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Ford Foundation Announces $50 Million for Documentary Film Initiative

The New York City-based Ford Foundation has launched a five-year, $50 million initiative to help identify and support a new generation of filmmakers whose work addresses urgent social issues, the New York Times reports.

The JustFilms initiative will invest $10 million a year to help expand the community of filmmakers around the world working to create documentaries with a social conscience but who may lack the resources to realize their vision or connect with audiences.

Building on the foundation’s longtime support for film documentaries, the initiative will leverage Ford’s global network of ten regional offices to identify talent from emerging documentary film communities and will focus on film, video, and digital works that show courageous people confronting difficult issues in pursuit of a more just, secure, and sustainable world.

Award-winning filmmaker Orlando Bagwell, director of the foundation’s Freedom of Expression team, will head up the initiative, which will divide funding equally among three distinct project areas: partnerships with major organizations; an ongoing open application process; and partnerships with other Ford Foundation grantmaking programs. Additional funds will be allocated to marketing partners to help filmmakers promote their work and engage with audiences.

One such partnership involving the Sundance Institute will be formally launched during the upcoming Sundance Film Festival. As part of the partnership, JustFilms will contribute $1 million a year over five years to the institute’s Documentary Film Program in support of productions focusing on topics such as human and civil rights, freedom of expression, and economic opportunity. The initiative also will support editing, producing, and film scoring workshops as well as panels and dialogues at the festival to enhance the understanding and recognition of documentary film as a key component of social change efforts.

“With the growth of the Web and social networks, the potential global audience for filmed content with a social conscience has exploded,” said Ford Foundation president Luis Ubiñas. “We want JustFilms to support visionary filmmakers from around the world to create works on urgent social issues, and help them reach and engage audiences.”

Barnes, Brooks. “Ford Foundation to Put Up $50 Million for Documentaries.” New York Times 1/18/11. “Ford Foundation Launches $50 Million Fund for Next-Generation.