Grant Winners and Finalists

Follow Focus Short Film Grant [August 5, 2019]

ScreeningRoom, Points North Institute, and Jigsaw Productions announce the winners of the Follow Focus Short Film Grant

ScreeningRoom, Points North Institute and Jigsaw Productions are pleased to announce the winners of the Follow Focus Short Film grant. The Follow Focus Grant funds short films going into post-production that are cinematic and address an important social issue.

$10,000 Grant Winner

Untitled Border Short Documentary

A film exploring the government’s intervention in humanitarian aid to asylum seekers crossing the desert

The title, filmmaker’s names and log line are being withheld until the completion of the film

$1,500 Runner Up

Coby and Stephen are in Love

Directed by Carlo Nasisse and Yuan Yuan Yang

Coby and Stephen are in Love is the story of a retired 92-year-old Chinatown burlesque dancer and her unlikely love with an eccentric artist 20 years her junior. In spite of a fundamental personality clash, they have created a glamorous world together through matching handmade outfits, dancing, and collage.

$1,500 Runner Up

Romeo 9

Directed by Jonathan Spangler

Many Kenyans love the infamous “supercops” who prowl the Nairobi slums, shooting down suspected criminals without mercy. But few realize that the phenomenon began with a baby-faced 380-pound British colonial named Patrick Shaw. By day, Shaw worked at a school for underprivileged boys; by night, he was Romeo 9, a police reservist who hunted and allegedly murdered hundreds of suspected criminals. Sanctioned by the highest authorities in the early days of independence, he was Kenya’s first “supercop.” His story and his legacy in Kenya raise complex and emotionally charged questions of race, class, truth and justice.

Grant Finalists


Directed by Mitchell Arens

Against immeasurable odds, a recovering alcoholic living in rural Siberia fights to maintain his sobriety and the wellbeing of his family.


Directed by Tomasz Ratter & Karolina Karwan

Mudi, a possessed man who loves to dance, and his old stepmother Ibu, live alone on a tiny Indonesian island haunted by ghosts. The movie is a dreamlike story of a turbulent relationship between mother and son, who are trapped in a “paradise” and depend only on each other. It is a story of loneliness and acceptance, but also a mystical journey, in which music and dance become the way to communicate with the spirit world and bring joy, freedom and communion.

Racist Trees

Directed by Sara Newens & Mina T. Son

Racial tensions are ignited as a historically black neighborhood in Palm Springs continues the decades-long fight for the removal of a wall of trees that many believe were originally planted as a totem of segregation.

“I am proud to be a part of this unique grant, providing funding and mentorship to very talented filmmakers,” says Alex Gibney, “and supporting the diversity and sustainability of the filmmaking industry, particularly short films.”
"This has been an exceptional group of films,” says Marie-Hélène Carleton, co-founder of ScreeningRoom. “We had over 135 entries, which speaks both to the number and quality of short documentary films being made today."
“The winning film is a very important and timely film about the refugee and migrant crisis at the border” says Micah Garen, a co-founder of ScreeningRoom. “The story, beautifully told, is an important one we are proud to stand behind.”

In addition to the $10,000 prize, the grant winner will also receive a $1000 travel stipend to the Camden International Film Festival in September, where their short film will be screened. They will also receive mentoring from ScreeningRoom, Points North Institute and Jigsaw Productions, as well as a one year ScreeningRoom Pro account.

"We are proud to support these films, both through Points North institute and the Camden International Film Festival," says Ben Fowlie, Points North Institute’s Executive and Artistic Director. “Coby and Stephen are in Love exemplifies the subtle and beautiful cinematic verite style of filmmaking this grant was created to support.”
“These are a very strong group of short films,” says Alex Gibney, “Romeo 9 is a story that must be seen. It’s an important unknown story from Kenya that keeps the drama and suspense as it unfolds a very troubling past.”
"Through our outstanding partnerships with Jigsaw, Points North Institute, The Intercept and the Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival, we have already been able to give out over $15,000 to documentary filmmakers this year,” says Micah Garen, “and we are launching another grant this fall as part of our goal to continue to build sustainability in the independent filmmaking industry.”

