April 28, 2022

Co-Creating with Justice-Involved Communities | Beyond Resilience

Firelight Media hosted a Beyond Resilience conversation about co-creating documentaries with justice-involved individuals, their families, and their communities. What considerations should filmmakers have in mind when working with incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals and their loved ones? What kinds of trauma-informed practices enable film protagonists to safely share their stories? And how can impact campaigns support criminal justice reform efforts?

Accessibility notice: This event includes live ASL interpretation.

Welcome Remarks:

  • Stanley Nelson, filmmaker, Attica and Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy; co-founder, Firelight Media


  • Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director, Alliance of Families for Justice


  • Rodrigo Reyes, filmmaker, Sansón and Me; Firelight Media William Greaves Fund grantee and Spark Fund grantee
  • Samson Styles, consulting producer and film participant, Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy; co-founder, JayCity Enterprise
  • Malika Zouhali-Worrall, filmmaker, Video Visit; Firelight Documentary Lab alum and William Greaves Fund grantee

The Beyond Resilience Series is sponsored by Open Society Foundations. Beyond Resilience is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Participant bios:

Stanley Nelson is today’s leading documentarian of the African American experience. His films combine compelling narratives with rich historical detail to shine new light on the under-explored American past. Awards received over the course of his career include a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, five Primetime Emmy Awards, and lifetime achievement awards from the Emmys and IDA. In 2013, Nelson received the National Medal in the Humanities from President Obama. In 2019, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool was nominated by the GRAMMYs for Best Music Film and went on to win two Emmy® Awards at the 42nd Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards. Nelson’s latest documentary Attica, for SHOWTIME Documentary Films, was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 94th Academy Awards® and earned him the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary. In 2021, Nelson also directed the feature film Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy for Netflix, which was a 2022 duPont-Columbia Awards Finalist, and Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre, with co-director Marco Williams, for the HISTORY Channel, which was nominated for three Primetime Emmy® Awards. In 2000, Mr. Nelson, and his wife, Marcia Smith, co-founded Firelight Media, a non-profit production company dedicated to advancing contemporary social justice issues, amplifying underrepresented narratives, and fostering a new generation of diverse filmmakers.

Soffiyah Elijah is the Executive Director of the Alliance of Families for Justice. Established in 2016 in NY, the mission of the Alliance of Families for Justice (AFJ) is to support families of incarcerated people and people with criminal records, empower them as advocates and enable them to marshal their collective power to achieve systemic change. Prior to founding AFJ, Ms. Elijah was the Executive Director of the Correctional Association of NY where she was the first woman and the first person of color to lead the 170 year old organization. Ms. Elijah has dedicated her life to human rights and social activism, and is a frequent presenter at national and international forums on criminal justice policy and human rights issues. An accomplished advocate, attorney, scholar, and educator, Ms. Elijah has practiced criminal and family law for more than 30 years. Prior to leading the Correctional Association, Ms. Elijah served as Deputy Director and Clinical Instructor at the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School. Before moving to Harvard, she was a member of the faculty and Director and Supervising Attorney of the Defender Clinic at the City University of New York School of Law. Ms. Elijah has also worked as a Supervising Attorney at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, a Staff Attorney at the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society, and in private practice.

Based in California, Mexican director Rodrigo Reyes makes films inspired by the complex intersection of migration, history, violence and resilience. He has received the support of The Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE), Sundance and Tribeca Institutes, ITVS, California Humanities, Latino Public Broadcasting and more. Rodrigo's work has been featured on PBS and Netflix, and he is a recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, Creative Capital Award, the SF Indie Fest Non-Fiction Vanguard Award, and the Rainin Fellowship, and in 2021, he was awarded the William Greaves Fund by Firelight Media, and named one of the "40 Under 40" by DOC NYC. In 2020, his film, “499,” won Best Cinematography at the Tribeca Film Festival, as well as the Special Jury Award at Hot Docs. Rodrigo is on the Board for the Video Consortium, and is the Co-Director of the Mediamaker Fellowship with BAVC Media. In 2022, he was selected as part of the inaugural cohort for the Spark Fund, by Firelight Media. Rodrigo’s latest film, "Sansón and Me," will premiere at Tribeca in 2022 and broadcast on Independent Lens in 2023.

Samson Styles was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in the East New York and Brownsville sections. When he was twelve he got sentenced to eighteen months in a juvenile detention center for robbery and truancy. After release, he served another seven years on other charges. While in prison, Samson’s interest in writing developed, and after he was released, Styles began filming the documentary “Brooklyn Girls Fight Club” for BET. Later, he became a BET News correspondent, covering stories of gun violence, racism, and disenfranchisement within the Black community. Samson received three awards from The New York Association of Black Journalists for investigative reporting, cultural and entertainment and commentary. He was nominated in 2008 and 2009 by the NABJ for best investigative report. And his participation in covering The Inauguration of Barack Obama helped him and his team win the 2010 NAACP Image Award for outstanding news information. Currently, Samson owns his own production company ‘JayCity Enterprise’ along with his wife which develops content for digital and linear platforms. Styles also teaches documentary film making to at-risk teens in underserved communities.

Malika Zouhali-Worrall is an Afro-Arab/British filmmaker based in New York. An Emmy Award-winning director, her directing credits include the feature-length documentaries, CALL ME KUCHU (Berlin Film Festival, Netflix, BBC World, 2012) and THANK YOU FOR PLAYING (Tribeca, POV/ITVS, News & Television Emmy Award, 2015), both of which were theatrically released to critical acclaim in the U.S. Malika’s short form directing credits include the web series EARN A LIVING for French broadcaster ARTE (IDFA, 2018), and her recent short for PBS American Masters, STRANGE GRACE: THE ART OF AMYRA LEÓN (2020). In 2022, Malika’s latest short film, VIDEO VISIT, screened in competition at SXSW and Full Frame Film Festival, following festival screenings at AFI Fest, BAM Cinemafest, Blackstar Film Festival, and New Orleans Film Festival. VIDEO VISIT will be released in mid-2022 by Field of Vision. Malika is currently in development on a hybrid feature-length film about an Egyptian dystopian novelist living in exile.

Program Notes:

May 10, 2024

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Join Firelight Media's Beyond Resilience series at CAAMFest Filmmaker Summit in San Francisco.

March 7, 2024

Interrogating the Festival to Awards Pipeline | Beyond Resilience

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January 25, 2024

The Optics of Islam | Beyond Resilience

A conversation with filmmakers and scholars about Muslim and MENASA representation.

December 7, 2023

The Documentary System is Broken. Now What? | Beyond Resilience

How can we band together to (re)build a system that will ensure independent filmmakers can thrive?

November 1, 2023

Palestinian Voices | Beyond Resilience

Beyond Resilience, with support from Field of Vision, is proud to be a community partner for the Arab Film & Media Institute's 'Palestinian Voices' program.

November 15, 2023

Navigating the Ethical and Business Landscape of Artificial Intelligence | Beyond Resilience

A conversation about the evolution of artificial intelligence and its impact on documentary filmmaking, presented with DOC NYC PRO.

September 21, 2023

Let's Talk Money | Beyond Resilience

Join Firelight Media for a conversation about creating work, profiting from that work, and creating a sustainable career in nonfiction film.

August 6, 2023

Disability Justice: Spotlight on unseen | Beyond Resilience

Firelight Media co-presents a panel on disability justice at BlackStar Film Festival 2023, featuring Documentary Lab Fellow Set Hernandez Rongkilyo.


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