Allison Bonner Shillingford
Dr. Kanika Harris
2021 PROJECT SUMMARIES
Before We Wrap
A late night talk show that embodies the aesthetic and energy of 90’s urban radio. The show nurtures an environment that is at once both empowering and relaxing for women and people of color. This lifestyle series features candid discussions on issues of race, gender, identity, health and wellbeing. Guests engage in critical discourse while the host provides satirical commentary on evergreen cultural issues. Musical guests are also at hand introducing viewers to new R&B and neosoul rhythms like a soothing balm at the end of a long night.
Filmmaker: Elizabeth Charles
Mentor: Joe Brewster
is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist who uses his training to approach the social issues he tackles as an artist and filmmaker. Together with his Rada Film Group co-founder, Michèle Stephenson, he is a recipient of numerous fellowships, grants and awards including Sundance's U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking and the African American Film Critics' Association Award, both for his 2014 film American Promise.
Buffalo Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts
Buffalo Soldiers of the Pacific Northwest (wt) recounts the glorious but complicated history of the Buffalo Soldiers, African American men seeking a better life in the United States Army after the end of the Civil War, whose military service created a simultaneously laudatory and complex legacy.
Filmmaker: Dru Holley
Mentor: Chris Hastings
passion for television began at age 10, when he produced a news show for his elementary school. His career started as a founding member of the development and production team for the award-winning BET Tonight and later worked at WGBH on Zoom and the WGBH Lab. Hastings joined WGBH In 2011, where he currently serves as executive producer and editorial manager of content. Chris is committed to developing a diverse pool of filmmakers and storytellers, and is a regular collaborator with Black Public Media.
Fighting for the Light
This experimental autobiographical documentary is a cinematic baptismal ceremony and an homage to cultural preservation through ancestral storytelling practices. The story orbits two filmmakers at opposite ends of their careers, separated by oceans, but cosmically connected through a name and a film. In Mali, "Yeelen" is the Bambara word for “light.” It also is the name of an African cult classic film.
Filmmaker Yeelen journeys to Bamako, Mali, to make a movie about the enigmatic elder who inspired their moniker. Souleymane Cisse, director of the film Yeelen, readily assumes the role of godfather to the multimedia artist, but soon begins questioning the millennial’s vision. What starts as a playful personal documentary about the origin of a name, spirals into an existential interrogation of representation, collective imagination, and the power manifested through image creation.
Filmmakers: Yeelen Cohen and Ife Olujobi
Mentor: Jaad Asante
is a lover of all things nonfiction. After earning her MFA from Temple University’s Film and Media Arts Program, she taught documentary history and analysis before joining Doc Society’s Good Pitch Local Program, which allowed her to engage with short-form documentaries all over the country. Now, at Cinetic Media, she works to identify and assess strong fiction and doc projects for financing, management and sales opportunities, aiming to elevate and expose the work of exciting storytellers. With a fascination for the evolution of the documentary form, she has served on review panels and juries for BlackStar Film Festival, True/False, Creative Capital, Black Public Media and other film organizations.
This is the story of Kiflu Ketema, a former Ethiopian revolutionary, turned lead witness in an FBI investigation against his murderous prison guard in war torn Addis Ababa. This deeply personal film will intimately capture Kiflu’s remarkable story – from idealist revolutionary conspiring against a brutal regime, to indefinitely imprisoned and tortured inmate, to escaped prisoner and smuggled refugee, to forced migrant and United States citizen. Far from his past in Ethiopia, Kiflu settled into a new life in the suburbs of Denver, working at the US postal service and raising a family – until a phone call sends him to a local cafe and brings him face to face with the prison guard who tortured him, and others, decades earlier. Higher 15 will peel back over three decades of Kiflu’s story, told through the lens of both Kiflu and his nephew, filmmaker Ameha Molla – who did not know of his uncle’s past until he read about it in the local Denver newspaper. The film will use interviews and verite footage of Ameha’s ongoing exploration into Kiflu and his larger family's deep held secrecy around their lives in Ethiopia, combined with recently uncovered archival footage, personal photographs and stylized b-roll. With intimate access, Higher 15 will present a portrait of a family struggling to confront the trauma of their past, and to unburden themselves from the secrets that have forced them to live as strangers for so long.
Filmmakers: Ameha Molla and Rajal Pitroda
Mentor: Sam Pollard
is an accomplished feature film and television video editor, and documentary producer/director. Between 1990 and 2010, Mr. Pollard edited a number of Spike Lee's films: Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Girl 6, Clockers and Bamboozled. He and Lee co-produced Four Little Girls and When The Levees Broke, which won numerous awards, including a Peabody and three Emmy Awards. In 2010, he co-produced and supervised the edit on the Levees follow up production, If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise. Since 2012, Pollard has produced/directed Slavery By Another Name, a 90-minute documentary for PBS (2012); August Wilson’s The Ground On Which I Stand, a 90-minute documentary for American Masters (2015) and; Wilson’s Two Trains Runnin’, a feature-length documentary (2016). His Sammy Davis Jr., I’ve Gotta Be Me, for American Masters, premièred at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, and in 2019 he co-directed the six-part series Why We Hate, which premiered on The Discovery Channel. He is of the directors on the 2020 HBO Series Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children; and recently released Black Art: In the Absence of Light (2021).