The Short List

Oil and Water

Directed by Anjali Nayar

In a remote, drought-prone region of Northern Kenya, three pastoral women navigate the opportunities and challenges of a massive oil discovery. There’s a promise of jobs and reliable access to water but these promises don’t materialize. The women - Chumchum, Loyoma and Akiru - come to realize the complicated web that’s blocking a better future for them and their children: greed, politics and the patriarchal fabric of their world.

The Coma Club

Directed by Erin Sanger

After their loved ones slip into comas from combat injuries sustained in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a set of women form a support group they call "The Coma Club." As they cope with an injury that has radically altered their loved one's identity and left them without clear answers from their doctors, they turn to the only support force they can count on: each other.


Directed by Taylor Hess and Noah Hutton

Dr. Max Liboiron is a pioneer in her field of marine pollution, publishing notable scientific studies on microplastics in the coastal waters of Newfoundland. But CLEAR, Dr. Liboiron’s research group based in St. John’s, Newfoundland, does more than just publish neutral data: as a self-described feminist and anticolonial lab, Liboiron and her colleagues are resisting the norms of status-quo, apolitical science, while offering a new approach to research and relations.

Dixie’s Last Stand (working title)

Directed by Emily Harrold, Kelly Creedon, Seth Gadsden

Set in Orangeburg, South Carolina this film follows a battle over a confederate flag flying in the center of town in the wake of the 2015 Charleston Massacre. Through the battle, the film challenges audiences to consider if the flag has a place in Southern culture of the 21st Century.


Directed by Austin Meyer

Two Zambian women with unplanned pregnancies, one from a rural village and one from an urban slum, set out to raise healthy children in a country with some of the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality in the world.


Directed by Monica Wise Robles and Victoria Bouloubasis

In one of the deadliest tragedies in Guatemala since the end of its civil war, a fire in a state-run shelter killed 41 teenage girls and left 15 seriously wounded. Two years later, victims’ families and the remaining young survivors grapple with injustice and stand up to government negligence, unveiling how gendered violence, corruption and impunity pervade Latin America.

The Circumference of Hope

Directed by Andre Andreev

In the wake of a deadly riot, previously incarcerated counselors try to salvage trust between prisoners and officers in a violent maximum security prison.

I, Tony

Directed by Argyro Nicolaou and Margaux Fitoussi

Now 85, a once famous yet still ambitious fashion photographer dreams of making a biopic based on his life but struggles with losing creative control to the two female filmmakers that are up for the task.

Video Visit

Directed by Malika Zouhali-Worrall

Work in progress

Two Prisons

Directed by Casey Carter and Colleen Cassingham

A young Chinese dissident navigates memories of persecution and paranoia at the hands of Beijing’s political police, while he awaits the result of his application for asylum in New York City.

Buying Time

Directed by Sara Barger

The documentary Buying Time follows a family as they skirt the law and pay a stranger across the country $1,500/month to get the cannabis products needed to treat pain, seizures, and chemotherapy side effects of their ten-year old daughter who is battling brain cancer.

Abortion Helpline: This is Lisa

Produced and Directed by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, Mike Attie

What is the Hyde Amendment and why is its repeal becoming a litmus test for progressive politicians? In this short documentary we see how the Hyde Amendment successfully contrived to prevent those struggling financially from access to abortion. At an abortion fund in Philadelphia, counselors arrive each morning to the nonstop ring of calls from women and teens who seek to end a pregnancy, and can’t afford to.


Directed by Adam Piron & Adam Khalil

Allapatah is an experimental documentary and psychedelic portrait exploring the cosmologies and epistemologies of Seminole alligator wrestlers.

ScreeningRoom is committed to supporting independent filmmakers by providing collaboration tools, community and grants to help address the challenging problem of sustainability for independent filmmakers and video journalists.

Jigsaw Productions is an award-winning documentary production company helmed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney.

Points North Institute is a Maine-based media arts organization that produces the Camden International Film Festival and other programs that serve as a launching pad for the next generation of nonfiction storytellers.