Firelight Media at the 2020 New Orleans Film Festival
A note from Chloe Walters-Wallace, Artist Programs Manager at Firelight Media
What a year these last two weeks have been! As the sole, proud representative of Firelight South, the issues affecting our country and our world have been compounded across the region in an incredibly short time. And in the midst of it all, the 31st annual New Orleans Film Festival launches today, November 6. Firelight has had a presence at the Festival for the last five years, indicative of our deep dedication to geographical diversity — not only by supporting and bolstering representation of filmmakers of color across the country, but particularly in areas that are underserved by the documentary industry. My history with the New Orleans Film Society is even longer. NOSF, as my second job in artist support, has always provided me with an additional platform to manifest my visions and concerns.
I’m honored to be a part of this work, and have been grateful to continue living in New Orleans for the past eight years despite the constant attraction of more resources and connections on the west & east coasts. It grounds me in the understanding of what everyone else — filmmakers and community members — is experiencing down here. I was here, watching patiently on the edge of history from the bayou, as monuments were removed. I’m here when sudden dumps of several inches of rainfall flood the city, and that’s just a regular Thursday. Most recently, I, along with the rest of Southeast Louisiana, experienced when Hurricane Zeta hit the city last week, Wednesday, October 28.
All of this is impossible to ignore, and as each year grows steadily worse I find myself thinking about community, and then about filmmakers and film festivals. In 2022, when, hopefully, the pandemic is behind us, the effects of climate change will still be ramping up. How are we reimagining the work we do and the way we do it for that crisis? How are we communicating this difference in experience to others, although we exist within the same country? How are we advocating, for ourselves, to not be forgotten? And then, how are we advocating for and documenting the communities we love? How do we place ourselves within a global context, recognizing that the Caribbean and Latin America are experiencing the very same issues?
These were the questions that shaped the curation of the panel Is There Anywhere To Go But Here?: Climate Change in the Global South, moderated by the wonderful Nailah Jefferson, Firelight Media Documentary Lab alum and director of Vanishing Pearls, one of the foremost films on climate change and corporate negligence, and their effects on communities of color. At the same time, I’ve been having incredible conversations with my fellow group members in IMA South, a new collective of Southern filmmakers and arts organizations advocating for regional arts development and better support. We’ve been formulating a vision that puts Southern makers in a global and national context, making clear that the work and issues that happen down here are not siloed, and are seen as pertinent to the rest of the world.
I will also be moderating a panel on Black Linguistic Storytelling, dreamt into reality by Zandashe Brown, the Artist Development Coordinator & Programming Manager of the New Orleans Film Society, who is a formidable and bad-ass filmmaker. The panel comes from Arthur Jafa’s concept of “Black Visual Intonation,” the idea of creating a literal visual language connected to the way of being Black in the world. I leapt at the chance to moderate, having heard Jafa and Firelight Media Documentary Lab alum Ja’tovia Gary in conversation on the idea a year ago in D.C., at the event “The Ecstatic Message: Talking Music and Moving Image Art.” It’s also an extension of another panel I curated & moderated at NOFF in 2019, called Cinematic Sanctuaries: Reimagining Identity in Documentary.
I wish I could say my heart was first broken by George Floyd’s murder, but it was Sean Bell’s, over a decade ago in 2006, that holds that place for me. To me, Black Linguistic Storytelling is an ode and balm to that heartbreak. It holds a small place in space and time, but within that small space I hope it can also hold all the possibilities for how we as Black, Indigenous, and other people of color see ourselves in the future, and how we can demand to be seen by others, beyond a legacy of pain. It holds a place of immense potential impact and quiet intimacy that is just for us. It also holds a place for stretching what Blackness is, and who it encompasses, as we are as deep, wide, and diverse as everything else.
