Firelight Media Sets Documentary Development Grant Recipients

Firelight Media, headed by veteran documentarian Stanley Nelson, has set the inaugural list of grant recipients for two programs designed to help develop documentary film projects.

Earlier this year Nelson launched the William Greaves Fund to help mid-career filmmakers get a lift toward producing their second film project. As Nelson told Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast in March, he knows how hard it can be to get going on a new project after pouring everything into a first labor of love.

“In our work within the Documentary Lab over the last decade, we have seen too many talented filmmakers of color leave the field because they cannot get proper support to make their next project. The William Greaves Fund is Firelight’s response to this persistent problem,” said Loira Limbal, Firelight’s senior VP of programs. “We’ve also consistently seen filmmakers of color struggle to get the resources they need to get their films out in front of the desired audiences on their own terms, which the Impact Campaign Fund intends to address. Storytellers making films that have potential to shift public narratives need support to make that happen.”

The Greaves Fund will award nine grants of up to $25,000 to fund development, sizzle reels and other presentation materials. The recipients were selected from the U.S. as well as Mexico, Puerto Rico and Brazil. The program plans to expand to more international territories next year.

New York-based Firelight also has established an Impact Fund designed to help filmmakers with campaigns and tools to magnify the reach of documentaries that are “socially relevant, address or engage underrepresented issues or communities and are accountable to the impacted communities their films represent.” Six projects received grants of $25,000 apiece.

The funds will help filmmakers establish grassroots outreach in communities affected by the issues explored in their films, as well as to engage social media tools to spread the word about new releases.

Firelight said funding for both programs came in part from New York-based philanthropic orgs  Perspective Fund and Andrus Family Fund.

Here’s a full list of the inaugural recipients:

William Greaves Fund:

  • Julianna Brannum (U.S.)
  • Byron Hurt (U.S.)
  • Everlane Moraes (Brazil)
  • Gisela Rosario Ramos (Puerto Rico)
  • Medhin Tewolde Serrano (Mexico)
  • Angela Tucker (U.S.)
  • Vanuzia Bonfim Vieira (Brazil)
  • Yvonne Welbon (U.S.)
  • Malika Zouhali-Worrall (U.S.)

Impact Campaign Fund:

  • LANDFALL by Cecilia Aldarondo

Through shard-like glimpses of everyday life in post-Hurricane María Puerto Rico, LANDFALL examines a ruined world at the brink of transformation, spinning a cautionary tale for our times.

  • WARRIOR WOMEN by Christina King and Elizabeth A. Castle

WARRIOR WOMEN co-directed by Christina D. King and Elizabeth (Beth) A. Castle is the story of mothers and daughters fighting for Native rights in the American Indian Movement of the 1970s. The film unveils not only a female perspective of history, but also examines the impact political struggles have on the children who bear witness.

  • CODED BIAS by Shalini Kantayya

CODED BIAS explores the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s startling discovery that facial recognition does not see dark-skinned faces and women accurately, and her journey to push for the first-ever legislation in the U.S. to govern against bias in the algorithms that impact us all.

  • UNAPOLOGETIC by Ashley O’Shay

After two Black Chicagoans are killed, millennial organizers challenge an administration complicit in state violence against its residents. Told through the lens of Janaé and Bella, two fierce abolitionist leaders, UNAPOLOGETIC is a deep look into the Movement for Black Lives, from the police murder of Rekia Boyd to the election of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

  • DUTY FREE by Sian-Pierre Regis

After a 75 year-old immigrant mother gets fired from her job as a hotel housekeeper, her son takes her on a bucket-list adventure to reclaim her life. As she struggles to find work, he documents a journey that uncovers the betrayals plaguing her past and the economic insecurity shaping not only her future, but that of an entire generation.


Formed in 1969, Chicago’s original Rainbow Coalition worked to unite African Americans, Southern Whites and Latinos to collectively confront police brutality and substandard housing in one of the most segregated cities in America. What began as a drive to achieve a voice for poor communities, quickly became a formidable political movement whose legacy can be seen in grassroots movements today.

(Pictured: “The First Rainbow Coalition”)

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