Black Public Media awards $225,000 to film and tech creators at annual PitchBLACK Awards

Black Public Media (BPM) awarded total funding of $225,000 to three creative teams who participated in its PitchBLACK forum, which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. The annual forum, which is the largest pitching competition for black independent filmmakers and creative technologists in the United States, is designed to advance black content and attracts a “who’s who” from public television and distributors and backers. commercial funds. The winners were announced Thursday night at the PitchBLACK Awards ceremony, which also honored acclaimed documentarian Orlando Bagwell with the BPM Trailblazer Award. The three-day event was hosted by CJ Hunt, director, comedian and former producer of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Acclaimed filmmaker Dawn Porter (john lewis: Good Trouble and The Way I See It) served as the keynote speaker at the awards ceremony.

Marlene McCurtis and Joy Silverman’s documentary Wednesdays in Mississippi received $150,000. The film examines the challenges and triumphs that women faced in the civil rights era of the 20th century as they worked across the chasms of race, religion and region to fight against racial discrimination and for women’s rights in Mississippi. McCurtis, a creative writer, filmmaker, artist and director based in Los Angeles, has worked with Discovery Channel, A&E, Lifetime, NatGEO and PBS. His short film, Here I will stay, about a coalition of civil rights and Latino activists fighting for immigrant rights in Mississippi, is featured on the acclaimed “Field of Vision” web platform. Silverman, an Altadena, Calif.-based producer, artist and social justice activist, has been producing and presenting cultural programming for over 35 years. She is a Wednesdays producer in Mississippi and has held leadership positions at several nonprofit arts institutions.

Two contestants from the PitchBLACK: Immersive Forum won total funding of $75,000. Tamara Shogaolu’s 40 Acres, a cross-platform exploration of black American farmers and their relationship to the land, received $50,000. The project includes a documentary television series and an augmented reality sculpture using electronic textiles. Jurors for the immersive competition applauded “the journalistic aspects of the project, as well as its use of tactile elements. We feel they were beautifully coordinated.”

Shogaolu is a director, technologist and founder of Ado Ato Pictures based in Los Angeles and Amsterdam. His work has been featured in film festivals, galleries, and museums around the world, including the Tribeca Film Festival, New York Museum of Modern Art, and National Gallery of Indonesia. Shogaolu received a BPMplus grant from Black Public Media in 2021 to research and develop 40 acres.

Leonardo Souza’s Rabiola Open Skies, a location-based experience that invites pedestrians to fly virtual kites over nearby buildings using their cellphones, received $25,000. The projected setup will be customized to fit specific walls and buildings, allowing players to control a single kite using their mobile phone. The jury for the immersive competition said, “We would love to see this joyful artwork appear in public spaces around the world.”

The project is a spin-off of Souza’s virtual reality experience, Rabiola Tales, which is still in development. Souza, a resident of Rio de Janeiro, is the founder of film and immersive production company Okoto Studio and received a BPMplus grant in 2020 to research and develop Rabiola Tales.

“Black Public Media is proud to award these talented independent filmmakers and creative technologists well-deserved funding so they can bring their timely projects to life. As in previous years, these award winners have successfully connected, informed and enlightened through engaging content designed to really move the needle,” said BPM Director of Programs Denise A. Greene.

This year’s BPM Trailblazer award recipient, Orlando Bagwell, is recognized for his moving, award-winning documentaries about black people in America, from slavery to the present day, navigating racism and violence, and organizing for change. The Baltimore native and current Brooklyn resident’s work has been featured on television, in theaters, in museums and at major festivals around the world, earning Oscar, Emmy and Peabody recognition. Sponsored by GBH, the BPM Trailblazer Award recognizes documentary filmmakers with over two decades of experience working primarily in public media as a producer, director, writer or editor who have a strong track record of mentoring other filmmakers. black media.

This year’s PitchBLACK event included a week-long virtual retrospective of Bagwell’s films, with registrants enjoying special access to see Africans in America: The Terrible Transformation, Malcolm X: Make it Plain, Citizen King and four episodes of Matters of Race from April 25. until May 1. Two episodes of Eyes on the Prize that he directed are accessible to the general public (people who have not subscribed to PitchBLACK). For more information visit:

The Nonso Christian Ugbode Fellowship, sponsored this year by Gimlet Media, was awarded to Blanca Burch, a Spelman College senior and native of Milwaukee, who is majoring in international studies. She will use her NCU grant to develop AR components for her new interactive coloring book The ABCs of Who I Can Be, which aims to show kids the multitude of career opportunities available to them. The NCU Emerging Fellowship, founded in 2016, supports creative technologists under the age of 30.

The jurors of the film PitchBLACK 2022 included Karen McMullen, feature film programmer at the Tribeca Film Festivals and DOC NYC; Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, award-winning filmmaker and Jamila Farwell, creative director at Netflix. Immersive jurors included Kimberli Gant, curator, Brooklyn Museum of Art; LaToya Peterson, Co-Founder and CXO, Glow Up Games and Loren Hammonds, Co-Director of Documentary at TIME Studios.

Created and presented by BPM, PitchBLACK serves as a platform where TV and film executives and funders come together to identify emerging black talent and compelling stories. PitchBLACK 2022 is sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Netflix, Gimlet Media, GBH WORLD, PBS, ITVS and New York Women in Film and TV.

For more information on BPM or PitchBLACK, visit blackpublicmedia.organd follow the organization on social media at @blackpublicmedia on Instagram and Facebook and @BLKPublicMedia on Twitter.


black public media (BPM) supports the development of visionary content creators and distributes stories about the global black experience to inspire a more equitable and inclusive future. For more information, visit

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