In This Section

Hilton LightStay Sustainability Award

Hilton Worldwide

Hilton Worldwide Announces Program with Sundance Institute
Three-year deal supports Sundance Documentary Film Program and Sundance Film Festival, creates LightStay award and fund for films that heighten sustainability awareness. Read more...

  • Shored Up
    Director: Ben Kalina
    Award Category: Completed Feature Film

    When Superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast it was a wake up call to a new reality. Shored Up takes us to the heart of this climate change controversy, following communities in New Jersey and North Carolina where politics, economics and science collide. Beginning three years before Sandy hit and following the debates over beach replenishment and other attempts to hold back the sea, Shored Up is a convincing call for action along our coasts. As the oceans rise and storms flood our towns and cities we have a choice to make: do we continue to develop as we have in the past, ignoring clear risks and danger? Or, do we allow science to guide our policies for the future... before it's too late.

    Ben Kalina is a documentary filmmaker whose interests are situated at the juncture of science, the environment and the human experience on the front lines of climate change. His feature directing debut is Shored Up which explores coastal development and rising sea levels in the U.S. in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He was the Associate Producer of the documentaries A Sea Change, about ocean acidification and broadcast on Discovery’s Planet Green in 2009 and Two Square Miles, about a small town’s fight to prevent a coal-fired cement plant from building in their midst, broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens in 2006. Ben and his company, Mangrove Media, are located in Philadelphia where he lives with his family.


    Vezo
    Director: Tod Lending
    Award Category: Short Film

    Filmed in Madagascar, the short film, Vezo (which means: to live with the sea), is narrated by Narcia, the 14 year old daughter of a Vezo family. She tells the story of their survival in the style of a fable and the filmmaker uses beautiful documentary footage and the magic of sand animation to illustrate her story. In this simple fable, the solution to the family’s survival becomes an archetypal lesson that can be applied to other situations of poverty and hunger on coastlines throughout the world.

    Tod Lending is an Academy Award® nominated and national Emmy winning producer/director/cinematographer whose work has aired nationally on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, HBO, Al Jazeera; has been screened theatrically and awarded at national and international festivals; and has been televised internationally throughout Europe and Asia. His work has inspired the creation and passing of federal legislation (The Legacy Act/American Dream Act) and has garnered numerous grants from foundations including the MacArthur Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Ford Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, NEH, US Office of Education, Dreihaus Foundation, Sundance Institute and Wallace Foundation, to name a few. He was a University of Maryland Journalism Fellow in Child and Family Policy, an advisor at the Sundance Institute, and is the president and founder of Nomadic Pictures, a documentary film production company based in Chicago, He is also the director of Ethno Pictures, a nonprofit film company that produces and distributes documentary films.

  • THE REVOLUTIONARY OPTIMISTS
    Directors: Maren Grainger-Monsen & Nicole Newnham
    Award Category: Completed Feature Documentary

    Children are saving lives in the slums of Calcutta. Amlan Ganguly doesn't rescue children; he empowers them to become change agents, battling poverty and transforming their neighborhoods with dramatic results. The Revolutionary Optimists follows Amlan and three of the children he works with – Salim, Kajal and Priyanka - on an intimate journey through adolescence, as they bravely fight the forces that oppress them – from polio to child labor and child marriage.

    MAREN GRAINGER-MONSEN is a physician, filmmaker-in-residence and director of the Program in Bioethics in Film at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics. Maren directed Hold Your Breath and Worlds Apart, a large-scale project on cross-cultural conflicts in medicine. Her films Where the Highway Ends: Rural Healthcare in Crisis, won a regional Emmy Award and Grave Words was awarded first place in the American Medical Association Film Festival. Maren studied film at the London International Film School, received her medical doctorate from the University of Washington and emergency medicine and palliative care training at Stanford University School of Medicine. In 1998, she founded the Program in Bioethics and Film at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics.

    NICOLE NEWNHAM is a documentary filmmaker and writer. Nicole recently co-produced and directed the critically acclaimed The Rape of Europa, about the fate of Europe's art treasures during WWII. Nicole was also nominated for a national Emmy Award for co-producing and directing the documentary Sentenced Home (2006). With Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer Brian Lanker, she co-produced They Drew Fire (2000), a widely-acclaimed special for PBS about the combat artists of World War II, and wrote the companion book distributed by Harper Collins.

    UPDATE: The Revolutionary Optimists premiered on PBS Independent Lens on June 17, 2013, followed by an extensive community screening series across the United States. With the help of Ford Foundation, Care, USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the film has been screened across the developing world as a tool inspire and empower local communities.


    Seeds of Time
    Director: Sandy McLeod
    Award Category: In Process Feature Documentary

    A perfect storm is brewing as agriculture pioneer Cary Fowler races against time to protect the future of our food. Gene banks of the world are crumbling, crop failures are producing starvation inspired rioting, and the accelerating effects of climate change are already affecting farmers globally. But Fowler's journey, and our own, is just beginning: From Rome to Russia and, finally, a remote island under the Arctic Circle, Fowler's passionate and personal journey may hold the key to saving the one resource we cannot live without: our seeds.

