The Redford Center, an environmental nonprofit dedicated to advancing environmental solutions through the power of stories that move, today announced its 2022-23 grantee awards to twelve environmental impact film projects.
Selected from a bi-annual open call that yielded 250 applicant projects from more than 20 different countries, the twelve awarded films reflect a diversity of intersectional environmental themes. Exploring the complex challenges and solutions of the climate crisis, the 2022 cohort of grantee films demonstrates that, today, every story is a climate story.
Since launching in 2016, The Redford Center grants program has remained one of the few entities exclusively funding independent environmental documentaries and providing multi-faceted support to filmmakers. According to the International Documentary Association, there are about 440 grants in the nonfiction film funding landscape, and of that, only 8 awards exclusively support environmental stories. The Redford Center provides two of those grants. To date, Redford Center Grants have supported nearly 50 projects and awarded more than $1.3 million in funding. Redford Center grantee films have received awards, premieres, and distribution from industry leaders including Netflix, Hulu, HBO, PBS, National Geographic, Sundance Film Festival, Jackson Wild, DC Environmental Film Festival, and many more.
“The Redford Center has always served a remarkable stream of filmmakers who care deeply about the communities represented in their work, and the planet we all call home. We view these artists as translators: humanizing the issues we so urgently need to address, and giving voice to the frontline activists who are continually overlooked by the mainstream film and environmental sectors, and who, quite frankly, are leading us out of the problem,” said Jill Tidman, executive director of The Redford Center. “We have so much to learn from these stories and storytellers. This grantee cohort in particular is a signal for the film industry that now is the time to shift toward inclusive climate storytelling. These projects demonstrate how it can be done, and we are infinitely grateful to be a part of these impactful storytelling journeys.”
“These twelve films are very special. They represent a mix of stories and solutions that our industry and audiences urgently need, now more than ever. I’m always so inspired by how, with each new group of grantees, The Redford Center continues to bring one-of-a-kind climate and environmental stories to the forefront of impact filmmaking,” said Redford Center grants advisor Brenda Robinson, head of film finance and inclusion strategies at HiddenLight Productions. “At a time when the climate emergency is finally on almost everyone’s mind–including growing acknowledgment from Hollywood–these films spotlight issues we all need to know about and support before it’s too late.”
The awarded films highlight narratives that honor ancestors, safeguard the present, and reimagine the future. They include the cross-cutting environmental and climate themes of justice, water, land, and food and feature stories including the Blackfeet Tribe working to return wild bison to their land, a group of fishermen’s unique solution to safeguarding marine species in Mexico, the experiences of Black farmers reclaiming space in Portland, and Siberian whistleblowers exposing the harms of a neglected Soviet mine in their neighborhood. Projects represent several countries across the world with stories from Bulgaria, Turkey, and Canada, three from Mexico, and six from the US.
In addition to announcing its newest grantee cohort, The Redford Center also announced its board of Grants Advisors — a group of environmental and nonprofit leaders and film industry luminaries who will serve as an integral resource to the grantee cohort. The Grants Advisors’ role includes supporting the development and refinement of story ideas, the production of influential impact and promotional campaigns, distribution strategies, and more. Grants Advisors include Lisa Kleiner Chanoff (Catapult Film Fund); Cheryl Hirasa (Pacific Islanders in Communications); Gita Saedi Kiely (FilmAid); Simon Kilmurry (documentary producer/consultant); Brian Newman (Sub-Genre); Tracy Rector (Nia Tero); Brenda Robinson (HiddenLight Productions); Megha Agrawal Sood (Doc Society); Justin “Hoost” Wilkenfeld (KindHumans); and Samantha Wright (Earth Alliance). Click here to learn more about the Grants Advisors.
“It is so encouraging to see this cohort of films come together with such a broad and necessary range of stories. The Redford Center’s grants are essential to supporting independent environmental storytelling and hearing directly from communities that are directly impacted from the climate crisis,” advisor Simon Kilmurry added. “Independent artist telling their own stories drive the impact that’s needed the most. These filmmakers have a clear vision and are presenting some of the most exciting, hopeful narratives in the environmental space that deserve our full attention.”
About The Redford Center Grants Program
The Redford Center Grants program currently operates on a two-year cycle and provides filmmaker support, $20,000 development grants for production and impact campaign expenses, access to a network of industry and environmental experts, and the opportunity to apply for second-year funds. Dedicated multi-year program funding for the 2022-23 cohort is provided by the New York Community Trust and the Walton Family Foundation. In-kind equipment support is provided by GoPro for a Cause.
