The 2019 Sundance Film Festival marked the 20th anniversary of Stanley Nelson’s very first film to premiere at the prestigious festival. When Stanley premiered Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords in 1999 the festival did not draw much cultural diversity, taking another seven years before the Blackhouse Foundation claimed a safe space for African American filmmakers. Twenty years and ten premieres later Stanley holds the distinction of having had the most premieres of any nonfiction filmmaker at the Festival.
We are committed to elevating the visibility of nonfiction film, supporting diverse filmmakers, and engaging diverse audiences. So this year, we increased our presence through partnerships with Open Society Foundations, Color of Change, Kickstarter, Engineer.ai, MACRO, and the Blackhouse Foundation.
Take a closer look at Firelight’s takeover at Sundance.
For one night only during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Firelight in partnership with Color of Change and powered by Open Society Foundations and Engineer.ai, hosted a celebration commemorating Stanley Nelson’s 10th Sundance Film Festival premiere and the 10th anniversary of the Documentary Lab.
Firelight presents TENx10 featured a special musical tribute by the Miles Electric Band and special performance by Bilal for the world premiere of Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool. Guests danced the night away with an afterparty curated by NY’s coveted Latinx DJ collective, A Party Called Rosie Perez led by Firelight’s own Loira Limbal aka DJ Laylo along with DJs Sucio Smash and Christian Martir.
The world premiere screening of Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool took place on Sunday, January 27 inside the Prospector Square Theater. Stanley was joined by the production crew, Firelight staff, and the Miles Davis estate which included Erin Davis (son), Cheryl Davis (daughter) and Vince Wilburn (nephew). See more photos HERE.
“…a thoughtful and involving examination of the tempestuous life and brilliant music of the beyond legendary Davis. The project has been in the works for 15 years, which is when Nelson and representatives of PBS’ “American Masters” series first agreed on the man as a subject.” — LA Times
Jackie Olive’s Always in Season, took home the Special Jury Award for Moral Urgency at the 42nd Annual Sundance Film Festival. The documentary was set in Bladenboro, North Carolina revealing the suspicions and grief around the lynching death of 18 year old Lennon Lacy.
“…the film brings lynching out from its hiding place in history books and into the light of the 21st century. Frequently appalling period texts (including an invitation to a “Hanging Bee,” recited by Danny Glover) confirm that the brutal act was often no secret but a highly public spectacle.” — Variety
Another one of our Documentary Lab alum, Jeffrey Palmer, premiered his first feature film — Words From A Bear. It was special honor have N. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa writer and the first Native American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, in attendance. Stanley was honored to meet the “Bear.”
“Debuting at Sundance prior to a planned 2019 theatrical release and subsequent PBS broadcast on the American Masters program, Palmer’s lively profile appropriately situates Momaday within the pantheon of leading American writers while broadening appreciation for his source material and the craft of native writing.” - Hollywood Reporter
Color of Change, The Open Society Foundations and Firelight hosted a midnight brunch to honor ColorCreative, and to celebrate Black content creators and storytellers attending Sundance 2019, which included music from DJ D-Nice.
Firelight and Color of Change were grateful for the support of Open Society Foundations, a true partner in storytelling and advocacy. The gathering brought together a cross-section of media makers, public media partners, philanthropists and organizers. OSF president Patrick Gaspard offered a moving tribute to Marcia Smith, a longtime mentor.
#TellBlackStories: BLACK WOMEN & GIRLS A conversation with Firelight’s Marcia Smith, Surviving R. Kelly director dream hampton, and Lifetime’s Brie Miranda Bryant, moderated by Hot 97’s Angie Martinez, brought together a discussion of media’s role in shaping narratives around Black women.
In a time of borders and walls, of narrow definitions of nationality, the American narrative is being rewritten before our eyes. In response, Native and African American filmmakers are ensuring the story of America reflects our collective experience and memories. In partnership with Kickstarter and Color of Change, Firelight hosted an intimate conversation between Color of Change’s Rashad Robinson, Stanley Nelson, and Documentary Lab Fellows Jackie Olive and Jeffrey Palmer.
We ended our Sundance festivities by joining Color of Change and The Open Society Foundations to host a President’s brunch at the Blackhouse to highlight the intersection of philanthropy, nonfiction film and advocacy.