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For many filmmakers Sam is a friend, a mentor and a colleague. A career spanning four decades, Sam has edited, directed, and produced a string of award-winning films. He’s mentored countless media makers, and has planted seeds that have inspired many more to express their own independent voice.”

— Leslie Fields-Cruz, BPM executive director

APRIL 24 & 25, 2024

The 2024 PitchBLACK Forum will take place on Wednesday, April 24 at the Greene Space in Manhattan, moderated by Tameka Kee. The PitchBLACK awards will take place on Thursday, April 25 at Lincoln Center’s Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse and emceed by Sir Alex.

Sam Pollard Film Retrospective

 As part of the celebration, we’re hosting a BPM Trailblazer Film Retrospective featuring Sam Pollard’s work. In-person screenings are being planned for  Baltimore, Los Angeles, and New York City. Some of these events will be followed by conversations with the filmmaker. Details about the retrospective will be posted in our April newsletter, our social media channels, and on this webpage. Virtual screenings will begin April 22 and run through May 5

PitchBLACK Awards 2023 Highlights
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PITCH BLACK 2024 SPONSORS

Black Public Media thanks the following for their support of PitchBLACK 2024:

ITVS

Shutterstock

GBH/WORLD

POV/American Documentary

Zenón

A film about the life of Puerto Rican fisherman and revolutionary, Carlos “Taso” Zenón. At sea, Taso fought against the US Navy’s occupation and exploitation of his native island (Vieques).

Zenón

The Filmmakers

Born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Juan C. Dávila is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, news producer, and activist. He is the director of the feature-length documentary film, Simulacros de Liberación (2021), which was released in movie theaters around Puerto Rico. Previously he directed two mid-length documentary films: Compañeros de lucha (2012) and Vieques: una batalla inconclusa (2016). Dávila is a former senior producer at When We Fight, We Win! The Podcast! and news producer for the newscast Democracy Now! where he continues to contribute as Puerto Rico’s correspondent and producer. His journalistic work has been featured in TeleSur, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, PBS, and The Indypendent in New York. He holds a BA in Communication from Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in Puerto Rico (2011) and two Masters in Social Documentation (2015) and Latin American and Latinx Studies (2020) from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Dávila is currently directing a documentary about the life of community leader Carlos “Taso” Zenón and just finished a short about the declineof fish populations in Vieques for PBS. Most recently he started developing a documentary about the origins of Reggaeton music for Hulu Originals.

Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Camila Rodríguez is an Afro-Puerto Rican female video editor and producer who graduated from the University of Sacred Heart in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She has mostly worked in documentary films and in the music industry. Rodríguez began her documentary career with filmmaker, Juan C. Dávila editing the short-film Rayito de Sol (2021). She was the associate producer of Simulacros de Liberación soundtrack, and is currently a staff video editor and producer at República 21 Media. Currently, she is directing the music videos of the emerging Puerto Rican female-rapper, Cita, and co-producing two long-form documentaries.

75 Park

Everettte Hamlette returns home from college to find his favorite neighborhood park is being torn up and rebuilt. Asking why, he uncovers a troubling history— and reluctantly sets out on a journey for justice.

75 Park

The Filmmakers

Everette S. Hamlette’s work focuses on the beauty and resilience of people living in the Bronx. In 2016, after graduating with a journalism degree from the State University of New York at Albany, Everette returned home to work as a documentary journalist at BronxNet TV. There, he produced short form content about the daily lives of people in his neighborhood. In 2017, Everette founded his own production company, Stylish Ev Productions, and began work on his first feature documentary, 75 Park: e pluribus unum about his changing neighborhood park. An early trailer of the film was screened at City Hall to raise awareness about the racial inequities in the NYC parks system. It was a revelation and Everette is now a speaker throughout the city on the topic. Everette is also a member of the national film collective the Filmshop and recently 75 Park was honored to be chosen for the intensive Filmshop Studio program.

