Previous Garrett Scott Grant Recipients

    The 2017 Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant was awarded to Bing Liu for Minding the Gap and Kavita Pillay for Stalin, Lenin, and Other Tales from South India (working title). Previous grant recipients include Jonathan Olshefski (QUEST), James Demo (The Peacemaker), Lyric R. Cabral ((T)ERROR), Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara (In Country), Ben Powell (Barge), Jason Osder (Let the Fire Burn), Lotfy Nathan (12 O’Clock Boys), Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall (Call Me Kuchu), Johanna Hamilton (1971), Rebecca Richman Cohen (War Don Don), and Robin Hessman (My Perestroika), among others.

    Past winners have gone on to receive significant recognition, screening their finished works at Full Frame and other prestigious festivals including Sundance, IDFA, SXSW, Berlin, and Tribeca. In addition, recipients have won numerous awards and accolades, including the 2017 Full Frame Grand Jury Award, which was presented to Olshefski’s QUEST, and the 2015 Full Frame Grand Jury Award, which was presented to Cabral’s (T)ERROR, co-directed with David Felix Sutcliffe.




    Minding the Gap
    Bing Liu

    Minding the Gap follows a group of skateboarders as they struggle with their family relationships. Bing, a 24-year-old Chinese American filmmaker and skateboarder, returns to his hometown and reconnects with two boys he used to film more than a decade ago: Keire, an African American 17-year-old, and Zack, a white 23-year-old. They all survived violent homes in their youth; now Zack struggles with being a young father, Keire copes with his father’s recent death, and Bing confronts his estranged mother and half brother. Over the next three years, even as their paths diverge, they remain bonded through skateboarding.

    Stalin, Lenin, and Other Tales from South India (working title)
    Kavita Pillay

    Absent from lists of Cold War hot spots, the Indian state of Kerala made history in 1957 by bringing the world’s first Communist government to power via elections. In turn, Kerala’s rare political tradition of democratically elected Communist politicians inspired a lesser-known cultural phenomenon: children with Soviet-influenced names, especially Stalin and Lenin. Structured as a series of vignettes set against a background of dramatic political shifts worldwide, this film shows how Kerala’s Stalins and Lenins offer a darkly comic inroad into a society grappling with Communism and capitalism, democracy and demagoguery, the ghosts of the past and the demons of the present.



    Quest: The Fury and the Sound
    Jonathan Olshefski

    Filmed with vérité intimacy over the course of ten years, Quest: The Fury and the Sound chronicles the relationships, events, and choices that shape a family’s history. The project began as a portrait of the Rainey family and their home music studio, which serves as a special sanctuary within their North Philadelphia neighborhood. When a stray bullet wounds their youngest daughter, the film shows the family’s strength in the face of adversity and their dedication to being a force for good in their community.

    Matt Yoka

    Bob Tur revolutionized news media with his aerial reporting of Los Angeles—and in doing so, defined our recorded memory of the city. Tur’s unmatched eye-in-the-sky video archive captures the spectacle of 1990s L.A. while revealing his own personal complexities. This documentary film weaves intimate interviews with a stunning archive, illustrating the simultaneously gorgeous and horrifying Los Angeles landscape. Throughout the film, we look back on Tur’s life while documenting her return to the media spotlight as she transitions from male to female. 



    Sweetheart Deal
    Elisa Haradon and Gabriel Miller

    In Seattle, three women struggling with heroin addiction find solace, care, and support in the form of one man. His charity, unsurprising to the women but shocking nonetheless, does not come without a heavy price. Shot with intimate access to the women and their families, this vérité film exposes the cruel day-to-day life on the streets and difficulties of finding help for survivors of abuse and addiction.

