The Best of Kickstarter Film in 2017

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2017 has been a thrilling year for the Kickstarter Film team.

It began at the Sundance Film Festival, where Jennifer Brea’s Unrest won a major jury award, and ended with the theatrical release of Loving Vincent, the world’s first fully hand-painted feature film. In between, we saw Kickstarter-funded features, documentaries, and web series enter the world, changing and reinventing the way stories are told onscreen.

Here, we share some of our favorite moments from Kickstarter alumni filmmakers in 2017.

 
Jennifer Brea, Unrest
Jennifer Brea, Unrest

Jennifer Brea’s documentary about chronic fatigue syndrome premiered at Sundance — and was shortlisted for the 2018 Academy Awards.

In January, Jennifer Brea’s documentary Unrest — which raised over $200,000 on Kickstarter with the support of over 2,500 backers in 2013 — won the Special Jury Award for editing at the Sundance Film Festival. The film, which follows Brea's struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome, is currently shortlisted for the 2018 Academy Awards.

“Making the film saved my life in a thousand ways,” Brea told No Film School earlier this year. “I don't even mean that as metaphor — I mean, it literally saved my life.”


Andrew Ahn
Andrew Ahn

Andrew Ahn gave a powerful speech about the importance of Asian-American representation in film.

In February, Korean-American filmmaker Andrew Ahn gave a stirring speech at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, where his Kickstarter-funded LGBTQ feature Spa Night won the John Cassavetes Award. "Film is such a powerful tool in humanizing these communities so that we can’t be pushed aside [and] labeled as other,” he said. “We are part of this great country, and we are undeniable."


Southwest of Salem
Southwest of Salem

The documentary Southwest of Salem helped exonerate four innocent women.

After garnering critical acclaim at festivals, Deborah S. Esquenazi’s documentary Southwest of Salem — originally funded on Kickstarter in 2013 — won Outstanding Documentary at the 2017 GLAAD Media Awards. The documentary centers on the San Antonio Four, four lesbian women who were wrongfully convicted of sexually assaulting two children in Texas in the late 1990s.

After serving nearly fifteen years in prison for a crime they did not commit, footage from the documentary helped exonerate the San Antonio Four, and they were able to accept the GLAAD award in person in April. “It’s a testament of the power of filmmaking that shedding light on injustices can create real change,” said Elizabeth Ramirez, one of the San Antonio Four, while accepting the award.


Under an Arctic Sky
Under an Arctic Sky

A short documentary about surfing in Iceland found support from nearly 5,000 backers, and secured distribution through Netflix.

In February, Chris Burkard’s documentary Under an Arctic Sky raised over $280,000 on Kickstarter with the help of 4,870 backers, and went on to secure distribution through Netflix. The film follows six surfers who journey to the most remote corners of Iceland in search of perfect waves, just as the worst storm in twenty-five years is about to arrive.


An animated queer love story went viral.

Since appearing on YouTube in June, the animated short In a Heartbeat has racked up almost 33 million views. The animated short, which began as a college thesis film by directors Beth David and Esteban Bravo, follows a young boy who runs the risk of being outed by his own heart after it pops out of his chest to chase down the boy of his dreams. Now, it’s one of ten films shortlisted for Best Animated Short at the 2018 Academy Awards.


In the Soup
In the Soup

Factory 25 restored the only remaining print of indie sensation In the Soup — just in time for the film’s twenty-fifth anniversary.

In 1992, Alexandre Rockwell's In the Soup, a cult indie comedy starring Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Beals, and Seymour Cassel, beat out Reservoir Dogs to win the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. But two decades later, only one badly damaged print of the film remained. This July, independent film distribution company Factory 25 stepped in and rallied nearly 800 backers on Kickstarter to help create a new archival print of the film. In the Soup will be re-released in theaters in April 2018, just in time for its twenty-fifth anniversary.


Cecilia Aldarondo’s uncle Miguel (right) and his partner, Robert.
Cecilia Aldarondo’s uncle Miguel (right) and his partner, Robert.

Cecilia Aldarondo’s documentary about a painful family history premiered on PBS.

In 2012, Cecilia Aldarondo raised $27,000 on Kickstarter to make Memories of a Penitent Heart, a documentary that explores the AIDS crisis and its impact on the Latino community through the story of her uncle, Miguel. As a result of the Kickstarter project, Miguel’s former partner, who disappeared after his death, contacted Aldarondo to share his side of the story, and became one of the central figures in the documentary. This powerful film premiered on PBS in July as part of its POV series.


Barry & Joe
Barry & Joe

Conan O’Brien is set to produce Adam Reid’s animated sci-fi series about Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

In August, filmmaker Adam Reid raised over $105,000 on Kickstarter to produce the pilot episode of an animated series called Barry & Joe, starring Barack Obama and Joe Biden as a time-traveling, history-altering crime-fighting duo. Now, the series is being developed by Conan O’Brien’s production company.


Joan Didion
Joan Didion

Griffin Dunne’s documentary about Joan Didion debuted on Netflix.

Griffin Dunne’s documentary, Joan Didion: The Center Cannot Hold originally funded on Kickstarter in 2014 with the help of over 3,500 backers — premiered at the New York Film Festival in November, and is now available to stream on Netflix. Elise McCave, Kickstarter’s Director of Narrative Film, recently wrote about how the Kickstarter community helped make that happen in a guest post for Women and Hollywood.


Loving Vincent
Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent, the first fully hand-painted feature film, premiered in theaters.

Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s Loving Vincent originally funded on Kickstarter in 2014 with the help of nearly 800 backers. The biographical portrait of Vincent van Gogh, created by hand-painting over 65,000 frames of film, premiered in theaters in December. The film recently won a European Film Award and earned a Golden Globes nomination — and critics are speculating that an Oscar nomination may follow.

Explore more groundbreaking film projects on Kickstarter here.

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