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Ten Nonfiction Films Combine Art, Science, Storytelling: Sundance Institute | Sandbox Fund Grantees

The nonprofit Sundance Institute and Sandbox Films, a new mission-driven documentary studio, selected and announced their latest cohort of filmmakers and projects supported by the Sundance Institute | Sandbox Fund, an initiative that elevates the voices of independent artists working at the intersection of science and nonfiction storytelling as they produce and promote work and discourse that highlights the overlap of science and art.

The ten selected project teams will receive non-recoupable grants and access to Sundance Institute’s year-round continuum of support, which can help address creative, financial and production issues. In addition to this tailored project support, the grantees will receive opportunities for engagement events where they can connect with Sundance’s network of alumni and creative advisors and Sandbox Films ’s roster of renowned scientists, as well as enthusiastic audiences.

Hajnal Molnar-Szakacs, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Fund Director, said, “These visionary storytellers are working at a crucial intersection in this moment — one that centers artful nonfiction storytelling and scientific exploration and thinking. We’re pleased to champion their works, and look forward to leveraging our collective expertise to help them develop, shape and uplift their stories as they come together.”

Jessica Harrop, Head of Production, Sandbox Films, said, “We are thrilled to announce this new cohort of Sandbox Fund awardees, each of whom is expanding the boundaries of science storytelling in their own way. It is so important to us at Sandbox Films to reimagine what science stories can look like. We could not be more excited to see what this diverse group of artists creates.”

The 2020 Sundance Institute | Sandbox Fund Grantees are:

DEVELOPMENT

The Age of Loneliness (USA, Canada, Germany)
dir. Jenni Morello
prod. Leslie Norville and Bennett Elliott

It is estimated that over 40% of the planet’s insect species are flying towards a catastrophic demise. As the world enters the 6th wave of extinction, we need to prepare ourselves to live in a flowerless world, with silent forests and the collapse of functioning ecosystems. If we lose insects, who is to say humans aren’t next? The Age of Loneliness is a look at the global fight to stop the impending insect apocalypse.

Darwin’s Baby (Spain)
dir. Shenny A. Madrigal and Daniel B. Arvizu
prod. Shenny A. Madrigal and Daniel B. Arvizu

Darwin’s Baby follows the venture of an illustrator and a science-philosopher in their pursue to draw a user’s manual for the human mind. A map of where the inbuilt program ends and the self begins.

End of Land (USA, Russia)
dir. Sara Dosa
prod. Shane Boris, Anna Fitch, Elijah Stevens

End of Land is an observational portrait of apocalypse, myth, and the human relationship with non-human nature, told through the explorations and interpretations of a mysterious new phenomenon: exploding methane deposits that open portals to the past and leave vast craters on Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula.

Finding Your Voice (USA)
dir. Raúl O. Paz-Pastrana and Daniel Chein
prod. Raúl O. Paz-Pastrana and Daniel Chein

From vocalists to emcees, educators to artificial intelligence, our voices are something that define much of who we are, but which we often take for granted. Finding Your Voice explores our unique identity rooted in voice through the lens of science, technology, and culture, and the universal journey to find it.

Red Moon (UK)
dir. Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian
prod. Luke W. Moody

Old worlds decolonise future worlds, migrant bodies prepare to settle on the moon. Through role-play, magic, and doppelgängers, Red Moon offers an experimental vision and template for future diasporas beyond Earth. How will the first children of the moon understand origins, borders and territories?

Testosterone: The Movie (USA)
dir. Kimberly Reed
prod. Louise Rosen

In an eye-opening exploration of the gender spectrum, humans increasingly defy binary categories, while science has learned to measure biological sex by myriad factors. Is it time to socially redefine gender in more complex ways, beyond our narrow ideas of chromosomes and testosterone?

Wilfred Buck (Canada)
dir. Lisa Jackson
prod. Lisa Jackson, Alicia Smith

Wilfred Buck is a hybrid feature centering on a Cree elder who’s been called the Indiana Jones of Indigenous star knowledge. Weaving together his harrowing past and his present life with sky stories, we’ll move between the gutter and the stars to unpack colonization’s impact on Indigenous ways of knowing.

