organizations, including emergency funds, small business support, learning opportunities, management support, and discipline-specific resources.

NYC Assistance & Guidance for Businesses Impacted Due to Novel Coronavirus - Applications for the NYC Business Continuity Loan Fund may be paused for now, but there are other resources here for businesses operating in the five boroughs.

Southern Documentary Fund: Resources for Southern Filmmakers - A list of the websites, emergency funds and resource listings for Covid-19 response to artists and freelancers from the twelve Southern states that SDF serves

Small Business Guidance and Loan Resources - The US Small Business Administration’s (SBA) page for coronavirus funding options, CDC guidance for businesses and employers, and more.

Women Arts Media Coalition - A glossary and links to many resources, brought to you by the Women in the Arts & Media Coalition with the assistance WomenArts

Women Make Movies: Regional Resources - Many organizations are providing resources and support on the local level. Check out WWM’s list of regional resources to see if your local arts organization can help.

Remote Work Sites, Opportunities, Resources

Remote Work Opportunities

Remote Film Jobs Bechance

Fiverr

Upwork

Creative Commissions

Industry COVID-19 News

Break COVID-19 Industry Cancellations

Privilege and Pandemic: How COVID-19 Reveals the Documentary Sustainability Crisis

Most SXSW Shorts Are Streaming Free Thanks to Oscilloscope and Mailchimp

A Way of Life in Peril

Select Film Festivals and Indie Movies Figure Out Online Access

Alamo Drafthouse relief fund for furloughed staff members

Festival Status & Updates

Below you’ll find links to the latest festival news. Many festivals are still scheduled for the fall; we've included submission dates for several below. We’ve also included links to updates from festivals that have been cancelled and postponed. Please feel free to send updates to help our community stay informed.

And please check out our Google calendar for upcoming festival deadlines: https://bit.ly/3bnJnaQ

Festivals: Upcoming Deadlines

Toronto International Film Festival

Regular Deadline - May 29

Final Deadline - June 12

AFI Festival

Late Deadline - June 5

Open City Documentary Film Festival

Regular Deadline - April 24

Late Deadline - May 8

Camden International Film Festival

Regular Deadline - April 27

Late Deadline - May 26

Extended Deadline - June 29

DOC NYC

Late Deadline - May 1

Extended Deadline - July 1

IDFA

Early Deadline - May 1

Late Deadline - August 1

New Orleans Film Festival

Late Deadline - May 8

Extended Deadline - June 19

Jihlava

Late Deadline - May 31, 2020

Extended Deadline - July 31, 2020

DOK Leipzig

Deadline - July 7

List of Festivals that have been affected by the pandemic:

Cancelled

Full Frame

Hot Docs

Ebertfest

Sun Valley Film Festival

TCM Classic Film Festival

International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights

European media arts festival

The Miami Film Festival

San Diego Latino Film Festival

Ashland Independent Film Festival

Watsonville Film Festival

Indie Grits

Provincetown International Film Festival

International Uranium Film Festival (Almeria)

BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival

San Francisco International Film Festival

BAMcinemaFest

Cleveland International Film Festival

Ebertfest

SXSW

Garden State Film Festival

SIFF

Sydney Film Festival

BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival

SFFILM

Riverrun International Film

Fargo Film Festival

Columbus Documentary Week

Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival

Sun Valley Film Festival

Online Only

Thin Line

CPH:DOX

Garden State Film Festival

Films on Art Festival (FIFA) Montreal

Movies that Matter film festival

DC Environmental

Vilnius IFF

Visions du Reel

Environmental Film Festival (Washington, D.C.)

