Ten new projects from media makers and community organizations presented live from PhillyCAM

-Courtesy of Broad Street Communications

Ten local documentary projects are $5,500 closer to making their projects happen, thanks to grants just announced at yesterday’s Good Pitch Philadelphia at PhillyCAM, through the support of Independence Public Media.

The line-up features 10 new project pitches, six from media makers and four from local organizations from across the city.  The projects touch on a range of issues that reflect the urgent priorities of Philadelphians, from criminal justice reform, spiritual practices, climate justice, education and more. They take the form of podcasts, short films, VR/AR, mixed media installations and personal testimonials.

The selected teams attended an online story + impact lab in June, and were matched with a program mentor who will work with the teams over the summer to help them develop their projects and refine their pitch.  The full list of selected projects is included below.  

Media makers: Sarah Milinski Format: Short Film
The Mummers Parade is one of Philadelphia’s oldest ongoing folk festivities, and one of its most contentious. A bacchanalian celebration of New Year’s Day, the largely white parade has an extensive history of exclusion, xenophobia, and racism, including blackface minstrelsy. “New Divisions”, tells the story of the first significant attempt to diversify the Mummers through the addition of a so-called “New Division” for ethnically and culturally diverse performance groups.

The film follows a handful of cultural and performance groups of color from various neighborhoods in Philadelphia as they prepare for and perform in the parade for the first time. The performance groups profiled in the film include a Puerto Rican bomba and plena group called Los Bomberos de la Calle; a Southeast Asian troupe comprised of members from the cultural organizations Laos in the House and Southeast by Southeast; 2nd to None, a West Philadelphian step team; and Los Carnavaleros del Puebla, a large group of folk dancers originally from Puebla, Mexico.

While the film focuses on interrogating the past and present of the parade, it also celebrates the rich performance traditions of marginalized communities within Philadelphia.

Media makers: Anula Shetty, Iris Brown & Michael Kuetemeyer Format: VR/AR
Norris Square Gardens will be an Immersive VR Documentary and Community Media project. It will consist of web-based Virtual Tours, where viewers can explore the six urban gardens in the West Kensington neighborhood in North Philadelphia and the oral histories of the Latinx community that lives here. The process will include intergenerational media workshops in which long term residents will receive media training and create connections with each other. 

Years of community effort by area residents have transformed Norris Square from an abandoned, drug infested area, into a green and vibrant neighborhood – a place where the soul and spirit of Puerto Rico blooms in Philadelphia. Through music, poetry, food and dance, the project will document the urban gardens that celebrate African roots and African heritage in Puerto Rico, the U.S. and Africa. We will hear stories of migration, color prejudice and reclaiming heritage. By sharing these stories, the project will build bridges across generations and across cultures. 

Media makers: Elena Guzman, Cyber Bloss & Shiko Njoroge Format: Feature Film
Smile4Kime is a timely, character-driven experimental documentary that explores the taboo topics of sexual violence, trauma, and mental health through the perspectives of women of color, in particular Black women. The film’s story unfolds as a conversation between the two protagonists: Elena  and Kime, best friends who start out making a film together about Black women’s mental health and then later commune with each other through Elena’s spiritual practice after Kime’s untimely death. The narrative arc of the film foregoes traditional linear modes of storytelling and instead throws viewers into different spaces and times. In flashbacks, we hear Kime reflect on her experience with trauma, depression, and sexual assault. In the present, we see Elena invoking the memory of Kime. The movement between the past and present happens through animation and my altar, transporting the viewer into the past, to spiritual and dream worlds, and future moments that were never realized. Animation becomes the creative tool by which the altar — and Kime — come alive. Memory and interactions with Kime’s spirit allow the audience to bear witness to Elena’s grieving process as she works to come to terms with her own trauma, guilt and mental health challenges after Kime’s death. Animation and experimental footage also transport us to the past through the eyes of  Elena as she bears witness to Kime’s traumas of living with mental health issues and being brutalized by the system that refused to acknowledge her life as important. By the end of the film, we arrive at a new beginning that reflects an African diaspora ethos of life continuing after death; one where Kime’s and Elena’s friendship has transformed, and even in Kime’s death, they continue to help each other grow stronger.

Media makers: Amelia Carter Format: Short Film
On May 31, 2020, residents of 52nd Street, in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Cobbs Creek, were attacked by the Philadelphia Police Department in response to unrest over the murder of George Floyd. Private university police forces from the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), Drexel University and other organizations also participated in the crackdown. “Testimony 52nd St.: The Invisible Violence of UPenn” is a short stop-motion animation film based on the testimony of 52nd St. resident and UPenn employee, Amelia Carter from the Penn Public Safety Review and Outreach Initiative held on August 18, 2020. The film explores the impact of the police attack on 52nd St. and questions university police involvement that day. Through her testimony, Amelia attempts to disrupt the normalization of everyday acts of institutional violence and white supremacy perpetrated by the university and interrogates why Penn Police were present that day. Through her own self-reflection, Amelia invites the audience to question the societal conditioning that leads to complicity in the face of this injustice and imagines a world where community care is prioritized over policing.