PRODUCTION

Brigidy Bram: The Kendal Hanna Story (Bahamas, USA)
dir. Laura Gamse, Toby Lunn
prod. Kareem Mortimer, Bernard Myburgh

Bahamian painter Kendal Hanna endured years of 1950s-era electroshock therapy before emerging to create a body of work described as “a gold mine.” Artists and scientists collaborate to explore Hanna’s story and the forces that threatened to erase his memory, his work, and his name from history.

Nocturnes (India)
dir. Anirban Dutta and Anupama Srinivasan
prod. Anirban Dutta

In the dense forests of the Eastern Himalayas, a young woman scientist studies moths. A young man rediscovers the forest he has grown up with. The film follows their fascinating journey into the secret world of moths, inviting us to witness their beauty, their fragility in the face of rising temperatures and our own hidden connection with them.

Planet Nine (USA)
dir. Daniel J. Clark
prod. Caroline Clark, Nick Andert

The world’s greatest astronomers have recently calculated that a new planet, never before seen by human eyes, lurks at the edge of our solar system. Now, the race is on to find it, and whoever succeeds will be responsible for one of the most momentous discoveries in history.

For more information about the partnership go to www.sundance.org/sandbox-fund. For more information about Sandbox Films go to www.sandboxfilms.org

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Telling Untold Stories: Streaming Service ‘Hissbox’ Launches With A Grant Of $25,000 For Young Filmmakers

A brand-new streaming service Hissbox, launched today, 11th of September 2020. With a focus on ‘telling untold stories,’ the streaming service offers over 400 pieces of content including world-class originals, blockbuster films, series, documentaries and much more.

According to the Nigerian born, Los Angeles based CEO Chinecherem Eze, “The concern with streaming services today is that despite an extensive volume of offerings, there is still a lack of diversity in available content. We are very excited to say that Hissbox is here to fill this gap.” she said.

“Our focus from inception has been a platform where everyone can find content that reflects their uniqueness. We are telling, sharing and searching for exceptional stories from every corner of the world; there is a waiting audience for those stories and Hissbox will reflect that reality.” She added.

To kick off their search for ‘unique stories’ across the world, Hissbox has also announced ‘The Hissbox Grant’, funded by the Hissbox Diversity Film Fund (HDFF) which gives producers up to $25,000 in funding for the production of TV series, Feature Films and Documentaries. The HDFF looks out for filmmakers from diverse backgrounds with emphasis that stories are expected to be exceptional: stories with creative risks, which inspire dialogue, and are rarely seen on public media.

More information about the grant can be found on www.hissbox.com.

Starting with free 1 month access on the platform, Hissbox provides a tiered offering that gives subscribers broad access to Hissbox across web, mobile and connected-TV devices. Hissbox is also very pocket friendly with monthly subscriptions from $3.99 only.

About Hissbox

Founded by Nigerian born, L.A based serial entrepreneur Chinecherem Eze, Hissbox is a streaming platform, film production and distribution company primarily focused on projecting untold, neglected and less told stories. The platform aims to change the narrative of how stories are told by funding original content, collaborating and networking with industry leaders, filmmakers and relevant organizations. It is supported on all devices including connected Television screens Desktop, Laptops, Tablets and on Mobile devices

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Academy Establishes Representation And Inclusion Standards For Oscars Eligibility

Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars® eligibility in the Best Picture category, as part of its Academy Aperture 2025 initiative. The standards are designed to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience. Academy governors DeVon Franklin and Jim Gianopulos headed a task force to develop the standards that were created from a template inspired by the British Film Institute (BFI) Diversity Standards used for certain funding eligibility in the UK and eligibility in some categories of the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) Awards, but were adapted to serve the specific needs of the Academy. The Academy also consulted with the Producers Guild of America (PGA), as it presently does for Oscars eligibility.

“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them. The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality,” said Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson.  “We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”

For the 94th Oscars (2022) and 95th Oscars (2023), submitting a confidential Academy Inclusion Standards form will be required for Best Picture consideration, however meeting inclusion thresholds will not be required for eligibility in the Best Picture category until the 96th Oscars (2024).