Inner Wound Real
This project tells the story of three BIPOCs who used to self-injure, then seek out new ways to cope. This animated documentary short offers insight into their motivations and struggles. Using animation allows us to bring the past into the present. The film will incorporate interview audio, drawings, and stop-motion animation. Everyone self harms in some way such as smoking, excessive drinking, or eating unhealthy foods, yet self-injury carries a unique stigma. While most media depictions of self-injury focus on able-bodied white cis-women, this project focuses on three individuals: an Indian cismale, a Black trans non-binary person, and a Fillipinx queer femme. Each of the participants found a different way to move beyond self-injury through the arts, including acting, drawing, and tattooing. The variety of family backgrounds and identities show how this practice spans across racial, ethnic, and gendered groups. The crew will also be racially diverse including the animators, editor, consulting producers, and mental health practitioners.
Filmmakers: Carrie Hawks and Chelsea Moore
Mentor: Byron Hurt
is the former host of the Emmy-nominated series, REEL WORKS with BYRON HURT. His documentary, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes (2006), premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast nationally on PBS’ Emmy-award winning series Independent Lens. Byron's latest film, Soul Food Junkies, won the CNN Best Documentary Award at the American Black Film Festival and Best Documentary at the Urbanworld Film Festival. Soul Food Junkies aired nationally on Independent Lens in 2013. Hurt is in production for his upcoming PBS documentary, Hazing.
Listen To Me
As Nina Simone described the intimate lives of four archetypal Black women in her hauntingly beautiful ballad Four Women, the documentary Listen to Me captures the pregnancy and postpartum journeys of four Black women in the 21st century. While each unique story can stand alone, when sewn together, they offer an uncharacteristically complicated and profound perspective on Black motherhood. It is through this lens that we begin to uncover the core issues and circumstances that place Black women at higher risk for complications from pregnancy and childbirth. While telling their stories, the film also lifts the voices of Black women scientists, historians, and politicians who explain how these inequities create the perfect storm for stress-induced illnesses for Black women living in the United States. Using art and science, this film attempts to bridge the profound chasm between Black women and the healthcare system.
Filmmakers: Stephanie Etienne and Dr. Kanika Harris
Mentor: Sonia Gonzales-Martinez
is a New York City-based documentary editor who has worked on several films for the Independent Lens series: Soul Food Junkies, Spies of Mississippi and Decade of Fire. Other credits include Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper for The Discovery Channel and OWN; and Reconstruction: America After the Civil War, Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s series, which won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award. Sonia recently edited La Madrina: The Savage Life of Lorine Padilla, about a beloved South Bronx matriarch and former “First Lady” of the Savage Skulls gang. Sonia edits English and Spanish-language content and has worked on a wide range of short documentaries for clients such as The New Yorker Magazine, Tribeca Digital Studios and Refinery29. She began her editing career as an assistant editor for directors Spike Lee, Milos Forman and Robert Redford. She was also the co-creator, writer and director on a comedy web series called Get Some! Her other directing credit includes Bragging Rights: Stickball Stories, which aired on PBS in 2006.
Storming Caesars Palace
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas — until now. This film chronicles the life of Ruby Duncan who joins the Great Migration to Las Vegas only to find a Jim Crow frontier town. When she loses her hotel job and goes on public assistance, she discovers the stigma and harassment by an over-zealous, fraud-obsessed welfare department. With Mary Wesley and Alversa Beals, Ruby creates a welfare rights group to fight for an adequate income, dignity, and justice. Creating a unique blend of Civil Rights and Feminist activism, “Mother Power” sweeps the Las Vegas Strip. They shut down gambling in Caesars Palace, sit-in at The Sands, and eat-in at The Stardust, all before national news cameras.
Storming Caesars Palace introduces an ordinary band of Black mothers of the National Welfare Rights Organization as political strategists who launched an extraordinary grassroots movement for economic justice, a Universal Basic Income, and Black women’s empowerment in the 1960s and 1970s. This film reveals the roots of today’s movements, highlighting the experiences of Black women organizers from one of the most challenging and forgotten feminist, anti-poverty movements in U.S. history. This film exposes their hidden story and places it in the limelight, where it will inspire, embolden and honor the women whose courage, tenacity and dreams could not be quashed, against all odds.
