At the height of summer, when filmmakers are neck-deep in the editing process, Rough Cut Retreat offers a one-of-a-kind mentorship experience. Launched in 2016, RCR unites nonfiction filmmakers and mentors in a creative, supportive, and engaged atmosphere. True/False and Catapult prioritize work that displays an ambitious, idiosyncratic approach to nonfiction storytelling with a focus on emerging filmmakers and those who do not have established feedback networks. Chosen mentors are professionals with deep knowledge of nonfiction storytelling who embody creativity and generosity of spirit. The sixth annual Rough Cut Retreat, presented in partnership with the Chicago Media Project, who share Catapult and True/False’s passion for supporting bold and creative new nonfiction filmmaking, took place August 1-5, 2021 at Bell Valley Retreat in Boonville, California.

The 2021 call for entries closed on May 7. Questions? Email


Bell Valley Retreat, Boonville, CA / August 1 – 5

Mentors: Editor Nels Bangerter (Cameraperson, Dick Johnson is Dead), film exec Jihan Robinson (Casting JonBenet, A Thousand Cuts), editor David Teague (Cutie and the Boxer, Life Animated), and director/editor Malika Zouhali-Worrall (Call Me Kuchu, Through the Night), executive producer Lisa Kleiner Chanoff (Art and Craft, Brimstone & Glory)


Dir. Nailah Jefferson, Prod. Darcy McKinnon, Edit. Rubin Daniels

Part lyrical memoir and part verité documentary, Commuted is an intimate look at the familial impacts of incarceration and the hope of one mother to regain the family and life that she nearly lost.


Dir. Asmahan Bkerat, Prod. Sahar Yousefi, Edit. Kamal El Mallakh

Living in makeshift tents, on land they don’t own, three generations of a Palestinian Bedouin family are forced to make a choice when suburban construction creeps up on them – to continue to be Bedouins with their pet sheep Badrya, or abandon their lifestyle and move to the city. 


Dirs. Sebastián Pinzón Silva & Canela Reyes, Prod. Gabriella Garcia-Pardo

On April 5th, 2001, the village of La Bonga received a death threat that triggered the entire community to flee, leaving everything behind. Twenty years later, hundreds of people embark on a symbolic journey through the jungles of the Colombian Caribbean to resurrect their town for a night of celebration.


Dir. Alison O’Daniel, Prod. Rachel Nederveld, Edit. Zack Khalil

From 2011-2013 tubas were stolen from Los Angeles high schools. The Tuba Thieves is not about thieves or missing tubas. Instead, it asks what it means to listen.


Dir. Alex Pritz, Edit. Carlos Rojas

When a group of Brazilian farmers take control of a new area of the Amazon rainforest, a conflict erupts at the forest’s edge.


Virtual Retreat / July 25 – 31

Mentors: Bonni Cohen (producer/director, Athlete A, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, Audrie & Daisy), David Teague (editor, Cutie and the Boxer, Freeheld, Spaceship Earth), Don Bernier (editor, Athlete A, Always in Season), Rahdi Taylor (producer, Time), Omar Mullick (director/cinematographer, These Birds Walk)


Dir. Emelie Mahdavian, Prod. Su Kim

A portrait of friendship, life transitions, and hard work, as two young women navigate an isolated and beautiful landscape of the American West.


Dir. Robie Flores, Prod. Alejandro Flores/Kellen Quinn

This interwoven coming-of-age story chronicles the ordinary and extraordinary moments of growing up on the U.S./Mexico border.


Dir. Angelo Madsen Minax, Prod. Felix Endara

A deep personal history of the complex relationships shared between mothers and their children, this film creatively reframes narratives about incarceration, addiction, trans embodiment, and ruralness.


Dir. Katja Esson, Prod. Ann Bennett

After years of neglect, residents of Miami’s oldest public housing project learn about an urban revitalization project and brace themselves to fight a new form of racial injustice: climate gentrification. 


Dir. Jessica Kingdon, Prod. Kira Simon-Kennedy/Nathan Truesdell

This multi-faceted portrait takes us inside the growing behemoth that is the nominally communist yet hyper-capitalist People’s Republic of China – and questions what it actually means to live the so-called “Chinese Dream.”

Premiere: Tribeca Film Festival 2021


Carey Institute for Global Good, Rensselaerville, NY / August 4 – 8


Dir. David Osit

Mayor follows a charismatic leader’s quixotic quest to build the city of the future in a land paralyzed by its past.