    The Trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal
    Ted Passon

    In 1981, a journalist and former Black Panther was found bleeding from a gunshot wound next to the body of a young white Philadelphia police officer. The Trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal brings to life the courtroom drama of the most contested and divisive death row case in modern American history. New discoveries, unearthed footage, and animated court transcript recreations show us the impact that heated emotions, divided across racial lines, have on the criminal justice system. This bold new look at an old story examines how the system is as fallible as we are, and how justice often hangs on the shoulders of complicated human beings seeking simple answers.



    Hale County
    RaMell Ross

    Hale County follows Daniel Collins and Quincy Bryant, two African Americans on the cusp of adulthood. Born in Hale County, Alabama, and raised in the rural moonlight of the historic South, they insist on escaping the rooting of social stratification while managing its trappings. Explored through immersive and restlessly meditative segments and montages, the film is a poem privileging the interstices of their lives and surroundings to translate the experience.

    The Peacemaker
    James Demo

    The Peacemaker takes us from the quiet pillar of intellectualism in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to some of the most dangerous crisis zones on Earth — from Northern Ireland to Kosovo, from Nigeria to Iraq — to chronicle, over five years, the journey of Padraig O’Malley as he works a peace model based on his recovery from addiction.



    Lyric R. Cabral

    (T)ERROR, an active FBI counterterrorism sting operation unravels when a terror suspect realizes an informant is setting him up.

    In Country
    Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara

    In Country follows 2/5 1st Cav (R), a “platoon” of hardcore war reenactors. These men live in the woods for days at a time, sleeping in foxholes and eating canned rations. They carry heavy packs and period M16s through dense jungle while an unseen enemy lays in wait, ready to strike the moment their guard is down. Reality and fantasy collide as multi-tour veterans of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam join history buffs to create a simulated war that is both emotionally and physically punishing. The film reveals as much about the unsettled history of the Vietnam War as the struggles of soldiers who fight in today’s unpopular wars.



    Ben Powell

    Barge is a documentary that captures the next chapter in the life of the Mississippi River and how it affects the people who rely on it most directly. OFFICIAL WEBSITE

    “The Garrett Scott Grant is still having a huge impact on the finishing phases of this film. In 2012, I was at an early stage of shootingBarge when I received the Garrett Scott Grant.  The feedback I received from other filmmakers at the festival was incredibly useful in developing my first feature length doc. To this day, Full Frame was the best festival experience I’ve ever had. The highlight of my time there was having lunch with Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker. I am a huge fan of their work, and it was so insightful to hear their feedback on my film. I still keep the notes they gave me next to my computer when I’m editing the film.Barge and my career definitely steered in a new direction after that week at Full Frame. I am so grateful and honored to have received the grant.” – Ben Powell

    Let the Fire Burn
    Jason Osder

    On May 13, 1985, the decade-long conflict between the city of Philadelphia and the organization MOVE reached a violent armed climax. Five children and six adults were killed and 61 homes were destroyed when city authorities dropped a bomb and stood by idly while the ensuing fire burned out of control. OFFICIAL WEBSITE

    Let the Fire Burn premiered at the 2013 Tribeca FIlm Festival where it won the prize for best documentary editing and received a jury special mention for best new documentary director. It went on to play Hot Docs, SFIFF, Doku Fest, Viennale, CPH: DOX and other prominent festivals in the US and around the world. Zeitgiest FIlms acquired U.S. rights and has put the film in limited theatrical release – so far nearly 50 US cities. The theatrical premiere was at FIlm Forum NYC. It will be broadcast on Independent Lens in 2014.