Cinema du Reel

NewportFILM

Greenwich International

AIFF

Postponed

Canadian Film Fest

New Directors New Films

Montclair Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival

Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

Beverly Hills Film Festival

Prague International Film Festival

Bentonville Film Festival

Red Sea International Film Festival

Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

Blackbird Film Festival

Cinequest

Dox on the Fox

Oxford Film Festival

Havana Film Festival New York

Cannes Film Festival

Sarasota Film Festival

Edinburgh Film Festival

Sonoma International Film Festival

International Uranium Film Festival (Rio)

Newport Beach Film Festival

Doc10 Film Festival

American Black Film Festival

Sofia Film Festival (Bulgaria)

Red Sea Film Festival (Saudi Arabia)

Seattle Jewish Film Festival

St Patrick's Film Festival London

Calgary Underground Film

QDoc Film Fest

Otff

AKS International Minorities

Kashish Mumbai Queer Film Festival

Northwestfest

Denver Women + Film

Cinema St. Louis Qfest

CAAMFest

Atlanta Film Festival

Salem Film Festival

Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival

Princeton Environmental Film Festival

Millennium Docs Against

ZagrebDox

Sebastopol Documentary

ACT Human Rights Film

IFF Boston

Maine Jewish Film Festival

OutShine Miami LGBT Film

Other Resources

Watch free IDFA movies

Tired of Netflix? Stream Experimental Films and Video Art

Sundance Collab Master Classes

Netflix Party

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MAY APPLICANTS: We have hit capacity for this round of funding. The application will re-open on June 10th at 9am ET. Please Note: You do not need to apply more than once. Anyone who doesn't receive funding from the previous round will be considered for the next.

Field of Vision and Topic Studios have created a $250,000 fund to provide grants for freelancers working in the Documentary field. The fund will distribute unrestricted grants of up to $2000 to support personal financial needs during the COVID19 pandemic to freelancers who have experienced hardship from loss of income or opportunity as a result of the pandemic

We will be disbursing funding in two different blocks. One in April, and one in May. We know that people’s situations are changing, and so wanted to ensure there were two different timings to accommodate evolving need.

Dates and Deadlines

April

The fund will be open for applications from Wed April 8th from 9am ET until Friday April 10th at 6pm ET or until we reach 1,000 applications. You can find the link to the application at the bottom of this page.

May

The fund will be open for applications from May 6th from 9am ET until May 8th at 6pm ET or until we reach 750 applications.

Notification of grant approval will be within 20 days of the fund closing, and payments will be processed within 30 days of notification of a grant. June The fund will be open for a final round of applications from June 10th from 9am ET until June 12th at 6pm ET or until we reach 500 applications

Criteria

Be able to demonstrate work as a freelancer within the documentary field in roles such as:

- Directors - Producers (This includes Associate Producers) - DPs - Editors - Sound Recordists/Designers - Researchers - Assistants - Critics & Writers who have covered documentaries - Publicists

Other freelance roles will be accepted if they meet the rest of the criteria

Provide a link (examples - IMDB page, Film Review, Direct link to project) that shows professional work in the field.

The fund is eligible for artists internationally, however you must be able to receive funding electronically (we are not able to issue checks), and priority will be given to countries and regions of which there isn’t government freelance assistance that you are eligible for. If you have not been eligible for government assistance, please state that in your application.

Students who are currently enrolled are not eligible.

People who are currently in employment are not eligible.

Please note: We have made every effort to reduce the amount of information, paperwork and requirements for funding and have tried to make the fund as open and accessible as possible. We are largely operating on a trust-based system and really urge you to work with us on being able to maintain this. It’s extremely important to us to be able to get funding to the freelancers that need it the most. Please answer all questions thoroughly and accurately so that we can ensure the funds are allocated to help as many people in need as possible.

Information Needed:

- Demonstrated professional work within the field - Usual income source - Description of situation - Maximum amount requested - Minimum amount requested - What the funding would be used for - Location

Please note: It’s important to include a maximum and minimum amount requested. Also, please note that grants may be taxable as income under the law that applies to you. We will issue Form 1099s for grants of more than $600.

The Process

As always, it is important to us that filmmakers lead how we operate and respond, and so the process will begin with a blind review of applications by a panel of filmmakers and producers, with a simultaneous review by the Field of Vision and Topic Studios teams. Those recommendations will then provide the recommended list for funding, which will then be reviewed once more before contacting the fund recipients.

