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Juneteenth: Netflix, Ghetto Film School Partner to Celebrate Emerging Black Filmmakers

The program aims to introduce new voices and perspectives vital for the entertainment indusry.

Courtesy of Netflix

The inaugural class of new content creation program from Netflix and Ghetto Film School (GFS) focused on emerging black filmmakers has produced the winning films announced ahead of Juneteenth — a holiday dedicated to commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. It is dedicated also to celebrating African American culture.

For more than 20 years, Netflix has worked with GFS to educate and develop new voices in the black community. The content creation program, launched last year, comes under Netflix’s $5 million commitment to help support the Black creative community and celebrate the next generation of Black storytellers.

In the last quarter of 2020, GFS alumni were invited to submit 5–10 minute original short-form fiction or nonfiction projects exploring topics of Black identity and lived experiences in the U.S.

According to the official blog post released by Netflix, Ten concepts were shortlisted, and those creators were asked to develop formal pitches. A panel of representatives from both Netflix and GFS selected three finalists, and each was awarded a $25,000 production budget to complete their short films. The filmmakers also received ongoing support from both teams along the way, including creative feedback and mentorship.

The winning short films are from three up-and-coming female storytellers, and they will be shared with Netflix’s audiences around the world via the Netflix Film Club YouTube channel.

“Given the themes of these three films — stories about identity, resilience and freedom — we found it only fitting to release them ahead of Juneteenth, the annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the US. Our hope is that these films can add to the ongoing conversations surrounding this important holiday and even inspire new ideas and viewpoints,” the blog post reads.

See more details about the winning films below:

“Silence of Friends” by Nia Stanford

When Covid-19 sends her back to her hometown for good, a Black woman is confronted by her lifelong conditioning in a white society and begins the journey to challenge it.

Nia Stanford is a second-year student at The New School studying Culture & Media with a minor in Race & Ethnicity studies. She’s an alumnus of the Ghetto Film School’s 30-month film fellowship program, one of the first NYC fellows to take part in the Iris-In Fellowship by Black Bicycle Entertainment, and she also creates content about pop culture, social justice, and identity on TikTok.

“The Divinity Streak” by Jess Waters

After a summer of hard-fought progress in the wake of a nationwide racial awakening, three activists plan to hijack a space shuttle and go to Mars to create a better world.

Jess Waters is an award-winning screenwriter originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and currently residing in Los Angeles. As a queer Black non-binary writer, their narrative focus revolves around the re-imagining of history to create both grounded and fantastical explorations of Black and LGBTQ+ identity through a unique lens. Jess is a former Hillman Grad Mentee and currently a part of the Artistic Standard TV 2020–2021 Mentorship Program.

“Day into Knight” by Sarah Jean Williams

A Black female high school graduate confronts her childhood dealings with racism — and her mom’s important advice — as she delivers her valedictorian speech.

Sarah Jean Williams is a writer, actor, and director. As a member of the Ghetto Film School program, she won the Special Grand Jury Prize for her film, Never Grow Up. In the summer of 2019, Sarah and a small crew of GFS students made a film in Rome, funded by National Geographic. She is also a part of WarnerBros. Reach Honorship Program and is currently a student at NYU Tisch.

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Stories about African and Black Entertainment in Diaspora with focus on Film | TV | Digital