    SANDY MCLEOD is an award-winning independent filmmaker whose 25-year career started with directing and producing music videos for musicians such as Talking Heads, UB40, Bruce Springsteen and Roy Orbison. As visual consultant for the concert film Stop Making Sense, McLeod worked with Jonathan Demme and Jordon Crownenweath to establish textural elements of this landmark film. She production designed Spalding Gray's Swimming to Cambodia and collaborated with Demme on Haiti Dreams of Democracy. Sandy was second-unit director on John Sayles' films Limbo and Silver City. Her documentary Asylum, was Academy Award and Emmy-nominated and won numerous national and international awards.

    UPDATE: Seeds of Time premiered at the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival in November 2013, and will be having its North America Premiere at SXSW Film Festival in March.


    IF YOU BUILD IT
    Director: Patrick Creadon
    Award Category: Completed Feature Documentary, Honorable Mention

    If You Build It follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller to rural Bertie County, the poorest in North Carolina, where they work with local high school students to help transform both their community and their lives. Living on credit and grant money and fighting a change-resistant school board, Pilloton and Miller lead their students through a year-long, full-scale design and build project that does much more than just teach basic construction skills: it shows ten teenagers the power of design-thinking to re-invent not just their town but their own sense of what's possible. If Youo Build It  offers a hopeful vision for a new kind of classroom in which students learn the tools to design their own futures.

    PATRICK CREADON was born in Chicago and is a 1989 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. He began his career as one of the youngest cameramen in the history of PBS, shooting and producing cinema verite style stories for the critically acclaimed documentary series The 90’s. He earned his Master’s Degree in Cinematography at the American Film Institute, where his thesis film (on which he served as Director of Photography) was nominated for a student Academy Award. As a cameraman his work has appeared on every major network, including NBC, CBS, ABC, MTV, VH1, and ESPN. In 2009 he served on the U.S. Documentary Jury at the Sundance Film Festival. He also Executive Produced Superheroes with Christine O’Malley.

    UPDATE: If You Build It had its world premiere at 2013 Full Frame Documentary Festival in North Carolina where the film is set. Screenings are continuing across the country, as the film continues its theatrical roll-out and community screenings through 2015.


    JUNGLE FISH
    Director: Louisiana Kreutz
    Award Category: Completed Short Documentary

    Scientists predict that Guyana, one of the least explored rain forests on the planet, holds the greatest density of biodiversity per square kilometer found anywhere on the planet. But for most of its post-colonial history, the native peoples of Guyana have struggled for economic independence. Poverty and illiteracy have forced many of the adults into a life of lawlessness and poaching while their children often flee the country to seek work in Brazil's dangerous mines. Hope might be prowling in Guyana's rivers in the form of the largest freshwater fish in the world, the arapaima. Follow three expert fishermen as they undertake a two-week voyage deep into the heart of Guyana's rain forest, to a small village named Rewa. Their mission: to demonstrate that the arapaima can be caught with a fly rod. The outcome of this project will help to secure the funding to expand this program to other remote villages of the Rupanuni region and further develop this program as a template to be used globally. If they succeed, it will prove that the country's fledgling sport fishing industry is viable. And that will mean a brighter future for the native peoples, the rain forest they call home, and the endangered arapaima.

    LOUISIANA KREUTZ is a documentary filmmaker working out of Austin, Texas, and her hometown of New York City. She has edited for director Bradley Beesley, most notably on Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo, and directed several films of her own, including Jungle Fish for Costa Films. In all she does, she strives to create character-driven content.

    UPDATE: Jungle Fish was awarded $500,00 through the COMPETE Caribbean grant offered by the British government. The funds will help pay for scientific research, fishing guide training, and overall program management assistance. It will also help to begin the process of spreading our fishing lodge concept to the other 26 villages within the Rupununi region of Guyana. Some villages will provide sport fishing services and others will provide support by growing food and supplying staff.

  • THE ISLAND PRESIDENT
    Director: Jon Shenk
    Award Category: Completed Feature Documentary

    The Island President is the story of Mohamed Nasheed, the complex and charismatic young leader of the Maldives, the chain of 2000 islands dotting the Indian Ocean. Nasheed rose from the trenches of democratic activism to become head of state of a nation whose very survival has come under threat by climate change. As the first democratically elected president of his Muslim country, Nasheed awakes from a long political nightmare only to face a crisis whose outcome will determine whether his low-laying archipelago becomes engulfed by the rising ocean caused by glacial melt. Nasheed leads the charge in a high-stakes battle to convince the world’s biggest polluters to turn the tide on global warming, culminating in trip to the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

    Jon Shenk, Director/Cinematographer, is a documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and founder of Actual Films in San Francisco. Shenk directed and photographed the Emmy-nominated Lost Boys of Sudan (2004), a feature documentary that follows two young refugees of Sudan’s civil war through their first year in America. He co-directed and photographed Democracy Afghan Style (2004, 80 minutes), a PBS/ITVS/Arte film about the post-war constitutional process in Afghanistan. He directed and photographed The Beginning (1999), an observational chronicle of George Lucas’s complex creative process during the making of Star Wars: Episode I. He earned his Masters degree in Documentary Filmmaking from Stanford University in 1995 and his B.A. from Yale in 1991.