A native New Yorker, born in Harlem Hospital and raised in the Bronx, Craig T. Williams is a writer and producer at Red Wall Productions, a film production company he founded over twenty years ago with his wife and partner of 22 years, Rosalyn Coleman Williams. Together, they have created over 50 film projects, including features, documentaries, and narrative short films.

His journey landed him his first staff writing job on the hit TV show Terror Lake Drive on ALLBLK, an AMC Streamer. Craig was part of the prestigious HBO All Access TV Writer’s Program. His projects have been part of Gotham and New York Stage and Film. His feature film Black Boys Don’t Sew has Academy Award Winner Viola Davis and her husband Julius Tennon attached as Executive Producers. Craig is a mentor for Women of Color Unite’s Mentorship Program, The Craft Institute, and for teen filmmakers at Reel Works Mentorship Program in Brooklyn. He is the Executive Director of the newly launched Men of Color Unite (MOCU), a social action and 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that focuses on remedying the inequities that face Men of Color in today’s entertainment and media industries.

Allensworth: The Town that Refuses to Die

Black and Latinx residents in California’s Central Valley unite against a worsening environmental crisis and systemic racism. Allensworth, once an all-black settlement, becomes a battleground for justice as residents attempt to save “the town that refuses to die.”

Allensworth: The Town that Refuses to Die

The Filmmakers

Daryl B. Jones is a documentary filmmaker and lecturer at UC Santa Cruz. Daryl’s previous film work includes Tender, a short documentary about black trans women in San Francisco. He also wrote, Know Your Ethical Guidelines for Documentary Filmmaking and Neither Diminished or Forgotten for New Day Films, and led their Equity and Representation team where he managed initiatives supporting BIPOC and disabled co-op members. He also received a mini-grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council for his current film project about Clarksdale, MS. 

Kristin Lesko is a creative producer with nearly two decades of experience producing documentary films and non-fiction content. Her credits include co-producer on the Oscar-nominated Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (2008) for WETA and the Oscar-winning OJ: Made in America (2016) for ESPN 30 for 30.  Most recently, she produced The Human Trial (2022) a feature documentary film about a stem cell trial to cure type 1 diabetes.  She has also contributed to a variety of projects for public television including Makers: Women in Politics (2014), Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (2006) for American Experience, and Sweet Honey in the Rock: Raise Your Voice (2005) for American Masters.  She currently lives in California’s San Joaquin Valley with her husband and two daughters.

Hold the Line 

For decades, activist Dr. Jacqueline Echols has been combating environmental racism in Atlanta, where Black communities are disproportionately threatened from climate change and gentrification. This observational documentary chronicles her most remarkable undertaking yet: defending one of Atlanta’s remaining forests and the surrounding Black community from the city’s plans to construct the largest police training facility in America, “Cop City.”

Hold the Line

The Filmmakers

Producer Emily Kuester’s journey began in Milwaukee, where she crafted documentaries and immersive VR experiences. Her directorial debut was with “Messwood,” premiering at DOC NYC 2021 through a collaboration with 371 Productions and Participant Media. As co-creator of “Black Girl Training,” Emily’s creative flair triumphed in the Keep It Colorful campaign by Seed and Spark, with executive producer Mary Ann Marino now at the helm. Her influence extended to the 2018 Mozilla Festival and a 2019 SXSW panel, where she shared insights on the mesmerizing “The Colored Girls Museum” WebVR experience. Emily’s identity as a black queer transracial adoptee infuses her artistry with intersectionality, elevating voices often overlooked. Her journey began with a full ride to the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s Film Program, where she made history as the first Black woman elected student body president. Emily’s narrative intertwines innovation with leadership, championing underrepresented stories. 

