Sundance Catalyst connects culturally-engaged film investors and funders with highly-anticipated film projects and with the Sundance community. The goal is to foster a meaningful dialogue that opens new paths to production for the most promising new independent films and to create a culture where investors and filmmakers can build fertile partnerships for the long-term. Over three days at the Sundance Resort each September, the invitation-only Catalyst Forum introduces prospective financiers to a slate of 10-12 top-notch, Sundance-supported documentary and fiction projects seeking financing. Through project presentations, individually scheduled meetings, and informal social gatherings, investors interface directly with filmmakers, top advisors, and Sundance program leadership. Additionally the schedule delves into the risks and rewards of film investing through case studies, round table discussions, special screenings and artist conversations.
As a result of the first four years of Catalyst Forum gatherings, more than $13 million has been raised for 47 documentary and fiction film projects. Ryan White’s tour-de-force documentary series The Keepers was picked up by Netflix at Catalyst. Six Catalyst films made waves at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival: Beach Rats (U.S. Dramatic Directing Award), Chasing Coral (U.S. Documentary Audience Award), The Force (U.S. Documentary Directing Award), Patti Cake$, Strong Island (Special Jury Award for Storytelling), and Unrest (Special Jury Award for Editing). Five Catalyst films-- The Bad Kids (Special Jury Award for Verite Filmmaking), Hooligan Sparrow, Newtown, Audrie & Daisy and Jacqueline (Argentine)--premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Four Catalyst projects premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, including The Hunting Ground, Cartel Land (U.S. Documentary Directing and Cinematography Awards), 3 ½ Minutes and Ten Bullets (Special Jury Award for Social Impact) and The Witch (U.S. Dramatic Directing Award). At the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, the Catalyst project, Rich Hill, won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize. Meanwhile, additional Catalyst projects such as Indian Point (2015 Tribeca Film Festival), Speed Sisters (2015 Hot Docs Film Festival), Mediterranea (2015 Cannes Film Festival), Shadow World (2016 Tribeca Film Festival), Solitary (2016 Tribeca Film Festival), They Call Us Monsters (2016 Los Angeles Film Festival), Dara Ju (2017 SXSW Film Festival), and The House of Tomorrow (2017 San Francisco International Film Festival)--are flourishing.
Learn more about our slate of completed Catalyst films and where you can watch them below.
Director: Marc Silver
Producers: Carolyn Hepburn & Minette Nelson
Premiere: 2015 Sundance Film Festival, Special Jury Award for Social Impact
On November 23, 2012, unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Russell Davis was shot at a Jacksonville gas station by Michael David Dunn. 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets explores the aftermath of Jordan's tragic death, the latent and often unseen effects of racism, and the contradictions of the American criminal justice system.
Directors: Bonni Cohen & Jon Shenk
Producers: Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen, Sara Dosa
Premiere: 2016 Sundance Film Festival
After two high school girls in different towns are sexually assaulted by boys they consider friends, online bullying leads each girl to attempt suicide. Tragically, one dies. Assault in the social media age is explored from the perspectives of the girls and boys involved, as well as their torn-apart communities.
Directors: Keith Fulton & Lou Pepe
Producers: Keith Fulton & Lou Pepe
Premiere: 2016 Sundance Film Festival, Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking
At a remote Mojave Desert high school, extraordinary educators believe that empathy and life skills, more than academics, give at-risk students command of their own futures. This coming-of-age story watches education combat the crippling effects of poverty in the lives of these so-called “bad-kids.”
Director: Eliza Hittman
Producers: Brad Becker-Parton, Andrew Goldman, Drew P. Houpt, Paul Mezey
Premiere: 2017 Sundance Film Festival, U.S. Dramatic Directing Award
An aimless teenager on the outer edges of Brooklyn struggles to escape his bleak home life and navigate questions of self-identity, as he balances his time between his delinquent friends, a potential new girlfriend, and older men he meets online.
Coming soon to theaters via Neon!
Director: Matthew Heineman
Producers: Matthew Heineman & Tom Yellin
Premiere: 2016 Sundance Film Festival, U.S. Documentary Directing and Cinematography Awards
In this classic western set in the twenty-first century, vigilantes on both sides of the border fight the vicious Mexican drug cartels. With unprecedented access, this character-driven film provokes deep questions about lawlessness, the breakdown of order, and whether citizens should fight violence with violence.
Director: Jeff Orlowski
Producers: Jeff Orlowski & Larissa Rhodes
Premiere: 2017 Sundance Film Festival, U.S. Documentary Audience Award
Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers, and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.
