December 15, 2022

Producing Documentaries with Impact | Beyond Resilience Masterclass

Firelight Media hosted a Beyond Resilience Masterclass, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, that amplified and interrogated the work of documentary filmmakers whose films and impact campaigns have challenged and reshaped cultural narratives.

Accessibility notice: This event will include closed captions.

Moderated by Asad Muhammad, American Documentary/POV’s VP of Impact and Engagement Strategy, these intimate series of conversations highlight the motivations and strategies of Firelight-supported filmmakers whose films – and resulting impact campaigns – that have challenged historical assumptions about communities of color, reframed social discourse, and spurred audiences to action.

In conversation with Muhammad, filmmakers and #FirelightFamily Stanley Nelson and Loira Limbal highlight the importance of impact and engagement in the life of a film, detail how Firelight Media supports the impact campaigns of our artists, and provide a lesson or two from their own impact strategies for films like The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and Through the Night, respectively.

Then, filmmaker Nausheen Dadabhoy – who is a Firelight Documentary Lab alum and Impact Campaign Fund grantee – and impact producer Aber Kawas discuss Dadabhoy's acclaimed documentary An Act of Worship, which had its broadcast premiere on POV in October. The two discuss how the film and its impact campaign were designed to address and support the Muslim communities in the U.S. reflected in the film.

And finally, following the December 12 broadcast premiere of Let The Little Light Shine on POV, Documentary Lab alum and Impact Fund grantee Kevin Shaw joins esteemed impact producer Locsi Ferrá for a deep-dive on the motivations behind their impact strategy as well as both successes and challenges in its activation.

Beyond Resilience Masterclasses, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, focus on deeply-researched historical documentary films by and about BIPOC communities. This Masterclass will be conducted via YouTube live and will contain pre-recorded segments. The audience will be encouraged to submit questions in the live event chat.

Participant Bios:

Nausheen Dadabhoy, a Firelight Media Documentary Lab alum and Impact Campaign Fund grantee, is a Pakistani-American director and cinematographer from California. Nausheen’s work spans fiction and documentary films, including LA FEMME ET LE TGV (2016), a live action short film Oscar nominee; Emmy winning ARMED WITH FAITH (2018), NOT DONE: WOMEN REMAKING AMERICA (2020), GIRL UNBOUND: WAR TO BE HER (2016) and CONSCIENCE POINT (2019) which all air nationally on PBS. Nausheen's films have screened at festivals worldwide including Sundance, TIFF, Tribeca, Locarno and have appeared on Netflix, HBO, and Showtime. Her latest film, AN ACT OF WORSHIP, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was broadcast on POV on PBS in October of 2022.

Aber Kawas, impact producer for An Act of Worship, is a Palestinian American community organizer from Brooklyn, New York. She has been working with the Arab and Muslim communities in New York City around policy issues such as immigration reform, unlawful policing and surveillance, as well as advocating against Islamophobia. Aber served as the NYC Advocacy Specialist with the Campaign to Take on Hate under the National Network of Arab American communities, and as Advocacy Director at the Arab American Association of NY. Currently, she has relocated to Johannesburg South Africa to complete an MA focused on Islamic Liberation Theology.

Stanley Nelson is the foremost chronicler of the African American experience working in nonfiction film today. His documentary films, many of which have aired on PBS, combine compelling narratives with rich and deeply researched historical detail, shining new light on both familiar and under-explored aspects of the American past. A MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, Nelson was awarded a Peabody for his body of work in 2016. He has received numerous honors over the course of his career, including the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts Sciences. In 2013, President Barack Obama presented Nelson with the National Medal in the Humanities.

Nelson's latest films are Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom and Becoming Frederick Douglass, both for Maryland Public Television/PBS. In 2022, he received an Oscar nomination for his feature documentary Attica, for Showtime.

Loira Limbal currently serves as a consultant for Firelight Media. Limbal is an Afro-Dominican filmmaker and DJ interested in the creation of art that is nuanced and revelatory for communities of color. Limbal’s latest film Through the Night is a feature documentary about a 24-hour daycare center. The film won a duPont-Columbia Journalism Award, was a New York Times Critics’ Pick, was selected for a world premiere at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, and aired on PBS' POV series in May 2021. She is a Sundance Institute Fellow, NAACP Image Award nominee, a DOC NYC Documentary New Leader, Chicken & Egg Award recipient, and a former Ford Foundation JustFilms/Rockwood Fellow. Additionally, she co-produces and helms the popular Brooklyn monthly #APartyCalledRosiePerez. Limbal received a B.A. in History from Brown University and is a graduate of the Third World Newsreel's Film and Video Production Training Program.

As a director, producer, and cinematographer, Kevin Shaw has created award-winning content for national television networks. Shaw was a segment director and cinematographer on America to Me, and cinematographer on City So Real, both series from Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Steve James. Shaw’s debut documentary about Basketball Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley Sr., The Street Stops Here, aired nationally on PBS and ESPN to rave reviews. His short documentary on a quadriplegic trying to regain the ability to walk won the Edward R. Murrow Award for Sports Reporting Excellence. Shaw’s current directorial work, Let the Little Light Shine, premiered at the True/False Film Festival in March 2022 to stellar reception and has screened at a dozen festivals across the country. The film will air on PBS’ award-winning series POV in December of 2022.

With 15 years' dedication to advancing equality and social good causes around the world, Locsi Ferrá is an effective coalition builder, advocate, and an expert of using entertainment as a tool for social change. She led Women and Girls Lead, a multi-year film initiative reaching 59 million viewers in the United States, which scaled into a global program mobilizing communities in 5 countries. Locsi has worked passionately with non-profits and entertainment companies to shift thinking and behaviors for a better world with organizations like Amnesty International USA, UNPFA Nepal, and Paz Y Desarollo in Vietnam. When serving as Director of Distribution, Campaigns, and Strategic Partnerships at ITVS, she produced several high-level film education campaigns including: The Graduates, Class of '27, Half the Sky, and Ted Talks on PBS. She is now Partner and Director of Social Impact Initiatives (Film + TV) and Impact Media Partners and working with a large portfolio of social justice film & media projects, including Coded Bias, TakeCare, Paper Children, Showtime's CUSP, and Let the Little Light Shine, to name a few.

Asad Muhammad (he/him) (Moderator) is an impact strategist, organizational leader, public media executive, and father. As VP of Impact & Engagement Strategy at American Documentary | POV, Asad extends the impact of nonfiction films beyond their public broadcast date through community engagement, education, and event production work with noncommercial television and radio stations. With twenty years of service in public education, nonprofit leadership, restorative justice, and community development, Asad believes that trauma-informed care and harm reduction can be integrated in the duty of care to documentary filmmakers, protagonists, and audiences. He is most invested in sparking intergenerational conversations through the cultivation of inclusive spaces, inviting people of all backgrounds and life experiences to express themselves and exercise agency over learning. From orchestrating impact campaigns to organizing film screenings, Asad is a passionate witness to how nonfiction storytelling connects to the hearts and minds of underserved communities, policymakers, and leaders – inspiring folx to better focus their power and fight for change and transformation.

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