2023 Firelight Year-in-Review: Film Premieres

Firelight Media
5 min readDec 11, 2023


Celebrating broadcast and streaming premieres by Firelight-supported filmmakers.

A composite image of 21 film posters of films directed by Firelight-supported filmmakers in 2023.

As 2023 comes to a close, the team at Firelight Media is reflecting on a year of expanded artist and grant programs, renewed short film series, and a growing community of fellows, grantees, and alumni.

When Firelight Media was established over 20 years ago as a nonprofit organization supporting nonfiction filmmakers of color, we never could have dreamed that our flagship Documentary Lab Fellowship would grow to include more than 100 fellows and alumni and that it would be joined by several additional artist and grant programs that now comprise a network of more than 250 BIPOC filmmakers.

With the expansion of our community of alumni, fellows, and grantees comes a large number of annual broadcast and streaming premieres. This year, we are proud to count more than 45 original documentaries (and counting!) on our annual year-in-review list. See the updating list below, and be sure to stream these titles before the year’s end.

Congratulations to all of the filmmakers — we’re proud to have you as a part of the Firelight Family!

Support Firelight Media

Donate here: bit.ly/firelight23

As a nonprofit organization, Firelight Media depends on the support of individual and institutional funders for our programs and operations. You can show your support for Firelight and our growing community of BIPOC documentary filmmakers by making a tax-deductible contribution in support of our work today! Text FIRELIGHT to 44–321 to initiate a donation now, or visit this link: bit.ly/firelight23.

Documentary Lab Fellow Premieres

Films supported through Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab Fellowship.

A composite image of the 7 film posters of films released in 2023 by Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellows.

Keoni Kealoha Alvarez, KAPU: Sacred Hawaiin Burials (PBS Hawai’i)

Hazel Gurland-Pooler*, Storming Caesars Palace (PBS’ Independent Lens)

Dru Holley, Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts (WORLD)

Jasmín Mara López*, Silent Beauty (PBS’ Independent Lens)

Li Lu*, A Town Called Victoria (PBS’ Independent Lens)

Jon-Sesrie Goff, After Sherman (PBS’ POV)

Leslie Tai, How To Have An American Baby (PBS’ POV)

Documentary Lab Alumni Premieres

Films by alumni of Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab.

A composite image of 12 film posters of films released in 2023 by Firelight Media Documentary Lab alumni.

Cecilia Aldarondo*, You Were My First Boyfriend (HBO)

Contessa Gayles*, Founder Girls (BET)

Yu Gu, East West Players: A Home on Stage (KCET/ PBS SoCal)

Byron Hurt, Lee and Liza’s Family Tree (NOVA)

Emily Cohen Ibañez* & Débora Souza Silva‡, Sol in the Garden (PBS’ POV)

Nailah Jefferson, Donyale Luna: Supermodel (HBO)

Sonia Kennebeck, Reality Winner (VOD)

Daresha Kyi, Mama Bears (PBS’ Independent Lens)

JoeBill Muñoz, Maletero (PBS’ Independent Lens)

Peter Nicks, Stephen Curry: Underrated (Apple TV+)

Dawn Porter, The Lady Bird Diaries (Hulu)

PJ Raval‡, Who We Become (Netflix)

FRONTLINE/Firelight Fellowship Premiere

A documentary short film produced through the FRONTLINE/Firelight Fellowship.

Ursula Liang**, Two Strikes (PBS’ FRONTLINE)

PBS/Firelight William Greaves Research & Development Fund Grantee Premieres

Films by past recipients of the William Greaves Research & Development Fund.

An image of buffalo on a snowy plain from the documentary ‘Homecoming’ and an image of young Mexican boy with his hands in the air flooded with police lights from the poster for the documentary ‘Sansón and Me.’

Julianna Brannum, Homecoming (PBS)

Rodrigo Reyes, Sansón and Me (PBS’ Independent Lens)

PBS/Firelight William Greaves Production Fund Recipient Premieres

A film co-produced by Firelight Media through the PBS/Firelight William Greaves Production Fund.

Rodrigo Dorfman, Bulls and Saints (PBS’ POV)

Spark Fund (NEH) Recipient Premieres

A composite of film posters for the documentaries ‘Portal,’ ‘The Dads,’ and ‘Black Girls Play: The Story of Hand Games’

Rodney Evans, Portal (Black Public Media)

Luchina Fisher, The Dads (Netflix)

Michèle Stephenson, Black Girls Play: The Story of Hand Games (ESPN+)

Firelight Films Premieres

Stanley Nelson & Valerie Scoon, Sound of the Police (Hulu)

Nazenet Habtezghi, Birthing a Nation: The Resistance of Mary Gaffney (Paramount Plus)

Lynn Robinson, Black + Iconic: Style Gods (BET)

Firelight Media Co-Produced Series


Produced in partnership with PBS American Masters and Black Public Media.

Juanita Anderson§, Sydney G. James: How We See Us
Dilsey Davis, Rissi Palmer: Still Here
Alicia G. Edwards, Walshy Fire: Pull Up
Dustin Nakao-Haider, Ethan Lim: Cambodian Futures
Desmond Love & Eden Sabolboro, Senghor Reid: Make Way For Tomorrow
Raúl O. Paz-Pastana & Alan Domínguez, Alejandro Jiménez: The Ground I Stand On
Brooke Pepion Swaney, Lily Gladstone: Far Out There
Sergio Rapu, Jonathan Thunder: Good Mythology
Christine Turner, J’Nai Bridges Unamplified

HOMEGROWN: Future Visions

Produced in partnership with PBS/PBS Digital Studios and the Center for Asian American Media with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Ajuawak Kapashesit, Language Keepers
Amber Love
, Lifetimes
Marquise Mays
, Black Strings
Darryl Parham, Guaranteed in Gary
Rebekka Schlichting
, Seed Warriors
Tariq Tarey, Silsilad (Sequence)
Ozi Uduma
, Detroit We Dey
Hao Zhou, Here, Hopefully

And coming soon in 2024…

Films by Firelight Media-supported filmmakers premiering in early 2024.

Set Hernandez**, unseen (PBS’ POV)

Par Parekh, Sister Úna Lived a Good Death (PBS’ Independent Lens)

Michèle Stephenson§, Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project (HBO)

Christine Turner**, The Barber of Little Rock (New Yorker)

*Also an Impact Campaign Fund grantee
§Also a Spark Fund Recipient
†Also a William Greaves Research & Development Fund grantee
‡Also a FRONTLINE/FIrelight Fellow
**Also a Documentary Lab alum

About Firelight Media

Firelight Media is a premier destination for nonfiction cinema by and about communities of color. Firelight Media produces documentary films, supports filmmakers of color, and cultivates audiences for their work. Firelight Media’s programs include the Documentary Lab, an 18-month fellowship that supports emerging filmmakers of color; Groundwork Regional Lab, which supports early-career filmmakers in the American south, midwest, and U.S. Territories; and the William Greaves Research and Development Fund for mid-career nonfiction filmmakers from racially and ethnically underrepresented communities. Firelight Media also produces digital short films, including In the Making and HOMEGROWN: Future Visions, both of which are now streaming on the PBS YouTube Channel and the PBS App.



Firelight Media

Firelight Media is a nonprofit organization that supports, resources, and advocates on behalf of documentary filmmakers of color.