Recap of Panel: Diverse Voices in Film & Media

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On June 1, a group of accomplished filmmakers of color got together to discuss the current state of diverse voices in film and media from their perspective. The conversation flowed from who should tell their stories to opening the door for the next generation of filmmakers.

“Who gets to tell our stories? It’s as simple as that. Do we get to tell our own stories? Or are they taken from us and told through a different lens?” commented Roger Ross Williams, an Academy Award winning director known for MUSIC BY PRUDENCE; GOD LOVES UGANDA; LIFE ANIMATED; and THE APOLLO, on the topic of Hollywood’s GREENBOOK.

Yoruba Richen, an award winning documentary filmmaker whose latest film is THE GREEN BOOK: GUIDE TO FREEDOM, was asked by an audience member her opinion on a white filmmaker making a film about an important black subject that no one else seems to want to make a film about. Richen commented, “It’s not that I don’t think, personally, a white person cannot do it. I will have to say, I do think the same way that Jill Soloway has said that there needs to be a moratorium on men making women’s stories,... I think there should be a moratorium on white people making black stories… However, I personally don’t think that it can’t happen, but I think that there are a lot of things that white filmmakers need to do if they are going to do that. And one of the things is to have African Americans as a real part of the creative process.”

When asked about the process of getting to where she is now and the differences people of color face, Lisa Cortés, an Academy Award nominated producer known for PRECIOUS; THE WOODSMAN; and SHADOWBOXER, said, “I have seen other peers who have won films at Sundance and they go on to do a big film, and for us it is different.” Both Cortés and Williams mentioned struggles that they continued to face even after winning awards.

When asked about his takeaway from the event, audience member Gregg Bray said, “One of the many takeaways from this event is the importance of community. Each filmmaker spoke about their transition from one career into filmmaking, and how even after their initial successes, they had to keep reaching out through their communities for their next project. Also, that there is a responsibility we all have for what stories we tell.”

We would like to thank everyone who came out to the event, and a special thank you to Lisa Cortés, Yoruba Richen, and Roger Ross Williams for being apart of our panel. As well as Lacey Schwartz Delgado for moderating. Thank you also to Radio Kingston for the collaboration, and to Aaron Rezny Studio Inc for hosting.