Subject Matter, a recently-launched nonprofit organization that supports social issue documentary films and other nonprofits that work on its featured topics, announced their inaugural grantees, awarding a total of $120,000 to four feature-length documentaries and four of the films’ coinciding nonprofits. Subject Matter launched in July, spearheaded by former Tribeca Film Institute leaders Amy Hobby, David Earls, and Colleen Hammond.
The inaugural grantees were determined by a selection committee that included Subject Matter board members actor Jeffrey Wright, entrepreneur Lily Band, Picture Motion and Kinema founder Christie Marchese, documentary director and producer Ferne Pearlstein and social justice and public health grant maker Julia Greenberg, along with guest jurors filmmaker Shola Lynch and film programmer José Rodriguez.
“All of the films the jury considered were formidable,” Wright said. “But we were especially moved by the handling of the stories in the four selected projects and felt that they are intimate, powerful and much-needed windows on some of the most challenging but solvable issues our country is currently facing.”
The projects funded focus on a number of urgent U.S. social issues, including the maternal mortality crisis impacting Black and Brown communities, the betrayal, assimilation and extermination of the Lakota Nation, the growing epidemic of hate and extremism and the harms of mass incarceration on women and communities.
“Many people feel overwhelmed with the problems in our society and have gotten trapped in cycles of empathy fatigue,” Hammond remarked. “The corresponding nonprofit grantees offer audiences an opportunity to support strategies that aim to create a more just and loving world.”
In addition to funding, grantees will have the opportunity to engage audiences and potential supporters through screenings with Subject Matter. The Subject Matter team will also work with each grantee to provide additional resources based on their unique needs, including access to networks, screening rooms, fundraising support and more.
Read below for the full list of 2022-2023 Subject Matter grantees:
“Aftershock,” directed by Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee
Produced by Paula Eiselt, Tonya Lewis Lee and Lucas Guilkey
Following the preventable deaths of their loved ones due to childbirth complications, two families galvanize activists, birth-workers and physicians to reckon with one of the most pressing American crises of our time – the US maternal health crisis.
The film will receive $20,000 to pay for travel, accommodations and stipends for the protagonists of the film to participate in events and screenings across the country to create dialogue and raise awareness around the maternal mortality crisis that are specifically impacting Black and Brown communities.
The saveArose Foundation is a nonprofit co-founded by Bruce McIntyre III and Renita Isaac that seeks to eliminate the systemic flaws within maternal health care. They will receive $10,000 to support their Womb Bus program, a mobile health and wellness hub providing perinatal education, reproductive and nutrition counseling, and a wide range of program activities, as well as increased access to supplementary bodywork modalities to historically underserved neighborhoods.
“Lakota Nation vs United States,” directed by Jesse Short Bull and Laura Tomaselli
Produced by Benjamin Hedin and Phil Pinto
Lakota Nation vs. United States chronicles the Lakota Indians’ quest to reclaim the Black Hills, sacred land that was stolen in violation of treaty agreements. A searing, timely portrait of resistance, the film explores the ways America has ignored its debt to Indigenous communities, and ponders what might be done today to repair the wrongs of the past. Narrated by and featuring the poetry of Layli Long Soldier.
The film will receive $20,000 to support marketing and outreach leading up to their theatrical release in the summer of 2023.
Lakota People’s Law Project
Lakota People’s Law Project is a a nonprofit co-director by Chase Iron Eyes, Esq. and Daniel Paul Nelson that is dedicated to reversing the slow genocide of the Lakota People and destruction of their culture. The Lakota People’s Law Project partners with Native communities to protect sacred lands, safeguard human rights, promote sustainability, reunite indigenous families and more. The project will receive $10,000 to support their campaign to protect the Black Hills from exploitation and mining.
“Refuge,” directed and produced by Din Blankenship and Erin Bernhardt
Refuge is a story about fear and love in the American South. A leader in a white nationalist hate group finds healing from the people he once hated – a Muslim heart doctor and his town of refugees. Chris is a husband and father, a veteran, and until recently, a leader in the KKK. He started hating Muslims when the planes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11, but is forced to confront his hate when he receives a text from Muslim refugee, Heval. Refuge illustrates the false promises of hate and reveals where real and lasting refuge is found.
The film will receive $20,000 to hire an Impact Producer who will set-up non-theatrical screenings in communities across the country where instances of division, racism and hate speech have been on the rise.
Parents for Peace
Parents for Peace is a nonprofit co-founded by Melvin Bledsoe and Monica Holley, executive directed by Myrieme Churchill. Through their confidential helpline, cross-sector partnerships and public awareness campaigns, Parents For Peace cultivates, develops and advocates for sustainable ways to counter extremism. The nonprofit will receive $10,000 to support their 12-step Trauma and Recovery Program which helps individuals avoid and recover from addiction to extremism and develop healthy coping skills for processing trauma.
“A Woman on the Outside,” directed by Zara Katz and Lisa Riordan Seville
Produced by Zara Katz, Lisa Riordan Seville and Kiara C. Jones
Kristal Bush is young, vibrant and driven to keep families in Philadelphia connected to their incarcerated loved ones. But when her father and brother return from prison, she confronts the ultimate question: can she reunite her own family?
The documentary will receive $20,000 to help launch their impact campaign, which will include providing advocacy groups the opportunity to host their own AWOTO screenings, with optional supporting materials including a screening guide, hosting community screenings and talk-backs to bring together directly-affected families.
Essie Justice Group
Essie Justice Group is a nonprofit founded and executive directed by Gina Clayton-Johnson. Their mission is to harness the collective power of women with incarcerated loved ones to end mass incarceration’s harm to women and communities. The nonprofit will receive $10,000 to support one of their Healing to Advocacy Program cohorts, a network of Black and Brown women with incarcerated loved ones disrupting the cyclical impacts of the criminal justice system through breaking isolation, healing trauma, leadership development, organizing and building political power.
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