Firelight Media Announces 2021 Recipients for The William Greaves Fund

Firelight Media
6 min readSep 27, 2021


International research and development fund provides mid-career filmmakers with financial support and includes a basic care stipend in its second year.

Firelight Media, the premier destination for nonfiction cinema by and about communities of color, is pleased to announce the recipients for the second year of its William Greaves Fund. The William Greaves Fund was founded in 2020 to support documentary filmmakers from racially and ethnically underrepresented communities. The Fund is designed to address the persistent structural challenges many filmmakers face after producing their first films so that they are able to remain in the field and continue to create vital stories focused on underrepresented people and topics. To address the devastating toll that the pandemic has had on the independent film community, and how unstable work in the industry can be for filmmakers of color, the William Greaves Fund includes a basic care stipend that can be put toward any essential need grantees have, from healthcare and childcare costs to any other necessary resources which Firelight Media sees as fundamental to producing creative work.

2021 grantees include filmmakers from across the United States, as well as from Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia, the majority of whom identify as Indigenous, Black, and/or of African descent. Their film projects include a diverse array of genres and styles including historical biographies, personal and experimental narratives, and investigative documentaries. Their subjects include Canada Lee, the American actor and civil rights activist; the Brazilian activist and union organizer Laudelina de Campos Melo; and unaccompanied, undocumented minors attempting to migrate from Central America to the U.S.

“The sheer volume of applications that we receive every year by impressive filmmakers and projects is astounding, and this year was no exception,” said Stanley Nelson, co-founder of Firelight Media. “These are visionary filmmakers with unique perspectives and tremendous skill and capability. Their work deserves support and trust, which we are happy to provide in hopes that the rest of the industry catches up.”

When Firelight Media launched the William Greaves Fund early last year, it was in response to a pressing need the organization observed where mid-career filmmakers of color — even those who have had early career successes — were not receiving enough support or funding to launch into their second or third films. The pandemic then exacerbated the situation, making an already precarious career in filmmaking even more difficult.

In its second year, the William Greaves Fund provides grants of $40,000 each to support research and development on a feature-length nonfiction film, as well as the basic care stipends. The selected filmmakers will use these funds for research, and to develop film treatments, decks, sizzle reels, and other materials necessary for fundraising. Firelight Media accepted submissions from filmmakers based in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Colombia, with a particular interest in those who identify as being of Indigenous and/or of African descent.

The William Greaves Fund 2021 grant recipients are:

  • Ángela Carabalí, No los dejaron volver (Will They Ever Come Back?) (Colombia)
    Traveling a long road, Ángela and her sister Juliana enter the indigenous land where their father was forcibly disappeared years ago. The route confronts them with the metamorphosis of violence in Colombia and the reconstruction of their family portrait.
  • Juan Carlos Dávila Santiago, Yolas en Rebeldía (Rebel Boats) (Puerto Rico)
    A documentary film about the life of Vieques fisherman and revolutionary, Carlos “Taso” Zenón. For decades Taso fought against the military occupation of his native land fighting the US Navy both on land and sea — it was the fisherman’s slingshot against the military cannons.
  • Tania Hernández Velasco, Mi cuerpo es una estrella que se expande (My Body is an Expanding Star) (Mexico)
    Two siblings make an imaginary pilgrimage through the memory and geography of their Brown bodies in order to discover their beauty and dignity. As they journey through the seas of their stretch marks, the fields of their hair, and the constellations of their moles, their ancestors emerge to accompany them.
  • Khary Saeed Jones, Night Fight (U.S.)
    Night Fight documents a week in the life of a Black man in the United States as it seizes and convulses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the police killing of George Floyd, and the most consequential presidential election in the nation’s history. As he attempts to step out of the long shadow cast by an act of racial violence, he contemplates enacting one himself.
  • Sonia Kennebeck and Maia Isaac, Film Title To Be Announced (U.S.)
    Film description to be announced.
  • Sueli Maxakali, Yõg ãtak: meu pai, Kaiowá (Yõg Ãtak — My father, Kaiowá) (Brazil)
    Yõg Ãtak: meu pai, Kaiowá is a road movie that mixes personal and historical narratives as it follows the filmmaker and her sister on their search for their father. The journey connects the northeast of Minas Gerais, Brazil, where the filmmaker’s Maxakali people live, to the south of Mato Grosso do Sul, where her father’s people, the Guarani-Kaiowá, live.
  • Graciela Pereira de Souza, Horizonte Colorido (Colorful Horizon) (Brazil)
    Horizonte Colorido
    is a lyrical film that uses art to build universes and also enhances and amplifies original female voices.
  • Rodrigo Reyes, Children of Exodus (U.S.)
    Children of Exodus
    is an urgent story capturing one of the most critical human rights crises of our times. The film confronts audiences with an intimate, deeply-human portrait of the struggles of unaccompanied minors, told in a bold narrative style grounded in magic-realism and the voices of the children.
  • Lilian Solá Santiago, Quase da Família (She is Almost Family) (Brazil)
    She Is Almost Family is a documentary on the lives and cultural expectations of Brazilian housekeepers, who are mostly Black women. Woven together with stories of the life of Laudelina de Campos Melo, founder of the first housekeepers’ union in Brazil, the film includes historical reenactments performed by activists from the very union that Ms. Melo founded.
  • María Sojob, Riox, Palabra florida (Riox, Flowery Word) (Mexico)
    Upon returning to her village after many years away, María meets a village elder who is the only woman to speak the Riox, the ceremonial language of their people. Soon, María embarks on a quest to learn the language, but her training will only be complete if she is granted permission by a sacred cave.
  • Marco Williams, Canada Lee: Native Son (U.S.)
    Groundbreaking Black actor Canada Lee leveraged his fame to fight for civil rights. In 1947, he was blacklisted by the U.S. Government in retaliation for his progressive activism. (Produced by Kenny Kilfara and Jonathan Skurnik.)

The Fund was named in honor of William Greaves, who produced the seminal television newsmagazine “Black Journal” and over 200 documentary films during his sixty-year career. Greaves came to be regarded as the father of Black nonfiction cinema and mentored countless filmmakers during his life, including Firelight Media co-founder Stanley Nelson. The William Greaves Fund upholds Firelight Media’s mission to support diverse filmmakers throughout different stages of their careers with the Documentary Lab, the organization’s flagship mentorship program focused on developing emerging filmmakers.

About Firelight Media

Firelight Media is a premier destination for non-fiction 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 filmmakers in the American south, midwest, and U.S.-controlled Territories; and the William Greaves Fund for mid-career nonfiction filmmakers from racially and ethnically underrepresented communities. Firelight Media also produces digital short film series, including the recently released Hindsight series with Reel South and the Center for Asian American Media.



Firelight Media

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