“Yoruba Richen’s films highlight issues that all Americans should know and care about. Her work as a filmmaker and an educator honors the Black experience and highlights the contributions Black people make toward helping this nation realize its potential. We are proud to present her with our 2023 Trailblazer Award in recognition of her steadfast commitment to both her craft and her people.”
— Leslie Fields-Cruz, BPM executive director
The 2023 PitchBLACK Forum & Awards took place Tuesday, April 25- Thursday, April 27, 2023 at the Greene Space in Manhattan. BPM thanks all who attended — in-person and virtually — as well as our sponsors.
Congratulations to Yoruba Richen, our 2023 Trailblazer, and to all three of the PitchBLACK winners. In all, we awarded $225,000 in production funding for film and immersive projects. For the full experience, watch the PitchBLACK Awards video below or read our press release about the event and to meet the 2023 PitchBLACK Winners.
Hiding in Plain Sight tells the unsung and unseen story of Black queer presence in the music industry through the stories of popular and lesser known artists who shaped the music and culture we enjoy today.
Luchina Fisher is an award-winning director, writer and producer whose work is at the intersection of race, gender and identity. Her feature directorial debut “Mama Gloria” is a 2022 GLAAD Media Award nominee, won numerous festival jury awards.
In Little Sallie Walker, Black women recount how they dare to create a magical world of play as Black girls. They build a joyous sanctuary for themselves through hand and circle games, double-dutch, dress-up, dolls, and jacks. But the wonder of playtime will end prematurely. In a hostile America, they must prepare for the stresses of anti-blackness, gender discrimination, and economic insecurities like their mothers and their mothers before them. The feature film is a lyrical reminder that there is nothing ordinary about an everyday ritual like play.
Marta Effinger-Crichlow is a filmmaker whose interdisciplinary projects in film, theater, and literature highlight her mission to fuse social issues, culture, and history. Her first produced collage, “The Evolution of Jazz,” was commissioned for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Other multimedia collages include “The Kitchen is Closed Startin’ Sunday.” Marta, who holds an interdisciplinary doctorate from Northwestern University, has worked as a freelance dramaturg for 20 years for theater productions throughout the U.S. She has appeared on TEDx at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center and co-curated 400 Years of Inequality at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute and is the author of “Staging Migrations toward an American West: From Ida B. Wells to Rhodessa Jones” (UPC Press). For “Little Sallie Walker”, Marta has received support from organizations like WIF x Sundance, The Perspective Fund, DOC NYC, Women Make Movies, and Working Films. Marta, a mother, is also the descendant of Black southern migrants.
Soraya Sélène is a director and cinematographer working in documentary, narrative and experimental works. Born in France and raised on the lower east side of New York City, photojournalism was Soraya’s early passion. She studied photography at the School of Visual Arts, and photographed for La Nación (Chile’s national newspaper), while studying and backpacking throughout South America. The recipient of several awards for her short films, feature credits include cinematographer for “Half The Picture”, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Her current project, “Normal Never Worked,” is a personal lyrical documentary exploring education in this disruptive moment. Soraya received her MFA in Directing & Cinematography from UCLA and her BA in Sociology/Psychology from Wesleyan University. She is a member of the Brown Girls Doc Mafia and a founding member of the International Collective of Female Cinematographers (ICFC). Soraya is also an educator, teaching documentary and cinematography as faculty at CalArts.
After 15 years of working as a cinematographer, Cat Deakins shifted into documentary film producing. As a DP, she worked with Soraya Sélène on Amy Adrion’s documentary feature “Half the Picture.” She has shot in Bolivia, Croatia, France, Hungary, and Mexico for commercial, doc and narrative projects including the indie feature “Love, Sex and Missed Connections.” She also collaborated with choreographer/filmmaker Benjamin Millepied on several dance films, multimedia and performance projects including “Portals” (directed by Millepied and Emmy winner Kate Hackett). For 7 years, she also taught photography to incarcerated youth in the LA County Probation system. Prior to becoming a DP, she freelanced as a music photographer for Rolling Stone Magazine. She holds an MFA in Cinematography from UCLA and BA from Harvard (Sociology). She is currently also co-producing and developing a documentary feature Private Money Public Power about elite philanthropy in the U.S.
Ashley O’Shay is a director and DP living in Chicago. Her work focuses on illuminating marginalized voices. She specializes in immersive stories, recognizing the societal impact of observing life as is. She’s brought her unique style beyond the documentary space, collaborating with a number of national brands, including Nike, Vox, Wilson Tennis, and Dr. Martens. In 2020, she premiered her debut feature, “Unapologetic”, a deep look into the Movement for Black Lives in Chicago, told through the experiences of two young, Black queer women. The film premiered at the 2020 BlackStar Film Festival, broadcast on PBS POV, and was shortlisted for the International Documentary Association Awards. Ashley was also selected as the recipient of the 2021 Athena Film Festival Breakthrough Award, 2021 Cleveland International Film Festival Groundbreaker Award, and DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40 List.