We will only be contacting those who have been allocated funding.

On receipt of the grant acceptance please expect up to 30 days to receive payment. In order to issue the grants we will need a W-9 or W8-BEN tax form and an invoice which includes wire transfer details.

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UPDATE: As of March 23rd, our first 200 meeting slots have been booked. However, you can still sign up for the waitlist at the links below as we work to add additional appointment times. From Monday, March 16, the Field of Vision team will offer a virtual "office hours" service for the documentary community. As we’re in a moment of uncertainty, we want to make ourselves available to filmmakers in any way we can. We understand that the industry is experiencing a lot of upheaval, and that this is a particularly difficult time for freelancers and people working independently. 

We have allocated time every weekday until Friday, May 1st (we may extend depending on the situation) to have video meetings and calls. We’ll be prioritising filmmakers who’ve been affected by festival postponements and production changes, but will also be available to offer a range of mentorship and consultation around a variety of areas.

At Field of Vision we like filmmakers to lead and improve how we work. We were inspired by Jeanie Finlay, who has opened her time to mentoring after an upcoming film shoot had to be cancelled. Jeanie is working on a new film that we’re extremely honoured to be supporting. 

We are a small team and will try our best to make ourselves available to as many filmmakers and producers as possible. If any other members of our community would also like to donate their time, we are happy to facilitate this as well, so please feel free to reach out to us.

The areas which we would like to offer consultation on are below: 

  • General mentorship
  • Feedback on proposals and grant applications
  • Project Development
  • Online Distribution
  • Digital Engagement
  • Partnerships
  • Pitch Training
  • Editing
  • Technology & Digital Security
  • Distribution
  • Editorial Feedback
  • Festival Strategy
  • Career Guidance

This is not just open to filmmakers wanting to submit work for us to review, or filmmakers we have worked with before. If you feel you would benefit from time with our team on any project you’re working on please feel free to reach out. There are more details on how to take part below.

HOW TO SIGN UP

Meetings

If you would like to have a virtual meeting about any of the above, please follow this link to book a time: https://bit.ly/waitlist-fov-virtual-consult

(We will also be adapting to demand, and will create a waitlist, and/or increase availability if needed.)

Submissions & Pitches

While we are still managing and prioritizing our regular submissions system, we would also like to make time for project and pitch meetings.

To sign up for a pitch meeting with us, please make sure you have submitted through our system prior to the meeting, using the link below:  fieldofvision.org/submit

Once you have submitted through our submissions form, please sign up for a meeting slot here. NB: We won’t be able to take any meetings around potential projects until you’ve submitted through the system. If you’re not ready to discuss a specific project, or are looking for more general advice, please use the first form.

Please bear with us as we begin rolling out our virtual office hours service. This initiative came together very quickly, so there may be hiccups. We just wanted to offer something to start. 

As we navigate these uncertain times, what is certain is that we are a strong community of creatives and storytellers. We have shown time and again how resourceful we are, how dedicated we are to our craft, art form and field, and how supportive we can be of each other. 

Please stay safe everyone, The Field of Vision Team

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Update: Since this interview was first published, In the Absence was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject, making it the first-ever South Korean nominee for the category.

Director Yi Seung-Jun and producer Gary Byung-Seok Kam are the dynamic filmmaking duo behind In the Absence, a World Press Photo award-winning short about the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster in South Korea.

In the Absence begins on April 16, 2014, the day the MV Sewol, a passenger ferry carrying over 400 people—including school children—sank near Jeju Island. Over 300 people lost their lives that day. In the wake of this horrific incident, people across South Korea, including those whose loved ones had perished, sought transparency and accountability from national authorities. Years later, these families and their supporters are still fighting for answers for what happened on that fateful April morning.

