BAVC Media Announces Latest Group Of MediaMaker Fellows

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EXCLUSIVE: BAVC Media has named the latest group of nonfiction filmmakers to take part in its prestigious documentary film fellowship program. The octet announced today will receive $10,000 each in “unrestricted funding, mentorship, industry access, feedback sessions, and workshops during an immersive 9-month experience.”

The BAVC MediaMaker Fellowship was established in 1991 to support emerging filmmakers and diverse projects. This year’s cohort includes Ademola (Ellas Vinieron de Las Nubes / They Came From the Clouds); Chelsi Bullard (Unfiltered); Caron Creighton (Wood Street); Julia Hunter (This is Me Loving You); Patrick G. Lee (Untitled KQT Project); Ivan MacDonald (When They Were Here); Khai Thu Nguyen (The Full Thao), and Pallavi Somusetty (Coach Emily). [Scroll for more about the filmmakers and their projects].

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The fellowship provides “two intensive convenings in San Francisco, a slate of virtual workshops throughout the year, and all-access travel to the International Documentary Association’s biennial Getting Real conference in Los Angeles and the Camden International Film Festival in midcoast Maine.”

“We’re so excited about the cohort we have built for 2024 after an intense review process,” said Brittney Réaume, associate director of artist development at BAVC Media. “These filmmakers have already achieved so much, often with very little support. We’re honored to be able to guide them through the important next steps in their journey. Our goal is for each filmmaker to walk away from this experience not only with a vision and a plan to complete their film, but relationships that can support them through their careers.”

The program, supported with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Kenneth Rainin Foundation (with additional MediaMaker programs supported by the Perspective Fund and Film SF) invests in independent, emerging and mid-career artists working on social-issue documentary projects.

Two BAVC MediaMaker Fellowship alums recently debuted films at SXSW: Robie Flores (The In Between) and Contessa Gayles (Songs From the Hole). Among other program alums are Jacqueline Olive (Always In Season), Silvia Del Carmen Casaños (Hummingbirds), Lagueria Davis (Black Barbie), Kevin D. Wong (Home Is a Hotel), Reid Davenport (I Didn’t See You There), Eugene Yi (Free Chol Soo Lee), Rodrigo Reyes (Sansón and Me), Chelsea Hernandez (Building the American Dream), and Emelie Mahdavian (Midnight Traveler).

BAVC Media (founded in 1976 as Bay Area Video Coalition) describes itself as a “community hub and resource for media makers in the Bay Area and across the country, serving several thousand freelancers, filmmakers, job-seekers, activists, and artists every year.”

The selection committee for this year’s fellows was comprised of Paige Bethmann, 2023 BAVC MediaMaker Fellow; Jess Kwan, Vice President, The Concordia Fellowship, Non-Fiction; Justine Nagan, Head of Production, Actual Films; Andre Perez, Filmmaker & Social Impact Consultant; Brittney Réaume, Associate Director of Artist Development, BAVC Media; Paula Smith Arrigoni, Executive Director, BAVC Media; Dawn Valadez, BAVC MediaMaker Fellowship Co-Director; Debra Wilson, Filmmaker & BAVC Media Board Member, and Jin Yoo-Kim, BAVC MediaMaker Fellowship Co-Director.

Below is additional information about the new cohort of BAVC MediaMaker fellows and their projects:

Jamal Ademola is a Nigerian-American artist and filmmaker who creates across film, video, animation, painting, installation, acting, and performance. Working at the intersection of cinema and fine art, Ademola’s work explores inter-cultural expressions of blackness, identity, memory, dreams, and migration to cultivate a sense of place and belonging. As an actor, he appeared in “Imagine a Moon Colony” on the Hulu TV series Your Attention Please and Ten Cent Daisy, streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Tubi. Jamal is the creative director of The Blind Couple From Mali, an upcoming feature documentary film about Grammy-nominated musicians Amadou and Mariam, produced by Makers and French conglomerate Mediawan.

'Ellas Vinieron de Las Nubes / They Came From the Clouds'

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Ellas Vinieron de Las Nubes / They Came From the Clouds – Mixing documentary and fiction, Ellas Vinieron de Las Nubes is a hybrid film that follows three young Afro-Mexicans, José David, Fanni, and Marlen, as they seek to rediscover their ancestral African roots amongst the mythic landscapes of Oaxaca. Through a blend of cinema verite, interviews, fictionalized narratives, and beautiful hand-drawn animation, the film creates portals to personal histories, memories, dreams, and visions, expanding the cinematic nonfiction form. In Mexico, Blackness is shamed, with lighter skin being preferred. José David, a quiet cumbia singer, is haunted by the painful legacy of his brother’s mysterious departure, while Fanni, a demure college student, is ensnared by the lingering shadow of her mother’s absence, when she embarked for the United States at the tender age of two. Marlen, a radiant Afro-Mexican model, seeks answers about her own identity and familial history. As they delve deeper into the depths of their African roots, they confront harsh realities and the echoes of migration, which linger like ghosts in their community. The film is notable for being supported by the Black Experience on Xfinity Grant Program by Comcast (NBCUniversal), which includes potential distribution on streaming platforms once the film is complete.

Chelsi Bullard is a Memphis-born and Brooklyn-based filmmaker and editor with an unwavering desire to restore beauty, well-being and complexity in stories about Black folx. She is a 2022-2023 Brown Girls Doc Mafia Black Director’s Fellow, a 2023 Big Sky Pitch participant and a 2023 Cucalorus + Working Films WiP Lab recipient. She edited the feature documentary The Right to Read (Santa Barbara, 2023 and SXSW EDU, 2023) with director Jenny Mackenzie and executive producer LeVar Burton.

