New York University has announced the winner of the 2015 Sloan Feature Film Award, an annual $100,000 grant given to a filmmaker developing their first feature film. This year's winner is Frances Bodomo for her project Afronauts, based on the true story of the Zambian Space Academy as they attempt to enter the Space Race in the 1960s. This Sloan Foundation grant is awarded annually to a graduate student in NYU's Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film & Television, and is given to a feature-length narrative project that portrays intellectually engaging, entertaining images of scientists/engineers, a scientific discovery, or technology.
Afronauts was first recognized by the Sloan Foundation as a short, receiving an NYU Sloan Short Film Production Grant in 2013. After winning first prize at the NYU Tisch First Run Film Festival and playing at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, Bodomo began developing a feature version of the script and was again recognized by Sloan through an award from the 2014 TFI Sloan Filmmaker Fund.
Bodomo plans to shoot the feature version of Afronauts in Zambia in 2016. In an interview with Sloan Science and Film, she said "I want to explore the longing for scientific reward from the perspective of those who seemingly do not have access to it. The Afronauts' technology is cobbled together, but it works. They make urine-fueled generators and telescopes from bean-tins. Afronauts removes science from the popular iconography of the laboratory and puts it in the shantytown. Bringing light to the current scientific spirit in Africa—the Invention Generation—is an exciting part of this project....It's a challenge, yes, but I see it more as an adventure."