A new partnership between Firelight Media, the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), and Reel South will support short film series from six BIPOC filmmakers living in the American South.
Firelight Media, Reel South, and the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) announced six filmmakers selected for the Hindsight Project, a new initiative that marks the first-time partnership between the three organizations. The Hindsight Project is focused on supporting Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) filmmakers living in the American South and U.S. Territories. The filmmakers selected for the series will create short films for a new digital series exploring the lived experiences of communities of color in the South and in Puerto Rico that reflect the migrations and movements throughout the complicated history of these regions.
From the Coronavirus pandemic and the societal inequities it revealed, to the racial reckoning ignited by the murder of George Floyd, to the multiple environmental and socio-economic disasters in Puerto Rico and other coastal communities, the selected filmmakers’ documentaries aim to chronicle the cultural shifts, community ingenuity, and pivotal conversations defining this current moment in America.
The six filmmakers selected will work closely with Firelight Media, Reel South, and CAAM through all stages of production and will each receive financing up to $20,000 to produce a short film that seeks to disrupt mainstream narratives and illuminate the issues, communities, and identities of these regions. The filmmakers will receive production and distribution mentorship by veteran independent filmmakers. Each filmmaker will also be paired with a public media station mentor for additional editorial guidance focused on local expertise and audiences. The project also supports station partners’ engagement with local audiences around the series. Each film will premiere on Reel South’s public media platforms.
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 them 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 Lab has supported filmmakers across the US in Michigan, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, Nebraska, and South Florida through localized programs, priming local filmmakers to enter the landscape of documentary film. Hindsight’s 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 so pleased to kick off the new year with the launch of the Hindsight Project, our newest Digital Shorts series,” said Chloe Walters-Wallace, Manager of Artist Programs at Firelight Media and lead for the Groundwork Regional Lab and Hindsight Project. “We’re especially excited to be doing this alongside two fantastic partners, Reel South and CAAM, who share Firelight’s mission to provide continued support for documentary filmmakers of color living and working in the American South and Puerto Rico telling urgent and local stories about their communities. In looking back at 2020, which brought forth both revealing and extraordinary narratives, we are honored to present these regions and filmmakers as the future of storytelling. As a resident of the American South, I am personally gratified to provide a platform where these underrepresented regions and stories can shine.”
“For Reel South, this is the first time we have invested in projects at this early stage of production and as commissioned works,” said Nick Price, series producer of Reel South. “When we tell the story of 2020, we must ask ourselves whose voices — whose stakes — are laid bare. We are humbled to have these six filmmakers tell the stories of their communities and our region as a whole. Public media is made better by this kind of local exploration.”
For Reel South, working in public media, in documentary film, and in this region — far from the poles of media power in this country — oftentimes forces them to not only create opportunities for public media organizations and artists, but also join forces with allied organizations who are putting in the effort to create lasting impact, much like Firelight and CAAM have done in recent years. Reel South looks forward to sharing this model of cooperative, regional work with public media stations and executives in the year to come.
“We as a nation are revisiting the complicated racial narratives of the United States, and it is important to recognize that Asian Americans are and have long been a part of the South,” says CAAM Executive Director Stephen Gong. “CAAM is pleased to partner on this project to bring these diverse documentaries to public media that represent a more authentic portrait of the regional South.” CAAM is one of the organizations in the National Multicultural Alliance (NMCA).
CAAM notes that Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the nation — and not just on the East and West Coasts. The South is home to Asian American communities with deep ties, such as the Mississippi Delta Chinese and, more recently, the Vietnamese American communities of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast or the South Asians and Southeast Asians that have migrated in large numbers all over the region. “Yet the stories of Asian Americans in the South remain acutely underrepresented,” says Gong. “CAAM believes that collaborations like this one will help build an infrastructure that will result in a breadth of work in film and media that truly reflects the changing landscape of the region.” This project is part of CAAM’s multi-year commitment to represent the stories of a new America, including a more nuanced and deeper perspective of the South.
Additionally, five public media stations across the South will provide mentorship to each filmmaker and cultivate deeper working relationships with the selected filmmakers. The five broadcasters include Arkansas PBS, Alabama Public Television, South Florida PBS, PBS North Carolina, and Louisiana Public Broadcasting.
The 2020 Hindsight Project filmmakers are:
- Amman Abbasi, Bismallah Blues — A coming-of-age portrait of a first-generation Pakistani student who must navigate the transition to college as she and her family wrestle with contemporary Southern culture and how to maintain their own traditions in small town Arkansas.
- Anissa Latham, Missing Magic — Missing Magic centers on a young poet and activist in Birmingham, Alabama as he tries to write his way through the complex history of the city — from its much-lauded history with the Civil Rights Movement, to its residents’ reignited struggles with racial and economic inequality and police brutality.
- Arleen Cruz-Alicea, Food for the Poor (Comida pa’ los Pobres) — Comida pa’ los Pobres follows a young Puerto Rican activist as he confronts the island’s persistent crisis of food insecurity. Motivated by his childhood struggle with hunger, Giovanni seeks to inspire his fellow citizens to join a movement of solidarity-oriented work by feeding families and college students through mutual aid efforts.
- Dilsey Davis, Now Let Us Sing — An interfaith, interracial choir in Durham, NC is forced to take a new direction during the pandemic. Members of the group, which uses African American sacred music as a vehicle to create safe spaces for racial healing and community building, must grapple with the emotional roller coaster of trying to sing as one unit while living miles apart.
- Kiyoko McCrae, Untitled Motherhood Documentary — This documentary follows a group of New Orleans mothers as they struggle to care for their families and themselves throughout the pandemic. Utilizing video diaries, it provides an intimate portrait of mothering during a time of crisis.
- Zac Manuel, Trust — Trust explores the perilous relationship between Black Americans and the medical industry. As Black New Orleanians are faced with taking the experimental COVID-19 vaccine, they must question whom to trust within an atmosphere of historical and contemporary medical abuses.
Firelight is a premier destination for non-fiction cinema by and about communities of color. Firelight produces documentary films, supports emerging filmmakers of color, and cultivates audiences for their work. Firelight films have garnered multiple Primetime Emmys, Peabodys, and Sundance awards. Among them, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, and Freedom Riders. Firelight’s programs include the Documentary Lab, an 18-month fellowship that supports emerging filmmakers of color; and Groundwork, regional labs which support early stage filmmakers in the American south, midwest, and U.S. Territories. In addition to a focus on excellence in filmmaking, Firelight develops strategies, partnerships and materials to reach and engage diverse audiences and maximize the impact of documentary films.
About Reel South
REEL SOUTH reveals the South’s proud yet complicated heritage, as told by a diversity of voices and perspectives, through the curation and distribution of feature-length and short documentaries. Reel South is a PBS documentary series co-produced by PBS North Carolina, South Carolina ETV, and Louisiana Public Broadcasting, and produced in association with Alabama Public Television, Arkansas PBS, Texas Tech Public Media, and VPM. Reel South is a platform for and a service to non-fiction filmmakers in the American South working within the region’s tradition of storytelling.
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.