“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
— Paul Farmer
February has been a hard, cold month. We are more murderous than ever; gun violence data shows many cities with all-time high homicide rates. Omicron is still infecting over 100,000 people a day. The mayor of New York named three men with documented homophobic views to senior posts in City Hall. Russia has invaded Ukraine. And Paul Farmer died at age 62 of what was called an “acute cardiac event.” Sounds something like a broken heart.
If you haven’t seen Bending the Arc, netflix-it when you have a moment. Paul Farmer’s story rises up in that movie to show us how “moral imagination, strategy, and sheer will can change the trajectory of the world, bending the arc of the moral universe closer to justice.” That’s a truth I choose to remember.
Alliance programs and partnerships for 2022 really ramped up this month. We are in the planning phase for the first Arts2Work Creative Studio in Los Angeles and we are collaborating with the BRIC Foundation and the California Department of Education to launch the Entertainment Equity Alliance, a consortium of industry and community media education partners united to build access and opportunity to creative careers. On March 31 at 1PM PT/4PM ET the Alliance XR Culture Gallery will launch phase one of the VR exhibition “Unapologetically Melanated: A Virtual Exploration of the Mythic and da Truth” along with a new film by Siraj Jhaveri and a panel discussion with the curators, artists and producers who designed this very unique, Black female-centered experience of the metaverse. Keep your eye on the website and social media channels for the Eventbrite. We’ll do an email to all members as well.
During this hard, cold month of February, I’ve been feeling that we, as a field, are going through some heavy changes. There have been many leadership and staff transitions in beloved media arts organizations causing fear and friction, Sundance has been under fire for the programming of and response to Jihad Rehab, and Valerie Boyd left this world, wrapped in rainbows, at 58 years old. I think we’ve all been dealing with grief and loss, a persistent sense of longing, and hoping for what we cannot bring ourselves to ask for. In the coming weeks and months, the Alliance will host zoom gatherings for arts org executive directors, media educator workshops, self and community-care roundtables for artists, virtual/live events in our Topia space and XR Gallery, and a new monthly Arts2Work Documentary Club open to all. Please come find your people.
Notes from the Field
Creative Trail-Blazers of Philly and Friends
This Saturday, February 26th, Arts2Work’s Sakinah Bowman will host a free Black History Virtual Event featuring artwork, screenings, and performances from a number of Philadelphia artists including Arts2Work Philadelphia Apprentices Keyysh, Myrdeliz Montes, and Jade Lewis-McFall.
Join Firelight Media for a Beyond Resilience Roundtable
Next Friday, March 4th, Firelight Media will be hosting a virtual roundtable discussion with Muslim writers and filmmakers called Beyond Resilience. This conversation follows the Sundance Premier of the controversial Jihad Rehab, featuring artists that spoke out about its issues of misrepresentation, and seeks to investigate “what constitutes ethics and accountability in the documentary ecosystem for funders, programmers, distributors, and filmmakers.”
Media Policy Watch
Earlier this month, two staffers for the Sundance institute resigned following the premier of the widely criticized documentary Jihad Rehab. The film follows four Yemeni men interned in Guantanamo Bay and later transferred to Bin Nayef, a “Counseling and Care Center” geared towards rehabilitation which Letta Tayler, a researcher for Human Rights Watch explained that the center holds men for up to a year or more, many who have never been charged or convicted of crimes. “There’s a name for that. It’s called unlawful detention.” Tayler adds. Through the film, filmmaker Meg Smaker’s interviews apparently take on the tone of an interrogation lacking “[t]he basic duty of care and ethical responsibility a documentarian is expected to have” according to Assia Boundaoui, “in an article published in Documentary Magazine. In the wake of the film’s premiere, Boundaoui said a group of Musim and Arab Filmmakers surveyed the representation of Muslim, Middle Eastern, and North African people in films screened at Sundance and found that of the 76 films surveyed, only 35% were directed by Muslim or MENA people. Sundance leaders Joana Vicente and Tabitha Jackson issued a statement of apology addressing the concerns of Muslim-American filmmakers. Read it here.
In her recent essay Curation is Not Censorship, published by IDA, Jessica Devaney, called out “problematic and systemic patterns in programming.” She notes a further demonstration, though less problematic, was this year’s premier film on the 1948 Arab-Israeli War Tantura in which Israeli filmmaker Alon Schwarz engages in what some are pointing to as part of a pattern of Israeli artists’ self-absolving autocritique of military action. This issue is made more concerning due to the lack of films about Israel and Palestine directed by Palestinians to appear at Sundance over the last decade. Despite serious issues with inclusion and representation at major film festivals, the strong response bodes the possibility of a shift in the tide.
Grants and Calls
New Voices Filmmaker Grant
NewFest: The New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Film Festival has partnered with Netflix to offer $25,000 in grants to 4 directors who have not had work distributed. Recipients will also be offered an industry mentor and have their film featured at NewFest.
Deadline: February 28th
Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America Practitioner Fellows
Artists, media makers, and writers whose work centers around race in the United States are invited to apply for the Brown University CSREA Practitioner Fellowship. The virtual fellowship will offer resources from the Brown University academic community as well as a $10,000 stipend.
Deadline: February 28
Sundance Institute Sandbox Fund
Through the Sundance Institute Sandbox Fund, independent nonfiction filmmakers looking to support feature length documentaries that “emphasize creative narrative techniques and projects that highlight diversity in science,” have the opportunity to be awarded up to $50,000 in grant money.
Deadline: March 7
Squeaky Wheel Workshop Residency
Squeaky Wheel is seeking media artists and researchers for their twice-yearly residency. Applicants will have access to resources from Squeaky Wheel and its local partners as well as $1000 in artist fees and stipends.
Deadline: March 8th
ScreenCraft Comedy Screenplay Contest
Feature Film or TV comedy scriptwriters are invited to submit to ScreenCraft’s Comedy Screenplay Contest. One contestant will be awarded $1,000 cash and given a personal introduction to top literary managers, with runners-up awarded $500. All winners will be given the opportunity to participate in the ScreenCraft Development Program, which will provide professional guidance towards building strategies to advance participants screenwriting careers.
Deadline: March 31st
Workshops, Festivals, Convenings
Miami Film Festival – March 4-13, Miami, FL
SXSW – March 11-20, Austin, TX
Sonoma International Film Festival – March 23-27, Sonoma, CA
Sun Valley Film Festival – March 30-April 3, Ketchum, ID
Born Digital Youth Programming Manager, NOVAC, New Orleans, LA
Creative Services Program Manager, NOVAC, New Orleans, LA
Assistant Professor in Film and Media Arts, Post Production, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Community Engagement Librarian and head of External Engagements, New York University, New York, NY
MVFF Programming Associate, California Film Institute, Remote/San Rafael, CA
DocLands Guest Services Manager, California Film Institute, Remote/San Rafael, CA