    “For me, there were two main highlights of the Garrett Scott experience: One was getting to know D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus. At Full Frame, I gave them a rough cut on DVD. A few weeks later, they wrote with the most kind and encouraging comments. I thought: this is all the validation I need. The rest of the world can love or hate my film and I don’t really care. The second is lasting relationships with other grant recipients: Ben Powell, Lotfy Nathan, Katy Wright, and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, to name a few.” – Jason Osder



    Call Me Kuchu
    Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall

    In Uganda, a new bill threatens to make homosexuality punishable by death. David Kato, Uganda’s first openly gay man, and retired Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo work against the clock to defeat this state-sanctioned homophobia while combating vicious persecution in their daily lives. But no one, not even the filmmakers are prepared for the brutal murder that shakes their movement to its core and sends shock waves around the world. OFFICIAL WEBSITE

    Call Me Kuchu had its World Premiere at the Berlin Film Festival 2012, where it won the Teddy Award and Cinema Fairbindet. The film also went on to screen at Hot Docs (Best International Feature), Sheffield Doc Fest, Silverdocs/AFI, Frameline (AT&T Audience Award), Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Festival, and Hamptons Film Festival (Victor Rabinowitz Award for Social Justice).Call Me Kuchu was released theatrically in Germany and the UK in 2012 and the US and Canada in 2013.

    “As first time filmmakers just beginning to decipher the world of independent documentary filmmaking, the Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant gave us an invaluable crash course that included conversations with veteran documentarians, sales agents, broadcasters, and distributors, while also giving us a fantastic first festival experience at one of the best documentary festivals. Since then, it has been wonderful to become part of a community of fellow grantees, all incredible filmmakers who support each other with creative and business advice.” – Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worral

    12 O’Clock Boys
    Lotfy Nathan

    The 12 O’Clock Boys are a notorious urban dirt bike pack in Baltimore — popping wheelies and weaving at excessive speeds through traffic, the group impressively evade police. They are envisioned through the eyes of young adolescent Pug – a bright kid from the Westside obsessed with the riders and willing to do anything to join their ranks. OFFICIAL WEBSITE

    12 O’Clock Boys has played many festivals internationally including SXSW in competition, Sundance Next Weekend (LA), Hot Docs, Viennale, CPH DOX, and more. A theatrical release is planned for January 31, 2014.

    “I must admit that the benefit of the grant was a bit of a mystery to me at first… There wasn’t any cash involved and we really needed it. It wasn’t long, however, until I realized that the grant was there simply to provide a few very meaningful and supportive relationships, which ultimately is the real resource in making a documentary. Thom Powers is force in the documentary community. He’s conscious of that, and he generously uses his standings to help the films supported by the grant. Suddenly we had a powerful voice validating the film in its infancy. Ian Olds is a brilliant filmmaker who really knows his craft. He consulted in the editing process, and provided a great deal of time and energy to the project. Rachael Rakes provided a steady reminder to keep a genuine approach towards the work, an important thing to remember. These relationships have proven to be very motivating for my career. I took lessons from each of these supporters.

    Full Frame is a filmmakers’ festival. It was an honor to be there. The best documentaries were there and I really think its where some of the relationships between filmmakers first get established. Many of the people I kept in touch with and saw throughout the year I met at Full Frame.” – Lotfy Nathan

    Johanna Hamilton

    The FBI was unaccountable and untouchable until 1971, when a group of ordinary citizens uncovered its illegal domestic spying programs. On March 8, 1971, The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, as they called themselves, broke into a small FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, took every file, and shared them with the American public. These actions exposed COINTELPRO, the FBI’s illegal surveillance program that involved the intimidation of law-abiding Americans and helped lead to the country’s first Congressional investigation of U.S. intelligence agencies. Never caught, forty-three years later, these everyday Americans – parents, teachers and citizens – publicly reveal themselves for the first time and share their story in the documentary 1971.