Media makers: Melissa Langer Format: Mixed Media Multi-Platform
Untitled Illegal Dumping Project traces Philadelphia’s protracted efforts to curb illegal dumping and littering through a series of vignettes about excess, neglect, and human behavior. Presented as both a multichannel video installation and a non-fiction feature film, the project reveals the complex ecosystem of the city’s many fraught campaigns to manage its own waste. Archival footage and audio recordings show these attempts not only through the labor of sanitation workers, but also through targeted campaigns meant to shape civic identity. As public shame for littering through the courts and the press became a tool to control behavior, certain groups, including human and non-human subjects, increasingly bore the brunt of the blame for the changing urban ecology and rise in unmanageable amounts of trash. Observational, contemporary chapters show the continued weight of this cyclical affliction – from the city’s use of surveillance cameras at known illegal dumping “hot spots,” to vigilantes combing dumping sites for evidence to identify perpetrators, and to the rise of Terrill Haigler (aka yafavtrashman), who became a household name in Philadelphia by posting videos on social media of life as a sanitation worker during the pandemic. These efforts to undo and expose the covert assaults on the landscape challenge the pervasive belief that there’s somehow a culture of acceptance around littering, endemic to the city. Together, these vignettes form a surprising and complex picture of the city’s enduring relationship to trash.

Media makers: Daniel de Jesús & Kristal Sotomayor Format: Short Film
The UNTITLED LATINX COVID-1619 PROJECT presents a magical realism portrayal of the labyrinth of COVID-19 and the disproportionate impact on Latinx and LGBTQIA+ communities.

Organization: Amistad Law Project Presented by: Kris Henderson, Nikki Grant & Sean Damon
Amistad Law Project is a legal and organizing project based in Philadelphia. Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of PA continues to spend billions of dollars on police and prisons but we know that resources for our communities make us all safer. We provide direct legal representation, advocate for just criminal legal policies, and organize to move us closer to a more just world. We have made a series of media interventions through our podcast Move It Forward, our Everyday Philadelphians Want to Defund the Police videos, and Practice Abolition animated short videos. We believe that prison industrial complex abolition is necessary and inevitable but when we explain abolition to people, there is often confusion, fear, and doubt. Through our Practical Abolition video series, we present small but concrete policies that could move us closer to abolition now.

Organization: Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) Presented by: Esther Castillo
Early this year, the Chinese Immigrant Families Wellness Initiative (CIFWI) under the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) started our pilot program Asian American Racial Healing & Mindful Transformation (AARHMT) to address racial trauma in the AAPI community. In the U.S., AAPIs have the lowest mental health service utilization rate across all racial groups. They are also much less likely to discuss mental health issues with family, friends, physicians, or specialists. More recently, these issues are also compounded by anit-Asian violence. If left unaddressed, this trauma will be passed down to generations, affecting not just the AAPI communities, but everyone’s. This program is one of the first community-based and mindfulness-centered programs to address racial trauma for AAPIs nationwide. In this program, participants tend to their repressed race-based wounds and unlearn their internalized racism, including anti-Blackness, which has plagued the Asian community for a long time. AARHMT creates a safe space for millennials who identify as Asian American to heal from racial trauma through virtual forums promoting a wellness framework of mindfulness, resilience, self-compassion, and social support. The short film will tell the story of our 10 participants as they embark on the journey of racial healing for the very first time. 

Organization: Brandywine Foundation Presented by: Ebony Roberts & Kimberley Daye-Hardy
The Youth Voices Project, an initiative of the Coatesville Black Media Renaissance Project, is to have a 6 – 12 week documentary film/news reporting training program for children 13 – 18. Kids that reside in Coatesville and surrounding boroughs or townships, would be trained to produce, film, edit and present news or documentary pieces. The subject would be people/things/updates in Coatesville. The initial phase 1 is to hold a round of interviews with the kids of interest. We will film the interviews either virtually or in person. The kids will be asked to provide their opinion on various social, economic, racial, and health issues. The filmed interviews will be circulated on various social media platforms and used at CBMR events and inform how media messages are uplifted in the community.

Organization: Why Not Prosper Presented by: Rev. Michelle Simmons
The Giving Real Opportunities to Women (GROW) Program is a new initiative of five partners: Why Not Prosper, Creative Mind Productions, DJ Cosmic Kev, Ardella’s House, and Sappho and LaRoyce Foundation. The program is designed to combat poverty and employment challenges and introduce women to the field of entrepreneurship. The program includes workshops and course training for women seeking a new career path which can lead to financial independence. This program is designed to introduce and train women in self-sustaining careers such as social media managers, online content creators, photographers, videographers, TV & Film Editors, content producers, graphic designers, and entertainment administrative personnel. This project will be documented through a short film, which can be used to tell our women’s stories to legislators, other government officials, and the general public.

Good Pitch is a global program presented by Doc Society with the Ford Foundation as a Founding Partner.  The program in Philly is made possible by a multi-year grant from Independence Public Media Foundation which provides program support and grant funding for a curated selection of media projects that are deeply relevant to the local community. 

The program in Philly precedes Good Pitch Local Detroit, presented by DNA & Trinity International Film Festival in September and Good Pitch Local Puerto Rico presented by ADocPR in December.

Good Pitch Local Philadelphia is presented by PhillyCAM 

In collaboration with BlackStar Projects, Bread & Roses Community Fund, cinéSPEAK, Leeway Foundation, Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, Resolve Philly, Scribe Video Center, Temple University Film and Media Studies, and WHYY.

GOOD PITCH LOCAL is a project of Doc Society 

Founding Partners: Ford Foundation and Sundance Institute

With the support of Independence Public Media Foundation

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts

The Good Pitch Local Philly team includes: Gretjen Clausing, Executive Director, PhillyCAM; Shannon Thomas Doc Society Program Manager and Outreach & Production Director Sarah Mueller. Doc Society Executive Director Maxyne Franklin, oversees the program from New York.

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