Firelight Media Announces Recipients for the 2023–2024 William Greaves Research & Development Fund

Firelight Media
6 min readFeb 8, 2024

Now in its fourth year, the international fund provides mid-career filmmakers with financial support for research and to develop materials needed for fundraising.

A composite image of the 10 William Greaves Research & Development fund grantees and grantee teams for 2023–2024.
Announcing the William Greaves Research & Development Fund grantees for 2023–2024.

Firelight Media, the premier destination for nonfiction cinema by and about communities of color, is pleased to announce the 2023–2024 recipients of the William Greaves Research & Development Fund. The William Greaves Research & Development Fund was established in 2020 to support mid-career documentary filmmakers from racially and ethnically underrepresented communities in the U.S. and Latin America, with a particular emphasis on filmmakers of African descent and/or from Indigenous communities. The Fund is designed to address the persistent structural barriers many filmmakers of color face after producing their first films so that they can remain in the field and continue to create vital stories focused on underrepresented people and topics.

The Greaves Research & Development Fund comprises grants of $25,000 each to support research and development on a feature-length nonfiction film. The funds may be used for research and to develop film treatments, presentation decks, sizzle reels, fundraising materials, and other essential needs that grantees have — from healthcare and childcare costs to any other resources that Firelight Media sees as fundamental to producing imaginative, creative work.

The 2023–2024 grantees include filmmakers from across Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States. Their film projects engage with urgent topics, including the climate crisis, the evolving understanding of gender identity, and the impact of modernization and Western influence on Indigenous communities.

“The slate of projects from this new cohort of filmmakers demonstrates just how interconnected our world is,” said Firelight Media Co-Founder and President Marcia Smith. “While these projects are largely focused on the local communities in which these filmmakers are based, they reveal the need for transnational frameworks for combating climate change, ending discrimination against trans and gender-nonconforming people, and preserving the traditions and land rights of Indigenous people worldwide. We are honored to support these filmmakers’ visions.”

The William Greaves Research & Development Fund 2023–2024 grant recipients and their projects are:

  • Edward Buckles Jr., Kinfolk (U.S.)
    New Orleans, Louisiana, lies within a global environmental crisis and is at risk of being completely submerged underwater by 2050, simultaneous with rapid gentrification drastically displacing its predominantly Black population. With the charged power of ceremonial gathering as resistance in the face of rising rent and sea levels, violence, and poverty, this documentary captures the beauty, roots, and sanctity of Black New Orleans culture as filmmaker Edward “Buck” Buckles Jr. embarks on a mission to preserve its traditions.
  • Daryl Jones & Tim Tsai, Untitled Allensworth Project (U.S.)
    Black and Latinx residents in California’s Central Valley unite against a worsening environmental crisis and systemic racism. Allensworth, once an all-Black settlement, becomes a battleground for justice as residents attempt to save “the town that refuses to die.”
  • Kelly Daniela Norris & Teresa Pittman-Chavez, Biological Exuberance (U.S.)
    Inspired by the foundational text of queer ecology, Biological Exuberance celebrates the diversity of gender and sexuality in nature and exposes its history of suppression by the scientific community. The film follows a sect of pioneering biologists, alongside current ecologists, to track the expansive evidence of same-sex sexuality and transgender behavior as it exists in the natural world, debunking the hegemonic and oppressive notion of queer sexuality as being a human-specific phenomenon existing outside of, as opposed to within, the natural biological world.
  • Chica Andrade, House Of Hilton (Brazil)
    House of Hilton delves deep into the life of Erika Hilton, a transgender woman who became a political icon in Brazil. Blending fiction and documentary, the film sheds light on the harsh reality of violence against the trans community.
  • Juan Javier Pérez (Xun Pérez), Sueños que migran (título provisional) [Migrant Dreams (working title)] (México)
    Migrant Dreams tells the story of Mariano, a young Maya Tsotsil who seeks to migrate for a short while to the United States to earn the money necessary to fulfill a traditional role in his town — without knowing that this trip would change his life forever. This documentary will explore the ties that bind and reconstruct Tsotsil identity from exile in New York while examining the deep meaning of migration and origins.
  • S. Leo Chiang, Parachute Kids (U.S.)
    Parachute Kids is a first-person essay film exploring my turbulent experience as an unaccompanied minor who moved to the U.S. from Taiwan through an unusual, ongoing East Asian immigration practice, examining my family’s peculiar, bittersweet version of the American Dream.
  • Amado Villafaña Chaparro, Sein Zare y la Partícula de Dios [Seyn Zare and the God Particle] (Colombia)
    Sein Zare and the God Particle will connect local, national, and international audiences with the Indigenous thought of the Sierra Nevada people. The film seeks to put the traditional knowledge of the Mamos in dialogue with related knowledge, such as quantum physics, but also with the extractivist and market logics of the modern world.
  • Genito Gomes, Yvy Pãi Ne’e Aty GuasuTerra Kaiowá, a fala da Grande Assembleia [Yvy Pãi Ne’e Aty GuasuTerra Kaiowá, the Speech of the Great Assembly] (Brazil)
    The Indigenous Guarani and Kaiowá people have lived on the land that today is called “the state of Mato Grosso do Sul” in Brazil since the beginning of recorded history, but due to the forces of modernization and colonization, they have experienced a long process of dispossession. This film will tell the story of the great Aty Guasu assembly, at which Indigenous communities came together to announce a newly formed resistance movement to reclaim their rights and their land.
  • Shirley Bruno, Fresh/Saltwater Heart (U.S.)
    Fresh/Saltwater Heart is a visual meditation over a collection of BIPOC voices recounting stories of being in water — personal stories from seas, lakes, rivers, and swimming pools. Composed of animation, archival footage, and live-action recreations of interviews, the film explores the role of water in shaping communal narratives and shared histories and highlights how bodies of water hold stories, traditions, and ancestral connections.
  • Dinazar Urbina Mata, Pueblo [The Town] (Mexico)
    “El pueblo,” as its inhabitants call Tututepec, Mexico, has many annual traditions and festivals where the food, dance, and music of the place symbolize that what was the first capital of Oaxaca refuses to be forgotten. This documentary tracks how residents have been forced to allow their Mixtec customs to be syncretized with the Catholic religion in order to meet the demands of the outside world.

The Research and Development 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 Research & Development Fund upholds Firelight Media’s mission to support underrepresented filmmakers throughout different stages of their careers with the Documentary Lab, the organization’s flagship mentorship program focused on developing emerging filmmakers. In 2022, Firelight Media also expanded its support for mid-career filmmakers through the creation of the PBS/Firelight William Greaves Production Fund.

The William Greaves Research & Development Fund is supported by institutions including the Perspective Fund and the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. For more information, click here.

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 emerging filmmakers in the American South, midwest, and U.S. territories; and the William Greaves Research & Development Fund, for mid-career nonfiction filmmakers from racially and ethnically underrepresented communities, among others. Firelight Media also produces digital short film series, including the forthcoming season three of In the Making with PBS American Masters and a collection of regional short films, Homegrown: A Part Of/Apart From, with PBS.

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Firelight Media

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