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Six Tribeca Film Institute-Supported Titles Head To Sundance

Written by: FFT Webmaster | December 11th, 2012

[New York, NY – December 5, 2012] – Six Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) – supported films have been selected to premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Four of the projects are documentaries from New York City filmmakers selected for the U.S. Documentary Competition, a fifth is a narrative playing in the out-of-competition NEXTsection, and the sixth has been selected for the Documentary Premieres section.

TFI, which annually gives over $1.2 million in grants to filmmakers, was among the first supporters of U.S Documentary Competition selections American Promise and Gideon’s Army. Both films, along with God Loves Uganda and When I Walk, come out of Tribeca All Access® (TAA), a program that supports working African American and other filmmakers statistically underrepresented in the industry. The filmmakers behind American Promise and God Loves Uganda also received finishing finances and guidance from the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund to help complete their projects highlighting and humanizing issues of social importance from around the world. In addition, U.S. Documentary Competition entry Cutie & the Boxer received funding and in-progress guidance from the TFI Documentary Fund, a unique program which supports character-driven documentaries outside of the social issue mandate. Computer Chess, part of the NEXTsection at Sundance, received a grant from the TFI Sloan Filmmaker Fund, one of TFI’s longest-running programs scripts that incorporate accurate portrayals of science and technology.

“We are so happy that members of our TFI family will be premiering their work at Sundance,” said Beth Janson, Executive Director, TFI. “Now more than ever, independent filmmakers rely on a network of support from non-profit organizations and we are honored to be among those who have supported these vibrant voices.”

Details on the films and TFI’s support follow:


American Promise –Directed by Michele Stephenson & Joe Brewster

This intimate documentary follows the 12-year journey of two African-American families pursuing the promise of opportunity through the education of their sons.

  • Filmmakers Michele Stephenson and Joe Brewster had 10 years of footage when they applied to the TAA program in 2009, with two more years of shooting to go. TFI helped the filmmakers with the project’s treatment and story development in preparation for presentation to potential funders.
  • The project was pitched to funders at TAA’s Key Ingredients event in 2010, which also provided the filmmakers with additional exposure to industry experts, including leading educators.
  • 2012 recipient of the TAA Marketing & Web Fellowship, which provided guidance around audience development – including a newly-designed website.
  • 2011 Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund recipient for post-production funding to organize over 500 hours of footage
  • TFI continues to support alumni projects and will screen clips from the film and host a discussion with the filmmakers at the Ford Foundation on December 13th for an audience of social policy experts and film industry leaders

Cutie & the Boxer – Directed by Zachary Heinzerling

This candid New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role of assistant to her overbearing husband, Noriko seeks an identity of her own.

  • First spotted by TFI’s Director of Documentary Programs Ryan Harrington in 2011, TFI’s Documentary programming team continued to track the project and provided a grant for post-production work as part of the 2012 TFI Documentary Fund.

Gideon’s Army – Directed by Dawn Porter

Gideon’s Army follows three young, committed Public Defenders who are dedicated to working for the people society would rather forget. Long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads are so common that even the most committed often give up.

  • 2011 TAA grantee; also received additional support as the recipient of the Creative Promise Award
  • TFI helped develop Gideon’s Army through TAA and introduced director Dawn Porter to Julie Goldman, the film’s producer.
  • Porter also participated in TFI’s annual Industry Meetings at the Tribeca Film Festival, a two-day market that brings over 150 sales agents, distributors, producers and other funders from around the world to meet with TFI’s filmmakers. There she was connected with executives at HBO, which picked up American TV rights to the documentary in early 2012.

God Loves Uganda – Directed by Roger Ross Williams

A powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to infuse African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right. The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow biblical law.

  • As a 2011 TAA program participant, Williams was given industry feedback on his pitch and proposal, and TFI worked with him to solidify his project presentation.
  • 2012 TAA On-Track Grant recipient; grant was awarded to assist with the completion of the documentary.
  • 2012 Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund recipient for funding to finalize post-production work
  • Through TFI’s guidance, producer Julie Goldman came on board for the project.

Computer Chess – Directed by Andrew Bujalski

An existential comedy about the brilliant men who taught machines to play chess – back when the machines seemed clumsy and we seemed smart. Cast: Patrick Riester, Myles Paige, James Curry, Robin Schwartz, Gerald Peary, Wiley Wiggins.

  • 2012 TFI Sloan Filmmaker Fund recipient (provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation)
  • Funds went towards post-production
  • TFI also hosted a reading of Computer Chess at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival for accredited industry at the festival, providing additional feedback and exposure for the filmmaker.


When I Walk – Directed by Jason DaSilva

At 25, filmmaker and artist Jason DaSilva finds out he has a severe form of multiple sclerosis. This film shares his personal and grueling journey over the next seven years. Along the way, an unlikely miracle changes everything.

  • 2009 TAA program participant. Through his participation in TAA, DaSilva received guidance from TFI on his pitch and proposal.

About the Tribeca Film Institute ( The Tribeca Film Institute is a 501(c)(3) year-round nonprofit arts organization founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in the wake of September 11, 2001. TFI empowers filmmakers through grants and professional development, and is a resource for and supporter of individual artists in the field. The Institute’s educational programming leverages an extensive film community network to help underserved New York City students learn filmmaking and gain the media skills necessary to be productive citizens and creative individuals in the 21st century. Administering a dozen major programs annually, TFI is a critical contributor to the fabric of filmmaking and aids in promoting and protecting filmmakers and media artists.


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