'Act of Killing' Filmmaker, Alison Bechdel Win MacArthur Genius Grants

Joshua Oppenheimer's follow-up, 'The Look of Silence,' has been getting buzz from festival screenings

The filmmaker behind last year's Oscar-nominated documentary The Act of Killing and the woman responsible for the eponymous Bechdel test to assess women's roles in movies are among the 2014 winners of the MacArthur Foundation's genius grants.

Joshua Oppenheimer and Alison Bechdel are just two of the 21 recipients, who were announced early Wednesday morning; each winner received $625,000. Other recipients include scientists, historians, lawyers, poets, playwright Samuel D. Hunter and jazz composer and saxophonist Steve Coleman.

Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing was nominated for the best documentary Oscar earlier this year and his follow-up, The Look of Silence, won the Grand Jury Prize in Venice and screened at Telluride and Toronto. Drafthouse Films is set to release The Look of Silence in 2015.

Bechdel is a cartoonist who created a test consisting of three questions designed to assess how inclusive movies are with respect to their portrayal of women.

The test was first coined in a comic strip entitled "The Rule" in Bechdel's "Dykes to Watch Out For" series.

The MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program awards grants to U.S. residents or citizens who "have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction," the foundation says. Nominees are reviewed for their past achievements and made by an anonymous group of people. The grants are an investment in the recipient's potential.

The grants have been handed out annually since 1981. This year's class brings the number of recipients to more than 900.