The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) and the production company Lightbox have named director Muta’Ali as the winner of the first ever ABFF Lightbox Documentary Initiative, a new annual program sponsored by 21st Century Fox and National Geographic to support new voices in documentary film. As the winner of the competition, Muta’Ali will receive funding for his feature-length documentary project, Storm Over Brooklyn, which commemorates the 30th anniversary of the killing of 16 year-old Yusuf Hawkins. ABFF and Lightbox will work with Muta’Ali to develop the project, which is set to premiere at the American Black Film Festival in Miami in June 2019.
“National Geographic is thrilled to be part of this year’s inaugural competition, and the selection of Muta’Ali as this year’s winner is a perfect choice,” said Tim Pastore, president of original programming and production for National Geographic Channel. “Nurturing up-and-coming talent is incredibly important to us at National Geographic, and working with Lightbox and ABFF on this initiative and discovering filmmakers like Muta’Ali is really exciting.”
Since its announcement in June, the Documentary Initiative received more than 200 submissions for documentary films, all of which covered a wide range of topics that reflect the lives of people of color today. The competition was open to all African-American documentary filmmakers and any documentary filmmakers interested in exploring non-fiction stories and themes that speak directly to the African-American experience. Muta’Ali chose the racially motivated killing of black American teenager Yusuf Hawkins in Brooklyn in 1989, which led to nationally televised protests and marches.
“We were incredibly moved by the relevance and power of this story and Muta’Ali’s vision for the film,” said Jeff Friday, founder and CEO, ABFF. “The ABFF Lightbox Documentary Film Initiative is an extension of what I started with the American Black Film Festival, and I am delighted to be able to provide this new platform in partnership with Lightbox, and we are deeply grateful to National Geographic and 21st Century Fox for standing behind this meaningful initiative.”
Previously, Lightbox and National Geographic collaborated on the Emmy Award-winning feature documentary LA 92, which revisited the civil unrest in Los Angeles in 1992 following the beating of Rodney King by LAPD officers. 21CF partnered with the nonprofit Journeys in Film to create a classroom discussion guide about the film and its subject matter, made freely available for teachers to download and use in schools.
Learn more about the ABFF Lightbox Documentary Initiative, as well as other 21CF initiatives that support artists and filmmakers with diverse voices and perspectives.