Firelight Media x BlackStar Film Festival 2024

Firelight Media is proud to return as a sponsor for this year’s BlackStar Film Festival, which will feature several screenings of films by Firelight Media-supported filmmakers as well as a Beyond Resilience panel.

Firelight Media
6 min readJun 14, 2024

Firelight Media is proud to return as a sponsor for the BlackStar Film Festival, which will take place from August 1–4, 2024 in Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, with additional screenings, parties, and events at various venues across Philadelphia and corresponding virtual programming. This year’s festival marks the 13th annual celebration of the visual and storytelling traditions of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people from around the world.

Seven Firelight Media-supported filmmakers will screen their films throughout the festival, including JoeBill Muñoz, Contessa Gayles, Ivy MacDonald and Ivan MacDonald, Michelle Parkerson, Juan Carlos Dávila Santiago, and Hao Zhou.

The festival will also feature a panel discussion, “Black on the Internet,” co-presented by Firelight Media as part of our Beyond Resilience series. The panel will include William Greaves Research & Development Fund grantee Chica Andrade.

All-access passes for the festival are available for purchase here; individual tickets for in-person and virtual screenings will go on sale in early July.

Read on to learn more about the Firelight Media-supported filmmakers at this year’s festival. See you in August!

‘The Strike,’ co-dir. JoeBill Muñoz

An aerial photo of a prison complex, a promotional still from ‘The Strike.’

The Strike is a feature documentary co-directed by JoeBill Muñoz that 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. ‘The Strike’ was produced through Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab and is a recipient of the Impact Campaign Fund.

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‘Songs from the Hole,’ dir. Contessa Gayles

A promotional image from ‘Songs from the Hole’ featuring a young Black man with dreadlocks wearing all white jumping in the air inside a prison yard.

At 15, he took a life. Three days later, his brother’s life was taken. A documentary visual album, Songs from the Hole, directed by Contessa Gayles, follows James “JJ’88” Jacobs through a musical opus of Hip-Hop and Soul, inspired by his innermost struggles as both a person who has committed and experienced violent harm, as he serves a double-life prison sentence. The film interweaves the collective storytelling of its non-fiction participants with imagined representations of memories, dreams, and spiritual dialogues set to its protagonist/co-creator’s original music. ‘Songs from the Hole’ was produced through Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab and is a recipient of the Impact Campaign Fund.

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‘Bring Them Home,’ co-directed by Ivy MacDonald and Ivan MacDonald

A promotional image from ‘Bring Them Home’ featuring Buffalo in a green pasture.

Bring Them Home, co-directed by Ivy MacDonald and Ivan MacDonald, tells the story of a small group of Blackfoot people and their mission to establish the first wild buffalo herd on their ancestral territory since the species’ near-extinction a century ago, an act that would restore the land, re-enliven traditional culture and bring much-needed healing to their community. Ivy MacDonald and Ivan MacDonald are alumni of Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab. Ivan is also a recipient of the Hulu/Firelight Kindling Fund.

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‘Farmers of the Sea,’ dir. Juan C. Dávila Santiago

A promotional image from ‘Farmers of the Sea’ featuring a man in back-profile sitting on stone wall on the coast of Puerto Rico at sunset.

In the Caribbean island of Vieques, climate change is making fishing more difficult. Farmers of the Sea, directed by Juan C. Dávila Santiago, follows the daily life of artisanal and recreational fishermen as they adapt to new challenges to get their catch and notice a decline in fish populations. Pedro and his crew need to go further into the sea to find the lobsters they catch to make a living, and Cecilia along with her partner needs to wait longer hours at the pier to barely catch any fish. Meanwhile younger generations of Viequenses dream of becoming fishermen. Juan C. Dávila Santiago is a recipient of Firelight Media’s William Greaves Research & Development Fund, PBS/Firelight William Greaves Production Fund, and Hulu/Firelight Kindling Fund.

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‘Wouldn’t Make It Any Other Way,’ dir. Hao Zhou

A promotional image from ‘Wouldn’t Make it Any Other Way’ featuring a winding road leading to an ocean through a lush forst.

In Wouldn’t Make It Any Other Way, directed by Hao Zhou, an aspiring costume designer — having built a colorful queer life in Iowa — visits their homeland of Guam to make costumes for a children’s theatre and reconnect with distanced parents. Hao Zhou directed the short film ‘Here, Hopefully’ as part of Firelight Media’s ‘Homegrown: Future Visions’ series with PBS Digital Studios.

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Retrospective Screening: ‘A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde,’ co-dir. Michelle Parkerson

A black-and-white image of poet Audre Lorde in profile with a young boy behind her.

A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde, co-directed by Michelle Parkerson and first released in 1992, is an epic portrait of the eloquent, award-winning Black, lesbian, poet, mother, teacher, and activist, Audre Lorde, whose writings — spanning five decades — articulated some of the most important social and political visions of the century. From Lorde’s childhood roots in NYC’s Harlem to her battle with breast cancer, this moving film explores a life and a body of work that embodied the connections between the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s movement, and the struggle for lesbian and gay rights. Michelle Parkerson is co-director of the forthcoming documentary short film ‘Camille A. Brown: Giant Steps,’ part of Firelight Media’s ‘In The Making’ series with PBS American Masters.

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Panel Discussion | Beyond Resilience: Black on the Internet

On Friday, August 2 at 5:30 pm ET at the Kimmel Center, Firelight Media will co-present the panel discussion “Black on the Internet,” featuring William Greaves Research & Development Fund grantee Chica Andrade alongside panelists Jazmin Jones, Kimberly Drew, Neema Githere Siphon, and moderator Sarah J. Jackson.

This panel will explore the relationship between Black folks and the digital world. They will discuss how the Black community — particularly Black women and nonbinary people — use the internet as a vital resource for seeking support and advocating for social justice, while also addressing the significant safety and privacy concerns that arise. They’d like to unpack the dual-edged nature of the internet, highlighting it as a tool but also revealing the vulnerabilities and threats that Black people specifically face.

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For more information about the 2024 BlackStar Film Festival, visit



Firelight Media

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