Three Latina filmmakers have been announced as part of the 12 winning projects of the International Documentary Association’s (IDA) Enterprise Documentary Fund, supporting journalistic documentary. The Latina directors are Natalia Almada with her new project Users, Michèle Stephenson for Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, and Nina Alvarez for her Untitled De-documented Salvadorans.
Almada is a 2012 MacArthur “Genius Award” Fellow and recipient of the 2009 Sundance Documentary Directing Award for her film El General. Her following film, El Velador (2011), about violence in Mexico, premiered at New Directors/New Films, and the Directors' Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival. Her previous credits include All Water Has a Perfect Memory (2002), an experimental short film that premiered at Sundance, and Al Otro Lado, her 2005 award-winning debut feature documentary on immigration, drug trafficking, and corrido music.
Almada’s films have screened in film festivals, on the award-winning public television series P.O.V, and at museums around the world including MoMA, The Museé d’Art Moderne in Paris, the Whitney Biennial and Documenta13. Almada has received the Guggenheim, USA Artists, and Alpert Fellowships, the Chicken & Egg Pictures Breakthrough Filmmaker Award, and has attended residencies at Cannes Film Festival’s Cinefondation, The MacDowell Colony, and The Headlands Center for the Arts. She graduated with a master's in Fine Arts in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and currently lives between Mexico City and San Francisco.
In Almada’s new project, Users, will use a visual essay documentary form to explore the unintended and often dehumanizing consequences of our society's embedded belief that technological progress will lead to the betterment of humanity. Is technological progress inevitable? Are we all increasingly isolated? Do we really have agency to direct its course? Is technology an expression of our humanity or is technology destroying our humanity? The film will be a critical and reflective meditation on these questions, using cinematic language that evokes the body and nature to counter the myth of technological progress.
Stephenson, pulls from her Panamanian and Haitian roots and international experience as a human rights attorney to tell compelling deeply personal stories in a variety of media that resonate beyond the margins. Her work has appeared on a variety of broadcast and web platforms, including PBS, Showtime and MTV. Her most recent film, American Promise, was nominated for three Emmys including Best Documentary and Best News Coverage of a Contemporary Issue. The film also won the Jury Prize at Sundance, and was selected for the New York Film Festivals’ Main Slate Program. Stephenson was recently awarded the Chicken & Egg Pictures Filmmaker Breakthrough Award and is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow. Her current work, Hispaniola, is supported by the likes of the National Film Board of Canada, the MacArthur Foundation, Telefilm Canada, the Ford Foundation and the Sundance Documentary Fund.
Stepheson’s Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project pushes the boundaries of biographical documentary film to reveal the enduring influence of one of America’s greatest living artists and social commentators. Combining parallel cinematic story editing with visually innovative treatments of her poetry, along with intimate vérité, rich archival footage, and Giovanni’s own captivating contemporary performances, Going to Mars recounts the story of the artist and her works of resistance through the tumultuous historical periods in which she lived—from the Civil Rights Movement, to the Black Arts Movement, to present-day Black Lives Matter.
Álvarez, a native New Yorker of Salvadorian descend, is a journalist, documentarian and video photographer. For over twenty-five years, she has reported breaking news and feature stories from around the world, on broadcast and web segments, radio reports and long-form documentaries. Alvarez began her journalism career at ABC News, and has reported and produced news and longform stories for Univision, NBC, CNN, NPR, MTV News and Al Jazeera from the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and Latin America. From 2015 to 2017, she was also Senior Producer at the Fusion/Netflix investigative series, The Naked Truth, which was recognized with the Alfred I. duPont Columbia Journalism Award, an Emmy nomination and the Al Neuharth Award for Innovation in Investigative Journalism. Alvarez is currently a Senior Editor of Investigative Projects at Futuro Media Group.
In Álvarez’s project, as President Trump doubles down on his war against immigrants, documented and undocumented, a Washington DC family faces the threat of deportation and a family separation crisis. They step out of the normalcy of life as law-abiding taxpayers to confront the U.S. government. Their lawsuit pulls back the curtain to reveal the motivations behind the Trump administration's decision to terminate their legal status.
The IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund was launched in 2017 and supports feature-length documentary films telling urgent, revelatory stories underpinned by rigorous journalistic approaches and exemplary artistic achievement, with major support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The projects selected will receive a total of $850,000 in direct funding, along with additional resources and expertise through IDA and its partners: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the UCLA Documentary Film Legal Clinic, and Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors.