Focus Forward Announces Audience Voting, Short Films Now Available For Viewing

Focus Forward Announces Audience Voting, Short Films Now Available For Viewing

GE and CINELAN today announced that viewing and voting for its $200,000 FOCUS FORWARD Filmmaker Competition is open (, with 95 semifinalists in the running for Audience Favorite. Five cash prizes, including the Grand Jury Prize of $100,000, will be awarded at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival by a jury that includes Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost), actress Daryl Hannah (Kill Bill), Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, USA), Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer Caroline Libresco, José Padilha (Elite Squad), producer Floyd Webb (Daughters of the Dust), and Peter Wintonick (Manufacturing Consent). The finalists for the cash prizes will be announced and featured on the FOCUS FORWARD website on Wednesday, November 28.

Six new FOCUS FORWARD shorts by award-winning directors Alex Gibney (Mea Maxima Culpa), Michael Tucker & Petra Epperlein (Fightville), Steve James (Head Games), Victor Kossakovsky (¡Vivan las Antipodas!) Kief Davidson (Open Heart), and Leslie Iwerks (Citizen Hearst) will world premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) from November 14–25, and will be paired with select features in IDFA’s official 2012 lineup. The films will premiere online at on Wednesday, November 14, at noon EST. Throughout the festival, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, 24 FOCUS FORWARD films will screen FREE for the public at a mini cinema on Rembrandtplein from noon to 8pm, every day. On Saturday, November 17, select FOCUS FORWARD films will be screened at the DocLab Live: Short Show, Amsterdam (9pm), preceded by a Guest Meet Guest cocktail reception at Brasserie Schiller from 6 to 7:30pm.

“We are thrilled to welcome FOCUS FORWARD back to the festival on the occasion of our 25th anniversary,” said Ally Derks, Director of IDFA. “As we celebrate all aspects of documentary culture over the next eleven days, it only seems natural to integrate a program about innovation that is itself highly innovative and smart about the power of the Internet and creating new funding and distribution models. They are rewriting the rules for high-quality, short-form documentary storytelling, and we are only too happy to highlight their efforts.”

FOCUS FORWARD - Short Films, Big Ideas is a series of 30 three-minute nonfiction films, inspired by GE’s vision of innovative people being the catalyst for world change. Produced by leading documentary filmmakers, the films explore the incredible human power of ideas and invention and are screening at prestigious film festivals globally, followed by day-and-date distribution online to millions of viewers. FOCUS FORWARD is a supporter of this year’s International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and has brought along award-winning filmmakers to participate in select events and encourage audience voting in the $200,000 FOCUS FORWARD Filmmaker Competition, first announced at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top five entries in the professionally juried competition, with $100,000 going to the Grand Prize Winner.

Films submitted to the Filmmaker Competition are three-minute end-to-end stories about people or organizations whose innovative efforts in medicine, computer science, robotics, engineering, green energy, or other fields of art and knowledge have had a significant positive impact on humanity. A selection of 95 Semifinalist Competition films are now available online to a global audience through Vimeo. In late November, 20 Finalists will be chosen to sit alongside the first 30 films produced by FOCUS FORWARD filmmakers. FOCUS FORWARD films are distributed across cable and satellite VOD, gaming system networks, Internet Free On Demand services as well as in theaters and on DVD. The Grand Prize and Jury Award winners will be announced at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

At the special IDFA preview event, representatives for FOCUS FORWARD announced that the latest filmmakers to join the initiative are Brazil’s Heloisa Passos (DP, Manda Bala) and the New Zealand duo David White and Paul Weder (I Kill). FOCUS FORWARD has also partnered with the Guangzhou Documentary Film Festival (GZDOC) in China and the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), where the next wave of FOCUS FORWARD films will world premiere (Dec. 9-16), to spread global awareness of the initiative as a whole.

“We’re looking forward to integrating FOCUS FORWARD into our activities this year,” said Jane Williams, director of the Dubai Film Connection and Forum. “Although doc filmmakers throughout the Gulf region are especially savvy with technology, we have much to learn from CINELAN’s unique Web platform and distribution strategy. Our efforts to support documentary projects throughout the Middle East can only benefit from this kind of cultural exchange.”

