Indeed, Lena Waithe, and Hillman Grad Productions Premiered ‘Rising Voices’ Season Two At TriBeCa Festival  

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( ENSPIRE Entertainment ) World Premiere of 10 Films Created By BIPOC Filmmakers Around the Meaning of Work  

ENSPIRE Contributor: Megan Grosfeld

The other night, Indeed, the world’s number one job site, Emmy Award-Winning Writer, Creator, and Actor Lena Waithe and her Hillman Grad Productions celebrated Season Two of the Rising Voices filmmakers program at TriBeCa Festival in New York City. Ten Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) filmmakers premiered their short films to distinguished guests that included Lena Waithe, Hillman Grad Productions CEO Rishi RajaniVentureland and PRETTYBIRD filmmakers along with program mentors Calmatic, Destin Daniel Cretton, Justin Chon, Rayka Zehtabchi, and Melina Matsoukas. 

Each film surrounded the singular theme of the meaning of work and each one of the filmmakers was awarded a $10,000 writing fee, received a $100,000 production budget, a dedicated line production crew through Hillman Grad and 271 Films, and had access to an additional $25,000 COVID budget to ensure the safety of the cast and crew. In the coming weeks, the filmmaker who profoundly showcased the power and meaning of work in their film will receive an additional $100,000 to create new work for Indeed as a non-exclusive filmmaker in-residence. 