Coming soon to Netflix!
Director: Anthony Onah
Producers: Justin Begnaud, Anthony Onah, Kishori Rajan
Premiere: SXSW Film Festival 2017
Seyi, a 24-year-old Nigerian-American, works on Wall Street. Desperate to succeed because of his outsider status—due to class and race—he commits a crime, insider trading, which brings his entire world crashing down on him. Seyi’s troubled circumstances force him finally to confront his tumultuous relationship with his ailing father, his romantic relationship with his privileged white girlfriend, and his racial and immigrant backgrounds—with nothing less at stake for him than his soul.
Director: Peter Nicks
Producers: Linda Davis, Lawrence Lerew, Peter Nicks
Premiere: 2017 Sundance Film Festival, U.S. Documentary Directing Award
This cinema vérité look at the long-troubled Oakland Police Department goes deep inside their struggles to confront federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following events in Ferguson, and an explosive scandal.
Coming soon via ITVS!
Director: Nanfu Wang
Producers: Peter Lucas & Nanfu Wang
Premiere: 2016 Sundance Film Festival
Traversing Southern China, a group of activists led by Ye Haiyan, a.k.a. Hooligan Sparrow, protest a scandalous incident in which a school principal and a government official allegedly raped six students. Sparrow becomes an enemy of the state, but detentions, interrogations, and evictions can’t stop her protest from going viral.
Director: Peter Livolsi
Producers: Tarik Karam & Danielle Renfrew Behrens
Premiere: San Francisco Film Festival 2017
When a sheltered teen raised inside a geodesic dome meets a rebellious kid with a heart transplant, the two form a punk band to escape an oppressive grandmother, an overprotective father, and the looming legacy of renowned futurist Buckminster Fuller.
Director: Kirby Dick
Producer: Amy Ziering
Premiere: 2015 Sundance Film Festival
From the makers of The Invisible War comes a startling exposé of rape crimes on U.S. campuses, their institutional cover-ups, and brutal social toll. Weaving together verite footage and first-person testimonies, the film follows survivors as they pursue their education and justice — despite harsh retaliation, harassment, and pushback.
Director: Ivy Meeropol
Producers: Julie Goldman & Ivy Meeropol
Premiere: Tribeca Film Festival 2015
Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant looms just 35 miles from Times Square. With over 50 million people living in close proximity to the aging facility, its continued operation has the support of the plant’s operators and the NRC — Nuclear Regulatory Commission — yet has stoked a great deal of controversy in the surrounding community, including a vocal anti-nuclear contingent concerned that what happened at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant could happen here. In the brewing fight for clean energy and the catastrophic possibilities of government complacency, director Ivy Meeropol presents a balanced argument about the issues surrounding nuclear energy and offers a startling reality check for our uncertain nuclear future.
Director: Bernardo Britto
Producers: Ben Cohen & Brett Potter
Premiere: 2016 Sundance Film Festival
A young French woman hires a man to document her self-imposed political asylum in Argentina after supposedly leaking highly confidential government secrets.
Director: Ryan White
Executive Producers: Josh Braun, Ben Cotner, Jessica Hargrave, Lisa Nishimura, Jason Spingarn-Koff, Ryan White
This docuseries examines the decades-old murder of Sister Catherine Cesnick and its suspected link to a priest accused of abuse.
Director: Jonas Carpignano
Producers: Jason Berman, Chris Columbus, Eleanor Columbus, Jon Coplon, Christoph
Daniel, Andrew Kortschak, John Lesher, Ryan Lough, Justin Nappi, Alain Peyrollaz, Gwyn Sannia, Marc Schmidheiny, Victor Shapiro, Ryan Zacarias
Premiere: 2015 Cannes Film Festival
Ayiva recently left his home in Burkina Faso in search of a way to provide for his sister and his daughter. He takes advantage of his position in an illegal smuggling operation to get himself and his best friend Abas off of the continent. Ayiva adapts to life in Italy, but when tensions with the local community rise, things become increasingly dangerous. Determined to make his new situation work he attempts to weather the storm, but it has its costs.
Director: Kim A. Snyder
Producers: Maria Cuomo Cole & Kim A. Snyder
Premiere: 2016 Sundance Film Festival
After joining the ranks of a growing club no one wants to belong to, the people of Newtown, Connecticut, weave an intimate story of resilience. This film traces the aftermath of the worst mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history as the traumatized community finds a new sense of purpose.
