Firelight Media Documentary Lab Has Its 2019 Fellows From Underrepresented Communities

Firelight Media
Firelight Media

UPDATED with list of new fellows, 7 AM: Firelight Media has announced newest group of 12 Fellows selected for the 2019-21 Firelight Documentary Lab. Several of them will attend at the Documentary Lab’s 10th Anniversary Gala tonight in Harlem.

Here is the list of new fellows and their projects; read details of the program below:

Colleen Thurston
Drowned Land, Oklahoma is a land of scenic lakes, ideal for recreation and weekend getaways. But these lakes are man-made, a result of the federal government flooding private property and the forced displacement of the people who called the lands beneath home.

Dru Holley
Buffalo Soldiers of the Pacific Northwest is the story of African-American soldiers who served between the Civil War and the 20th century and their impact in the Pacific Northwest.

Emily Cohen Ibañez
In Fruits of Labor, a Mexican-American teenager dreams of graduating high school when increased ICE raids in her community threaten to separate her family and force her to become the breadwinner.

Jasmín Mara Lopez
Silent Beauty is an autobiographical exploration of the filmmaker’s family history with child sexual abuse and a culture of silence.

Jessica Kingdon
Untitled PRC Project is a portrait of China’s industrial supply chain through its accelerated economy in an increasingly consumer driven yet repressive society.

Jon Sesrie Goff
After Sherman is a story about inheritance and the tension that defines our collective American history. The film explores coastal South Carolina as a site of pride and racial trauma through Gullah cultural retention and land preservation.

Leandro Fabrizi
Bartolo looks at a rural town, tucked in the mountains of Lares, Puerto Rico, where 10 families decide to move into an abandoned school building and transform it into their new living quarters.

Leola Calzolai-Stewart
Changing State: Black Diplomats, Civil Rights, and the Cold War depicts the fight for inclusion in American diplomacy as told through the lives of three African-American ambassadors: Edward R. Dudley, Terence Todman, and Carl Rowan.

Nesa Azimi
Driver immerses us in a community of women truck drivers. Threatened by routine sexual violence and bound by a system where multi-billion dollar megacarriers and oppressive regulatory regimes conspire to leave the individual driver powerless and disposable — Desiree and her fellow drivers band together to survive.

Patrick G. Lee
Mini & Vivi follows a charismatic long-distance friendship between two trans women as a way to explore the possibilities for queer solidarity across the Korean diaspora – and the nation-state violence and cultural misperceptions that necessitate it.

Sasha-Gay Lewis
Schools’ Challenge Quiz follows a group of Jamaican high school students, their families and communities as they prepare and compete in a battle of will and intellect on a televised quiz show.

Shilpa Kunnappillil
The Road to Sabarimala is an exploration of the shifting perspectives of Indian women as their traditions come into conflict with their rights. The film follows three women who risk their lives to enter the sacred Hindu temple of Sabarimala, amidst an exceedingly dangerous political climate.

PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, May 6: Firelight Media has begun taking submissions for 10th annual Documentary Lab. Launched in 2009 by Firelight co-founder Stanley Nelson, it’s an 18-month fellowship supporting filmmakers of color with mentorship from prominent non-fiction leaders, film funding resources, professional development workshops and networking opportunities.

Hopefuls have until June 17 to apply.

“A lot has changed since we first started the Documentary Lab 10 years ago,” Firelight VP and Documentary Lab director Loira Limbal said. “Documentaries have become popular, the number of distribution platforms have doubled, and almost everyone agrees that we are experiencing the golden age of documentaries. Yet, there are still structural barriers for filmmakers of color to enter into the field. Ten years later we remain steadfast in our belief in the importance of people of color being able to tell their own stories.”

The Documentary Lab nurtures an inclusive network of talented, unique filmmakers of color to receive ongoing support from conception to completion. Firelight Media also offers the Next Step Media Fund, a grant supporting fellows in the final phase of production with up to $25,000 towards necessary travel, shooting, editing and more.

Two of the Documentary Lab’s alum had films make their world premieres at Sundance in January: Jeffrey Palmer’s Words from a Bear and Jackie Olive’s Always in Season, which won the Special Jury Award for Moral Urgency. Stanley Nelson also debuted Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool there, his 10th feature to premiere at the fest a record for a documentarian. Doc Lab fellow Yu Gu premiered her documentary feature A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem at Tribeca last month.

The Documentary Lab Open Call is an exciting time for us at Firelight,” Limbal said, “because it puts us in direct contact with hundreds of emerging filmmakers of color from all over the U.S. telling nuanced and complex stories informed by their own lived experiences.”

Apllications can be submitted here.

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