Director Jason Goldman has been a resident of New York City for 20 years, having gained first-hand experience in filmmaking working as a producer in broadcast, digital, and mini-doc advertising formats. His earliest work was under the supervision of Albert Maysles where he learned the foundation of direct cinema, applying those elements to both short and long form documentaries. His career has included worldwide ad campaigns, short documentaries, and feature length original films. In 2018 he produced Sidelined the first short documentary financed and distributed by A&E IndieFilms which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. His directorial debut Rowdy Girl premiered at Hot Docs 2023, will have a limited theatrical run in 2024, followed by a strategic impact campaign. He is producer on the feature film The Boy Next Door a heartfelt retrospective of Provincetown, Massachusetts, the longstanding LGBTQ community that became one of few welcoming destinations for gay men during the 1980s AIDS crisis. He is a mentor with ReelWorks, a NYC based organization that teaches filmmaking to underserved city youth and is a co-leader in the filmmaker collective Filmshop.

Infertile Ground

Infertile Ground: The Hidden Crisis of Black Fertility and Climate Change looks at the crisis of Black fertility due to climate change. Through several interconnected stories this film explores the pain, frustration, and joy as Black families navigate the rocky path to parenthood as the air gets dirtier, the world warms up, and extreme weather becomes commonplace.

Infertile Ground

The Filmmaker

Reniqua Allen-Lamphere is a journalist and television producer. Currently she is developing a feature on Black art for Firelight Films and directing a documentary about Black families, fertility, and the climate crisis. She is also a consulting producer on the feature film, The Debutantes for NBC News Studios/Westbrook Media. Previously she was an Co-Executive Producer on BlackPop (E!/Peacock) and was a Senior Producer for The Problem with Jon Stewart (Apple TV+). In 2019, she published, It Was All A Dream about Black millennials. She is currently writing a book about Black Americans
and fertility.

Pilot Coaltrain is a science-fiction, third-person, action/adventure video game created and written by Johannes Barfield. The story follows the adventures of Pilot Coaltrain, a former archaeologist responsible for returning looted artifacts and human remains to the communities in which they belong.

Pilot Coaltrain

Creator  

Johannes Barfield is an interdisciplinary sample-based visual and sound artist who works in installation, video, photography, extended reality (XR), collage, sound, and music. His work explores childhood memories, joy, and appropriation as a means for survival, the restitution of artifacts, extinction, and the music played at family cookouts. He was born and raised in Winston-Salem, N.C., and received his MFA in photography and film from Virginia Commonwealth University. He resides in Albuquerque, N.M., where he is currently a postdoctoral scholar in the honors college department at the University of New Mexico.

Collateral Echoes is a non-linear iterated body of work investigating the sonic, visual and haptic frequencies of images, ancestral memory, oral transmission, and metaphors of radio technologies as sites of possibility for the African diaspora.

Collateral Echoes

Creator  

Baff Akoto’s artistic practice spans immersive technology, performance, sculpture, still and moving images. His work embraces the fluidity of visual grammar, notions of plurality, (self) perceptions and societal implications of human bodily movement (disability, ritual, dance). Most recently Akoto has been exploring how emerging technology and digital mediums can enfranchise non-traditional art audiences while avoiding the same ingrained prejudices, exclusions and inequalities which arose from our industrial and colonial eras. A recurring theme of Akoto’s work focuses on how the digital interacts with individual spaces, audiences and communities in the built environment.

Producer

With narrative and production talents honed over 20 years at WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal working in news and documentary production, Lidz-Ama Appiah now develops and produces artist film, feature film and XR experiences through the digital studio Recurring Dreams. Key exec/producing credits include: the VR series “Virtual (Black) Reality” (Google/Youtube/Tribeca Film Institute) and the moving image art work “Leave the Edges,” both from artist Baff Akoto; and the 2022 theatrical release of feature film “Queen of Glory” (from debut director Nana Mensah).

Image Frequency Modulation is a non-linear iterated body of work investigating the sonic, visual and haptic frequencies of images, ancestral memory, oral transmission, and metaphors of radio technologies as sites of possibility for the African diaspora.