In the Absence, which began production in 2017, combines intimate interviews with victims’ families, survivors, and rescue divers with breathtaking archival footage and audio recordings obtained from the South Korean authorities. The result is a compelling yet compassionate story of the people whose lives were forever changed by this tragedy.

In the Absence premiered at DOC NYC in 2018, where it won the grand jury prize in the festival’s shorts competition and later screened at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The film also took home first prize at this year’s World Press Photo Digital Storytelling Contest for Long Form. Shortly after, The New Yorker published In the Absence on its website and YouTube channel, where it has garnered over 1 million views. You can also watch the film on our website here.

Yi and Kam recently spoke to Field of Vision about choosing to make this ambitious and galvanizing film, how the conversation around Sewol has changed in the last five years, and much more.

The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

How did you decide to make a film about the Sewol ferry disaster?

Yi Seung-Jun: It was a Wednesday morning in 2014 when I first heard through the media that a ferry was sinking. At first, it seemed quite serious. Most of the passengers were high school students on their school trip. I was wishing that no one died or got seriously hurt. Soon, a news report came out that all the passengers were rescued, which turned out to be not true.

In the afternoon of that day, I watched TV news, which said more than half of the passengers were still trapped in the ferry, which was already under the water.

Since then, we heard about the ferry sinking every day, and many of the students seemed to be dead. It was really shocking and sad. My colleague directors visited the harbor closest to the site. They thought there must be something [suspicious] regarding the government’s reaction, and that something was being hidden by the government as well as by the mainstream media.

I was suggested by one of the directors to join the team, but at that time I was busy editing my feature documentary. Moreover, I did not think that I could press the record button in front of the enormous sorrow and fury of the victims’ or missing students’ families. When I saw any teenagers wearing school uniforms in a bus, on the street, I burst into tears without realizing.

From October 2016 to March 2017, there were a series of Candle Protests in South Korea, calling for the resignation of then-president Park Geun-hye. Millions of people, including myself, took part in the protests.

It was at the end of 2016 when Field of Vision contacted me, asking if I was interested in making a short, cinematic documentary about any story related to the protests, or the then-current situation. I talked with my producer, Gary, and we suggested the story of the Sewol ferry disaster to Field of Vision, how the disaster was connected to the protest, and why people were so angry about the handling and attitude of the government about the disaster.

It’s been almost three years, but still the victims’ families and the civilian divers were living in pain, with the truth still not revealed. However, some people made those arguments: we should not talk about the disaster anymore, the victims’ families have got enough compensation, let’s forget about it, do not make use of the disaster politically, and so on.

I came to think that if there is still broadly rooted pain in there, then we need to go back to the time when the pain had begun. We need to look at it and find out what caused the pain, and where it had started. That is why I decided to make this film.

Gary Byung-Seok Kam: I had this weird experience about six months before the tragedy happened. I got an email from an American producer who was ready to make a documentary about a mysterious photographer called Ahae. He described himself as a sportsman, post-structuralist photographer, artist, and nature lover. I was really, really curious about him. So I started to do some research. Later it came out that he was the owner of the ferry company.

The next year, in April, actually, while I’m still doing research, I actually booked [the Sewol ferry] with my partner. It is the only ferry from Seoul to Jeju Island. But the last page [on the website] was all broken. The next day, one of my friends said, "Oh, why bother to go all the way by motorbike? You can just send the motorbike [via airplane]."

So I had second thoughts. I just booked an airplane. The next day, before I went out, I saw news that the ferry was sinking. For a moment, I had goosebumps all over my body. I realized that that was the ferry that I booked.

You're saying that you were almost on that boat? But by some chance happening, you weren't?

GK: Yes. Only two people among the victims’ families know this. Because I could never tell them that I was lucky and didn't get on. After that moment, I always felt that I needed to do something.

First of all, I didn't like the way the media treated the tragedy in general. Three months before Field of Vision approached [the film’s director Seung-Jun Yi], actually one of the victims’ family members contacted me, asking if I'd be interested in looking into all this.

