‘Marwencol’ Wins Film Independent Grants

Acclaimed documentary takes $75,000 in grants; "Littlerock," "Meek's Cutoff" filmmakers also win

The documentary "Marwencol" has won two grants totaling $75,000 from Film Independent, taking home the prizes from the Film Independent Spirit Awards Filmmaker Grant and Nominee Brunch on Saturday.

MarwencolIn past years the Spirit Awards' sponsored Filmmaker Grants have been announced as part of the Spirit Awards ceremony, but this year the grants were moved to FIND's second annual brunch for its nominees. Besides "Marwencol" director Jeff Malmberg, who won the $25,000 Aveeno Truer than Fiction Award and the inaugural $50,000 Jameson FIND Your Audience Award, $25,000 grants went to "LITTLEROCK" director Mike Ott (the Acura Someone to Watch Award) and "Meek's Cutoff" producer Anish Savjani (the Piaget Producers Award).

The grants, which were handed out at an informal ceremony hosted by Terrence Howard and Sandra Oh, are all designed to help new filmmakers who have done notable work on low budgets.

The grants are in their 18th year, and "have now helped 47 emerging artists share their work with a larger audience, pay bills for their film, or get them started on their next project,” Film Independent Executive Director Dawn Hudson said in a press release announcing the awards.

"Marwencol," which recently won the Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award at the IDA Awards, details the life of an upstate New York man who was brutally beaten and left in a coma outside a bar. In the aftermath of the beating, he created an elaborate miniature replica of a World War II Belgian village in his backyard, and a detailed mythology about the town and its inhabitants.

The award, said Malmberg and producer Chris Shellen, will enable the couple to get another project off the ground, and provide additional impetus for a film that has been winning acclaim for the past year.

"It's really hard to find your audience when you don't have a studio marketing budget," said Shellen at the ceremony. "So for us, $50,000 is like a multi-million dollar marketing budget."

"It means we'll be able to make another movie," said Malmberg afterwards.

Director Mike Ott agreed that for indie filmmakers, the grant money is significant.  "This is more money," he said, "than I've ever seen in my life."