Firelight Media presents a Beyond Resilience event exploring emergent curatorial practices, festival programming guidelines, and distribution pathways that prioritize transparency and community responsibility. This conversation is part of a special series “The State of the Field: BIPOC Filmmakers and the Future of Documentary” co-presented by the MENASA Advisory Group, Brown Girls Doc Mafia, Color Congress, and Working Films.
With the rise in documentary film production over the past several years due to increasing commercial interest in the form, documentary film faces an existential threat. Hegemonic curation due to commercial streamers' dominance, eroding filmmaker independence in the face of financial precarity, and a lack of transparency are among the latest trends. Many in the filmmaking community are pushing back, calling for more restorative programming practices and seeking frameworks that account for issues including self-representation, editorial independence, and community accountability. How are BIPOC curators and programmers in particular addressing these issues, and what are the benefits they reap for filmmakers, audiences, and the documentary industry alike?
In a panel moderated by Karim Ahmad (founder, Restoring the Future), we highlight organizational models and missions that are advancing the form and building the ethical future of documentary distribution today. From the community-centered curatorial work of Nehad Khader at BlackStar Film Festival, to the accountability interrogations of programmers like Lucy Mukerjee (Programmers of Colour Collective), and social impact-centered distribution outlets like Elijah McKinnon’s Open Television (OTV), we give filmmakers (and the industry) a host of examples as to the presence of ethics-based practices within the industry and the power in aligning with them today. The event is introduced by Marcia Smith, co-founder and president of Firelight Media.
Accessibility Notice: This event includes live closed captions and ASL interpretation.
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 and Field of Vision.
Karim Ahmad is a writer, culture strategist, and organizer. He is the founder of Restoring the Future, a network of culture workers using worldbuilding and industry organizing to build a more just and beautiful media arts system, the creator of the Muslim Futures project, a cross-platform anthology of stories set in radically aspirational Muslim futures, and the writer of the speculative fiction comic book, DIVIDE. He was the Creator and Showrunner of the groundbreaking science fiction series, FUTURESTATES, and is a member of the Guild of Future Architects. He can be found on Twitter as @thatkarimahmad.
Nehad Khader is the Festival Director of the BlackStar Film Festival — a curator, editor and writer whose work in film informs her work as a historian and vice versa. Trained in media and literature by Black and Palestinian creators, Nehad is moved by art that carries aesthetic excellence as well as social and political significance.
Elijah McKinnon (they/them) is an award-winning strategist, entrepreneur and visionary from the future currently residing on planet earth. They are the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Emmy-nominated web TV platform and non-profit, Open Television (OTV). Over the past decade, they have worked tirelessly to create brave and equitable spaces for intersectional communities to thrive. Through various non-profit and grassroots initiatives, Elijah has raised over $10 million dollars toward amplifying the lived experiences of people with disabilities, gender minorities, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ identified individuals and many other intersectional communities. They are constantly moving and shaking in an attempt to build and share resources that uplift their commitment to human rights, mental & behavioral health, HIV/AIDS, education and more.
Lucy Jane Mukerjee is a queer British-Indian film curator and programming disruptor, dedicated to elevating the careers of underestimated storytellers. Her area of expertise is the intersection of activism and the arts, specifically where programming and inclusion meet. Over her 20+ year career, Lucy has produced and programmed films all over the world, including as Director of Programming at Outfest, Senior Programmer at the Tribeca Festival, and most recently, the Programming Director of Tasveer, the largest film festival in North America dedicated to stories by and about the South Asian diaspora. In 2018 Lucy co-founded the Programmers Of Colour Collective, a global professional development group for BIPOC film curators at festivals around the world. The Collective is a catalyst of transformative change in the industry, advocating for inclusion on-screen and on-staff, and calling for transparency and accountability in the curatorial process. Lucy’s passion is to guide and empower queer and trans storytellers of color to tell the LGBTQIA+ stories that are missing from the film canon.
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