So we had a talk. I just told them, “I'm sorry, I'm not capable of finding out the truth, not at this moment, but I will find out.” The government definitely deserves the criticism, but I just want to take one step back and see. It was just too emotional.

[The victim’s family member] liked the idea. We kept developing the idea, not in a hurry. Then Field of Vision contacted Seung-Jun, so Seung-Jun and I discussed. He knew that I had started thinking about a Sewol documentary. We had a long talk. The Candle Protest itself is a great subject, but it's too deep for a short documentary. So we both thought that the Sewol case could also be a strong subject as it was one of the main issues that brought people to join the Candle Protest.

The film is very, very meaningful for, and also to the victims’ family association. Even though it was a really tragic story, they are very happy that the story gets to be shared with a global audience, a bigger audience.

I actually wanted to touch a bit on that. So the film has been shown at several festivals. It's now online at the New Yorker and also on our site. So what has it been like to share this particular story with a larger international—and now digital—audience? What has that been like for you, for Seung-Jun, for the families?

GK: First of all, the victims’ family association—the families—they are very, very happy. I met them right after the New Yorker’s YouTube video hit more than a million [views]. So I told them that happened. They were very, very happy. And they were very surprised. It seemed that most of the comments were written in English. I was sitting with them in a café, and I read the comments. They were moved, and they were pleased to find that the comments were from all different countries, and are actually not so different from what they have gotten from Korean audiences. They were glad that the pain they are going through, the tragedy caused by the incompetence of parliament could be actually [communicated] well with a bigger audience. It's not that they want to be an object of pity. They want people to know what happened.

Any innocent, ordinary citizen of any society could fall victim to tragedy. That's what the [families] want to tell [the world]. That's why every citizen [should] want to show more interest in the safety and regulations for the society, any society. That's what they wanted. They wanted to convert the tragedy into a platform for every society.

Do you think that public discourse around the Sewol atrocity has changed in the last five years? If so, how?

YS: As far as I know, public discourse has not changed a lot. I mean, there were already people who disliked to talk about this issue. Most of them were supporters of the then-government, the then-president and the ruling conservative party. And politicians put a kind “scarlet letter” on anyone, any media, any group, any politician who supported the victims’ families, who criticized the government’s reactions. The yellow ribbon is the symbol of the slogan, “Do not forget the day: April 16th, 2014.” People used to put a yellow ribbon sticker on their cars. I also used to put a yellow ribbon sticker on the rear window of my car. Once, a man asked me what it was and he said it’s better to take it down. I asked why, and he just said, “Well… it is not good to put this ribbon on.” That was it. I was lucky because he did not keep asking. However, there have been people who insulted the victims’ families or were aggressive with people who support the victims’ families, the civilian divers, etc. Their attitude has not changed at all.

But the media has changed after the power shift, I mean, after the then-president, Park Geun-Hye resigned from her office, and the opposite party candidate became the new president of South Korea.The attitude of media has changed. Most of the mainstream media were with the then-government. They did not report the issue well. They wanted to hide as much as possible. But due to the power shift, mainstream media began dealing with many kinds of stories related to the ferry sinking disaster. This project was supported by the governmental fund, and I applied for the fund after the then-president resigned from her office. It would not have been possible to get funded if it were under the previous government.

GK: We cannot treat this as a car accident. We have to find out who's still [accountable]. At this moment, only one person [has been charged]: the captain of a patrol boat. So the families, and those who support these families, they demand justice. Not as revenge, but without setting a good example of punishment or taking responsibility, there won’t be a first step to be a better society in the future.

In the Absence features a lot of archival footage and audio from a variety of sources. There's stuff from broadcast TV, conversations between government officials, and the crew on the ship, cell phone videos from school children on the ship, and so on. Can you tell me about the process of finding those materials and then deciding which pieces of footage or audio to use? Because it seemed like there was such a large set of data that you were able to pull from.

