Austin Film Society on Tuesday announced the 15 recipients of its grants for feature film projects by Texas filmmakers.


The cash awards totaled $111,000. According to a news release, the film society this year expanded the grant program, in part as a response to the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on independent filmmakers in the state.


"AFS is focused on building the ecosystem for filmmaking in Texas, so that it’s a boost, and not an impediment, to live in Texas and advance your career from here, and the AFS Grant is a major initiative that serves that vision," said Rebecca Campbell, CEO of the Austin Film Society, in a statement. The grant program "has traditionally provided the support that the industry often fails to offer to filmmakers from communities of color who have unique stories to tell. The AFS Grant is there to encourage Texas-originated projects and ensure that Texas-made films reflect the incredible diversity of this region."


Directors who received the grants live in Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Arlington, Eagle Pass, Taylor, Missouri City and Marfa. Nine projects will be debut features for the selected filmmakers, according to the film society.


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The film society also announced that its grant program for short films will open applications on Sept. 2. During the pandemic, the AFS Cinema has remained closed (though it is screening films through its virtual cinema), and the organization has made staffing cuts.


Read the full list of feature film grant recipients, along with official descriptions from the film society, below. For more information, go to austinfilm.org.


"Chicle" (North Texas Pioneer Film Fund recipient)


Director: Lizette Barrera (Arlington)


Narrative feature in development


"Fandom"


Director: Shadi Qutob (Austin)


Narrative feature in production


When Haya, a Pakistani woman, creates a politically charged piece of fanart of an iconic comic book character that goes viral, she realizes her newfound notoriety may be more than she bargained for. What was initially adoration slowly devolves into harassment, and eventually violence, as Haya is bombarded by hate from a fandom that is more toxic than she initially thought.


"From the Ground Up"


Director: Jeremy Rodgers (Taylor)


Documentary feature in post-production


"From the Ground Up" is the story of Daoud Nassar and his family of Palestinian farmers in the West Bank. Under constant threat of Israeli confiscation, the Nassar’s 100-acre farm is the centerpiece to an ongoing 29-year legal battle. As Daoud struggles to maintain the family’s ancestral homeland, the Nassars respond to injustice with creative, non-violent resistance. Committed to education, connecting people with the land and promoting respect for the "other" and our shared environment, Daoud and his family live by the motto: "We Refuse to be Enemies."


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"Fly Girl" (New Texas Voices Grant)


Director: Angela Chen (Austin)


Narrative feature in production


When Linh, a 42-year-old Vietnamese American and recently divorced mom, impresses at a "twerkshop", she is invited to join a ’90s-inspired hip-hop dance team: the Fly Girls. A chubby Gen-Xer in a crew of thin millennials, Linh must overcome her insecurities to prove she belongs. The New Texas Voices Grant is a $10,000 cash grant for a filmmaker identifying with a community of color who is making his or her first feature length film.


"The In Between"


Director: Robie Flores (Eagle Pass)


Documentary feature in production


"The In Between" is a lyrical coming-of-age story woven from singular moments of a cast of characters living along the U.S.-Mexico border.


"Jockey" (North Texas Pioneer Film Grant)


Director: Clint Bentley (Dallas)


Narrative feature in post-production


"Jockey" tells the story of an aging jockey with failing health who tries to survive his final season on the racetrack and win one last championship. His dream is flipped upside down when a young jockey shows up on the track claiming to be his son.


"Los Blackalleres"


Director: Kelly Daniela Norris (Austin)


Narrative feature in development


"A Reckoning: Stories For Racial Healing With Dr. Njoki McElroy" (North Texas Pioneer Film Grant)


Director: Christian Vasquez (Dallas)


Documentary feature in production


The power of storytelling, and its capacity to mend, is explored through the life and work of Dr. Njoki McElroy, a master storyteller, educator and activist who has witnessed the United State’s failure to reconcile the wounds of racism and embodies the idea that sharing our stories places us on a path of healing and towards a reckoning with racial injustice.


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"The River"


Director: Ray Santisteban (San Antonio)


Documentary feature in development


"San Antonio"


Director: Ya’Ke Smith (Austin)


Narrative feature in development


"Tazmanian Devil" (Stuck On On Award)


Director: Solomon Onita (Missouri City)


Narrative feature in distribution


After moving to the United States, 19-year-old Nigerian immigrant Dayo struggles to find a balance between his desire to join a college fraternity and bonding with his estranged father who is a strict pastor at a local church.


"A Time, A Place"


Director: Annie Silverstein (Austin)


Narrative feature in development


"Tlaloc" (MPS Camera and Lighting Award)


Directors: Alejandro Sescosse and Anna Veselova (Houston)


Narrative feature in production


"Tlaloc" is a phantasmagorical romance of digital illusions set in the near future where the threat to human life is existential worldwide due to the slow collapse of natural ecosystems.


"Untitled Criminal Justice High School Project" (Stuck On On Award)


Director: Margaret Crow (Marfa)


Documentary feature in production


"Untitled Criminal Justice High School Project" follows a group of teenagers at a high school 10 miles from the US/Mexico border during their senior year and as they navigate what lies beyond.


"Zoe and Hahn"


Director: Kim Tran (Austin)


Narrative feature in development