November 14, 2022

Firelight, PBS, CAAM Select Eight Projects for Homegrown Initiative

Firelight Media has announced the filmmakers and projects selected for Homegrown: Future Visions, a collection of digital non-fiction short films.

The Homegrown project is a regional short-film initiative that Firelight oversees in partnership with PBS and the Center for Asian American Media. The goal of this first series is to highlight filmmakers of color from the American Midwest and narratives that illuminate the living histories, cultures and prospective futures of the region.

Firelight, PBS and CAAM invited emerging filmmakers living in the American Midwest who identify as Black, Indigenous and/or people of color to submit proposals to participate in the initiative. From those applicants, eight filmmakers were selected to receive $37,500 to produce an 8- to 10-minute non-fiction short film, and work with Firelight and CAAM from development through distribution.

The selected filmmakers will also receive mentorship from established independent filmmakers, and be paired with a local public media station for editorial and audience engagement support within their respective communities. The films produced for the project are planned for distribution through PBS, local PBS member stations and public media partners in the fall, later this year.

The Homegrown project was originally piloted by Firelight in 2020 under the name Hindsight. It expands on the work of the Groundwork Regional Lab, an initiative to support diverse, early-career documentary filmmakers living and working in under-represented regions of the U.S. and its territories. Homegrown is also part of Firelight’s Regional Shorts Initiative, which has a long-term mission to support the creation of sustainable local ecosystems for regional filmmakers of color to work where they live.

“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,” said Chloë Walters-Wallace, director of regional initiatives for Firelight Media.

“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 filmmakers and projects selected for Homegrown: Future Visions are:

Ajuawak Kapashesit (Minneapolis, MN)
Language Keepers (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)
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
The Black String Triage Ensemble, an all-African American string orchestra in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 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
This as-yet-untitled 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
Seed keepers in their original homelands of Nebraska work to regain food sovereignty and return to the healthy, traditional lifeways of the Pawnee people.

Tariq Tarey (New Albany, OH/Minneapolis, MN)
Silsilad (Sequence)
The story of three Somali-American artists, founders of the Minneapolis-based artists’ collective Soomaal House of Art, 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)
A Detroit social club founded by a group of Nigerian immigrants adapts to operating during the pandemic and serving an aging membership.

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

Read at Realscreen.

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