YS: As I said, some of my director colleagues had been filming the situation after the ferry sinking, establishing the 416 Documenting Group. The aim of the group was not only to make their own film or TV program related to the disaster but also to support other directors making documentaries regarding the issue. I talked with them about this project, and they eagerly decided to support this project. They’ve already got tons of footage, some were filmed by them, some were obtained with the help of media, congressmen, et cetera. We were provided with all of that footage. And the cell phone videos provided by the association of the victims’ families, with their permission.

When I looked through all of the footage, I first decided to make a timeline of the incident itself, to make the audience feel what was going on on that day.

GK: The most important thing was to secure the footage from the actual Coast Guard choppers, the patrol boat footage, and also all the conversations among government agencies. Actually, that was only distributed to major broadcasters, just for some parts for the news report. As independent filmmakers, it was extremely difficult for us to secure the footage, but the family association really helped us in contacting one of the congressmen. He was a very well known human rights lawyer. He represented the family association for a long time, and later was elected as a congressman.

Through his office, we could secure the footage and the government recordings. We contacted the broadcasters, and they refused to share footage with us. So the only possible way was to have someone in parliament help us clear that copyright issue. The government will never raise any questions with copyright issues to Congress. So that's how we secured most of the footage.

I wanted to transition into asking you about the film having these really incredible moving interviews with the victims’ families as well as a few of the divers. What was it like to film with them? How did you gain their trust?

YS: The association of the victims’ families decided to support this project officially. We always discussed what to film and whom to interview with the association. One of the most important rules of mine on the shooting location is to try not to [impose]. I just let my characters be there, stay as they are, move as they want. Then I just keep observing them, capturing important moments or emotions as they are. Through this process, characters do not feel bothered, and I do believe that it helps me to gain the characters’ trust.

GK: At the time, many family members were about to go to an island very close to where the ferry sank. There are no hotels or anything, only several private residents of fishermen. It's only two kilometers away from the mainland. We were allowed to join, not knowing where to stay, what to eat… And we ended up staying on a floor, and spent two days on the island with many family members.

It was really depressing, first of all, to watch them because—especially the fathers—no one could sleep without drinking. Some were drinking two liters of Korean vodka [each night]. At the same time some were very hostile to journalists—any camera. They felt they had been betrayed by journalists for many years, for almost three years.

When the Sewol ferry was brought into the port [at Jindo], we once again stayed three days [with the family]. We did the same thing. We didn't ask anything.

The family members took turns watching [the port] because they didn't trust the government [to not remove evidence]. They set up a watchtower. At least three to five people, family members, were always on the island at once for three years.

What was it like for you and Seung-Jun to be around so much grief and pain throughout this whole process? How did it change your perspective on the incident and in general?

GK: I am sure that Seung-Jun had a more stressful time, but for me, I have this strong feeling of responsibility to do something for them, and making a film and making their story into a documentary was the only thing I could do for them. And also watching their grief, anger, and frustration, actually, as a filmmaker, it was a great lesson. That makes me think again about how we as filmmakers should treat the people in pain, when we hold the camera or when we want to make stories; to be respectful and hold that distance. Seung-Jun was the only independent filmmaker the family allowed to get in [to the port]. After a family member managed to get a personal look at the salvaged ferry and then came out of the gate, this TV cameraperson ran to her and put the camera right in her face. One of the fathers shouted and swore at camera, "Are you happy? Are you happy that you could shoot this woman crying and in pain? This is what you want?"

When the mothers came out of the gate, Seung-Jun just [fell] back. We moved aside just enough to get the whole scene.

What do you hope future audiences will learn, gain, or feel when watching this film?

YS: We, human beings, are vulnerable to “time.” As time goes on, we forget many things. Time makes us dull. It is like a black hole absorbing our [emotions]. Isn’t it scary to become dull? I want people to remember the day, remember what happened on that day and what was going on, what we told each other. And I hope people do not forget that if some system fails to operate correctly, it results in terrible pain in the end. The pain might not be curable. Please wake up and keep your eyes on [those responsible].

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