For the 96th Oscars (2024), a film must meet TWO out of FOUR of the following standards to be deemed eligible:

STANDARD A:  ON-SCREEN REPRESENTATION, THEMES AND NARRATIVES
To achieve Standard A, the film must meet ONE of the following criteria:

A1. Lead or significant supporting actors

At least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.

  • Asian
  • Hispanic/Latinx
  • Black/African American
  • Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
  • Middle Eastern/North African
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

A2. General ensemble cast

At least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles are from at least two of the following underrepresented groups:

  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

A3. Main storyline/subject matter

The main storyline(s), theme or narrative of the film is centered on an underrepresented group(s).

  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD B: CREATIVE LEADERSHIP AND PROJECT TEAM
To achieve Standard B, the film must meet ONE of the criteria below:

B1. Creative leadership and department heads 

At least two of the following creative leadership positions and department heads—Casting Director, Cinematographer, Composer, Costume Designer, Director, Editor, Hairstylist, Makeup Artist, Producer, Production Designer, Set Decorator, Sound, VFX Supervisor, Writer—are from the following underrepresented groups:

  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

At least one of those positions must belong to the following underrepresented racial or ethnic group:

  • Asian
  • Hispanic/Latinx
  • Black/African American
  • Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
  • Middle Eastern/North African
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

B2. Other key roles

At least six other crew/team and technical positions (excluding Production Assistants) are from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. These positions include but are not limited to First AD, Gaffer, Script Supervisor, etc. 

B3. Overall crew composition

At least 30% of the film’s crew is from the following underrepresented groups:

  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD C:  INDUSTRY ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITIES
To achieve Standard C, the film must meet BOTH criteria below:

C1. Paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities

The film’s distribution or financing company has paid apprenticeships or internships that are from the following underrepresented groups and satisfy the criteria below:

  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

The major studios/distributors are required to have substantive, ongoing paid apprenticeships/internships inclusive of underrepresented groups (must also include racial or ethnic groups) in most of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity. 

The mini-major or independent studios/distributors must have a minimum of two apprentices/interns from the above underrepresented groups (at least one from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group) in at least one of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

C2. Training opportunities and skills development (crew) 

The film’s production, distribution and/or financing company offers training and/or work opportunities for below-the-line skill development to people from the following underrepresented groups:

  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD D: AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT
To achieve Standard D, the film must meet the criterion below:

D1. Representation in marketing, publicity, and distribution

The studio and/or film company has multiple in-house senior executives from among the following underrepresented groups (must include individuals from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups) on their marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.

  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group:
    • Asian
    • Hispanic/Latinx
    • Black/African American
    • Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
    • Middle Eastern/North African
    • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
    • Other underrepresented race or ethnicity
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

All categories other than Best Picture will be held to their current eligibility requirements. Films in the specialty feature categories (Animated Feature Film, Documentary Feature, International Feature Film) submitted for Best Picture/General Entry consideration will be addressed separately.

Academy Aperture 2025 is the next phase of the Academy’s equity and inclusion initiative furthering the organization’s ongoing efforts to advance inclusion in the entertainment industry and increase representation within its membership and the greater film community.

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Mr & Miss Albinism South Africa Pageant Finalists Announcement

The Godfrey Mphatswe Foundation would like to announce the first Mr & Miss Albinism South Africa Pageant which is scheduled to take place on Saturday, 27th March 2021 in Gauteng. The pageant will be utilized not only as a platform to uplift, but to inspire and improve the lives of those who struggle with Albinism. In sub-Saharan Africa, people with Albinism face multiple challenges which restrict their daily lives. These include visual impairments and extreme vulnerability to skin infections and cancer due to the lack of melanin in their skin. As a result, almost all of them die of skin cancer before the age of 40. Amongst this, there has been a discovery that has revealed that there exist multiple cases of discrimination in places of employment and an issue of acceptance of those with Albinism. With this movement of acceptance and bringing forward a community of a diverse group of people, we are instilling diversity and opening a platform for them that will not only spark social acceptance but “Self- Acceptance” which is what the people of the nation should ultimately strive for. Mr & Miss Albinism contestants will stand as role models for the future aspiring models and instill lifelong confidence. Together we stand against discrimination, stereotype and stigma against Albinism.