Image Frequency Modulation

Creator  

Ethel-Ruth Tawe (b. Yaoundé, Cameroon) is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, curator and creative researcher exploring memory in Africa and its diaspora. Image-making, storytelling, and time-traveling compose the framework of her inquiry. From collage to moving image, Ethel examines space and time-based technologies often from a speculative lens. Her burgeoning curatorial practice took form in an inaugural exhibition titled ‘African Ancient Futures,’ and continues to expand in myriad audiovisual experiments. Ethel is a recipient of the Magnum Foundation 2022 Counter Histories Grant-Program for her project “Image Frequency Modulation,” which was also recently selected by the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) 2023 DocLab Forum.

Natal Dimension is a research-based multimedia series presented through virtual worlds, art installation, and performance. The worlds travel through an alternate African indigenous reality to recover ancestral technology as potential antidotes to the Anthropocene.

________

Natal Dimension

Creator  

Jazsalyn is an artist and technologist working where fiction and reality collide. Through alternative and computer-based media, she explores the practice of re-indigenization and ritual to recover ancestral intelligence. Jazsalyn has designed experiences and presented work at the New Museum, Creative Time, The Kitchen, OXN Studio of the Onassis Foundation and more. She is the director of “Black Beyond” and teaches at The New School where she has written studio coursework on African and Diaspora rituals as speculative technology. Her work has been featured in publications such as Cultured Magazine, It’s Nice That, Vogue, and The New Yorker.

axé meus ancestrais (asé my ancestors)

axé meus ancestrais (asé my ancestors) is a mixed-reality installation exploring Black narratives of the past, present, and future through XR technologies. Interweaving live theatrical performances with XR projects in a space that represents a grandmother’s house, ORIXA highlights the connection between identity, ancestrality, and mental health by celebrating the African diaspora.

axé meus ancestrais

(asé my ancestors)

Creator  

MaryAnn Talavera is a Dominican-American, award-winning, creative technologist, filmmaker, and educator with a love of storytelling. She is the assistant director of the Martin Scorsese Center for Virtual Production at NYU Tisch, teaches XR world-building at the New School, and is a member of ONX Studio. She studied and worked in Italy, France, Brazil, and Japan. In 2021, MaryAnn received a HEAR US Award for “Root,” which highlighted the lack of afro-textured hair assets and Black character options in 3D. She is passionate about projects that center underserved communities and tackle social justice issues such as  race and climate change.

Museum of Black Joy: Ring Shouts, Rituals & Rising Signs is a 4-wall video installation conceived as a cultural embrace, resonating with a multi-media narrative that centers Black Joy as it emerges from history, triumphantly, with style, creativity and grace.

Museum of Black Joy: Ring Shouts, Rituals & Rising Signs

Creator  

Andrea “Philly” Walls is a multidisciplinary artist, informed and inspired by the writers and visual artists of the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movement. She is the founder of Museum of Black Joy and among the first cohort of artists to be designated as Philadelphia Cultural Treasures. She is pleased that her writing, scholarship, and visual art have been supported by organizations she admires, including the Leeway Foundation, VONA/Voices Workshops for Writers of Color; Black Public Media; MIT Open Documentary Lab, Hedgebrook Residencies for Women Authoring Change; The Colored Girls Museum; Writers Room at Drexel University; The Studio Museum of Harlem; The Women’s Mobile Museum, Eastern State Penitentiary; Mural Arts Philadelphia; and FabYouth Philly.  In addition to The Museum of Black Joy, Andrea is the creator and curator of The D’Archive.com, author of the poetry chapbook, Ultraviolet Catastrophe (Thread Makes Blanket Press) and the digital web-collection, The Black Body Curve. com. She finds joy in the small things.

Sam Pollard  is an accomplished feature film and television editor, and documentary producer/director whose work spans more than thirty years. He was producer of the series Eyes On The Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads, and I’ll Make Me A World: Stories of African-American Artists and Community, which received The George Peabody Award.  

