At this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Indeed and Variety partnered to honor the 10 finalists for Indeed’s Rising Voices initiative, a special program it produces with Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad Productions to provide resources to BIPOC filmmakers. The day following the premiere of the short films they created via the program, the 10 finalists joined Variety for a panel conversation about the honor.
“I believe it was only January or February when we got our official announcement. And it’s just incredible that three months later, we’re here and we made a film,” Leon Cheo, who directed the short film “The 25th Filial Exemplar,” said. “We all made a film. That’s amazing. And I think really the best part of the premiere last night, for me, was just people saying how they connected to the story. And I think that’s just the key for filmmakers, to make a film. When audiences connect to the story, that’s powerful.”
Cheo was joined in conversation by his fellow Rising Voices finalists, including Jalmer Caceres, director of “Empty Bases;” Shanrica Evans of “Amima;” Justin Floyd of “Malleable;” Georgia Fu of “Maps;” Gbenga Komolafe of “Tofu;” Cara Lawson of “Crooked Trees Gon Give Me Wings;” Tara Motamedi of “Before Dawn Kabul Time;” Urvashi Pathania of “Beast;” and Travis Wood of “Black Santa.” In a discussion moderated by Variety senior awards editor Clayton Davis, the finalists discussed premiering their films at Tribeca and how the experience has inspired them in terms of their future endeavors.
During the conversation, Davis asked the finalists about what made the mentorship program special and helped them during the process of creating their film. Lawson, whose magical realism film “Crooked Trees Gon Give Me Wings” is heavily steeped in the history of Black women in America, said the experience is special because the participants’ mentors are also BIPOC, meaning she received guidance from those who knew of the history she was telling.
“You can take your story and continue to add to it in its truest form and in its own voice. And that was something that I really found,” Lawson said. “It was like the conversation was a continuation off of what I was building. I wasn’t having to bring out the textbook of like, ‘Okay, so well, here’s what happened to Black folks. Here’s what happened to Black women.’ And you do have to sometimes educate, but it’s really nice to have someone already from your background.”
The Tribeca Film Festival began June 8 in New York and ended Sunday. Watch the full panel conversation above.