The American Cinematheque will be honoring Participant with its inaugural Power of Cinema Award. Led by CEO David Linde, Participant is celebrating 17 years since its founding, and has a body of work that speaks for itself, from the Oscar-winning productions of “Spotlight” and “An Inconvenient Truth,” to say nothing of the 100-plus projects that have marked the company with supreme class and distinction. Each year, the company averages up to six narrative features films, five documentaries, three episodic television series and more than 30 hours of digital short-form programming.
“When Jeff Skoll founded Participant, it was with the goal of creating quality and entertaining content that had the power to compel positive change and spark action through the participation of audiences themselves,” Linde says. “To be the first recipient of the Power of Cinema Award is incredibly meaningful because it affirms that Jeff’s vision has made a real and lasting impact in the industry.”
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Creating positive change is just as important to Participant as creating great content. And because the execs understand that what worldwide audiences consume on an entertainment level can influence how they perceive the world around them, it’s important that their artistic choices have true merit. Operating as a certified B Corporation, Participant has met third-party verified standards of positive social and environmental impact and is known for its dedication to entertainment that both inspires and compels social action.
“At a moment of incredible division, storytelling provides audiences a uniquely powerful, shared experience,” Linde says. “The world-class filmmakers and talent we work with, who illuminate the most pressing issues of our time, all share our core beliefs. When Jeff started the company in 2004, our mandate was certainly unique for a content company, but we believe our values and mission are timeless.”
Many of Participant’s recent productions have focused on storylines that were either ripped from the sociopolitical headlines, or featured impactful narratives and characters who were no less important to the overall world, but may have been living along the margins. Ava DuVernay’s critically acclaimed miniseries “When They See Us” explored systemic racial injustice, and was made in partnership with Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. Todd Haynes’ “Dark Waters” drew attention to a disturbing silent killer, the unleashing of toxic poison into public water streams by chemical manufacturer DuPont. “Judas and the Black Messiah” spotlighted a new and comprehensive study of the Black Panther Party and Illinois chapter chairman Fred Hampton by connecting its legacy to today’s movement for Black lives, and empowering audiences to join local organizations advocating for those communities.
“‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ is the perfect example of an impact campaign giving a film its fourth act. The film, produced by Proximity and Macro and distributed by Warner Bros., not only made history by winning multiple Academy Awards with an all-Black production team, but also helped accelerate the fight to reframe the narrative surrounding the true history of the Black Panther Party.
“The release came as the nation experienced a reckoning around our history of systemic inequity and racial violence, as well as the continued biased presentation of those issues in the media and education,” Linde says.
Upcoming documentaries with a strong social bent include “The First Wave,” which focuses on everyday heroes at the epicenter of COVID-19, with exclusive access into one of New York City’s hardest hit hospitals, as well as the animated life story “Flee,” from executive producers Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, which recounts one man’s intimate journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan.
WHAT: The 35th Annual American Cinematheque Award Show
WHEN: Nov. 18
WHERE: The Beverly Hilton
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