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Ford Foundation funds social justice films, from Sun Ra to Gullah history to police violence

todayJanuary 25, 2024

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Scene from the documentary “The Riot Report”

The Ford Foundation, one of the world’s leading philanthropic organizations, announced $4.2 million in grants to support 59 social impact documentary projects on January 25th, 2024. Among the recipients are several ambitious films tackling issues of racial justice, civil rights history, and systemic inequality.

Notable projects include “Travel Notes of a Gulla Geechee Girl,” directed by pioneering filmmaker Julie Dash. The film chronicles a young Black woman from South Carolina who awakens to find herself an acclaimed but struggling writer in Paris during the 1920s. Her journey to self-discovery traverses the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement, and beyond.

“The Riot Report” examines the forgotten story behind Lyndon B. Johnson’s Kerner Commission, assembled to investigate the wave of urban uprisings in 1967. The film promises to revisit the Commission’s prescient warnings about racial inequality and lack of opportunity in America’s cities.

Two projects focus on the legacy of slavery and its modern manifestations. “The First Plantation” explores Barbados’ central role in codifying plantation slavery systems, while “The Chemistry of Racism” investigates links between historical exploitation of Black bodies and present-day environmental racism.

The avant-garde jazz pioneer Sun Ra is the subject of “Sun Ra and the Roots of Afrofuturism.” The film connects Ra’s visionary philosophy and music to his experiences with racism, positioning him as a forebear of the Afrofuturism movement.

Other documentaries taking on policy issues and social change include “#WhileBlack,” following citizen journalists documenting police violence, “Plot of Land” on housing inequality, and “Going to Mars: Reflections with Legendary Poet Nikki Giovanni,” tapping the iconic writer’s insights across decades of Black activism.

By supporting groundbreaking nonfiction storytelling, the Ford Foundation continues its nearly 75-year commitment to films that spur awareness, shift perspectives, and inspire action towards a more just world.

Ford Foundation also announced today that the Spring open call for documentary film production grants opens February 22, 2024 and closes April 1, 2024. Please learn more here.


Written by: Tarik Moody

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