Firelight Media, PBS and CAAM Announce Filmmakers Selected for New Collection ‘HOMEGROWN: Future Visions’

A new collection of digital non-fiction short films by BIPOC filmmakers living in the American Midwest

Firelight Media, PBS and the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) today announced the filmmakers and projects selected for the new collection of digital short films HOMEGROWN: Future Visions. HOMEGROWN is a regional short film initiative with its first series “Future Visions” centering on filmmakers of color from the American Midwest and on narratives that illuminate the living histories, cultures, and future visions of the region. Firelight Media originally piloted this series in 2020 under the title HINDSIGHT.

In partnership with CAAM and PBS, Firelight Media invited emerging filmmakers living in the American Midwest who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color (BIPOC) to submit proposals for the initiative. The eight filmmakers selected will each receive $37,500 to produce an 8–10 minute non-fiction short film and will work with Firelight Media and CAAM from development through distribution. The filmmakers will receive mentorship by established independent filmmakers and will be paired with a local PBS member station for additional editorial and audience engagement support within their respective communities. The selected films will be distributed through PBS, local PBS member stations and public media partners in late Fall 2022.

For Firelight Media, this project expands on the work of the Groundwork Regional Lab, an initiative that supports diverse, early-career documentary filmmakers living and working in under-represented regions of the U.S and its territories. By providing an introduction to the documentary landscape, Groundwork helps position these filmmakers for national opportunities and increases public television stations’ capacity to leverage the talent and content of diverse, local storytellers in their own backyards. Since 2017 the Groundwork Regional Lab has supported filmmakers across the U.S. in Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Florida, Texas and Wisconsin. HOMEGROWN is part of Firelight Media’s Regional Shorts Initiative, whose long-term mission is to facilitate and support the creation of sustainable, local ecosystems for regional filmmakers of color to continue to work where they live, reducing the drain of talent from these regions and strengthening creative networks within.

“We are delighted to welcome this talented group of filmmakers to the Firelight Media family,” said Chloë Walters-Wallace, Director of Regional Initiatives for Firelight Media. “With the HOMEGROWN initiative we are thrilled to continue our regional work to support these storytellers in the production of a brand-new collection of digital shorts with our wonderful partners at PBS and CAAM. We collectively felt that it was important to focus this series around the Midwest, as it is a region that often receives too little support and exposure of this kind. As the eight filmmakers selected for this collection demonstrate, Midwestern voices have a vital role to play in the future of the U.S. and remarkable stories to tell to get us there.”

The HOMEGROWN: Future Visions filmmakers and their projects are listed below.

Ajuawak Kapashesit (Minneapolis, MN), Language Keeper (w.t.)
As first language Ojibwe speakers continue to age, language keepers in Minnesota race against time to develop new technology to teach and learn the language.

Amber Love (Chicago, IL/Lansing, MI), Lifetimes
Lifetimes is a portrait of a family in Lansing, Michigan that comprises four generations of Black female community leaders whose stories offer a glimpse into the practical and emotional labor of long-term racial equity work.

Marquise Mays (Milwaukee, WI), Black Strings
Black Strings
follows The Black String Triage Ensemble, an all-African American string orchestra in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as it performs at crime scenes in the immediate aftermath of incidents of gun violence, altering the notion of first responders.

Darryl Parham (Chicago, IL/Gary, IN), Untitled Gary UBI Project
The Untitled Gary UBI Project follows a guaranteed income experiment in Gary, Indiana and its impact on two households as they live day-to-day in a city they love, despite it being plagued by rust-belt decline and systemic racism — proving that poverty is a lack of cash, not a lack of character.

Rebekka Schlichting (Lawrence, KS), Back to the Land: The Pawnee Corn Seed Preservation Project
Back to the Land: The Pawnee Corn Seed Preservation Project
explores the efforts seed keepers make in their original homelands of Nebraska in order to regain food sovereignty and return to the healthy, traditional lifeways of the Pawnee people.

Tariq Tarey (New Albany, Ohio/Minneapolis, MN), Silsilad (Sequence)
Silsilad (Sequence)
is the story of three Somali-American artists, founders of the Soomaal House of Art, a Minneapolis-based artists collective, and the challenges they face in running a community-based gallery for BIPOC artists and communities.

Ozi Uduma (Detroit, MI), Detroit We Dey (w.t.)
Detroit We Dey follows a Detroit social club founded by a group of Nigerian immigrants as it adapts to operating during the pandemic and serving an aging membership.

Hao Zhou (Iowa City, IA), Here, Hopefully (w.t.)
Here, Hopefully follows Zee, a nonbinary international nursing student from rural China, as they seek to build a sustainable and gender-affirming life in the Midwest despite the challenges they face with racism and xenophobia.

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 a newly launched series of regional short films Homegrown (piloted as Hindsight).

About CAAM

The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. We do this by funding, producing, distributing and exhibiting works in film, television and digital media. For 40 years, CAAM has exposed audiences to new voices and communities, advancing our collective understanding of the American experience through programs specifically designed to engage the Asian American community and the public at large.

About PBS

PBS, with more than 330 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 120 million people through television and 26 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’s broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’s premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV — including a 24/7 channel, online at pbskids.org, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Communications on Twitter.

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