2015 Finishing Funds Recipients
Tatianna Bacchus, Brothers of the Knight
Lynn Bell, A Mother and Son’s Love
Jennifer Bennett, ACAF Stories
Neal Dhand, Crooked and Narrow
Nanci Gaglio, Edge of 12
Paul Hinson, Laurel Run Road
Madeliene Hunt-Erlich: Sing the Body
Shahin Izadi, Sara and Dennis
Byron Karabotsos, Drag Queen for Kids
Leslie Koren, Now Return Us to Normal
Mikal Odom, LUV Don’t Live Here Anymore
Alyssa Pearson, Pieces and Pieces
Heidi Saman, Namour
Christian Strevy, Gunner Jackson
Israel Vasquez: Sun Dog
SYNOPSES AND FILMMAKER BIOS:
Tatianna Bacchus, Brothers of the Knight (Documentary short; second time Finishing Funds recipient)
A behind-the-scenes look inside the Debbie Allen Dance Academy's Brothers of the Knight Summer 2014 tour.
Tatiana Bacchus, Owner/Senior Producer of Teaspoon & Pound Media, LLC, is an emerging independent filmmaker, who curates the ancestral wisdom of invisible characters by telling their untold stories.
Tatiana is currently working on her first feature length documentary, Freedom Denied, which posthumously tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Edvard Pierre’s near decade-long battle for political asylum in the United States, as told by the attorneys and community activists who fought for his freedom. Tatiana is also creating original programming, such as her children’s show - On the JOB with Lani Lou, which provides early career exposure for children and her doc series Connectors that will focus on local emerging independent media makers. Tatiana received a B.A. in Psychology from Temple University. Her production experience was learned on the job and her inspiration comes from the beautiful complexities of life. Tatiana is a Leeway Art and Change Grant, Her Film Project, Small But Mighty Arts and Lucius and Eva Eastman Foundation Grant Recipient. She’s grateful for the opportunity to continue her work as a filmmaker and performing artist.
Lynn Bell, A Mother and Son’s Love (narrative short)
The mother of a 10-year-old boy and the victim of Domestic Violence, dreads her alcoholic husband coming home from work, because she can only expect his presence to be violent. She finally gets fed-up with his abusive behavior, but the effect it has on her son becomes deadly.
Lynn is a mother, grandmother of 5, and a great-grandmother who has worked in the entertainment world as a screenwriter, playwright, author, singer and songwriter. She self-published a book, "Is Someone Hurting You?" and a CD.
Jennifer Bennett, ACAF Stories (doc series)
Brothers Rashie Abdul Samad and Sharif Abdur-Rahim were selling wigs in Delaware when they got wind of the Black Power Movement of the late Sixties. Inspired by the concepts of the Black pride and self-determination from figures like Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey, they took their cultural pride and turned it into African Cultural Art Forum, one of the oldest cultural businesses in Philadelphia. Audiences will share their journey through this documentary series.
Jennifer Bennett is an emerging filmmaker with a background in journalism. Years after her brief journalism career had ended, her interest in filmmaking was sparked after a friend invited her to act in a short film. A film workshop at a community film school ignited a flame that leads her to tell stories that show positive images of African American people and the African diaspora. A real estate broker, by trade, Jennifer is determined to create art that gives inspiration to both current and future generations.
Neal Dhand, Crooked and Narrow (feature narrative)
Amy Walsh drifts back into Philadelphia after a 10-year absence. Her estranged father Pat, an ex-cop, is now in prison dying of cancer. Her brother Jordan is divorced and reluctant to offer his long-lost sister much help. Amy gets her father to use an old connection to place her on a stick-up crew. The first job is a jewelry store heist that goes awry. Tensions arise within the group, ending in Amy making a play to take over and lead the next crime. The bodies from the botched jewelry robbery make their way to Warren Mercer, a dirty police officer from Amy’s past. He gets on her trail, leading to a game of cat and mouse and an inevitable collision.
Neal Dhand is a professor and filmmaker from Philadelphia. His first feature-film, the dramatic thriller Second-Story Man, premiered at Cinequest 21 and the Shanghai International Film Festival. It was reviewed positively by Variety, which called it “assuredly handled” and “well-crafted”. The film is currently being distributed by Osiris Entertainment. Neal teaches filmmaking, screenwriting, and film history courses at Chestnut Hill College and Temple University. When not teaching or making films he runs, reads, plays Frisbee with his dog, and travels.
Nanci Gaglio, Edge of 12 (narrative short)
In three vignettes, we explore situations a 12 year old girl may find herself facing. In the first: Should she shoplift with her pack of friends or not? And what happens in the 12 year old brain when that decision is rushed upon her?
Nanci Gaglio was born in Brooklyn, NY to a big working-class Sicilian-American clan. After being cast out and banished at 16 years old for coming fully out as a lesbian, she managed to enroll in college and finally graduate NYU's Tisch School of the Arts with an MFA in screenwriting on a full tuition scholarship. Ms. Gaglio taught herself production and wrote, directed and produced a string of shorts that screened in over 150 festivals across the world, garnering several awards. She also created an original TV series that was in development with both BBC and Channel 4 in London. Ms. Gaglio is dedicated to creating stories for and about girls, women, LGBT and minority communities. She is currently a popular adjunct screenwriting professor at Drexel University, and enjoys reaching out to her audience for inspiration.
Paul Hinson, Laurel Run Road (narrative short; second time Finishing Fund recipient)
Fall gives way to winter as Sean and his daughter Caitlin stop off in a rural college town on their way back from an off-season beach vacation. They wander through the ridges and valleys of the Appalachian landscape, finding quiet, tenuous moments together as their time to reconnect winds to a close. From a football game at one of the loudest stadiums in the country, to a lonely cabin in the mountains, and along the meandering forest roads, they finally lose their way while looking for a church down by the river. Entirely improvised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia, LAUREL RUN ROAD is part fiction, part quiet observation of place.
Freelance director of photography and experimental filmmaker Paul Hinson started making movies in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia, then came to Philadelphia for his MFA in film and media arts at Temple University. He makes non-fiction films about landscapes and places. His work screened as part of a program called “A Certain Slant of Light: Uncanny Works” at the Montreal Underground Film Festival. Other festivals have included the London and Portugal Underground, Haverhill Experimental, and Big Muddy. At the Scribe Video Center, he’s facilitated workshops in documentary production and available light cinematography, as well as community video production with the Muslim Voices project. Higher-education adjunct experience includes courses on editing, introductory video production, and film history. Additionally, he’s taught production workshops at Virginia Tech and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center.
Madeliene Hunt-Erlich: Sing the Body (documentary short series)
Sing the Body is a series of five documentary hybrid short portraits produced through a process of collaboration between subject and director. Filmed in Detroit, New York City, Oakland, Boston and Greensboro the cast of women in Sing the Body come from distinctive walks of life; however each of their stories challenge the status quo widely held notions of beauty, subjectivity and physical strength.
Madeleine Hunt Ehrlich is an award winning documentary filmmaker. She is the 2014 Princess Grace Award winner in film. She has worked on documentary projects for broadcast on CBS Sports and has received grants from National Black Programming Consortium and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Madeleines work has appeared in Small Axe Journal, Bomb Magazine, Guernica Magazine among others. Madeleine is currently completing her MFA in film at Temple University.
Shahin Izadi, Sara and Dennis (narrative short; second time Finishing Fund recipient)
A young, interracial couple confronts their differences through a seemingly innocent game of would you rather?
Shahin Izadi holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is currently completing an MFA in Film and Media Arts at Temple University. His short films have screened at the Maryland Film Festival (2015), Wisconsin Film Festival (2014), the Athens International Film & Video Festival (2014), and Occupy the Film Festival (2012, Anthology Film Archives, NYC). Portions of his documentary footage appear in the feature length documentary Citizen Koch (Sundance 2013).
Byron Karabotsos, Drag Queen for Kids (documentary short)
On National Read Across America Day, Philadelphia’s beloved Martha Graham Cracker was invited to a day care to read Dr. Seuss books to children. But after she accepted the invitation, she was uninvited. Supervisors at the day care center deemed her act inappropriate. They refused to say why. Martha’s friends rallied around her and she was invited to perform before a sold-out audience of families on Dr. Seuss birthday, in one of the oldest churches in America. It’s a performance that’s complicated for everyone except the kids. A Drag Queen for Kids follows Dito Van Reigersberg and his alter ego, Martha Graham Cracker, as they prepare for and perform their show. Jokes are reshaped, songs carefully altered, innuendos abound. Putting the lie to assumptions about drag and children, this short film shows that what makes a drag queen powerful – and dangerous – isn’t her clothes, it’s her empathy.
Byron Karabatsos (Director/Cinematographer/Editor) is a Philadelphia based filmmaker. His work explores the ways individuals exist within and are defined by social constructs. His films have screened at over 70 film festivals, including: the Dallas International Film Festival, the Sarasota Film Festival, the Denver International Film Festival, the Maryland Film Festival, the Big Muddy Film Festival, the River’s Edge Film Festival and the San Francisco Short Film Festival. The Exchange (2005), 4021 Parkside Avenue (2007) were broadcast on public television. He was commissioned by Microsoft to make a documentary about its School of the Future, and by the Knight Foundation for projects about the impact of arts and culture on neighborhoods. He’s received grants from Philadelphia Film and Video Association (PIFVA), the Boston Foundation, Temple University and the University of the Arts. Byron received a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Michigan and an MFA in Film from Temple University, and teaches at Temple University and the University of the Arts.
Leslie Koren, Now Return Us to Normal (documentary feature)
Flooded by flashbacks from her years at a controversial therapeutic reform school for “troubled teens,” a filmmaker reunites with former classmates on a quest for answers in this feature documentary, risking her own mental health to confront unsettling truths about their treatment, guilt and stigma as beneficiaries of a murky “Teen Help” industry, and to find healing in solidarity with other adult survivors.
Leslie is a documentary filmmaker whose work has been exhibited in print, in festivals and screenings such as Union Docs in NY, Anthology Film Archive, Hampton's International Film Festival, and Copenhagen International Film Festival Market, to name a few. She was an Associate Producer for Sundance juried, Academy Award nominated Traces of the Trade, and produced Lily Henderson’s documentary, Lessons for the Living, distributed through Tribeca Institute’s Reframe. Her short, Like an Ocean, was selected for “Best Docs” screening at International House in Philadelphia. She is recipient of several awards, including the Harry L Friedberg Award, that funds films which highlight psychoanalytic insights through The Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Foundation, and a Philadelphia Fellow of the 2014 Robert Flaherty Film Seminar.
Mikal Odom, LUV Don’t Live Here Anymore (narrative feature)
“Luv…” tells the story of REGGIE HAMILTON, also affectionately known as Reggie Luv, a gay black man whose life takes a 180-degree turn when once he becomes severely ill. Not easily willing to part with the way life was prior, Reggie finds himself fighting for both his physical and mental health.
Mikal Odom received a bachelor’s degree in Film and Media Arts from Temple University in 2004, where he produced his first short film, “Dreamsong,” which went on to play at various festivals nationwide, including the Hollywood Black Film Festival and the NextFrame International Student Film Festival. His second short film, “2nd Shift,” aired nationally on BET’s “Best Film Shorts” Showcase in the fall of 2007, where it was voted favorite short in that week’s episode from a poll on BET.com. He earned a master’s degree in Producing for Film and Video in 2010. Having caught the acting bug after portraying a small role in the TV special “Inside Bioterror” for National Geographic, he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Theatre at Villanova University.
Alyssa Pearson, Pieces and Pieces (narrative short)
After returning from war, Jenny is having difficulty adjusting to civilian life--her husband and daughter having adapted to life without her. When a strange man moves in next door, Jenny's war-trained instincts lead her to an obsessive reconnaissance mission. After her compulsive tactics lead to delusions, Jenny is left with debilitating, reality-twisting panic, and is forced to realize that her protection strategies are actually causing more harm than good.
Alyssa Pearson is a passionate storyteller and emerging filmmaker. Her work focuses on exploring minutia and investigating the micronarrative, the intimate moments that make up the story of humanity. She is interested in stories that offer truth and reflection. Her films have screened across the country, and have won multiple awards from both festivals and academic conferences.
Heidi Saman, Namour (narrative feature)
Namour is a feature length film that tells the story of Steven Bassem, a young man going nowhere fast, literally. His job as a valet driver for a fashionable restaurant brings him into contact with Los Angeles' moneyed elite and their expensive cars, but Steven can't shake the feeling that his temporary gig has somehow become permanent -- and what he took for a post-college rut is turning into his future. As friends and lovers drift away and his close-knit Arab American family begins to fall apart, Steven begins to act out the drama of his permanent adolescence in ways that surprise even him.
Heidi Saman attended the University of California, San Diego where she studied World Literature and Gender Studies. Upon graduation, she moved to Cairo, Egypt where she was a freelance journalist for The Cairo Times News Magazine. In 2007, Heidi completed a master's degree in Film and Media Arts on a Future Faculty Fellowship from Temple University in Philadelphia. Her thesis film, The Maid, a short she wrote and directed, was shot in Cairo, Egypt and premiered in competition at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. Heidi was awarded the prestigious Jack G. Shaheen Scholarship Award for her creative visual work with Arabs and Arab-Americans and she was recently named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces to Watch in 2014. Last year, she wrapped production for her first feature length film, entitled Namour, which was developed with the help of the Sundance Screenwriters Intensive Lab and the Knight Foundation. Currently she is an associate producer for NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
Christian Strevy, Gunner Jackson (narrative)
His brother thinks he’s gone off the deep end, his intern supports his delusion, his mentor wants him to focus his passion, and the woman spying on him might end up his closest ally. Gunner gathers everyone under the guise of his mentor’s retirement party, in which he theatrically presents the evidence that proves he is a target of the US Government.
Christian Strevy was born in Birmingham, Alabama, Heart of Dixie, USA. Roll Tide. He studied art at Birmingham-Southern College, and now lives and works in West Philadelphia, and is a Graduate Film student at Temple University. He loves woodworking, deep-fried anything, Alabama football, making people laugh, and telling stories.
Israel Vasquez: Sun Dog (narrative short; second time Finishing Fund recipient)
Sun Dog is an impressionistic film that tells of a mother and daughter’s attempt to survive amidst the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. Imogene has lost two children to dust pneumonia and her husband recently abandoned her. Now, her only living child, teenage Sadie, is determined to leave the barren and bankrupt wheat farm for California. When a sudden dust storm descends upon the house, Imogene’s psychological stability is violently shaken. As Imogene untethers from reality, Sadie must decide whether to stay or to leave. Can they both survive when everything around them is returning to dust?
Israel holds an MFA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University. He was selected as the 2015 Sundance Knight Fellow and participated in 2013 Sundance Screenwriting Intensive in Philadelphia. Israel currently works as an adjunct professor at Temple University and University of the Arts. His thesis film, Sun Dog, is in post-production and he is also developing a feature script, Oscoda.