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IF/Then Shorts & The Redford Center Announce Winners of Nature Access Short Film Pitch at DOC NYC Festival

Tonight, The Redford Center and IF/Then Shorts, announced Between Earth and Sky as the…

Nov 21, 2021

Tonight, The Redford Center and IF/Then Shorts, announced Between Earth and Sky as the winner of the inaugural IF/Then x The Redford Center Nature Access Pitch event at DOC NYC Festival, celebrating stories that spotlight the benefits of time spent outdoors. 

Between Earth and Sky, directed by Andrew Nadkarni, will receive a $25,000 production grant and a year of wraparound mentorship from IF/Then. The pitch team of Nadkarni and producer Swetha Regunathan was awarded the grand prize by an esteemed jury of film industry luminaries and environmental experts at DOC NYC Festival. Also selected as honorable mentions by the jury of the Nature Access Pitch – Fruit of Soil and Makana o ke Mele (Gift of Song) – will each receive a $5,000 grant and distribution consultation from IF/Then. Upon their completion, all three films will be featured as part of The Redford Center’s Nature Films Program. 

The six finalist films provided a deep look into the historical and ancestral connections to land, water, and nature held by Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQIA+, immigrant, and undocumented communities. Their pitches highlighted the difficult yet resilient ways these communities navigate the residual impacts of forced displacement, generational trauma, and inequity and injustice. By showcasing these untold histories and circumstances, each film takes viewers through a unique journey towards one destination: equitable access to nature and healing. 

Between Earth and Sky, pitched by Nadkarni and Regunathan, shares the story of Nalini Nadkarni, Andrew Nadkarni’s aunt, a renowned rainforest ecologist and tree climber who has a calling to nature. In the pitch, Andrew Nadkarni shared stories of his aunt’s childhood, her family life, and the deeper meaning that climbing trees represents to Nalini. After a near-fatal, life-changing fall from 50ft above, Between Earth and Sky captures Nalini’s reflection on her past life in the trees, and if she is willing to climb again. 

After announcing the winning films live at DOC NYC Festival, Jill Tidman, Executive Director of The Redford Center shared, “This day reminded me that there’s so much vital work taking place that most people don’t know about. Amazing individuals and communities are working to solve the problems of nature access, and their stories are just incredible. I am so inspired and honored to have these new documentaries as part of The Redford Center family of films. We are going to support them, in many ways, to make sure their work is shared with the world. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of this inaugural Nature Access Pitch, our partnership with IF/Then, and the platform of DOC NYC.”

IF/THEN x The Redford Center Nature Access Pitch

Grand Prize Winner

Director: Andrew Nadkarni, Producers: Swetha Regunathan, Katie Schiller, Cinematographer: Katelyn Rebelo, Editor: Peter Zachwieja
Location: Virginia / Costa Rica
In 2015, renowned rainforest ecologist Nalini Nadkarni survived a near-fatal, life-changing fall from a tree. She thought she had fully recovered. Now, her mother’s death forces Nalini and her siblings to confront echoes of trauma across three generations of the family tree. As Nalini unearths her own tangled roots, she redefines her relationship with the rainforest and plants new seeds within her family.

Honorable Mention

Director: Faith Briggs, Producer: Tracy Nguyen-Chung, Director of Photography: Ryan Miyamoto
Location: Portland, Oregon
The soil in Portland, Oregon is rich with a hidden history — what has grown here is rooted in racism, erasure, and neglect. Yet, a small group of Black farmers is thriving and reconnecting with ancestral knowledge and legacy. And through that soil, nourishing each other.

Honorable Mention

Director: Laurie Sumiye, Director of Photography: Anne Misawa
Location: Hawai’i
Makana o ke Mele (Gift of Song) transports audiences into a memory of Native Hawaiian conservationist Mililani Browning, who was exposed to nature through an innovative Hawaiian outreach program, ʻImi Pono no ka ʻĀina. On the Big Island of Hawaii, she remembers learning the songs of Hawaiian birds at Hakalau Forest, a wildlife refuge on Mauna Kea volcano.


Director: Nadia Gill, Co-Director & Cinematographer: Dominic Gill, Producer: James Mills
Location: Utah / Idaho
As the few Black faces in mountain spaces, a small cohort of snow sports athletes gather in this film to share their experiences in hopes of making the environmental conservation movement more diverse and inclusive. Linking their journeys to the legacy of Charles Crenchaw and his ascent of Denali is precisely the kind of narrative that could broaden our perspective upon the role that Black Americans have played throughout the modern era of adventure. 