Previous Redford Center grantees include the films Youth V Gov, which had its Netflix premiere in April 2022; Inventing Tomorrow, winner of the 2019 Peabody Award and now streaming on Amazon Prime; To The End, which premiered at Sundance 2021 and will soon have its Roadside Attractions theatrical release; Path of the Panther, recipient of four Jackson Wild nominations and winner of the Ecosystem Long Form award; Adaptation, broadcast on PBS; Exposure, winner of the Jackson Wild Breakthrough Film Award, and Manzanar Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust, broadcast on PBS’s POV. Click here to view the program’s most recent impact report.
Redford Center 2022-23 Grantees
Black Snow, directed by Alina Simone
Kirstine Barfod (Producer), Harry Vaughn (Co-Producer)
When residents of a remote Siberian coal mining settlement discover an old Soviet mine has caught fire beneath their neighborhood, they turn to Natalia Zubkova, a local homemaker-turned-journalist, for help. But after her independent news coverage starts going viral, they find themselves the targets of a massive government disinformation campaign, forcing Natalia to embark on a dangerous and revelatory quest to reveal the full extent of the environmental catastrophe unfolding in their midst.
Bring Them Home, directed by Daniel Glick, Ivy MacDonald, and Ivan MacDonald
A hundred and fifty years ago, the Blackfoot people were nearly destroyed when the American Bison, one of the most important links to their identity, culture and spirituality, was slaughtered to near-extinction. Today, a small group of Blackfoot are working to right these historic wrongs by returning wild bison to their lands – an act that would heal people, re-enliven traditional culture and bring economic opportunity to their community. It’s a mission that has been threatened at nearly every turn by non-native politicians, cattle ranchers, internal politics and the legacy of colonialism, but one that has persisted nonetheless. BRING THEM HOMEcharts this struggle from past to present, following the tribal members who have given their lives and hearts to this effort, and is an intimate look at the willpower and resilience it takes to survive and thrive in the face of near-continuous hostility.
Emergent City, directed by Jay Arthur Sterrenburg and Kelly Anderson
Brenda Ávila-Hanna (Producer)
In the wake of deindustrialization and on the cusp of climate catastrophe, a Brooklyn community grapples with the future of New York City’s last working waterfront. Over a decade, Emergent City explores power and process in a working-class neighborhood facing gentrification, development and the need for jobs that will allow people to stay in the place they call home. The film is a 360° observational portrait that leans into the complexity of issues often framed in black and white. Emergent City asks viewers to consider how change might emerge from dialogue and collective action in a world where too many outcomes are constrained by money, politics and business as usual.
Finding Home, directed by Maria Stanisheva
Manon Messiant (Producer)
FINDING HOME is an animated documentary series and interactive installation made up of twelve 5-minute episodes. Each episode features the recorded testimony of an actual environmental refugee uprooted from their home and forced to relocate to strange new lands, and uses the power of animation to convey raw emotion and to reveal the life-shattering effects of climate change. The series is a collection of diverse personal stories from around the world that represent the various impacts of climate that force people to flee: ocean level rise, drought, hurricanes, tsunamis and other extreme weather events. The goal of the series is to show the concrete impact of climate change on people’s daily life and the subsequent environmental migration wave we are witnessing. Climate refugees have been forecasted at over 200 million people by 2050.
Fruit of Soil, directed by Faith E. Briggs
Tracy Nguyen-Chung (Producer)
FRUIT OF SOIL is the story of Shantae and Art Johnson, two dreamers at the heart of a Black farmers movement in Oregon working around food sovereignty, land ownership, community healing, and place reclamation. Their plan had been to homestead — cooped up in an apartment, they found joy in the friendly competition of trying to best each other at growing window-sill vegetables. They missed the land, the gardening they’d grown up with and watched their grandmothers do. After years of Art working as a long haul trucker and Shantae for the City as a doula, they decided to quit their jobs. They used their savings to enroll in a farming education program and began to figure out how to get back to the land. Together, they’re creating a ripple of change in the Black community by growing food, investing in Black farmers, and feeding Black people. This is beyond economic viability. It’s farming for survival in a historically anti-Black place. Their farms are a new Mecca for Black folks in a city that is still very isolating for many. It’s an example of what could be; the fruits of a world Black farmers are reimagining for each other.
Kay, directed by Jimena Mancilla and Ángel Ricardo Linares Colmenares
KAY is the story of a fishers group from the Port of Celestun, a small town located on the emblematic Yucatan Peninsula, who create the largest Fishing Refuge Zone (FRZ) in Mexico. This initiative seeks to restore the quantity and types of species that inhabit this region to face the severe threats of climate change, pollution and overexploitation of the oceans. These fishers of Mayan ascendence will fight against all adversities because they are convinced that their initiative can significantly change the country and inspire other fishing communities to protect their resources for future generations.
