Exclusive: Firelight Media unveils grantees for 2021 Impact Campaign Fund

Harlem-based production company Firelight Media has chosen its seven grantees for its Impact Campaign Fund, its artist support program designed to address a resource gap in the non-fiction space for ...
July 8, 2021

Harlem-based production company Firelight Media has chosen its seven grantees for its Impact Campaign Fund, its artist support program designed to address a resource gap in the non-fiction space for impact and audience engagement-related projects by and for communities of color in the U.S.

The fund, created in 2020, supports the creation of audience engagement and impact campaigns associated with films made by current or former Firelight-supported filmmakers. The prodco solicited applications for projects that are socially relevant, address or engage underrepresented issues or communities, and are accountable to the impacted communities their films represent.

From there, Firelight Media selected seven projects, awarding each with grants ranging from US$10,000 to $25,000, and the opportunity to gain impact and engagement strategy support and advising. Recipients will use the grants to build engagement campaigns to cultivate and captivate wide diverse local, regional and national audiences.

“Firelight Media is incredibly proud to support this powerful slate of films, each of which is poised to spark or deepen important conversations and actions among and between communities of color,” said Firelight Media president and co-founder Marcia Smith in a statement. “We continue to believe in the important role that these storytellers play in social movements and we are committed to helping them develop thoughtful and strategic campaigns with the support offered through this Fund.”

In addition to this fund, Firelight Media also bestows funding and consultation to filmmakers via such programs as its Documentary Lab, the organization’s flagship mentorship program focused on developing early career filmmakers, and the William Greaves Fund, which supports mid-career BIPOC filmmakers in the research and development stages of their second or third feature-length documentary.

The seven films chosen this year for the impact Campaign Fund are (with synopses provided by Firelight Media):

Silent Beauty (Jasmin Mara López)
Silent Beauty is an autobiographical exploration of López’s family’s history with child sexual abuse and a culture of silence.

Storming Caesars Palace (Hazel Gurland-Pooler)
Storming Caesars Palace is the untold story of Black women who took on Presidents, the Mob, and everyday Americans, challenging the pernicious lie of the “Welfare Queen.” Activist Ruby Duncan and a band of ordinary low-income mothers launch one of the most extraordinary feminist, anti-poverty movements in our history, providing a blueprint today for an equitable future.

The Neutral Ground (CJ Hunt – director, Darcy McKinnon – producer)
The Neutral Ground documents New Orleans’ fight over monuments and America’s troubled romance with the Lost Cause. In 2015, director CJ Hunt was filming the New Orleans City Council’s vote to remove four confederate monuments. But when that removal is halted by death threats, CJ sets out to understand why a losing army from 1865 still holds so much power in America.

Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust (Ann Kaneko – director, Jin Yoo-Kim – producer)
From the majestic peaks of the snow-capped Sierras to the parched valley of Payahuunadü, “the land of flowing water,” Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust poetically weaves together memories of intergenerational women. Native Americans, Japanese-American WWII incarcerees, and environmentalists form an unexpected alliance to defend their land and water from Los Angeles.

Fruits of Labor (Emily Cohen Ibañez)
A Mexican-American teenager dreams of graduating high school, when ICE raids in her community threaten to separate her family and force her to become her family’s breadwinner.

An Act of Worship (Nausheen Dadabhoy)
An Act of Worship is an exploration of the last 30 years of Muslim life in America. Weaving together present-day vérité footage with home videos and audio reflections sourced from Muslim communities across the country, the film tells the story of of women activists who came of age after 9/11 and revisits pivotal moments in U.S. history from the perspective of Muslims, opening up a window into their world through collective memory.

Heaven: Can You Hear Me (Terrance Pitts)
Heaven: Can You Hear Me explores the solidarity and sisterhood of a group of Black women in Philadelphia whose lives have been changed forever by gun violence.

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