Director: Geremy Jasper
Producers: Chris Columbus, Michael Gottwald, Dan Janvey, Noah Stahl, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Rodrigo Teixeira
Premiere: 2017 Sundance Film Festival
Straight out of Jersey comes Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, an aspiring rapper fighting through a world of strip malls and strip clubs on an unlikely quest for glory.
Coming soon to theaters via Fox Searchlight!
Directors: Andrew Droz Palermo & Tracy Droz Tragos
Producers: Andrew Droz Palermo & Tracy Droz Tragos
Premiere: 2014 Sundance Film Festival, U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Award
In a rural, American town, kids face heartbreaking choices, find comfort in the most fragile of family bonds, and dream of a future of possibility.
Director: Johan Grimonprez
Producers: Joslyn Barnes & Anadil Hossain
Premiere: 2016 Tribeca Film Festival
Shadow World reveals the shocking realities of the global arts trade -- the only business that counts its profits in billions and its losses in human lives. In part based on Corruption Watch UK founder Andrew Feinstein’s globally acclaimed book The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, the film reveals how the international trade in weapons – with the complicity of governments and intelligence agencies, investigative and prosecutorial bodies, weapons manufacturers, dealers and agents – fosters corruption, determines economic and foreign policies, undermines democracy and creates widespread suffering.
Director: Kristi Jacobson
Producers: Julie Goldman, Kristi Jacobson, Katie Mitchell
Premiere: 2016 Tribeca Film Festival
Step inside a 'Supermax' in this unflinching exploration of life inside one of America's most notorious prisons where inmates live in 8 X 10 cells, 23 hours a day for months, years and sometimes decades. Featuring unprecedented access to Virginia's Red Onion State Prison, the film presents intimate interviews with inmates while capturing the daily life there.
Director: Amber Fares
Producers: Jessica Devaney, Amber Fares, Avi Goldstein
Premiere: Hot Docs Film Festival 2015
The Speed Sisters are the first all-woman race car driving team in the Middle East. Grabbing headlines and turning heads at improvised tracks across the West Bank, these five women have sped their way into the heart of the gritty, male-dominated Palestinian street car-racing scene. Weaving together their lives on and off the track, Speed Sisters takes you on a surprising journey into the drive to go further and faster than anyone thought you could.
Director: Yance Ford
Producers: Joslyn Barnes & Yance Ford
Premiere: 2017 Sundance Film Festival, Special Jury Award for Storytelling
Examining the violent death of the filmmaker’s brother and the judicial system that allowed his killer to go free, this documentary interrogates murderous fear and racialized perception, and reimagines the wreckage in catastrophe’s wake, challenging us to change.
Coming soon via POV!
Director: Benjamin Lear
Producers: Sasha Alpert, Gabriel Cowan, Benjamin Lear
Premiere: 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival
They Call Us Monsters takes us behind the walls of The Compound, where Los Angeles houses its most violent juvenile offenders. To their advocates, they’re kids. To the system, they’re adults, and to their victims, they’re monsters. This film asks us to decide for ourselves.
Director: Jennifer Brea
Producers: Jennifer Brea, Lindsey Dryden, Patricia E. Gillespie, Alysa Nahmias
Premiere: 2017 Sundance Film Festival, Special Jury Award for Editing
When Harvard PhD student Jennifer Brea is struck down at 28 by a fever that leaves her bedridden, doctors tell her it’s “all in her head.” Determined to live, she sets out on a virtual journey to document her story—and four other families’ stories—fighting a disease medicine forgot.
Coming to Independent Lens in 2018!
Director: Robert Eggers
Producers: Daniel Bekerman, Lars Knudsen, Jodi Redmond, Rodrigo Teixeira, Jay Van Hoy
Premiere: 2015 Sundance Film Festival, U.S. Dramatic Directing Award
New England in the 1630s: William and Katherine lead a devout Christian life with five children, homesteading on the edge of an impassable wilderness. When their newborn son vanishes and crops fail, the family turns on one another. Beyond their worst fears, a supernatural evil lurks in the nearby wood.
Sundance Institute and The Harnisch Foundation have joined forces to launch Catalyst Women, a groundbreaking new program offering creative investors the opportunity to directly support women-led film projects! The inaugural program will take place May 4–5, 2017 in New York City. To participate in this event as a creative investor and learn more about the Catalyst and Women at Sundance communities, contact Becca Keating, assistant director of individual giving, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-360-1981. Filmmaker submissions are now closed.