January 28, 2022

Collaborating with Documentary Protagonists | Beyond Resilience

Firelight Media hosted a special edition of the Beyond Resilience series at Sundance Film Festival featuring a discussion with independent documentary filmmakers of color who engage film protagonists as collaborators. Whether engaging impacted communities to tell their own collective stories on their own terms, or centering protagonists whose individual stories provide new insights into contemporary social issues, these filmmakers are creating new models for ethical, community-based, and trauma-informed storytelling. This conversation explored these emerging practices and discussed their implications for the broader nonfiction film industry.

Panelists include Firelight-supported filmmakers Isabel Castro (Mija, Sundance 2022 Premiere), Shalini Kantayya (TikTok, Boom., Sundance 2022 Premiere), and Emily Cohen Ibanez (Fruits of Labor, SXSW 2021 Premiere), moderated by Firelight Media President Marcia Smith.

Accessibility notice: This event includes live closed captioning and ASL interpretation.

This Beyond Resilience presentation at Sundance Film Festival is sponsored by Field of Vision. 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.


Marcia Smith is president and co-founder of Firelight Media, which produces documentary films, provides artistic and financial support to emerging filmmakers of color, and builds impact campaigns to connect documentaries to audiences and social justice advocates. Under her leadership, Firelight Media was honored with a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.


Isabel Castro is a four-time Emmy-nominated, Mexican American filmmaker. She was named one of FilmmakerMagazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film and DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40. She has fellowships with Concordia Studio, Firelight Media, NBC News Studios Original Voices, and Chicken & Egg Pictures. Mija, which has its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2022, is her first feature film.

Emily Cohen Ibañez is a Latinx filmmaker based in Oakland who earned her doctorate in Anthropology (2011) with a certificate in Culture and Media at New York University. Her film work pairs lyricism with social activism, advocating for labor, environmental, and health justice. Her feature documentary, Fruits of Labor had its World Premiere at SXSW 2021, winning multiple awards on the festival circuit and will have its US broadcast on PBS POV| American Documentary.

Shalini Kantayya’s Coded Bias premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim and now streams on Netflix. Kantayya’s debut feature Catching the Sun premiered at the LA Film Festival and was named a New York Times Critics’ Pick. She is a TED Fellow, a William J. Fulbright Scholar, and an associate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Her latest film TikTok, Boom. is having its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2022.


  • View the event page on the Sundance Film Festival 2022 website here.
  • Learn more about Mija via the Sundance Film Festival 2022 website here.
  • Learn more about TikTok, Boom. via the Sundance Film Festival 2022 website here.
  • Find ways to watch Fruits of Labor here.
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Interrogating the Festival to Awards Pipeline | Beyond Resilience

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The Optics of Islam | Beyond Resilience

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

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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.

June 29, 2023

QTBIPOC Representation in Documentary | Beyond Resilience

Firelight Media hosted a Beyond Resilience Pride Month conversation about queer, trans, and BIPOC representation in documentary.


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