Together with Spike Lee, Mr. Pollard co-produced Four Little Girls, about the 1963 Birmingham church bombings, which was nominated for an Academy Award, and When The Levees Broke, that received a Peabody and three Emmy Awards. Mr. Pollard has produced/directed feature-length documentaries including: Slavery By Another Name (PBS), August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand (PBS/American Masters), the critically-acclaimed MLK/FBI (2020); Black Art: In the Absence of Light (2021), Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power (2022). He won the Peabody Career Achievement Award,  for “individuals whose work and commitment to broadcasting and digital media have left an indelible mark on the field and in American culture.”

2024 Trailblazer – Sam Pollard

Yoruba Richen is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and educator whose work has been featured on multiple outlets including PBS, Netflix, MSNBC, HULU, HBO, Frontline, Field of Vision, and New York Times Op Doc. Her recent films include: The Rebellious Life of Mrs Rosa Parks, which was nominated for a Critics Choice award; American Reckoning (2022), part of Frontline’s award-winning multi-platform series Un(re)solved; Emmy nominated How it Feels to Be Free (2021); Peabody and Emmy nominated The Sit In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show (2020); and The Killing of Breonna Taylor (2020). Her 2019 film, The Green Book: Guide to Freedom, premiered on the Smithsonian Channel; and her films The New Black (2013) and Promised Land (2010) won several awards before being broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens and POV, respectively. In her role as the founding director of the documentary program at City University of New York’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, she is preparing future generations of documentary storytellers. In 2020, she was recognized among BPM’s 40 Game Changers as part of the organization’s 40th anniversary celebration of influential and prolific Black media storytellers.

2023 Trailblazer – Yoruba Richen

Orlando Bagwell’s work reflects some of the industry’s most influential storytelling about the civil rights movement and the history of American race relations. His award-winning documentaries have captured the history of Black resistance — from slavery to the civil rights and Black power movements, to present-day stories of race and conflict in contemporary society. As a producer, director, funder, and mentor, he has had a profound impact on the American documentary landscape. His extensive filmography includes: two episodes of the groundbreaking Blackside series Eyes on the Prize (1987, Mississippi: Is this America? and Ain’t Scared of Your Jails); Roots of Resistance (1989); A Hymn for Alvin Ailey (1993); Malcolm X: Make it Plain (1994); Frederick Douglass: When the Lion Wrote History (1994) and the multi-part PBS series Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery (1998).

2022 Trailblazer – Orlando Bagwell

Marco Williams is an award-winning director who has been creating films and telling impactful stories for a long time. His credits include: Crafting an Echo, Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Lonnie Holley: The Truth of the Dirt, The Black Fives, The Undocumented, Inside the New Black Panthers; Banished; Freedom Summer; I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education; MLK Boulevard: The Concrete Dream; Two Towns of Jasper; Making Peace: Rebuilding our Communities; Declarations: The Spiritual Deficit and The American Dream; Without a Pass; In Search of Our Fathers; and From Harlem to Harvard.

2021 Trailblazer – Marco Williams

Award-winning Filmmaker, artist and author, Michèle Stephenson, pulls from her Panamanian and Haitian roots and experience as a human rights attorney to tell compelling, deeply personal stories in a variety of media that resonate beyond the margins. Her work has appeared on broadcast and web platforms, including PBS, Showtime, New York Times Op-Docs, and MTV. Her documentary short, Elena, was featured in Season 13 of BPM’s AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange. She is the co-founder of Rada Film Group.
Producer and Director, Joe Brewster is a Harvard trained psychiatrist who uses his psychological training as the foundation in approaching the social issues he tackles as an artist and filmmaker. Brewster, in conjunction with his Rada Film Group co-founder, Michèle Stephenson, have created stories using installation, narrative, documentary and print mediums that have garnered support from critics and audiences internationally.

2019 Trailblazers – Michèle Stephenson & Joe Brewster