Introducing the 2021–2023 Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellows

A composite image of the headshots of the 14 fellows selected for Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab on a gradient orange, red, and purple background, with the words “2021–23 Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellows” and Firelight Media flame logo.
Introducing the 2021–2023 Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellows

“We are once again impressed by the quality and volume of applications we received to the Documentary Lab this year,” said Firelight Media President Marcia Smith. “Despite the many challenges faced by emerging nonfiction filmmakers of color — particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — we are heartened to see that so many filmmakers remain committed to telling their own stories on their own terms. We are especially proud to be able to increase project grants to $25,000 this year, which will have a transformative impact on each of these productions.”

The 2021–2023 Documentary Lab fellows are:

  • Elizabeth Ai, New Wave — A coming-of-age story that celebrates the trailblazers who rebuilt their community and forged a music industry more influential than the one they left behind in the wake of the Vietnam War.
  • Sisa Bueno, For Venida, For Kalief — A late mother’s poetry echoes a movement for criminal justice reform for her son.
  • Ben Corona, Sacrifice Zones: The 48217 — A photographer and other residents living in southwest Detroit challenge a corporation to be more environmentally responsible and purchase their homes.
  • Pati Cruz Martínez, Nació Simón — Nació Simón follows Lis, a single mother of two during the day and drag king Simón at night.
  • Gerardo del Valle, The Past is Waiting Up Ahead — Poet Javier Zamora revisits the route he traveled as an unaccompanied minor twenty years ago.
  • Mohammadreza Eyni and Sara Khaki, Cutting Through Rocks — Film description to come.
  • Contessa Gayles, Life + Life — An incarcerated musician struggles for healing and peace as he comes of age in this documentary-musical odyssey composed behind bars.
  • Set Hernandez Rongkilyo, unseen — A multi-platform documentary that follows the story of Pedro, an aspiring social worker who happens to be a blind, undocumented immigrant.
  • JoeBill Muñoz, Untitled Prison Hunger Strike Film — A group of men look to build new lives after surviving decades of solitary confinement in California prisons.
  • Fiz Olajide, Untitled Underground Railroad Project — Five Black and Latino cyclists traverse a route that helped enslaved people escape to freedom.
  • Ashley Tyner and William Tyner, Untitled — A film following the lives of three Black women leading the movement for Black liberation in the Twin Cities.
  • Xinyan Yu, Made in Ethiopia — Three pioneering women navigate the bumpy expansion of the biggest Chinese industrial zone in Ethiopia. But as conflict threatens to tear the country apart, will their sacrifices be for nothing?

About Firelight Media

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Firelight Media produces documentary films, supports nonfiction filmmakers of color, and cultivates audiences for their work. We’re #changingthestory.

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Firelight Media

Firelight Media produces documentary films, supports nonfiction filmmakers of color, and cultivates audiences for their work. We’re #changingthestory.