2017 AFI DOCS Impact Lab

Presented in collaboration with NBCUniversal and produced by AFI DOCS and The Raben Group, the Impact Lab is a two-day intensive designed for filmmakers with issue-driven films who aim to create broader social and political change through the power of their film.

The Impact Lab provides a select group of AFI DOCS filmmakers with best in class trainings on political advocacy, engagement, and grassroots communications. Lab participants are connected with some of Washington's most sought-after tacticians, as well as policymakers and Congressional aides working on legislation relevant to their films.

After completing the Lab, participating filmmakers are invited to apply for an AFI DOCS / NBCUniversal Impact Grant, which supports grantees' campaign efforts to furthers the social impact of their films.

We are proud to present the 10 powerful, investigative, and eye-opening films that will be participating in the 2017 AFI DOCS Impact Lab.

By Reuben Atlas and Sam Pollard

By the people and for the people, ACORN, America's largest grassroots community organizing group, became a major player in the 2008 presidential election that resulted in Barack Obama's victory. Big businesses, Republicans and Right­-wing activists took issue with the group, firing accusations of voter fraud and government waste at the left­-leaning organization. The conservative opposition found unexpected allies in a pair of amateur journalists who posed as a pimp and prostitute hoping to expose ACORN via hidden-­camera. The ensuing political drama spawned the now-omnipresent Breitbart Media, and served as a prescient foreshadowing of today's political climate.

Impact Lab participants:
Rachel Nicole Lambert, Head of Outreach
Sam Pollard, Director/Producer
Reuben Atlas, Director/Producer

CHASING CORAL: The VR Experience
By Jeff Orlowski and Larissa Rhodes (VR FILM)

This remarkably sobering VR is the powerful result of Jeff Orlowski's project of the same name documentary film about the quest of a group of filmmakers and ocean scientists to provide visual proof of climate change. This exclusive underwater experience follows Zackary Rago, a passionate scuba diver and researcher, as he documented the unprecedented 2016 coral bleaching event at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.

Impact Lab participants:
Samantha Wright, Impact Producer
Zackery Rago, Film Subject and Youth Outreach Coordinator

By Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright

Edith and Eddie, ages 96 and 95, are America's oldest interracial newlyweds. Their unusual and idyllic love story is disrupted by a family feud that threatens to tear the couple apart.

Impact Lab participants:
Laura Checkoway, Director/Producer/Editor
Tom Wright, Producer

By Jeremy Levine and Landon Van Soest

After a school fight lands 17­year old Daje Shelton in a court­supervised alternative high school, she's determined to turn things around and make a better future for herself in her rough St. Louis neighborhood. But focusing on school is tough as she loses multiple friends to gun violence, falls in love for the first time, and becomes pregnant with a boy, Ahkeem, just as Ferguson erupts a few miles down the road. Through Daje's intimate coming ­of ­age story, For Ahkeem illuminates challenges that many Black teenagers face in America today, and witnesses the strength, resilience, and determination it takes to survive.

Impact Lab participants:
Nicholas Weismann, Producer/Director of Photography
Jeff Truesdell, Executive Producer

By Pete Nicks

THE FORCE presents a cinema verite look deep inside the long­troubled Oakland Police Department as it struggles to confront federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following events in Ferguson, MO, and an explosive scandal.

Impact Lab participants:
Niema Jordan, Impact Producer
Pete Nicks, Director

By Trish Adlesic and Geeta Gandbhir

I AM EVIDENCE exposes the shocking number of untested rape kits in the United States today, estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. Despite the power of DNA to solve and prevent crimes, these kits containing potentially crucial evidence languish untested in police evidence storage rooms. Behind each of these kits lies an individual's unresolved sexual assault case. I AM EVIDENCE introduces viewers to several of these survivors, who still await justice, as well as the prosecutors, investigators, advocates and journalists fighting on their behalf and explores why the rape kit backlog exists and highlights the law enforcement officials who are leading the charge to work through the backlog and pursue long-­awaited justice in these cases. The film follows survivors' experiences as they trace the fates of their kits and reengage in the criminal justice process, which shows the disturbing pattern of how the system has historically treated sexual assault victims. Testing every rape kit sends a clear and powerful message to survivors that they matter – and that there is a path to healing and justice.

