Two teams of women filmmakers have won the Tribeca Film Institute(TFI)-Sloan Fimmaker Fund awards, receiving a total of $160,000 in direct funding for their science-themed screenplays. Written and produced by Jenny Halper, produced by Kate Sharp, and directed by Claire McCarthy, THE BURNING SEASON stars a female scientist. On receipt of the award, Halper said to Science & Film,
“We are grateful for the support of TFI's Sloan grant and honored to be included in their incredible tradition of smart, entertaining, science-driven films. THE BURNING SEASON–which is based on a remarkable story by Laura Van Den Berg–is about a primatologist who travels to Madagascar with her daughter and is torn between her desire to protect an endangered species and her instincts as a mother.
The backdrop of Madagascar–one of the most unique places on earth, yet also the poorest–paints a startling picture of the clash between good intentions, survival, and destruction. The Sloan grant will allow us to further explore this complicated terrain as well as a question that compelled us to Laura's story from the very beginning: do you protect your family, or try to save the world?”
Directed and produced by Parisa Barani, and written by Jennifer Blackmer, HUMAN TERRAIN features an anthropologist working on an Iraqi military initiative, which embeds social scientists in combat units. Barani and Blackmer said to Science & Film,
“We are so honored to develop HUMAN TERRAIN through the resources offered by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which is allowing us to ask: is it even possible to ‘scientifically’ study human beings? Can a researcher be completely dispassionate in looking at ourselves, and is that the best way to bridge cultural differences? In searching for the answers to these questions, the story also explores collisions between East and West, the academic world and the military, and the contentious issue of a woman’s choice to veil as an expression of her faith.”
THE BURNING SEASON and HUMAN TERRAIN scripts were chosen by a jury of scientists and film professionals: producer Caroline Baron, Dr. Heather Berlin (who wrote about ANOMALISA for Science & Film), Dr. Jeanne Garbarino, director and producer Alex Gibney, producer Lawrence Mattis, actress Rose McGowan, and Dr. Laura Snyder.
As quoted in the press release, the Sloan Foundation’s Doron Weber said, “we are delighted to partner with Tribeca for the 15th year and to support THE BURNING SEASON and HUMAN TERRAIN, two outstanding screenplays with female scientists as protagonists and female screenwriters, directors and producers attached. Sloan’s nationwide science and arts program helped develop THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY over 8 years and now has projects in development about Hedy Lamarr, Rosalind Franklin, Marie Curie, Jane Goodall and Katherine Johnson—one of the African-American female mathematicians who helped NASA win the space race—demonstrating that science and technology continue to furnish film artists with great, untold stories and a remarkable diversity of fascinating characters.”
These Filmmaker Fund awards, along with providing funding for production, include the professional guidance of the Tribeca Film Institute which pairs the filmmakers with an industry professional and a science advisor.
The screenplays will be read by leading actors as part of a Works-in-Progress reading during the Tribeca Film Festival, on April 22. Science & Film published a listing of all the science-themed films at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.