Firelight Media Announces 2023 Grantees for the Impact Campaign Fund

Firelight Media
4 min readNov 8, 2023

The fund supports impact and engagement campaigns for documentaries by filmmakers of color and their communities.

Film still from Ellen Martinez and Steph Ching’s ‘Slumlord Millionaire.’

Firelight Media, the premier destination for nonfiction cinema by and about communities of color, is pleased to announce the 2023 grantees for the Impact Campaign Fund, which addresses a resource gap in the nonfiction space for impact and audience engagement-related projects by and for communities of color in the U.S. The seven documentary films selected include stories about the personal and community impacts of incarceration and solitary confinement, lyrical meditations on life on the U.S.-Mexico border, and visually and sonically inventive portraits of protagonists, including a blind, undocumented immigrant and an incarcerated musician.

“Firelight Media is pleased to continue our support for impact and community-engagement campaigns for documentaries directed by members of our community,” said Firelight Media Senior Vice President Leticia Peguero. “The campaigns supported through this new round of funding address the many pressing social issues that documentary films can uniquely contextualize and humanize: the mass incarceration of Black and brown people, the housing crisis, and life on the U.S.-Mexico border, among others. Dedicated support for impact campaigns is increasingly hard to come by; while we are proud to offer these grants, we call on our industry partners, including distributors and funders, to rededicate themselves to offering community and audience engagement support for the documentary projects they fund.”

Now in its fourth year, the Impact Campaign Fund resources audience engagement and impact campaigns led by filmmakers of color, including those by current and former Firelight Media-supported filmmakers — a community that now comprises over 200 filmmakers. Firelight Media sought out applications for projects that are socially relevant, address or engage underrepresented issues or communities, and are accountable to the communities their films represent. Firelight Media selected seven projects, awarding each with grants ranging from $20k to $30k and the opportunity to gain impact and engagement strategy support and advising. Firelight Media will again partner with Looky Looky Pictures, founded by Ani Mercedes, an alum of its Impact Producers Lab, to provide grantees with mentorship around campaign strategy and implementation.

The projects selected for the 2023 Impact Campaign Fund and their associated filmmakers are:

  • For Venida, For Kalief, Sisa Bueno
    Kalief Browder was jailed at Rikers Island in New York for allegedly stealing a backpack; after three years of solitary confinement, he committed suicide at age 22. His late mother Venida’s poetry inspires criminal justice reform and a new legacy.
  • The In Between, Robie Flores; Impact Producer Alex J. Flores
    Following the death of her brother, a filmmaker returns to the border town where she grew up in an attempt to document — using his camera — the spaces and places that shaped them. But the youth of today, in all their messy and joyous complexity, challenge her personal reverie, sparking a lyrical meditation on how fronterizo identity takes shape and what it looks and feels like to grow up on the Texas-Mexico border.
  • Songs from the Hole, Contessa Gayles; Impact Producer Richie Reseda
    An incarcerated musician struggles for healing and peace as he comes of age in this documentary-musical odyssey composed behind bars.
  • unseen, Set Hernandez
    An aspiring social worker, Pedro, must confront the uncertainties of life as a blind, undocumented immigrant. Through experimental cinematography and audio-centric filmmaking, unseen reimagines cinema for audiences with vision loss while interweaving immigration, disability, and mental health.
  • Slumlord Millionaire, Ellen Martinez & Steph Ching
    In some of the most quickly gentrifying neighborhoods in New York City, a group of fearless residents, activists, and nonprofit attorneys fight corrupt landlords and developers for the basic human right to a home.
  • The Strike, JoeBill Muñoz
    The Strike tells the story of a generation of California men who endured decades of solitary confinement and, against all odds, launched the largest hunger strike in U.S. history.
  • Sansón & Me, Rodrigo Reyes
    Two Mexican migrants, a young man serving a life sentence in prison and a filmmaker who was his court interpreter, become intertwined through life and cinema.

The filmmakers and impact producers behind these projects will use their Impact Campaign Fund grants for activities, including hosting community-centered screenings to raise awareness about the issues uncovered in their films, mobilizing viewers to become involved in local organizing efforts, and creating and distributing activation guides to turn viewers’ passionate response to films into actionable plans for change.

Major support for Firelight Media’s Impact Campaign Fund has been provided by the Perspective Fund.

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.

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Firelight Media

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