Impact Lab participants:
Trish Adlesic, Director
Vaughan Bagley, Special Projects Manager at Joyful Heart Foundation

By Zaradasht Ahmed

Nowhere to Hide follows male nurse Nori Sharif through five years of dramatic change, providing unique access into one of the world's most dangerous and inaccessible areas – the "triangle of death" in central Iraq. Initially filming stories of survivors and the hope of a better future as American and Coalition troops retreat from Iraq in 2011, conflicts continue with Iraqi militias, and the population flees accompanied by most of the hospital staff. Nori is one of the few who remain. When ISIS advances on Jalawla in 2014 and takes over the city, he too must flee with his family at a moment's notice, and turns the camera on himself.

Impact Lab participants:
Zaradasht Ahmed, Director
Mette Cheng Munthe-Kaas, Producer

By Smriti Mundhra and Sarita Khurana

A Suitable Girl follows three young women in India struggling to maintain their identities and follow their dreams amid intense pressure to get married. Ritu, Dipti and Amrita represent the new India. Educated, financially stable and raised with a mix of traditional and contemporary values in the urban cities of Mumbai and New Delhi, they have access to the world in ways their mothers did not. Yet their lives take a dramatic turn when the pressure to settle down and get married hits. Career aspirations become secondary to the pursuit of a husband, and the women struggle with the prospect of leaving their homes and families to become part of another. Documenting the arranged marriage and matchmaking process in vérité over four years, the film examines the women's complex relationships with the institution of marriage and the many nuanced ways society molds them into traditional roles and makes it nearly impossible to escape.

Impact Lab participants:
Smriti Mundhra, Director/Producer
Jennifer Tiexiera, Producer

By Cullen Holback

In this political thriller, investigative filmmaker Cullen Hoback travels to West Virginia to uncover the truth behind a massive chemical spill that left 300,000 people without drinking water for months. But when Hoback discovers an obscene collusion between chemical corporations and the highest levels of government, the investigation spirals in a terrifying direction, and we learn the frightening truth about what lies upstream of us all.

Impact Lab participants:
Cullen Hoback, Director/Writer/Producer
John Ramos, producer

By Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous

Set entirely inside Folsom State Prison, "The Work" follows 3 men during 4 days of intensive group therapy with convicts, revealing an intimate and powerful portrait of authentic human transformation that transcends what we think of as rehabilitation. Over the four days, each man in the room takes his turn at delving deep and sharing something personal with the group. The raw and revealing process that the incarcerated men undertake exceeds the expectations of the free men, ripping them out of their comfort zones and forcing them to see themselves and the prisoners in unexpected ways. THE WORK offers a powerful and rare look past the cinder block walls, steel doors and dehumanizing tropes of prison culture to take a deeply personal look without turning away. It took the Director, Jairus McLeary and Producers Eon & Miles McLeary several years of negotiations with the prison authorities to gain the unfettered access needed to allow this film to be made. Their father, James McLeary, was involved with the program from the very beginning and the three brothers began participating in the program in their late teens. This put them in a better position than most to bring cameras into a high security prison but progress was slow. The filmmaker family also had to gain the trust of the gang leaders within Folsom Prison before any filming could commence. Somehow men who are sworn enemies in the prison yard agreed to leave their grievances at the door and share deeply personal information with each other in front of the cameras. Despite the risks, they did this because they knew that the world outside the prison needed to experience this work and to witness firsthand the positive results that it yields. As the film shows, people can change and the rescind cycle can be broken.

Impact Lab participants:
Alice Henty, Producer
James McLeary, Executive Producer