Celebrating One Year of Beyond Resilience

Firelight Media
5 min readJun 4, 2021
Participants featured in year one of our Beyond Resilience Series. Clockwise from top left: LaTosha Brown, Judith Browne Dianis, Geeta Gandbhir, Dario Guerrero, Nausheen Dadabhoy, Dawn Porter, Vee Bravo, and Ashley O’Shay.

When Firelight Media launched its Beyond Resilience Series one year ago, on June 5, 2020 — in the midst of the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and a national reckoning with racist violence in the U.S. — it was in an atmosphere of tremendous uncertainty. Like arts organizations around the world, we had recently converted all of our program offerings into virtual formats. We had just launched a new season of what was meant to be an in-person screening series in our beloved Harlem community, and we were heartbroken at the prospect of losing the opportunity to connect communities of color with relevant, engaging, and beautifully crafted nonfiction cinema — work that is at the core of our mission.

So we rallied. With support from our institutional funders and our community of individual donors, we launched a weekly series of online screenings and curated conversations that explored the challenges, strategies, and experiences of creating and distributing work during a time of crisis. We were stunned by the response that we received: early events in the series, announced as little as two days in advance, attracted over a thousand RSVPs, hundreds of live attendees, and an overwhelming response on social media.

The Beyond Resilience Series trailer.

Since the fall of 2020, we’ve offered Beyond Resilience events on a monthly basis, including at leading film festivals and conferences including DOC NYC, IDA’s Getting Real, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Center for Asian American Media’s CAAMFest. Events in the series have featured an incredible roster of over 50 BIPOC filmmakers — including many Firelight Media-supported filmmakers, as well as producers, artists, journalists, and thought leaders. Topics have included the Black gaze, the work of undocumented filmmakers, virtual impact campaigns, film production during the COVID-19 pandemic, the BIPOC nonfiction film canon, and the state of the awards system for documentary films, among many others.

None of this would have been possible without supporters like you. Thank you for joining our programs, sharing your insights, and supporting our filmmakers. As we head into year two of our Beyond Resilience Series, we are so grateful for your continued support and enthusiasm. We look forward to hosting more screenings and conversations by and about communities of color — including a return to some in-person events — as well as a series of Beyond Resilience essays by Firelight-supported filmmakers.

Read on to revisit some of the best moments from the first year of Beyond Resilience.

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Beyond Resilience Highlights: Year One

1. Future Visions — A conversation about what filmmaker-centric leadership could look like, and possibilities for industry-wide structural change.

2. Production in Times of Upheaval — How does a documentary filmmaker fulfill their role in the midst of a pandemic and an uprising?

3. Tulsa, Juneteenth, and the Path Toward Economic Justice — A conversation on the history of Juneteenth, the burning of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, and the path toward economic justice for Black America.

4. Can Impact Go Virtual? As physical distancing continues to be the new norm, how can we still make an impact with our films?

5. Un(Documenting): Storytelling Through the Undocumented Lens — Conversations on representation, labor, and equity featuring the work and perspectives of Undocumented storytellers.

6. The Black Gaze — A conversation with Black filmmakers on how they navigate the ubiquitous images of Black trauma, document Black life, and forge new cinematic languages, practices, and formal approaches.

7. After the Call Out — The announcement that golfing icon Tiger Woods would be the subject of a two-part HBO documentary series set in motion a heated debate about equity, power, and BIPOC filmmakers’ demands for structural change.

8. The Life and Legacy of Congressman John Lewis — A conversation to lift up the life and legacy of the late Congressman and civil rights icon with inside stories and reflections on his leadership.

9. Beyond Inclusion — A conversation spurred by the report “Beyond Inclusion: The Critical Role of People of Color in the U.S. Documentary Ecosystem,” authored by Sahar Driver and commissioned by the Ford Foundation’s JustFilms initiative about the contributions, power, and potential of filmmakers of color in nonfiction today.

10. Creating & Commissioning Art in Times of Crisis — How can BIPOC artists best be supported in making socially-relevant work, even as they and their communities experience precarity?

11. Spotlight: AAPI Filmmakers & Artists from IN THE MAKINGA virtual screening and livestream Q&A centering women, non-binary, and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) filmmakers and artists behind IN THE MAKING, Firelight Media’s documentary short film series in partnership with PBS American Masters.

12. Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy — Inspired by Stanley Nelson’s documentary Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy, now streaming globally on Netflix, this panel discussion explored the disastrous effects of the crack era on communities like Harlem, NYC, and the role that the news media played in perpetuating false narratives.

13. More Than One Lens — An all-star panel of independent BIPOC filmmakers discuss the future of public media and why it depends on filmmakers & audiences and color.

14. Beyond Resilience Essay: Shalini Kantayya on Coded Bias and Data Right as Human Rights — A Firelight Media Impact Campaign Fund grantee and Documentary Lab alum reflects on the impact campaign work she and her team have been engaged in surrounding her film Coded Bias.

Learn More About Beyond Resilience

Firelight Media’s Beyond Resilience Series is sponsored by Open Society Foundations. Beyond Resilience is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

To learn more about the series, including upcoming events, visit FirelightMedia.tv/Beyond-Resilience.



Firelight Media

Firelight Media produces documentary films, supports nonfiction filmmakers of color, and cultivates audiences for their work. We’re #changingthestory.