10 Filmmakers and their films: 

  • Cara Lawson: Cara Lawson is a writer, film director, and artist from Chicago, Illinois. Her multi-racial background inspires her to carve out new spaces for representation in an innovative, female-centric, multi-ethnic approach to the stories of old. Within this space, she weaves myths that foster compassion and empathy, often building vibrant worlds inspired by her passion for history, politics, social justice, and folklore. 
  • CROOKED TREES GON GIVE ME WINGS: Savannah’s moss-covered forests, with all their whispering winds and enchanted branches, are alive to little Bertie Bee Hooks, the gifted granddaughter of an experienced midwife. As she absorbs the wisdom of folk medicine, Bertie Bee will work with her mystical connection to the spirit world as she becomes exposed to the tragedies of a wounded American past.
  • Gbenga Komolafe: Gbenga Komolafe (they/he) is a Nigerian filmmaker and multimedia artist currently based in Los Angeles. They draw inspiration from the parallels between African art traditions and the innovative craftsmanship of mid-20th-century queer and black American communities. Komolafe’s work stitches together personal memories with greater universal motifs to explore the possibilities of a collectively imagined future where queer, black, and marginalized bodies are not only seen but celebrated. Their work has previously been exhibited at Slamdance, Ghost Gallery LA, and Felix Art Fair, among others.
    • TOFU: Nikki, a broke and bougie trans girl, must work at her estranged mother’s Korean tofu restaurant to afford her breast augmentation surgery. Running her family business in LA’s rapidly gentrifying Koreatown, stubborn Mama Kim struggles to keep up with the changes happening both in her neighborhood and in her daughter’s body.
  • Georgia Fu: Georgia Fu is a Taiwanese American filmmaker, interested in unusual connections and the ephemeral quality of life. She received her BFA from NYU in Cinema Studies and East Asian Studies. After college, she worked at the photo desk of the International Herald Tribune in Paris and Hong Kong. She then completed her MFA in Film at NYU’s Tisch Asia in Singapore. 
    • MAPS: Maps charts the tumultuous relationship between a working mother and her daughter throughout the years, examining the sacrifices parents make and the difficulties their children face, as we feel the fleeting quality of life.
  • Jalmer Caceres: Writer/Director Jalmer Caceres was born in El Salvador, without a television in his home. After arriving in the U.S. at the age of five and growing up in Los Angeles as a latchkey child, he fell in love with Movies and American Television through countless hours of unsupervised viewing. Jalmer became the first in his family to graduate from college and recently attained his M.F.A. from the American Film Institute. He is dedicated to exploring the Latinx diaspora through themes of family, national identity, belonging, and displacement in his work.
    • EMPTY BASES: During the telecast of a famed Dodgers game, a Latinx mother working as a live-in caretaker struggles between the demands of her job and sharing the historic moment with her baseball-loving children.
  • Justin Floyd: Justin is an Afro-Latin writer and director focused on telling indie-commercial-driven stories. His short film, THE CENTER, landed him on stage at the Academy Awards in 2015 as part of “Team Oscar”. He is also a 2016 Sundance Ignite Fellow. In 2017, Justin Floyd was named a Warner Bros. Emerging Film Director, and his short film, RESURRECT was acquired by HBO. 
    • MALLEABLE: A young black father earns his living by being slapped across the face at a terrifying cost.
  • Leon Cheo: Born and raised in Singapore, Leon Cheo is the creator, writer, and director of the 2020 International Emmy®-nominated short-form series “People Like Us”. His short film “SIN-SFO” premiered in competition at the Academy-qualifying 25th Austin Film Festival, and won Best Live Action and Best Director at the 2019 National Youth Film Awards in Singapore. Other highlights include “The Three Sisters” which won ‘Best Short Film’ at the 2012 NETPAC-Jogja Asian Film Festival and “Nuts”, which received honorable mention for the YOMYOMF Interpretations 2.0 competition, founded by Justin Lin. 
    • THE 25th FILIAL EXEMPLAR: A forty-year-old Chinese man dresses up as his late sister to help his mother deal with grief, and prove his filial piety.
  • Tara Motamedi: Tara Motamedi is a first generation American. Born in the U.S. and raised in a liberal Kurdish/ Azeri household in Iran, she speaks three languages. Growing up, she was always taking bold strides in fascinating directions, whether in art, sports or in opposition to the Iranian Moral Police. Wishing to pursue a film career without the constraints of any government, Tara moved to Southern California. Five years later, she graduated with a BA in Film Production and an MFA in Screenwriting from Brooks Institute.  Her thesis film “For The Birds” was accepted into forty film festivals worldwide and won a dozen awards including Best Female Director from the DGA, student Emmy from the TV Academy Foundation, and an Oscar-qualifying award from the Cleveland International Film Festival. Her feature screenplay “Under an Olive Tree” influenced by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was honored by the WGA’s Inclusion and Equity department in 2018 and became a semi-finalist at the Academy Nicholl Fellowship in 2019. 
    • BEFORE DAWN, KABUL TIME: In the wake of the U.S. announcing their withdrawal from Afghanistan, all foreign personnel and many Afghans tried to flee the country before the full takeover by the Taliban. Inspired by true events, “Before Dawn, Kabul Time” is the story of an American couple who orchestrate the evacuation of an Afghan, women’s rights lawyer, from across the world and help her flee on the last plane out of Kabul before the Taliban captures her.
  • Travis Wood: Travis Wood is a director from Minneapolis. He experiments with storytelling in its many forms, utilizing the power of truth to guide his process. His short films have been selected for multiple Vimeo Staff Picks, SXSW film festival, Rooftop films, a NY EMMY award, and featured on NoBudge, Booooooom, and Directors Notes.
    • BLACK SANTA: Every holiday season an Atlanta local looks forward to his job working as a mall Santa alongside his son Otis. But as puberty strikes, this may be their last holiday season as a duo.
  • Shanrica Evans: Writer/director Shanrica Evans was raised in Decatur, GA, by her great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother. She received her MFA in Film/TV production from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts where she received the prestigious James Bridges scholarship for directing. As a writer, Shanrica’s scripts have received recognition from the Bluecat Screenplay Competition, Sundance, and the Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting. As a director, Shanrica’s short films have been screened on HBO, Starz, and other digital platforms. Shanrica is dedicated to intimately and honestly exploring the lives of people in underrepresented communities, particularly people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQIA community. She hopes to use her art to create complex, nuanced stories about southern black women.
    • AMINA: In this quiet and tender film about grief, Noa, a former astronaut, attempts to build a spacecraft to save her wife.
  • Urvashi Pathania: Urvashi Pathania is a writer/director based in Brooklyn. She received her B.A. with Honors in Film Studies from Columbia University and her M.F.A. in Film Production from USC. Her films explore gender, sexuality, and decolonization. In 2021, Urvashi was selected for the Google Assistant Storytelling Fellowship in partnership with The Black List and wrote a pilot for Lena Waithe’s Writers’ Lab. Her short film, UNMOTHERED, is available on HBO Max. She is repped at Echo Lake.
    • BEAST:  An aspiring Bharatanatyam dancer who is mocked for not fitting into normative beauty standards uses performance as a space to explore their gender expression.

To read all of the filmmakers’ full biographies click here.

To catch up with filmmakers and the premiere of Rising Voices season two, click here.

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