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PitchBLACK FORUM: FILM

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

1-5 p.m., ET

(invitation only)

The winners of this year's PitchBLACK Forum are Marlene McCurtis and Joy Silverman for Wednesdays In Mississippi.

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Marlene McCurtis

Wednesdays In Mississippi

 

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Joy Silverman

Wednesdays In Mississippi

 

Day one of this year's PitchBLACK Forum was an invitation-only event featuring five documentary filmmaking teams pitching their projects to a panel of industry experts in hopes of winning up to $150K in project funding and distribution support.

THE PROJECTS

Wednesdays in Mississippi

By Marlene McCurtis & Joy Silverman

Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl

By Julie Dash & Rachel Watanabe-Batton

Bound by Blood — Echoes of the Elaine Massacre

by Llewellyn Smith & Franziska Blome

Brigidy Bram: The Life and Mind of Kendal Hanna

By Kareem J. Mortimer & Laura Gamse

Hollow Tree

By Kira Akerman & Monique Walton

Wednesdays in Mississippi

By Marlene McCurtis & Joy Silverman

This film examines the challenges and triumphs of bringing women together across the chasm of race, religion, and region to fight racial discrimination and for women’s rights. The Filmmakers Marlene McCurtis is a creative writer, filmmaker, teaching artist, and the director of Moving Forward, a documentary short about TheatreWorkers Project’s collaboration with Dads Back! Academy. She has directed TV shows for The Discovery Channel, A&E, Lifetime, NatGEO, and PBS. Her short film Here I’ll Stay, about a coalition of civil rights and Latino activists fighting for immigrant rights in Mississippi, is featured on the acclaimed web platform “Field of Vision.” The DGA member is an alum fellow of  Firelight Media’s Producers’ Lab and has an MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State University. Joy Silverman has been involved in social justice activism and art her entire adult life. Raised in a small Jewish community in Florida during the Jim Crow era, she experienced what it was like to be the “other.” She has presented and produced cultural programs for over 35 years and has served as an executive at several nonprofit art institutions across the United States. Joy was one of the first producers on Wednesdays in Mississippi and has been involved in all aspects of the film, specifically fundraising, making connections for resources of in-kind services and relevant people and adding creative consult.  

Photo courtesy of the NPS/National Archives for Black Women’s History

Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl

By Julie Dash & Rachel Watanabe-Batton

This hybrid documentary celebrates the life of chef Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor – a Gullah Geechee renaissance woman whose unconventional life took her from rural South Carolina Lowcountry to an international career involving major 20th century intellectual, artistic and social movements.

The Filmmakers

Julie Dash‘s groundbreaking film, Daughters of the Dust, is just one project in a prolific career that includes directing feature films, music videos, documentaries, commercial spots, PSA’s, and industrial films. She has written and directed movies for CBS, BET, ENCORE STARZ, SHOWTIME, MTV Movies, and HBO on projects including Incognito, Funny Valentines, Love Song, and Subway Stories: Tales From the Underground. Her highly acclaimed film The Rosa Parks Story can be found in most U.S. high schools. Julie’s design work includes a theme park pavilion for Disney’s Imagineering, and the immersive experience Brothers of the Borderland for The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Museum.

Rachel Watanabe-Batton is an independent producer and president of Contradiction and Struggle, a production and consulting company dedicated to telling authentic stories that reframe historical and cultural narratives. Over the course of her career, she has produced content and led industry workshops in North and South America, West Africa, the Caribbean, and Middle East. Her producing partnership with acclaimed film director Julie Dash has yielded multiple film and television projects, and she has produced films with auteur directors Tanya Hamilton (The Killers), The Polish Brothers (Bajo del Perro), and Mo Ogrodnik (Ripe).

Bound by Blood — Echoes of the Elaine Massacre

by Llewellyn Smith & Franziska Blome

Sheila Walker’s ancestors were victims of a long enshrouded race massacre that still haunts Black and White descendants a century later. When she befriends the grandson of a Ku Klux Klansman who took part in the killings, she sets out to Elaine, Ark., the roots of the trauma, intent on breaking the silence.