In Baltimore, Brandon Scott, a young visionary leader, captures the hopes of Baltimoreans when running for mayor, promoting a progressive platform to lower rates of gun violence and reform a troubled police department. After winning the election, we follow Brandon throughout his first year in office.
Dawne Langford grew up in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. After years of working in public media as a broadcast television editor, the documentary filmmaker and 2022 Sundance Producer’s Lab fellow transitioned to producing.
In 2013 Dawne was accepted to the PBS Producers Academy and then began working in a freelance capacity on independent documentaries, including: “Check It,” “Kandahar Journals,” and “Finding Joseph 1” (about the lead singer of the seminal all-Black punk band, Bad Brains). Her recent projects include working at Moxie Pictures in N.Y.C. as a story producer on a docuseries with director Lee Hirsch. She is also producing a project chronicling the descendants of the enslaved GU272 (whose forebears were once enslaved by the university’s Dawne Langford grew up in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. After years of working in public media as a broadcast television editor, the documentary filmmaker and 2022 Sundance Producer’s Lab fellow transitioned to producing. In 2013 Dawne was accepted to the PBS Producers Academy and then began working in a freelance capacity on independent documentaries, including: “Check It,” “Kandahar Journals,” and “Finding Joseph 1” (about the lead singer of the seminal all-Black punk band, Bad Brains). Her recent projects include working at Moxie Pictures in N.Y.C. as a story producer on a docuseries with director Lee Hirsch. She is also producing a project chronicling the descendants of the enslaved GU272 (whose forebears were once enslaved by the university’s Jesuits). Dawne’s primary interest is in amplifying traditionally suppressed narratives and presentations of historic events to deepen understanding, support learning, and stimulate community dialogue.
BY DAMIEN MCDUFFIE
Damien is a creative technologist, digital archivist, and augmented reality (AR) artist and developer from Oakland, California. He is the founder of Black Terminus AR, a camera app and augmented reality art studio in your pocket that helps bring archives to life. His mission is to keep redlining out of the metaverse by developing and inspiring the next generation of Black creative technologists to use culture and art as a way into creative tech.
BY AINSLEE ROBSON
BY KACIE WILLIS
After participating in the 2019 Spotify Sound Up accelerator program she formed the production company Could Be Pretty Cool, the mission of which is to produce unique creative experiences to inspire community building through the arts. She is the creator and host of the Spotify Original podcast “You Heard Me Write” and has been named one of the ’40 Under 40 in Podcasting’ by Podcast Magazine. Kacie has also served as a theatrical sound designer, arts administrator and speaker for local and national arts and cultural organizations.
BY DOMINICK RABRUN
His processes were shaped by 12 years of experience working as an IT specialist for the US government. Combine these off with natural inclinations towards technology, video games, biology, music, and art education; at the intersection of all these points, you get Dominick’s artistic practice. First and foremost, his art attempts to create a language or system wherein he can compartmentalize all of his competing inspirations. Allowing these a space to inform and interact with one another serves as his greatest catalyst for creative inspiration and evolution.
UNCHARTED VR is an immersive performance inspired by 5,000 years of knowledge generation from the continent of Africa.
Kidus’ design merges the boundaries between spatial practice and futures informed by Africa and its diasporic conditions. With a background in architecture and speculative world-building,his works focus on the hybrid
BY KIDUS HALIESILASSIE
nature of reimagining transcontinental archives to form counter-narratives of Black consciousness. In the past, Kidus has collaborated with international artists and institutes including Studio Other Spaces, Studio Olafur Eliasson, Forum des Images, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA), and Contemporary And (C&). As a former EDGE fellow at SCI-Arc, he holds an MA in fiction and entertainment. In 2022, Kidus co-founded Guada Labs an art, film, and new media practice based in Los Angeles.
BY LAJUNÉ MCMILLAN
They are passionate about discovering, learning, manifesting, and stewarding spaces for liberated Black Realities and the Black Imagination. LaJuné believes in making by diving into, navigating, critiquing, and breaking systems and technologies that uphold systemic injustices to decommodify our bodies, undo our indoctrination, and make room for different ways of being. Previously, they were the director of skating at Figure Skating in Harlem, where they integrated STEAM and Figure Skating to teach girls of color about movement and technology. They have continued their research on Blackness, movement, and technology during residencies and fellowships at the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, Eyebeam, Pioneer Works, NYU ITP, Barbarian Group, and Barnard College.