    25 To Life
    Mike Brown

    25 To Life is a feature documentary film about William Brawner, a young man who kept his HIV status a secret for over twenty-five years, since he was two years old. Now he seeks redemption from his promiscuous past, and embarks on a new phase of life with his wife who is HIV Negative. OFFICIAL WEBSITE

    Jessica Gonzales vs. The United States of America 
    April Hayes and Katia Maguire

    On June 22, 1999, Jessica Gonzales’ estranged husband Simon abducted their three young daughters in violation of a court-imposed domestic violence restraining order. Jessica called the police repeatedly over the next ten hours, begging the officers on duty to find her girls and bring them home safely, but they ignored and refused her pleas for help. At 3:00am, Simon drove to the police station and opened fire. The police shot him dead and found Jessica’s three children dead in the car. Jessica Gonzales vs. The United States of America tells the story of Jessica’s groundbreaking quest to strengthen the legal rights of the millions of women who hold restraining orders as she and her family struggle to overcome their immense tragedy and loss. OFFICIAL WEBSITE



    Anatomy of Poverty
    Elinyisia Mosha

    Anatomy of Poverty follows several characters in order to explore the impact and progress of foreign direct investment on Tanzania over the last ten years since massive privatization measures were enacted.

    The Canal Street Madam
    Cameron Yates

    Until an FBI bust upended her life, Jeanette Maier was a successful New Orleans madam.  Her discreet clientele included a number of powerful, high-ranking politicians.  The ensuing public trial focused salaciously on the fact that Jeanette’s brothel was a family affair – Jeanette ran the business with her mother and she employed her own daughter as an escort.  Jeanette and her family ended up infamous, yet their well-connected clients escaped exposure. Now, The Canal Street Madam sets out to reinvent herself and to protect her family as she fights back against a system that silences the powerless and protects the elite. OFFICIAL WEBSITE

    The Canal Street Madam  had it’s World Premiere at SXSW Film Festival 2010 and its International Premiere at Hot Docs 2010. The film also screened at BAMcinemaFEST 2010 and International Rome Film Festival 2010. The film is currently on iTunes and Netflix, distributed by Cinema Guild.



    War Don Don
    Rebecca Richman Cohen

    In Sierra Leone, United Nations soldiers guard a heavily fortified building known as the “special court.” Inside, Issa Sesay awaits his trial. Prosecutors say Sesay is a war criminal, guilty of heinous crimes against humanity. His defenders say he is a reluctant fighter who protected civilians and played a crucial role in bringing peace to Sierra Leone. With unprecedented access to prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, and, from behind bars, Sesay himself, War Don Don puts international justice on trial for the world to see — finding that in some cases the past is not just painful, it is also opaque. OFFICIAL WEBSITE

    War Don Don screened at SXSW 2010 (Special Jury Award), Independent Film Festival Boston (Karen Schmeer Award for Excellence in Editing), Human Rights Watch Film Festival New York (Cinereach Award), Taiwan International Documentary Festival (First Merit Prize), and Festival International du Film des Droits de L’Homme (Best Film Award, Investigative Report Jury). The film has also been nominated for two 2011 Emmys for
    Outstanding Continuing Coverage Of A News Story (Long Form) and Outstanding Editing.
    War Don Don was broadcast on HBO and will have its second window broadcast (upcoming January 2014) on AfroPoP.

    “I’d been working onWar Don Don for over a year when Thom Powers called me to say that I’d been awarded the Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant. The call was a triumphant moment – it was the first time that someone (who hadn’t known me for years) validated the project. It was a vote of confidence that assured me that I wasn’t alone in this wild endeavor.

    The four days I spent at Full Frame introduced me to fellow filmmakers and their films, to industry insiders and documentary aficionados. I made a few friends and I saw a ton of great movies. This process enabled me hone my ability to pitch the film, strategize fundraising, and envision the process of completing the film. The Garrett Scott Grant offered a valuable, early endorsement, and it helped increase my social networks.  And for a first time filmmaker, that sort of encouragement means a great deal.” – Rebecca Richman Cohen

    Garbage Dreams
    Mai Iskander

    Garbage Dreams follows three teenage boys born into the trash trade and growing up in the world’s largest garbage village. It is the home to 60,000 Zaballeen, Egypt’s ‘garbage people.’ When their community is suddenly faced with the globalization of their trade, each boy is forced to make choices that will impact his life and the future of his community. OFFICIAL WEBSITE

