Owning the Narrative: BIPOC DOC Filmmakers at Sundance Film Festival

The Firelight Media x BlackStar Communities Gathered at Sundance Film Festival 2023

Firelight Media
4 min readJan 31, 2023
Left to Right: Sky Hopinka, Ivan MacDonald, Ivy MacDonald, Maori Karmael Holmes, and Michèle Stephenson. All photos by Rashid Zakat.

On Monday, January 23, 2023, Firelight Media partnered with BlackStar Projects to host a panel discussion and brunch celebrating the Firelight Media, BlackStar, and Brown Girls Doc Mafia communities premiering films at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

The panel discussion, “Owning the Narrative: BIPOC Doc Filmmakers,” featured Firelight Media Documentary Lab alumni Ivy MacDonald and Ivy MacDonald, producers of the documentary series Murder in Big Horn; Firelight Media Spark Fund recipient Michèle Stephenson, co-director of Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project; and Sky Hopinka, alum of BlackStar Film Festival and director of Sunflower Siege Engine.

The panel was moderated by Maori Karmael Holmes, Chief Executive & Artistic Officer of BlackStar Projects, with opening remarks by Marcia Smith, Co-Founder and President of Firelight Media; Kathy Im, Director, Journalism & Media at MacArthur Foundation; and Ayoka Wiles, Acting Director, Expression | Culture & Art at Open Society Foundations. The event was made possible through support from MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and Field of Vision.

See a selection of photos from the event below!

Attendees gathering outside of 501 on Main in Park City, Utah.
The panelists and moderator gathered along with the ASL interpreters.
Left: Kathy Im of MacArthur Foundation; Right: Ayoka Wiles of Open Society Foundations.
Sky Hopinka and Michèle Stephenson.
Moderator Maori Karmael Holmes of BlackStar.
Left: Firelight Media President Marcia Smith introduces the event; Right: Firelight Media SVP Leticia Peguero closes the event with a call-and-response.
Attendees raise their hands to indicate that they are premiering films at Sundance Film Festival.
Attendees of “Owning the Narrative: BIPOC Doc Filmmakers”

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 emerging filmmakers in the American south, midwest, and U.S. territories; and the William Greaves Research & Development Fund, for mid-career nonfiction filmmakers from racially and ethnically underrepresented communities, among others. Firelight Media also produces digital short film series, including the forthcoming season two of In the Making, with PBS American Masters, and a collection of regional short films, Homegrown: Future Visions, with PBS Digital Studios and the Center for Asian American Media.

About BlackStar Projects

BlackStar creates the spaces and resources needed to uplift the work of Black, Brown, and Indigenous artists working outside of the confines of genre. They do this by producing year-round programs including film screenings, exhibitions, an annual film festival, a filmmaker seminar, a film production lab, and a journal of visual culture. These programs provide artists opportunities for viable strategies for collaborations with other artists, audiences, funders, and distributors.



Firelight Media

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