    UPDATE: The Island President was released theatrically in Spring 2012. The film is currently available on iTunes and DVD. During the film’s release President Nasheed was ousted from office in a military coup.


    RAFEA: SOLAR MAMA
    Co-directors: Mona Eldaief & Jehane Noujaim
    Award
    Category: In Progress Feature Documentary

    Rafea is a Bedouin woman who lives with her four daughters in one of Jordan’s poorest desert villages on the Iraqi border. She is given a chance to travel to India to attend the Barefoot College, where illiterate grandmothers from around the world are trained in 6 months to be solar engineers. If Rafea succeeds, she will be able to electrify her village, train more engineers, and provide for her daughters.
    Even when she returns as the first female solar engineer in the country, her real challenge will have just begun. Will she find support for her new venture? Will she be able to inspire the other women in the village to join her and change their lives? And most importantly, will she be able to re-wire the traditional minds of the Bedouin community that stands in her way?

    Co-director: Jehane Noujaim
    Noujaim was raised in Cairo, where she began her career as a photographer. After receiving her B.A. in film and philosophy at Harvard, Noujaim went on to produce and direct Startup.com (2001), in association with Pennebaker Hegedus Films, about the dotcom boom. Her second feature, Control Room (2004), provided a rare window into Al Jazeera and its impact on international perception of the Iraq War. Noujaim has also worked as a cinematographer on Born Rich (2003), Only the Strong Survive (2002), and Down from the Mountain (2002), and as executive producer on Encounter Point (2006) and Budrus (2010).

    Co-director: Mona Eldaief
    Mona Eldaief is a director, cinematographer, and editor of documentary film and television projects from around the world. Born in Cairo and raised in the United States, she graduated from New York University with a degree in political science and photography. Her documentary feature credits include work in various capacities on Control Room, A Wedding in Ramallah, and Her Name Is Zelda. Television credits include programs for PBS Frontline World, Discovery Networks, Travel Channel, ABC News, and MTV News and Docs.

    UPDATE: The feature version of Rafea: Solar Mama premiered at IDFA in November 2012 and has since screened at Festivals in the U.S. and in the Middle East. The broadcast version premiered in November 2012 as part of the global event, "Why Poverty?"


    EASY LIKE WATER
    Director: Glenn Baker
    Award Category: In Progress Feature Documentary

    In rural Bangladesh, a visionary architect is building floating schools to turn the front lines of climate change into a community of learning. The boat schools — outfitted with solar-powered Internet — are bringing education to kids, especially girls, who might otherwise never get a chance to go to school. Now, architect Mohammed Rezwan is trying to expand the model to create floating clinics, cinemas, and climate shelters. In a nation where 20 million people may be washed away by mid-century, Rezwan is creating a blueprint for his people’s survival. But can “Bangladesh’s Noah” overcome both high waters and the high-pressure competition for resources to sustain his dream?

    GLENN BAKER has produced more than 30 documentaries broadcast on PBS. He produced and directed Stand Up: Muslim American Comics Come of Age for the PBS series “America at a Crossroads,” which won a Cine Golden Eagle for Excellence in Broadcast Documentary. His productions on Cuba, conflict prevention, the firearms industry, and press/Pentagon rivalry have been recognized with more than a dozen national awards. His film Our Strange Love Affair with the Bomb explored the lighter side of nuclear weapons. Previously he was Senior Producer of Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria, and Co-Director of Azimuth Media, where he executive produced Missile Wars for the acclaimed series FRONTLINE. Baker grew up in India, Turkey, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Tunisia, an experience that informs his approach to making media that reflects diverse viewpoints and promotes dialogue.

    UPDATE: Easy Like Water premiered on PBS in Fall 2013, and is now available in multiple markets (check local listings). The film will have a wider PBS release in April and May 2014. It premiered on Japanese public television broadcast by NHK in Fall 2013.


    FROM THE MARA SOIL
    Director: Steve Schrenzel
    Award Category: Completed Short Documentary

    What if global hunger, poverty and disease could be solved with the natural and abundant resources already at our disposal? From the Mara Soil transports you to a community in rural Tanzania trying to answer this question with a novel approach to solving humanity’s greatest challenges with simple, natural and affordable solutions.

    STEVE SCHRENZEL is an independent filmmaker from Los Angeles, California. Steve is passionate about using film to promote sustainability, development and peace. His love of travel and filmmaking have taken him all over the world. He is currently working as a producer on a number of documentary series' for the National Geographic Channel.

    UPDATE: From the Mara Soil has connected Global Resource Alliance to people all over the world. The water program has significantly expanded and has had tremendous success, along with the permaculture program, which has expanded into a tree planting campaign with 250,000 trees planted so far and plans for another 250,000. Currently, plans are in the works to create an updated version of their programs in Tanzania as well, they are experimenting with new cooking methods, as solar cooking presented a number of issues.