    Garbage Dreams was shortlisted for the 2010 Academy Awards in the category of Best Feature Length Documentary, was nominated for the 2010 Best Documentary by the Director’s Guild of America, and has won 26 international awards including the Al Gore Reel Current Award and IDA Humanitas Award. Since it’s World Premiere at SXSW,Garbage Dreams has aired on PBS/Independent Lens for the occasion of Earth Day 2010, and has screened in over 100 international film festivals and in over 150 community screenings worldwide.Garbage Dreams continues to inspire people to re-examine the true value of what they throw away by means of The Garbage Dreams Game, an interactive educational video game based on the feature film, which is currently being distributed in 12,000 schools in North America.

    “Being invited to Full Frame as a Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grantee was a wonderful experience. I was introduced to mentors and funders who helped makeGarbage Dreams possible and who continue to support my career as a documentary filmmaker.” – Mai Iskander

    The Unreturned 
    Nathan Fisher

    The Unreturned, filmed in Syria and Jordan, lets Iraq’s displaced middle class speak for itself. Shot in verité style, the film vividly portrays the lives of five displaced Iraqis from different ethnicities and religions. Caught in an absurdist purgatory of endless bureaucracy, dwindling life savings, and forced idleness, these refugees nevertheless radiate vitality and warmth. With an unflinching eye, candid dialogue, and a subtle touch of humor,The Unreturned captures scenes of daily life that are both personal and illustrative of the larger issues facing Iraq.


    The Unreturned premiered at the 2010 Minneapolis-St Paul International Film Festival, where it won “Best of Festival” honors. Festival highlights include the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York, the Refugee Film Festival in Tokyo, and the Marfa Film Festival in Marfa, Texas. The film has been broadcast on Al Jazeera, Telewizja Polska in Poland, and Televisão Independente in Portugal.

    “The Garrett Scott Grant happened at a critical time for my film and definitely impacted the completion of my film. Directly after my work-in-progress screening at Full Frame, an audience member approached me and invited me to screen my work-in-progress cut later that summer at a festival she was coordinating in Dubai. The free travel to Dubai let me return to Jordan and conduct important follow-up photography with my subjects. Ian Olds and other directors I met through the Grant program were kind enough to watch rough cuts ofThe Unreturned and give me detailed notes. Besides that, I really loved seeing tons of films at the festival and the entire experience was a lot of fun and a great early affirmation of the merit of my film.” – Nathan Fisher



    My Perestroika
    Robin Hessman

    My Perestroika follows five ordinary Russians living in extraordinary times — from their sheltered Soviet childhood, to the collapse of the Soviet Union during their teenage years, to the constantly shifting political landscape of post-Soviet Russia. Together, these childhood classmates paint a complex picture of the dreams and disillusionment of those raised behind the Iron Curtain. OFFICIAL WEBSITE

    My Perestroika premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in the US Documentary competition. It also screened at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam, New Directors, New Films in New York at Lincoln Center and MoMA, Full Frame (where it won the CDS Filmmaker Award), Silverdocs (now AFI Docs – where it won a Special Jury Award) Hotdocs, Sheffield Doc/Fest and many other international film festivals. MY PERESTROIKA was shown in cinemas in over 80 cities in the US and Canada, and was broadcast on PBS on the independent film series POV. My Perestroika received a Peabody Award in 2012.

    “Being awarded the Garret Scott Grant was an important stamp of approval – of recognition that was very helpful for my film which was so many years in the making. At Full Frame I showed an excerpt of my work-in-progress to helpful and encouraging feedback. I watched films that inspired and amazed me and gave me the creative energy for my next phase of production. I believe the Garret Scott Grant has had a positive impact on the success of my film and on my career. ” – Robin Hessman

    The Last Buffalo Hunt
    Lee Lynch

    The Last Buffalo Hunt is not a documentary about hunting buffalo. It is a film about cowboys, history and landscape, a film that documents the experience of one of the last open landscapes in America even while depicting its demise.