Our Seeds (wt), directed by Erhan Arik
Meryem Yavuz (Producer, Cinematographer)
In northeastern Turkey, a farming couple is still keeping a 1500-year-old ancestral seed alive. The farming couple’s faith in nature begins to be tested by the emerging dreams of their children and the test deepens as the harvest of this year is harder than usual. It is painful for Oruç and Güneş to imagine that the 1500 year-old family-seed will not be planted when they are gone, and it gradually turns into a nightmare for them. The farming couple, facing the fact that they cannot leave the fate of the seed in the hands of their children, and that they cannot enslave the fate of their children to the future of the seed, start looking for other ways to keep the seed alive. Therefore, the couple tries to share the seed with other villagers and persuade them to plant the seed as a solution to keep the seed alive. However, convincing the other farmers to plant this seed is not going to be easy, as it has a very low yield compared to the hybrid seeds.
Sacrifice Zones: The 48217, directed by Ben Corona
Located in southwest Detroit, zip code 48217 is surrounded by several polluting facilities, including what many members of the community consider their backyard polluter; a refinery. Over time, one resident has documented the air pollution through her photography. The film follows her over the course of several years as she organizes neighbors that want the refinery to buy their homes, all in an attempt to provide residents an opportunity to leave their polluted community.
Seeing Green, directed by Su Rynard
Nadine Pequeneza (Producer)
Plants are most often viewed simply as a green background for human activity. For centuries dominant cultures have used nature as something to enjoy, exploit and control – ultimately endangering the conditions that make all life on earth possible. But what if we were to appreciate plants as the highly evolved creatures they actually are? Robin Wall Kimmerer reveals how plant science framed in an Indigenous worldview can create seismic change. With her discovery that trees communicate and collaborate, Suzanne Simard is revolutionizing forestry industry practices globally. While Paco Calvo’s infectious enthusiasm for plants challenges the perception that we humans are the only intelligent life form on earth. In this era of accelerating disasters, Kimmerer, Simard and Calvo offer a bold new perspective that has the power to change how we see the world and our place in it.
The Last Chinamperos (wt), directed by Megan Alldis
Patricio Buenrostro-Gilhuys (Producer)
Just outside of Mexico City, in the canals of Xochimilco, an Indigenous father and son fight to carry on their ancestral legacy of chinampas, an Aztec farming system made of floating gardens that maximize water retention for crops. Against an onslaught of rapid urbanization, economic challenges, and Indigenous exploitation, they persevere and show the world that this vast water transport system preserves a style of permaculture that has proven results in its ability to curb the global climate emergency.
The Queendom, directed by Otilia Portillo
After centuries of being ignored and even feared by scientists and the world at large, mushrooms have finally taken center stage amongst academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and especially in the popular imagination. But as the magical—and profitable—qualities of mushrooms become more mainstream, a crucial element of their story is being erased. Women. Specifically, indigenous women.
Undamming The Klamath, directed by Shane Anderson
Set against the backdrop of the largest dam removal and river restoration effort the world has seen. We will follow the ongoing multi-generational, indigenous-led effort to restore the Klamath River and its wild salmon runs that have been the source of nourishment, culture, and spirituality since time immemorial. During this decades-long battle, the tribes have formed alliances with commercial fisherman, conservation groups, and farmers to take on the Warren Buffet-owned corporate power company responsible for these dams. As these activists near the explosive rewilding of this river, the questions remain; Can the river, salmon, and its people become healthy again? If so, can this effort set forth a new restorative vision where communities across the earth work with nature and natural processes to build community and ecological resilience in the face of a rapidly changing world?
For more information about Redford Center Grants and to learn more about the films and filmmakers, please visit https://redfordcenter.org/grants.
About The Redford Center:
Co-founded in 2005 by Robert Redford and his son James Redford, The Redford Center is a nonprofit organization that advances environmental solutions through the power of stories that move. Over the years, The Redford Center has produced three award-winning feature documentaries and more than 40 short films, supported more than 100 film and media projects with grants and other services, inspired the creation of more than 550 student films, and dispersed more than $10 million to fiscally sponsored projects. Redford Center films and impact campaigns have halted the construction of dirty coal plants, restored the Colorado River Delta, reconnected people to nature, and helped accelerate the clean energy revolution and clean transportation solutions in communities across America. For more information, visit redfordcenter.org.