Unheard Stories: The life and art of Annu Palakunnathu Matthew

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production


When the stories of women, immigrants and people of color need to be heard more than ever, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, artist, activist, immigrant, and woman of color does this through inter-generational collaborations with women, immigrants, and communities of colors.


At a moment in our history when the stories and voices of women, immigrants and people of color need to be heard directly, clearly and strongly, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, artist, activist, immigrant, and woman of color does this through inter-generational collaborations with women, immigrants, and communities of colors.  Her work is attuned to the silences of repression, leading her to view those as invitations to reframe the past in order to re-define the future.  Collecting the stores and transfiguring the images of her collaborators interweaves Matthew’s story with theirs, resulting in topical art-work that is internationally exhibited, affirming Matthew as an artist, an individual, and an American.


The movie will be carefully assembled from over ten thousand film clips and still images, which have been captured over eight years. Made through the eyes of an award-winning veteran magazine photographer, those visuals reflect a husband’s unique behind-the-scenes perspective of an artist, activist and teacher.

The aesthetic approach to the film will echo the multi-layered life and frenetic creative pursuits of Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, the movie’s subject.  With a mix of video styles, the majority of the film will be Cinéma vérité, where my presence as film-maker is an accepted part of the story and where I work to portray the story as it unfolds. While I will not be a story catalyst, as sometime happens in Cinéma verite’ work, I will stay focused on the political and social implications of the narrative I am unfolding.  Time-lapse video, action camera video, road-tripping video and other styles of visual narration will also be part of the final mix.

Besides the video showing the story components explained above, there be the “connective tissue” in the film, elements that lay out and hold the story together, adding needed information while keeping the story moving forward.  Some of that imagery and information will be seen in the form of:

scans of newspapers clips
time lapse animations of Matthew’s home and creative retreat
scans of magazine articles
time lapse animations of Matthew on location
other examples of media

All of the help explain the subject’s artistic endeavors and her achievements. Examples of Matthew’s completed art-work will be included at appropriate moments to give context to an interview, to delve deeper into her motivations or to establish the results of her efforts.
Many of the important changes of location, movement to other projects, or the starting of another presentation will be highlighted during these “connectors’ by a rapid fire series of clips as she travels, works, networks and socializes. The intentionally rapid pace and the cacophonous audio of these pivotal points will echo the intense and chaotic parts of Matthew’s life and creative process.  These hectic moments are typically openly public and play off the quiet and intimate situations of the collaborative interview/portrait sessions.  

Using these various visual elements, will reduce the use of talking heads, while maintaining the high level of intimacy.  The entire approach to the film, the video, the audio, the art work that will be shown, and the elements that connect them, enable the viewer to feel as if they are going along for a ride with an interesting, amusing and dynamic artist at the behest of her assistant. 


David H. Wells - Director, co-producer, cinematographer, and sound recordist

For the last three decades, David H. Wells has been an award-winning visual storyteller working as a freelance photographer and more recently as a video-maker. Wells will serve as director, co-producer, cinematographer, and sound recordist. He will be doing the initial edit, though the final edit, sound-mixing and color grading, will be informed by the advice of outside professionals to bring another perspective to the project. His short films have been juried into film festivals around the globe, including Sacramento, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Providence, New York City, India, Lisbon, and Pakistan, among others. In late 2016, he was honored with the Necati Celik Prize from the Hak-Is International Short Film Contest of Ankara, Turkey. As the cinematographer, Wells will draw on his three decades of experience making still images and, more recently, narrative videos for publications and websites, such as Fortune, Life, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Sunday New York Times, and Time magazines. One editor described him as a “...specialist in intercultural communication and visual narratives that excel in their creative mastery of light, shadow and sound, stills and video.” His photo-essays have been funded by fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation's Program of Research and Writing on International Peace and Cooperation, the Fulbright Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Alicia Patterson Foundation. His project on the pesticide poisoning of California farm workers was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine.

Nathan Fitch + Tamar Halpern - Project Advisors
Established documentary filmmakers Nathan Fitch and Tamar Halpern have already agreed to serve as paid advisors to review the project. They will step in later in the development, during the post-production phase and when we are planning the promotional campaign. Tamar Halpern’s feature documentary, “Llyn Foulkes One Man Band”, about Los Angeles painter, Llyn Foulkes, and his rediscovery by the international art world at age 77, was released on iTunes and Netflix after a theatrical run in 32 cities in the US and abroad. The Oscar qualified film was described by The Hollywood Reporter as “A joy to watch” and Variety noted it was “Undeniably fascinating.” Nathan Fitch is a filmmaker and visual journalist based in Brooklyn. He currently works in the video department of “The New Yorker.” His work has been featured in the Op-Doc section of the New York Times and in TIME magazine. Fitch is currently in production on his feature-length documentary, “Island Soldier”, which was selected for the Spotlight on Documentary program of the Independent Filmmaker’s Project, Hot Docs Festival and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

Jordan Schwartz - Music Composer
The music will be composed, arranged, and performed by Jordan Schwartz, a multi-instrumentalist, who strives for beauty and evocative purity while composing. His work combines soundscapes with live instrumentation. In 2015 Schwartz began scoring season one of Sex On (an HBO original series) and worked on episodes five and six of the NetFlix Original Series, “Chef’s Table”, which received an Emmy Nomination in 2015 for its music.


Connect With The Filmmakers:


IFP Fiscal Sponsorship Program 2019
Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, Project Grant for Individuals
Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, Mini Grant Award


Help promote my fundraising campaign
Put our donation widget on your website

Get Widget Code



IFP Logo


© 2019 IFP. All Rights Reserved
   Design by Andrew Martin

The Independent Filmmaker Project fosters the development, production and promotion of hundreds of feature and documentary films a year.

Learn more about us or become a member