The schedule of FOCUS FORWARD events at IDFA is as follows:

SATURDAY, Nov 17, 2012 | Theater de Engelenbak, NES 71 | 11AM-12:30PM CET
Panel conversation moderated by Ove Risøj Jensen (EDN Denmark). Speakers include documentarian Fredrik Gertten (Big Boys Gone Bananas!*), Marianne Levy-Leblond (ARTE France), Jason Spingarn-Koff (New York Times) and FOCUS FORWARD's Karol Martesko-Fenster.

Guests Meet Guests Cocktail Reception | Brasserie Schiller | 6-7:30PM CET
Badge holders are invited to join us for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Special guests include Victor Kossakovsky, Leslie Iwerks, Ross Kauffman, Kief Davidson, Phil Cox, Fredrik Gertten, Peter Wintonick, Karol Martesko-Fenster, and others. Hosted by FOCUS FORWARD.

DocLab Live: Short Show | De Brakke Grond, NES 43 | 9PM CET
IDFA DocLab presents an evening showcasing the wide range of formats of short stories being told online, including Victor Kossakovsky’s FOCUS FORWARD short, Marjoleine Boonstra’s doc app, and a project by digital Production Company Submarine. Hosted by Wholphin’s Brent Hoff.

The six FOCUS FORWARD films world premiering at IDFA are:

SPEAKING WITH LIGHT (Dir. Alex Gibney, 2012) – A flat-out gorgeous underwater dive into the world of bioluminescent organisms and Dr. Edith Widder’s pioneering work in using these amazing creatures’ natural light to illuminate pockets of heavy pollution in the world’s water systems.

THE MUSIC MAN (Dir. Steve James, 2012) – Profiles GE Wang, a Chinese-born inventor, entrepreneur, and Stanford University professor whose cutting-edge digital music-making software allows anyone in the world to collaborate on a song or piece of music, regardless of ability, as evidenced by the incredible outpouring of support worldwide for victims of the Japanese tsunami made possible by one of his singing apps.

DISPLAIR (Dir. Victor Kossakovsky, 2012) – The film is about a young Steve Jobs-like entrepreneur from a very remote region of Russia who has invented a technology that will radically transform our lives, making all the screens that clutter our environment (TVs, monitors, etc.) -- and eventually end up in electronic garbage heaps -- a thing of the past:

IN YOUR HEAD (Dir. Michael Tucker & Petra Epperlein, 2012) – Meet software developers and clinicians working to treat chronic pain with immersive, biofeedback-enhanced virtual-reality software, a therapeutic twist on the world of TRON with almost limitless practical applications on the horizon.

EMERGENCY (Dir. Kief Davidson, 2012) – In an area better known for apocalyptic sandstorms, punishing heat, and seemingly endless war, the state-of-the-art, enviromentally impregnable Salam Center sits at the heart of northern Africa and is accessible to millions in need of trauma surgery and first-rate healthcare thanks to the innovative efforts of Dr. Gino Strada.

MUSHROOM MAN (Dir. Leslie Iwerks, 2012) – Can mushrooms save the world? In this quirky, insightful film, celebrated mycologist Paul Stamets presents fungi as a solution to world problems, showing how they can be used to clean polluted soil, create new insecticides, and possibly treat infectious disease such as smallpox and the flu.

The award-winning professional filmmakers who are contributing to the FOCUS FORWARD – Short Films, Big Ideas series include Jessica Yu, Phil Cox, Jeremiah Zagar, David Leitner, Jessica Edwards & Gary Hustwit, Katy Chevigny, Nelson George, Eddie Schmidt, Kief Davidson, Lixin Fan, Michèle Ohayon, Steven Cantor, Jeff Reichert, Fredrik Gertten, Senain Kheshgi, Annie Sundberg & Ricki Stern, Lucy Walker, Liz Garbus, Ross Kauffman, Leslie Iwerks, Steve James, Alex Gibney, Morgan Spurlock, Stanley Nelson, Victor Kossakovsky, Petra Epperlein & Michael Tucker, Heloisa Passos, David White & Paul Weder, Supriyo Sen, and AlBert Maysles.