Firelight Media Documentary Lab Reveals 2018-20 Fellows

Firelight Media

Firelight Media has its 12 filmmakers for the 2018-20 Firelight Documentary Lab, an 18-month fellowship supporting filmmakers from racially and ethnically underrepresented communities. See their names and project below.

The filmmakers are culturally diverse, with impressive backgrounds ranging from public and commercial media to investigative journalism and digital production. The projects they bring to the fellowship tell stories of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico, domestic violence, federalization of the war on drugs, Indigenous identity, KKK hostilities against Vietnamese refugees, and the mothers left in the wake of police brutality.

“We are honored to support the work of this new Doc Lab cohort because we believe they collectively embody the future of nonfiction — which is inclusive, centers those who have traditionally been on the margins, and pushes the boundaries of the documentary form,” said Loira Limbal, VP and Documentary Lab Director at Firelight.

Firelight Documentary Lab has served 73 filmmakers during the past decade, and its fellows have gone on to win such major honors as Emmy, Peabody, IDA Awards and Ridenhour.

Harlem-based Firelight was formed in 2000 by Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith to address in Harlem the deficit of films made by and about diverse communities, particularly people of color.

Here are the 2018-20 Documentary Lab fellows and their projects, synopsized by Firelight Media:

Sandra Salas
Into the Storm is the heart-wrenching, inspiring journey of Sandra’s life as she confronts the complexities of the domestic violence that shattered her family as she contemplates starting a family of her own.

Sian-Pierre Regis
Duty Free follows director Sian-Pierre’s mother on a bucket list journey to reclaim her life story after she is fired at 75.

Raúl O. Paz Pastrana
Border South is told against the backdrop of the North American migrant trail, weaving together migrant stories of resilience and survival from different vantage points. The film exposes a global migration system that renders human beings invisible in life as well as death.

Tim Tsai
Seadrift details how a dispute over fishing territory erupted into violence and ignited a maelstrom of boat burnings, KKK intimidation, and other hostilities against Vietnamese refugee communities along the Gulf Coast.

Edwin Martinez
Cosricans is a hybrid-documentary feature that explores how a close-knit group of friends recover and reclaim their lives through the art of cosplay during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Débora Souza Silva
Black Mothers follows the journey of two women devastated by the agonizing cycle of police brutality and our country’s injustice system. As one mother navigates the turbulent aftermath of her son’s attack, the other channels her grief into organizing mothers to fight for—and win—concrete change and justice.

Laurie Harue Sumiye
A Paradise Lost is the incredible true story of a bird who sued to prevent its extinction in 1979. Today its survival still hangs in the balance; a Native Hawaiian man strives to save Palila and heal his community after years of conflict between hunters and conservationists.

Hazel Gurland-Pooler
Storming Caesars Palace explores how a group of ordinary mothers launched an extraordinary grassroots movement that fought for economic justice, women’s rights and black women’s empowerment.

Li Lu
A Town Called Victoria chronicles the hours after the first travel ban takes effect, when a mosque in a small Texas town erupts in flames. As details of the arson emerge and a suspect goes to trial, this quiet community must reckon with the deep rifts that drove a man to hate.

Ivey Camille Manybeads Tso
Across three continents, indigenous women fight to save their communities and the planet. Powerlands connects Ivey Camille’s personal history with a global struggle, demonstrating the scale of the problem indigenous communities face from resource extraction.

Kevin Shaw
A Place to Learn follows a community as they fight to save a successful black elementary school threatened to be replaced by a new high school that favors the community’s wealthier residents.

Nailah Jefferson
Commuted tells the story of Danielle Metz, a 52-year-old woman trying to find her footing after spending nearly half of her life in prison.

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