Heather Courtney

Five years ago, Heather Courtney returned to her small hometown of Hancock, Mich., to make a documentary about growing up in rural America. The result is “Where Soldiers Come From,” which follows the four-year journey of three Afghanistan-bound soldiers forever changed by war.

Though Courtney traveled to the mountains of Afghanistan, she doesn’t consider her work a film about war.

“At its core, it’s a coming-of-age story about a group of friends, their town and how a faraway war changes all of them,” she says.

Courtney intentionally steered clear of any politics and focused instead on larger social issues through personal stories. It’s a principle she stuck by while helming her previous immigration-related docs “Letters From the Other Side” (2006) and “Los Trabajadores” (2001).

As for her next project, Courtney says it’s always hard to switch gears: “It’s a really a big hurdle to get the funds to start another film. This award was just the boost and encouragement I needed.”


Alma Har’el
“Bombay Beach”
Israeli musicvideo helmer Har’el’s non-fiction hybrid “Bombay Beach,” about the idiosyncratic inhabitants of the Salton Sea, includes choreographed dancing and other surreal touches. “I used many different techniques that some purists might not accept as documentary,” Har’el says. “But I don’t really think defining it as something else would be accurate.”

Danfung Dennis
“Hell and Back Again”
Dennis’ debut, the Oscar-nominated “Hell and Back Again,” captures a Marine’s life during and after his stint in Afghanistan. “Through my work I hope to shake people from their indifference to war, and to bridge the disconnect between the realities on the ground and the public consciousness at home,” he says.

FIND finds fresh Spirit guides
Piaget Producer’s Award | Audi Someone to Watch Award | Nokia Truer Than Fiction Award