Premiere: True/False 2020


Dir. Bo McGuire

Socks on Fire is a transgenerational docudrama couched in the familial battle between a homophobic aunt and drag-queen uncle over an Alabama grandmother’s estate.

Premiere: Tribeca Film Festival 2020


Dir. Ashley O’Shay

During the height of the Movement for Black Lives in Chicago, Unapologetic captures a community of millennial organizers confronting an administration complicit in state violence against its Black residents, through the intimate stories of two Black queer women, Janaé and Bella.

Premiere: Blackstar Film Festival 2020


Dir. Arthur Jones

 Feels Good Man explores the current cultural moment and political climate through the lens of the Internet’s dankest meme.

Premiere: Sundance Film Festival 2020


Dir. Iliana Sosa

What We Leave Behind follows the director’s 89-year-old grandfather on his monthly 17-hour bus ride from Primo de Verdad (a rural town in northern Mexico) to El Paso, Texas and Albuquerque, New Mexico to reunite with family separated by borders.


Carey Institute for Global Good, Rensselaerville, NY / July 22 – 26.

Mentors: Erin Casper (editor, Detropia [T/F 2013]), Rachel Grady (co-director, 12th & Delaware), Josh Penn (producer, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Aaron Wickenden (editor, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? [T/F 2018], and Roger Ross Williams (director, Life Animated [T/F 2015]).

Dir. Mo Scarpelli 

Anbessa explores the rich inner world of a lion-hearted, ten-year-old boy in Ethiopia as he weathers the tides of change that threaten to usurp his community and country.

Premiere: Berlinale 2019


Dir. Daniel Hymanson 

Queen of the Battling Butterfly Brigade (its working title at the time of the RCR) is a film about aging, ecstasy, and finding the infinite in the infinitesimal.

Premiere: True/False 2020


Dir. Agnieszka Zwiefka

Scars follows a former female fighter and radical ideologue of the Tamil Tigers, in a post-civil war Sri Lanka. When she leaves her quiet countryside life to find her fellow comrades, she faces her own dark past and the trauma of war.  

Premiere: One World Film Festival 2020


Dir. Elizabeth Lo

Stray sees the world through the eyes of three street dogs in Turkey, a nation in a profound state of flux. The film finds dignity in both the dogs and the marginalized people around them.

Premiere: Tribeca Film Festival 2020


Dir. Hannah Jayanti

Truth or Consequences is about the eponymous, small desert town in New Mexico banking on the world’s first commercial spaceport. This dusty no man’s land and its longtime residents are both eager for and weary of big changes.  

Premiere: International Film Festival Rotterdam 2020


Gedney Farm, New Marlborough, MA / July 23 – 27

Mentors: Amanda Branson-Gill (producer, The Unknown Known), David Teague (editor, Life Animated; Cutie & the Boxer), Chris Hegedus (director, The War Room), Mark Becker (Director/Producer, Art & Craft; Pressure Cooker), and Pete Nicks (director, The Force).

Dir. Mohamed Siam
Amal follows an Egyptian teenager, from the age of 14 till the age of 20 while she’s searching for her identity within a constantly changing country.

Premiere: IDFA 2017

Dirs. Chase Whiteside & Erick Stoll
América is about a dreamer who reunites with his brothers to take care of their ninety-three year old grandmother, América in southwest Mexico.

Premiere: True/False 2018


Dir. André Hörmann
Ringside (formerly, The Punch) takes us into the heart of a high- stakes family drama playing out in a remote Cuban fishing village

Premiere: Berlinale 2019

Dir. Milena Pastreich
Pigeon Kings tracks a peculiar subculture of pigeon competitions in So. Central LA presided over by the godfather Keith London.

Premiere: Seattle International Film Festival 2019

Dir. Kim Hopkins
Voices of the Sea takes us into the heart of a high- stakes family drama playing out in a remote Cuban fishing village.

Premiere: True/False 2018


Mayacamas Ranch, Calistoga, CA / August 7 – 11

Mentors: Nels Bangerter (editor, Cameraperson), Rachel Boynton (director, Big Men,), Pedro Kos (editor, The Square), Dan Krauss (director, The Kill Team), and Kristine Samuelson (director, Tokyo Waka).

Dir. Vaishali Sinha

Premiere: Hot Docs 2017

Dir. Shevaun Mizrahi

Premiere: Locarno International Film Festival 2017 (WIP at True/False 2017)

Dirs. Jeffrey Levine & Landon Van Soest

Premiere: Berlinale 2017

Dir. Jonathan Olshefski

Premiere: Sundance 2017

Dir. Till Shrauder

Premiere: Tribeca 2017