The Filmmakers

Llewellyn Smith has written, produced and directed groundbreaking documentary films for over 30 years and received numerous broadcasting honors, including the DuPont and Peabody Awards, and the Kavli Science Journalism Award (filmography here). His latest project “Inside the Black Box” interrogates the role of A.I. in predictive policing and courtroom justice. In 2020, Black Public Media named him among its 40th Anniversary Black Media Game Changers. He is co-founder with Dr. Anne Stopford of BlueSpark Collaborative LLC, an independent company dedicated to film and research.

Franziska Blome is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker whose career launched 25 years ago at WGBH Boston with Africans in America, a four-part series on slavery. Ever since, she has worked on many highly acclaimed PBS films in both production and post production (filmography here). After years of freelancing as researcher and producer, Franziska decided in 2015 to shift her career more towards her passion for editing. 

Brigidy Bram: The Life and Mind of Kendal Hanna

By Kareem J. Mortimer & Laura Gamse

In this wild rags-to-riches tale circling psychosis and genius, the story of prolific painter Kendal Hanna reveals a case study of how we institutionalize difference.

The Filmakers

Kareem J. Mortimer is an award-winning Caribbean director and video artist. His work has been distributed in over 50 countries and includes his coming-of-age debut feature, the 18 festival award-winning Children of God; the family comedy, Wind Jammers; and most recently, Cargo, which has won five awards and has had successful theatrical releases in 10 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean Basin.

Laura Gamse‘s debut documentary, The Creators: South Africa Through the Eyes of Her Artists, was named “Best Documentary” at the National Geographic All Roads Film Festival. Her work has been featured on NPR, the National Geographic Channel, and Netflix. As the producer of the Misfit Economy, Laura developed the project into Underworld Inc., a National Geographic Channel series on innovation in the underground econoy. Laura directed and co-produced the short form incarnation of Brigidy Bram in 2021, which was named “Best Short Film” at the Bahamian Oscars.

Hollow Tree

By Kira Akerman & Monique Walton

Hollow Tree is about three teenagers coming of age in their sinking homeland of Louisiana. For the first time, they notice the Mississippi River’s engineering, stumps of cypress trees, and billowing smokestacks. Their different perspectives — as Indigenous, White, and Angolan young women — shape their story of the climate crisis.

The Filmmakers

Kira Akerman lives and works in New Orleans. Her short film Station 15 (2017) screened on PBS, a Smithsonian Exhibit across Louisiana, The Climate Museum in NYC, DocNYC, Imagine Science Film Fest, Sheffield Doc Fest, and the UN Global Climate Summit in 2018. Her short film, The Arrest (2018), is featured in “The Atlantic” and exhibited in  “Per(Sister): Incarcerated Women of Louisiana” at The Newcomb Art Museum at Tulane University and the Ford Foundation Gallery in New York.

Monique Walton is an independent producer of fiction and nonfiction films. She produced Bull, directed by Annie Silverstein, which premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival – Un Certain Regard, and went on to receive three top awards at the 2019 Deauville American Film Festival, including the Grand Jury prize.

The Pitch Schedule*

1:00 p.m. - WELCOME

1:10 p.m. - BOUND BY BLOOD ECHOES OF THE ELAINE MASSACRE

1:40 p.m. - BRIGIDY BRAM: THE LIFE AND MIND OF KENDAL HANNA

2:15 p.m. - HOLLOW TREE 

2:50 p.m. - 10 min BREAK

3:00 p.m. - TRAVEL NOTES OF A GEECHEE GIRL

3:30 p.m. - WEDNESDAYS IN MISSISSIPPI

4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. -  NETWORKING

Meet with the individual project teams to exchange contact information, ask more questions, or share your thoughts.

 

All Times Eastern

*Note: This schedule is subject to minor adjustments. Please consult regularly for updates. 

Registration for PitchBLACK Closes Monday, April 25

See what's inside our PitchBLACK 2022 commemorative gift box.

BPM Thanks the Following PitchBLACK Supporters

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