Filmmakers: Hazel Gurland-Pooler and Naz Habtezghi
Mentor: Yoruba Richen
is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work has been featured on PBS, New York Times Op Doc, Frontline Digital, New York Magazine’s website The Cut, The Atlantic and Field of Vision. Her most recent films The New York Times Presents: The Killing of Breonna Taylor premiered on FX and Hulu in and The Sit In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show premiered on MSNBC and is streaming on Peacock. Her previous film, The Green Book: Guide to Freedom was broadcast on the Smithsonian Channel, was nominated for an Emmy and was awarded the Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking. Her films, The New Black and Promised Land won multiple festival awards before airing on PBS's Independent Lens and POV Yoruba won the Creative Promise Award at Tribeca All Access and was a Sundance Producers Fellow. She is a 2016 recipient of the Chicken & Egg Breakthrough Filmmaker Award and a Guggenheim Fellow. Yoruba is the founding director of the documentary program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.
The Food Griot Chronicles
The Food Griot Chronicles is a pioneering Black-centered nonfiction series that factors back into American history the conspicuously absent (yet absolutely essential) Black culinary professionals who are the foundation of American food ways, creators of its “cuisine” and architects of many major food and drink industries. Originally conceived as a food (and drink) history podcast by culinary historian Tonya Hopkins, the Food Griot team is excited to introduce a visual component and develop the podcast into a web series, allowing the audience to become even more fully immersed in the amazing culinary history the show has to offer.
Filmmakers: Tonya Hopkins and Laura Collelouri
Mentor: Sreedevi Sripathy
is the director of production and programming at WHYY-TV, where she leads efforts to grow the impact of the station’s television service on people of the Philadelphia region, in the nation’s fourth largest media market. Previously she worked at the Independent Television Service (ITVS) as the managing director of distribution and content management, working with independent filmmakers, public television distributors and digital partners on the distribution of independent documentaries representing underserved voices and audiences. She supported the presentation of the Emmy award-winning weekly series Independent Lens on PBS and the international documentary series, Global Voices on the WORLD channel. Sripathy holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of California, San Diego.
This film is an animated interpretation of an oral history about a young girl’s first experience with the aftermath of a lynching during a trip to Vicksburg, Miss., in 1933. The larger-than-life tale of American terror is scaled to a child’s point of view from the backseat of her uncle’s car, but voiced with an elder’s wisdom. Cotton fields become clouds, trees become storytellers and a horrific discovery leaves an indelible mark.
Filmmakers: Allison Shillingford and J. Lathon
Mentors: Michael Premo and Rachel Falcone
Michael Premo & Rachel Falcone
are the co-founders of Storyline.
Michael is an artist, journalist, and filmmaker who has created original film, radio, and theater with companies including The Foundry Theater, The Civilians, and the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps. Rachel is a documentary filmmaker and multimedia artist. Together they've produced the film/exhibit Water Warriors (POV), the participatory documentary Sandy Storyline (Jury Award Tribeca Film Festival) and the multiplatform exhibit 28th Amendment: Housing is a Human Right.
Michael's recent projects include the PBS series Veterans Coming Home. He is the recipient of a Creative Capital Award, A Blade of Grass Artist Files Fellowship, and a NYSCA Individual Artist Award. He is a trustee with A Blade of Grass and A Center for Story-Based Strategy. Rachel has produced content with StoryCorps and EarSay, Inc., and was an associate producer on Incite Picture’s Young Lakota (Independent Lens). She has directed dozens of short films for AFSCME and The John. F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and has taught oral history and storytelling in collaboration with the Museum of the City of New York and Parsons The New School for Design. She is also a sound recordist for film and radio, including most recently Knock Down The House (Netflix)
What's In a Name?
On and offstage, performance artist Khalil Abdul Malik Raheem Munir examines his bittersweet South Philadelphia upbringing and considers the names and legacies he’s inherited from previous generations of Black men. The film, What's In a Name?, follows him from age 27 to 39, as his fixation on touring an autobiographical one-man show and interrogating his father’s illicit past subside. Khalil becomes the father he always wanted, while finding his voice as an advocate for intergenerational healing.
Filmmakers: Malkia Lydia and Khalil Munir
Mentor: Christine Turner
is a New York filmmaker whose work has been described as “exquisitely tender” and “thoughtful and enlightening” by The Washington Post. Named one of DOC NYC’s “40 Under 40" in 2020, she directed the short Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business, which played Sundance ‘20 and was featured as a New York Times Op-Doc. Previously, Christine directed the critically acclaimed documentary Homegoings, about a renowned funeral director in Harlem. The film premiered at Documentary Fortnight at MoMA and aired nationally on the PBS series POV in 2013. In addition, Christine’s fiction shorts have screened at festivals worldwide including Sundance and Tribeca. With over a decade of experience in television production, Christine also collaborates on nonfiction series and documentaries for broadcast. Recently, she directed the “San Francisco” installment of PBS’s, Art in the Twenty-First Century and served as a producer on CNN’s acclaimed miniseries Tricky Dick.
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