The individuals who will be crowned as Mr & Miss Albinism South Africa will dedicate their time to serving South Africa through charity work, youth empowerment initiatives and other incredible acts of kindness. This pageant will prioritise building strong, confident, passionate and ambitious leaders. The contestants’ skills, attitudes and behaviour will be put to the test to determine the deserving candidate.

The founding CEO of Godfrey Mphatswe Foundation is calling all the South Africans and the neighbouring countries to support their prospective King and Queen by voting online at pageantvoteafrica.com/pageants/95. Gee, as he is affectionately known is one of South Africa’s self-made entrepreneur and Mr South Africa Finalist 2016. He was declared Mr SA Board member during the Mr SA 2016 competition. Amongst many other achievements, Gee is the former Face of BogartMan, an international model whom was invited to represent South Africa at Ghana-Accra Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in 2018, an ambassador for Niteon Capital & Advertising in Nigeria and he continues to travel around Africa through his modelling career and pageantry adjudicating invitations.

The closing date for voting is on Friday, 26th March 2021. For more information, sponsorships and partnership contact us at albinismpageant@gmail.com / info@godfreymphatswefoundation.com or WhatsApp 071 964 7723 alternatively call 083 341 8420

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MultiChoice Partners With Government And Civil Society Organisations For GBV Initiative

In honour of Women’s Month, MultiChoice Group (MCG) has partnered with the Department of Social Development (DSD), People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) and the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation to speak out against the injustices of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

The partnership aims to educate and mobilise citizens in order to eradicate acts of violence against women and children. To advance these efforts, MCG will use its DStv general entertainment channels and social media platforms to amplify the partnership’s messages in the fight against GBV. MultiChoice will broadcast a message from the DSD that profiles some of the work it is doing to give women voices, in the face of such intolerable cruelty.

“South African women have driven political change and carried entire families on their backs for generations. However, the unacceptably high levels of gender-based violence and femicide remain a major barrier for women and girls to reach their full potential. The recent annual crime statistics show an increase in the number of violent sexual crimes against women and girls compared with the year before. Of major concern is that most of these crimes go under-reported and overlooked, leaving many victims and survivors with life-long trauma. The partnership with Multichoice will enable us to reach a wider audience in our efforts to prevent violence before it starts while at the same ensuring that all women are aware of the critical social services they have at their disposal aimed at protection, counselling and rehabilitation. We stand alongside our vulnerable citizens for a battle nobody should have to fight alone,” says Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu.

The Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation was founded in celebration of the life of Uyinene Mrwetyana, aimed at empowering young people to stand against violence. The foundation aims to prevent GBV through advocacy and awareness campaigns, community education, holistic support services and a youth leadership development programme. “We are driven to honour the name of Uyinene and keep her spirit alive by ensuring that no woman or child ever suffers the fate that she did,” says Foundation Managing Director, Masimbulele Buso. “This year, we encourage women and children from across the country, to speak out – we will not rest until gender-based violence is eradicated from our land.”

Established more than 40 years ago, POWA was the first organisation in South Africa to set up a shelter for abused women in 1981 and pioneered second stage (or transitional) housing for women in 2009 in Gauteng. They now work with other shelters around the country, counselling and legal advice for survivors of gender-based violence. POWA offers direct counselling services, legal advice, court support, sheltering as well as skills development for survivors of GBV. It operates countrywide though its offices, with its shelter services in Gauteng.

“We welcome the opportunity to reach millions of households across the country with a message that should be so obvious that we should not have to utter it: any form of violence is wrong – but violence against women and children must end immediately,” says Mary Makgaba, Chief Executive Officerof POWA. “We condemn all forms of violence against women.”

“There should be no place or tolerance in our society for anyone and any behaviour that hurts and marginalizes women,” says Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice Group CEO. “Using our DStv platform and partnerships with organisations that are working everyday to protect and save women, we hope to add a powerful voice that says enough is enough.”

MultiChoice has worked with the partner organisations to develop on-air educational material aimed at driving awareness and curtailing acts of violence against women and children. Starting in the month of August, through its DStv platform and reach, MultiChoice will place a spotlight on the work of these partner organisations and messages in line with the call to combat GBV in South Africa.