Join Firelight Media at the 2020 New Orleans Film Festival, presented by the New Orleans Film Society. This year, the New Orleans Film Festival organizers invite you to watch the 160+ films on the program virtually from the comfort of your couch, or at the Open-Air Cinemas on Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans between November 6–22.
Six members of the Firelight Media family will be screening films at the Festival, including Cecilia Aldarondo, Ja’Tovia Gary, Ursula Liang, Loira Limbal, Ashley O’Shay, and Set Hernandez Rongkilyo.
Firelight’s own Chloe Walters-Wallace, manager of Artist Programs, will be featured on the panel “Black Linguistic Storytelling,” and she also curated a panel on Climate Change in the Global South, which will be moderated by Documentary Lab alum Nailah Jefferson.
Find a complete roundup for Firelight’s activities at the New Orleans Film Festival below!
Monday, November 16, 5pm ET | Is There Anywhere To Go But Here? Climate Change In The Global South
As we run out of letters in the Latin alphabet to name hurricanes, six of which directly impacted states and countries across the Gulf South, it is an understatement that the continuous reckoning with climate change in our region is inevitable. In this panel — moderated by Nailah Jefferson, NOFF & Firelight Media Documentary Lab alum and director of Vanishing Pearls — hear from filmmakers throughout the Global South on how they’re navigating climate change in their storytelling, daily lives and the film ecosystem.
This panel was envisioned and curated by Chloe Walters-Wallace, manager of Artist Programs at Firelight Media, in partnership with IMA South. The live panel will be followed by a brief Q&A open to virtual audience members.
Thursday, November 19, 11:30am ET | The Aesthetics of Care
The reckoning across the film world has pushed filmmakers to wrestle with questions of ethics, transparency, and accountability. Too often, the creative life force of artists — aesthetics — are left out of those conversation. But for some, ethical filmmaking manifests itself in both content and form.
Join Loira Limbal, director, producer, and SVP for Programs at Firelight Media, and Sonya Childress, Senior Fellow with the Perspective Fund, as they discuss the liminal space where ethics meets aesthetics, using Limbal’s latest film, Through the Night, as a focal point.
Friday, November 20, 5pm ET | Undocumented Filmmakers Collective Showcase + Panel
Imagine living in a place that values and invests in your brilliance. Oftentimes the places we call home deprive us of resources that could help us reach our highest potential by creating barriers and limitations through legislation and rules and regulations implemented by institutions.
Join the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective, including Firelight Media Impact Producer alum Rahi Hasan, will be hosting a panel discussion and showcase with panelist Dorian Gomez and moderator Wil Prada to uplift the work of undocumented filmmakers.
Saturday, November 21, 11:30am ET | Black Linguistic Storytelling
“What could Black philosophy look like if given the space to manifest visually? What is the Black thing? How does it feel?”– Aria Dean
This panel is a look into Arthur Jafa’s concept of Black Visual Intonation — what Black cinema has always already been, as well as what it can be, in the present and in the future if it is nurtured and cared for. Hear from creatives forging a new creative language, or utilizing old ones that have been dismissed. Featuring Keisha Rae Witherspoon (T), Tayler Montague (In Sudden Darkness), and Alea Adigweme ([untitled]). Moderated by Chloe Walters-Wallace, manager of Artist Programs for Firelight Media. This live panel will be followed by a brief Q&A open to virtual audience members.
In addition to the panels listed above, five Firelight Media program alumni, as well as Loira Limbal, Firelight Media’s SVP for Programs, have films featured throughout the Festival. All films will be available to stream via the New Orleans Film Festival website at watch.eventive.org/noff2020.
- Cecilia Aldarondo, LANDFALL
- Ja’Tovia Gary, THE GIVERNY DOCUMENT (SINGLE CHANNEL)
- Ursula Liang, DOWN A DARK STAIRWELL
- Loira Limbal, THROUGH THE NIGHT
- Ashley O’Shay, UNAPOLOGETIC
- Set Hernandez Rongkilyo, COVER/AGE