Of course, that’s true of every year, but no other year in our long memory has had us recalculating our route like a GPS gone haywire. As we confidently and cautiously follow our natural sense of direction heading into the New Year, we are emboldened by our successful investments of 2016 and are ready to pave the way forward in 2017.
Our focus on storytelling had a happy ending.
January brought a standing ovation and a Special Jury Prize for Social Impact Filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival for Dawn Porter’s “TRAPPED.” This powerful documentary made real the legal questions around access to abortion before the U.S. Supreme Court and created public understanding of what was at stake through hundreds of screenings.
At the Oscars, we were proud to be among the Executive Producers of “The Hunting Ground,” a much-honored documentary on campus sexual assault, and to have helped bring some of the survivors of sexual assault to the stage as Lady Gaga sang her nominated song, “’Til It Happens To You.” Reviewers called it the most powerful, memorable, moving segment of the telecast seen around the world.
Because of our involvement in that film, we invested in organizations and initiatives that actively change how our society handles sexual assault, such as End Rape On Campus (its founders were featured in the documentary) and Callisto, an app that increases survivor agency.
Our investments in other female-centric stories occasionally earn that rare industry plaudit, like “The Eagle Huntress,” recently included on the 2017 Oscar shortlist for best documentary. But the film’s real award is the uplifting story of a young Kazakh girl’s skill and determination to become an eagle hunter – a tradition that is typically handed down from father to son. That’s why we invest in storytelling: to show where boundaries are being broken and to tell the stories of the issues that affect marginalized people most profoundly and personally.
At Sundance 2017, we’re proud to have supported documentaries designed to change the way we look at the world: “Unrest,” TED Fellow Jen Brea’s unsparing look at medical mysteries and the lives they upend (including her own), “Whose Streets?” on the Ferguson demonstrations, “Step,” about an inner-city Baltimore female Step Team fighting for their future and their goals, and “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On” the multi-part follow-up series to the “Hot Girls Wanted” documentary about the amateur porn industry.
A new year, a new chapter.
In the coming year, we’re doubling down on our investment in developing effective leaders and building influential communities, growing from what we started this year.
In 2016 we launched our “Funny Girls” pilot projects, fine-tuning the development of a curriculum using improv comedy techniques to build and expand the leadership skills of girls grades 3-8. We’ve continued to invest in fellowship programs that nurture female leadership, including the latest class of TED Fellows, the Women at Sundance Fellows, and the Chicken & Egg Diversity Fellows.
2017 will bring more grants for our fellow warriors for social justice, as we strive for greater inclusion and intersectionality with every grant.
We are so grateful to stand with you, work with you, talk with you and move forward with you. Thank you for being a part of our community. We can’t wait to do more together in 2017!