in the EASTLogan's Lift Allowance, made possible thanks to the generosity ofJonathan Logan Family Foundation, aims to nurture aspiring filmmakers. This year, the grant program is awarding $30,000 to three non-binary women and filmmakers of color who are directing feature-length journalistic documentaries. This year's honorees are Paige Bethmann, Chelsea Hernandez and Zippy Kimundu.
Kimundu grew up in Kenya and says he saw his country through everyone else's lens. She worked as an editor for 10 years and when she was putting together a documentary for a UK TV channel she felt at odds with the content she was creating.
She knew then that she had to tell stories that revolved around her African identity. Kimundu was founded in 2013Afrofilms International.
Cinema is a way to educate and combat ignorance, which New York University – Tisch Asia alumnus Kimundu has experienced both at home and abroad. Everything that is happening [in countries like Kenya], says Kimundu, is due to colonialism. Although the countries are free, they still suffer from colonialist structures, which is why she thinks it is so important that African filmmakers tell African stories and reclaim the narrative. Journalism and documentation go hand in hand for Kimundu. The Logan Elevate Grant, Kimundu explains, will allow her to delve deeper into her storytelling and strengthen her connection with the people in her work.
Her passion is commenting on social justice issues such as neocolonialism, white supremacy and volunteerism. “There are thousands of people who come [to Africa] as volunteers,” says Kimundu. "You go in and out. What have you done? What do you really think you've done? What do you think you changed?”
Despite Paige Bethmann's decades of experience working on various nonfiction projects — for outlets like NASCAR andVox, where she was in charge of live television, she never thought she would one day direct a documentary. With his directorial debutstay local, Bethmann is also pushing for change as it seeks to reclaim the narrative centered around Native American history. After Bethmann, a Haudenosaunee, discovered unmarked graves of Native American children in former boarding schools across the United States, she said she felt "a heartfelt obligation to find a story that honors that story." At age 10, her great-grandmother attended a similar boarding school, which was at the root of her family trauma and shame. Bethmann's grandmother fought back and established the first Native American afterschool program in Rochester, New York, where Bethmann learned lore, culture, language, and storytelling.
"She was a great reminder for us growing up that being a local is something to be proud of," Bethmann reflects. "You must be proud of what we had to go through to be here today."
Bethman lost her grandmother two years before she found out about Ku, a Yerington Paiute teenager who is orchestrating a 50-mile memorial run that starts at Stewart Indian Boarding School and follows the same path her great-grandfather ran when he left fled the boarding school named after him all other lives lost in Indian boarding schools. Bethmann saw a mirror in Ku; both served a similar purpose - to honor the family's legacy - through film and exhibition respectively.
"Ku is like a glimmer of hope despite what his family has been through, even though he doesn't have a coach or resources," says Bethmann. "It's inspiring to take him to where he is today. He cultivated this whole community to run with him and raise that awareness, and not just for him.” Despite Ku's lack of resources and connection to the sports world, he exceeded expectations when he received an offer to join the University of Oregon run for office. Bethmann hopes Ku is someone local kids can look up to. “For [Indigenous children] to see someone who looks like them accomplish so much — not only accomplish so much, but give so much back — that's indigenous to the core. It is always to have this mutual relationship in balance. This is what is needed now to try to reconnect and find that balance again.”
stay localtranscends Ku as her story parallels the ongoing federal investigation into boarding schools, which was initiated when Ku began her senior year of high school. The federal report appeared in the week of its conclusion.
Because the film revolves around a traumatic theme, it's important to Bethmann to provide "psychological safety nets" — whether through breaks or cultivating safe spaces — for the local people involved in the project. She was able to meet with a trauma psychologist as part of the Logan Elevate program, which was helpful in dealing with the weight of the film she is making. Bethmann also works with usDie National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, which aims to address the "enduring trauma caused by US-India boarding school policy".
For Bethmann, it is important to note that the Indians are not a monolith. She recalls opening the story and being told it was too specific and wouldn't reach a wide audience, to which Bethmann laughed and replied, "A teenager?" - who, like any other teenager, gets in trouble for being outside, arguing with parents and talking about girls.
Under a colonial narrative, Bethmann points out, depictions of tribal peoples tend to be "stoic and sad." Therefore, it was particularly important that the film be aesthetically beautiful, with the Native Americans both in front of and behind the camera, to create an accurate portrayal that inspires cultural awareness.
"This is a direct rebellion against the purpose of the boarding school," adds Bethmann, "participating in it makes me prouder than I could be."
For Chelsea Hernandez – who co-directs with Heather Courtney and Princess HairstonUntitled19. Documentary - A variety of performances in front of and behind the camera were integral to the integrity of his film. The documentary follows the launch of The 19th, a women-run media outlet and non-binary journalists and editors who report on politics and politics through the lens of gender and race.
When Hernandez learned that Emily Ramshaw, former editor-in-chief ofThe Texas TribuneShe went to start her own inclusive editorial office, she was intrigued. She wondered, "How would you bring lived experience, diversity and inclusion to the editorial board?"
"Seventy out of 100 newspapers in the country today are run by white people, and those people dictate what stories are told and from what angles those stories are told," explains Hernandez.
As a Mexican-American filmmaker, Hernandez says having a space like Brown Girls Doc Mafia to talk and collaborate with other filmmakers of color is "vital for not feeling alone about certain issues." At Brown Girls Doc Mafia, Hernandez bonded with Hairston.
At low points during the filming process, Hernandez says she was lifted by the success of other BGDM members and says she feeds on their energy.
Newsrooms across the country were locked in uncomfortable conversations about lack of representation and racial and gender differences. Hernandez hopes the documentary will stimulate those conversations, uncomfortable as they may be. "There are some people who do hard work," says Hernandez. "You can't complain that you can't find people of color anymore."
The documentary, due for release in 2023, tells the resilient story of the female-led news startup that launched Zoom during a global pandemic, but also presents a model that newsrooms and classrooms can adapt to - a model reinventing journalism through an inclusive approach and empathic lens.
"There's more to reporting than just trying to get both sides of the story," Hernandez explains. "You can contribute your lived experience."
All filmmakers express their deep gratitude for the donation and talk about the importance of financial support to complete their films. Thanks to filmmakers like Kimundu, Bethmann and Hernandez, narratives - traditionally guarded and dictated by a chosen few - are being reclaimed and retold by legitimate and just voices.
Kelsey Brown is an editorial intern atDocumentary filmMagazine. She is a senior at Cal State Long Beach, where she is pursuing a BA in Journalism with a minor in International Studies.