Six emerging filmmakers have joined forces to examine some of the unique challenges faced by Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) as they navigate the unprecedented events that defined 2020.
“Hindsight,” a six-part PBS documentary series that centers the experiences of marginalized people in the American South and Puerto Rico, addresses topics including police violence against Black people, social isolation, medical racism and the impact of travel restrictions on immigrants attempting to relocate to the United States.
Each of the six nonfiction short films that make up “Hindsight” feel personal and intimate. Filmmaker Dilsey Davis told Colorlines that her short film, “Now Let Us Sing,” shows her journey through the pandemic as she continued to work closely (and virtually, of course) with a group of people near to her heart. It tells the story of a “small but mighty” interfaith, diverse choir in Durham, North Carolina that is on a mission to promote “race unity” throughout the country. The film, she said, reflects “a moment in time of how I was feeling and how others were feeling about the intersection of the racial awakening of people and what happened with George Floyd.” It was important for her to show the world her choir, whose members “were really trying to do something about it [racial unity] and have been for 20 years.”
Davis stressed that she doesn’t want anyone to misconstrue what she’s saying in her film when she refers to the choir’s promotion of race unity. “It definitely isn’t race sameness,” she explained. “It’s what I believe is the upliftment and celebration of all people, and the opposite of what oppression is. One of the key components is having an appreciation for the oneness of humanity. We have a sense that everybody is equal.”
“For a lot of people, race unity means that we’re not having conflict with one another,” Davis added. “But in order to get to racial unity there is going to be conflict. When you bring various people from different backgrounds together in a space and you’re going to create a safe space, then that space has to be safe for everyone and not for just a few people. It requires people to stretch and grow.” That, she affirmed, is the core message behind “Now Let Us Sing.”
“I’m hoping people can see this group of people reaching out, being diverse and getting uncomfortable, but yet coming together and finding joy with one another,” she said.
The “Hindsight” series was created in order to support BIPOC filmmakers in developing relationships with PBS stations, while also telling community-focused stories. The directors selected for the series, including Davis, Anissa Latham, Kiyoko McCrae, Zac Manuel, Amman Abbasi and Arleen Cruz-Alicea, each received financing up to $20,000 to produce their short films. The filmmakers also received production and distribution mentorship by veteran independent filmmakers, according to an emailed statement from Firelight Media.
“It was an enormous privilege to work on the innovative “Hindsight” series during one of the most challenging years we’ve ever experienced,” said Chloë Walters-Wallace, artist programs manager and lead on the Hindsight initiative at Firelight Media. “With Hindsight we were honored to do what we do best: support underrepresented BIPOC storytellers and their communities who need to be heard beyond the news cycle.”
“For Reel South, this is the first time we have invested in projects at this early stage of production and as commissioned works,” said Nick Price, series producer of Reel South. “When we tell the story of 2020, we must ask ourselves whose voices—whose stakes—are laid bare. We are humbled to have these six filmmakers tell the stories of their communities and our region as a whole. Public media is made better by this kind of local exploration.”
View the official trailer of “Hindsight” below:
Shani Saxon is a full-time television and film development executive who also works as a freelance writer in the criminal justice and immigration space. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey with her three children and their boss, a rescue dog named Stormy.