Directors: Mariel Rodriguez-McGill and Teresa Cebrián Aranda
Location: Bronx, New York
Fourteen-year-old William Capellan loves spending time outdoors. Twice a week after school, he learns to collect water quality data at Rocking the Boat, a youth development program in the South Bronx. Two years into the program, his classmate Nani Reyes, 16, is already plotting an environmental revolution. “Stay the Course” follows William and Nani as they navigate adolescence and discover new dreams along the banks of the Bronx River.

Director: Cathleen Dean, Producer: Thaddeus Gamory, Editor: Serge Dorsainvil
Location: South Florida
Since the beginning, mankind has enjoyed a spiritual connection to water. Civilizations have fought over and revered water for its many wondrous powers, communities of color are no different in their desire to remain connected, but centuries of slavery and now a pandemic has made that fight even harder. This film explores the stories of five people during a pandemic, working through their trauma and stress by utilizing the pristine beaches of South Florida. 

About the IF/THEN x The Redford Center Nature Access Pitch

The IF/Then x The Redford Center Nature Access Pitch open call took place between July 21 and August 23, 2021, and was open to original, stand-alone documentary shorts in production. Each filmmaker pitched their submission to an esteemed jury of industry leaders, filmmakers, and environmental experts at a DOC NYC Festival pitch event on November 16, 2021. 

The pitch was open to individuals living and working in the United States, with an emphasis on stories and storytellers representing communities most impacted by environmental injustice and barriers to nature access, including Black, Indigenous, people of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, recent immigrants, undocumented people, people with disabilities, and women. Submissions were required in the form of character-driven, place-based, community-inspired, short-form storytelling that showcases immediate solutions to cope with humanity’s disconnection with the outdoors. 

For more information, please visit fieldofvision.org/redford2021.


ABOUT IF/THEN and FIRST LOOK INSTITUTE: Founded in 2016 with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, IF/Then Shorts is a fund and mentorship program at Field of Vision that supports storytellers in breaking barriers to access, exposure, and sustainability in the media landscape. IF/Then works with creators who experience inequity based on factors such as race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, ethnicity, age, citizenship, and/or geography. IF/Then has supported 65+ U.S. and international short documentary films, many of which have achieved prestigious festival premieres, awards, and extensive media broadcasts on The New York Times Op-Docs, Al Jazeera English, PBS Reel South, POV Shorts, Cathay Pacific Airlines, Netflix, and more. In addition to The Redford Center, IF/Then receives funding from the MacArthur Foundation, Kalliopeia Foundation, and Hulu, and has secured philanthropic support from the Surdna Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, ESPN Films, RYOT Films, and other esteemed institutions in its five-year history. 

Giving democracy a fighting chance. First Look Institute is an independent nonprofit organization committed to fearless reporting, innovative and cinematic nonfiction filmmaking, and defending those who speak truth to power. First Look Institute vigilantly protects our First Amendment rights so democracy can flourish. First Look Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

ABOUT THE REDFORD CENTER: Co-founded in 2005 by Robert Redford and his son James Redford, The Redford Center uses the power of storytelling to galvanize environmental justice and regeneration. Its cross-cutting programs support environmental storytellers and invest in impact-driven narrative strategies. By amplifying and changing the conversations around environmentalism, The Redford Center aims to engage a much broader and more diverse population in the movement. It has produced three award-winning feature documentaries and 30+ short films, supported 75+ film and media projects with grants and other services, inspired 400+ student films, and dispersed more than $8 million to fiscally sponsored projects. Redford Center film impact campaigns have halted the construction of dirty coal plants, reconnected the Colorado River to the Sea of Cortez, and helped accelerate the clean energy revolution in America. For more information, visit redfordcenter.org.  

ABOUT DOC NYC: DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, takes place annually in November; the 12th edition will be held in person and online November 10-18, 2021. The 2020 festival was held exclusively online, showcasing over 250 films and events with hundreds of filmmakers participating in pre-recorded Q&As and live virtual events. In addition to premiering feature-length and short documentaries, the festival’s highlights also include DOC NYC PRO—a series of in-depth panels, pitch sessions and case studies—and the Visionaries Tribute awards ceremony that honors major figures in the field of nonfiction film. DOC NYC is produced and presented by IFC Center, a division of AMC Networks. 


IF/Then Contact
Layla Hancock Piper

The Redford Center Contacts
Emily Motill, R&CPMK
Hannah Edelman, R&CPMK