'Unfiltered'

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Unfiltered – The eldest of five daughters, 15-year-old Tamia is expected to perform domestic chores and act as an additional caretaker. A protector and budding poet, she speaks her truth through rhythmic verse. Tamia makes powerful strides to communicate to her mom that she needs a break, even as the reality of their situation escalates. Tamia takes her 7-year-old sister, London, under her wings to shield her from the pressures for Black girls to grow up too fast. The pair transform Brooklyn into their playground before Tamia’s departure to college separates them for the first time. Can Tamia go away without the cycle resetting for her little sister?

Unfiltered is a tender and timely story of love, sisterhood, intergenerational healing, and second chances.

'Wood Street'

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Caron Creighton is a Black, biracial woman and an award winning journalist and filmmaker. She has reported on Israel/Palestine, global African migration patterns, and the Bay Area’s homelessness crisis. She has previously worked for The Associated Press, AJ+ and The San Francisco Chronicle and was a Pulitzer Center grantee. Much of her work is focused on displacement within the African diaspora, including reporting on the struggles faced by Eritrean migrants in Israel, and West African migration through Latin America.

Wood Street – Once Oakland’s largest homeless encampment, Wood Street is the last stop for unhoused “brothers,” John and LaMonté. They moved there eight years ago after police pushed them from other encampments around the city. After a devastating fire, their tight-knit community faces eviction. It’s their goal to stop it.

'This Is Me Loving You'

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Julia Hunter is a Chicago-based documentary director, producer and DP whose work resists objectivity and centers survivorship, harm reduction, and systemic abuse.

This is Me Loving You – Sydney, a gregarious heroin user, moves into a Chicago recovery home and befriends Julia, an alcoholic filmmaker. When Sydney gets pregnant and returns to her abusive boyfriend, both women reenter the world of abuse and addiction, a world that so often demands we choose between protecting each other or saving ourselves.

An intimate portrait of friendship made in the trenches of overlapping crises, This is Me Loving You is a manifesto of radical care showing what it means to heal ourselves in the midst of systems that promise support but instead hold us down.

Patrick G. Lee (they/them) is a queer diasporic Korean filmmaker, writer, and community organizer. Patrick is interested in building collaborative models of filmmaking that equip LGBTQ people of color with media-making skills. Their most recent project, Unspoken, won several festival awards and is educationally distributed by Third World Newsreel. Their NBC docuseries, Searching for Queer Asian Pacific America, won the NAMIC Vision Award for Long Form Digital Media.

'Untitled KQT Project'

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Untitled KQT Project is a feature documentary that follows a chosen family of queer and trans nightlife performers in Seoul, Korea, as they navigate gender, seek belonging, and protect their freedoms, all while joyfully rejecting societal pressures to conform.

Throughout the film, glimpses of the filmmaking process are interwoven with footage of the protagonists’ day-to-day lives, establishing the film as a conversation between queers in the homeland and those in the diaspora. In bringing these elements together, the film traces a queer, transnational vision for an abundant future that is relevant to all of us as we navigate ongoing global crises – a vision rooted in interdependence, shared vulnerability, and tender acceptance.

'When They Were Here'

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Ivan MacDonald is an Emmy-winning filmmaker and an enrolled member of the Blackfeet tribe. His most recent project Bring Them Home won the Big Sky Award at the 2024 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. Bring Them Home is Executive Produced and narrated by Oscar-nominated actress Lily Gladstone. He was an inaugural fellow for the Netflix and Illuminative Producers fellowship and was an inaugural recipient of the Hulu and Firelight Kindling fund.

When They Were Here is a documentary about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis on the Blackfeet Reservation in northern Montana, told through the eyes of the families and community members left behind. The film traces experiences through time, place, and memory‚ and examines the legacy of violence in the place they call home.

'The Full Thao'

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Khai Thu Nguyen is an award-winning filmmaker whose works often seek to highlight the artistic practices of people whose stories are not usually told. Her films focus on exploring how the process of making art intersects with how we articulate ourselves. She is fascinated by the struggle in and out of artistic mediums as a vehicle in people’s efforts to write themselves and bring sense and agency to their experiences.

The Full Thao follows comedian Thao P. Nguyen over two years preparing a new comedy show while weaving in her daily life that forms material for her performance routine. She artfully cares for her 3 year-old son while creating a show about motherhood in “chunks.” Demonstrating that there’s no “one way of doing queer,” Thao’s balancing act is to remain true to herself in her roles as a Vietnamese American daughter, a mother, and a member of the queer community.

Pallavi Somusetty is a director and cinematographer whose documentary portraits center BIPOC voices in the hope that we feel fully seen, exploring intersections of identity and belonging for our communities. She has been a series producer for A-Doc’s Storytelling Initiatives since 2020 (including Emmy-nominated series Asian American Stories of Resilience and Beyond), and is currently a supervising producer for A-Doc’s 2024 election-focused microdocs series Our Stories, Our Voices.

'Coach Emily'

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Coach Emily – Emily Taylor, an Oakland-based queer Black rock climbing coach, fearlessly trains a diverse group of BIPOC girls and non-binary kids, including her home-schooled daughter, to conquer not only the towering cliffs but also the pervasive discrimination they face in the great outdoors. As Emily empowers her students to claim their place in nature, she embarks on a profound journey of self-care, navigating the challenges that come with working to dismantle an industry rife with institutionalized discriminatory practices.

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