First Grant Recipient is Town of Runners from Director Jerry Rothwell
ESPN Films today announced the first sports documentary filmmaking grant to be awarded through the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program. The funds granted to the Institute are intended to provide financial support to one Documentary Film Program filmmaker with a sports-focused, contemporary-issue themed project, as well as year round support for the Program’s Labs other activities. The first grant recipient, chosen from a pool of nominees, is Town of Runners from award-winning U.K.-based director Jerry Rothwell.
“Some of the most creative storytelling in the sports documentary genre comes from independent filmmakers so we’re proud to support the growth of the industry through this grant with Sundance Institute,” said Dan Silver, director of development, ESPN Films. “Sports storytelling can provide a window through which to view different cultures and in this year’s grant recipient, Town of Runners, Jerry Rothwell offers a unique look at how running shapes the lives of some of the world’s most elite athletes from a particular town in Ethiopia.”
Cara Mertes, Director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program concurs. “With their 30 for 30 series, their recent focus on feature-length documentaries, and initiatives like this one, ESPN Films is recognizing that independent documentary filmmakers create some of the most compelling, satisfying and moving stories today. We are thrilled to bring in new audiences to documentary through the lens of sports, and to be working with ESPN on this partnership.”
Town of Runners
Town Of Runners is a feature documentary, directed by Jerry Rothwell, about young people from the Ethiopian rural town of Bekoji, home to the current Olympic and World champions Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenenisa Bekele. The success of runners from Bekoji is partly due to the dedication of coach Sentayehu Eshetu. Since his protégé Derartu Tulu became the first African woman to win an Olympic gold in 1996, he has trained and inspired some of the world’s greatest athletes. At dawn each morning Sentayehu oversees an enthusiastic group of more than 200 young runners through a set of punishing hill runs. Amongst them are Alemii, a farmer’s daughter, who needs to persuade her family that she can make a different kind of life from her mother; Biruk, who has to juggle looking after his grandmother’s kiosk with training; Hawii, perhaps the most likely to succeed, whose older sister has achieved her ambition to run in the U.S.; and Million, the banana seller and oldest of the group, who must either succeed this year or give up his dream.
Jerry Rothwell is a documentary filmmaker whose directing credits include the feature documentaries Donor Unknown, winner of the Tribeca Film Festival (online) Audience Award 2011, Heavy Load, winner of the 2008 Audience Award at Britdoc Film Festival and Deep Water (2006, co-directed with Louise Osmond), winner of the Grierson Award and Best Documentary at Rome Film Festival.
Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program
The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program provides year-round support and more than $1 million in annual grants to nonfiction filmmakers worldwide. The program advances innovative nonfiction storytelling about a broad range of contemporary social issues, and promotes the exhibition of documentary films to audiences. Through the Sundance Documentary Fund, the Documentary Edit and Story Laboratory, Composers + Documentary Laboratory, Creative Producing Lab, as well as the Sundance Film Festival, the Sundance Creative Producing Summit and a variety of partnerships and international initiatives, the program provides a unique, global resource for contemporary independent documentary film. www.sundance.org/documentary
Sundance Institute is a global nonprofit organization founded by Robert Redford in 1981. Through its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, composers and playwrights, the Institute seeks to discover and support independent film and theatre artists from the United States and around the world, and to introduce audiences to their new work. The Institute promotes independent storytelling to inform, inspire, and unite diverse populations around the globe. Internationally recognized for its annual Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Institute has nurtured such projects as Born into Brothels, Trouble the Water, Son of Babylon, Amreeka, An Inconvenient Truth, Spring Awakening, I Am My Own Wife, Light in the Piazza and Angels in America. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Created in March 2008, ESPN Films produces high-quality films showcasing compelling sports stories. In October 2009, ESPN Films launched the Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated 30 for 30 film series. Inspired by ESPN’s 30th Anniversary, the films that made up the series were a thoughtful and innovative reflection on the past three decades told through the lens of diverse and interesting sports fans and social commentators. Additional projects from ESPN Films include, among others, the critically acclaimed and Television Academy Honor-winning 16th Man, Cannes Film Festival official selection The Two Escobars, and the Peabody Award-winning Black Magic. Catching Hell, from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, and Renée, from filmmaker Eric Drath, were featured in the latest ESPN Films series. Press Kit