Academy Dialogues: “Documentaries Through Our Own Lens” with Lisa Cortés, James LeBrecht, Bao Nguyen, Dawn Porter and Roger Ross Williams
WHAT: Part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Academy Aperture 2025 initiative, “Academy Dialogues: It Starts With Us” is a new series of virtual panels, with conversations about race, ethnicity, gender, history, opportunity and the art of filmmaking.
The Academy’s newest discussion in the series, Academy Dialogues: “Documentaries Through Our Own Lens,” focuses on the systemic changes that need to occur for marginalized communities to be able to tell stories through their own lens. Although the field of talented documentarians is among the most diverse in the entertainment industry, opportunities to tell their stories continue to be a challenge for people from underrepresented communities. Is there a distinction between excursions of discovery into indigenous cultures and cultural appropriation? Who gets to tell those stories?
Panelists include filmmakers Lisa Cortés (“All In: The Fight for Democracy”), James LeBrecht (“Crip Camp”), Bao Nguyen (“Be Water”) and Dawn Porter (“John Lewis: Good Trouble”). Moderated by Academy governor and Oscar® winner Roger Ross Williams (“The Apollo”).
For more information on this Academy Dialogue and others in the series, please click here.
WHO: Lisa Cortés (“All In: The Fight for Democracy”) James LeBrecht (“Crip Camp”) Bao Nguyen (“Be Water”) Dawn Porter (“John Lewis: Good Trouble”) Roger Ross Williams (“The Apollo”)
WHEN/WHERE: Available starting Thursday, September 17 at 9am PT on YouTube.
MTF has partnered with the New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts (NFYA) to bring this web series to African filmmakers exclusively through the MTF Portal.
Created and moderated by NYFA’s Creative Director of Filmmaking and Cinematography, Liz Hinlein, each episode of The 20/20 Series features a conversation between Liz and creative visionaries across the globe, bringing viewers into their homes, hubs and workspaces to share their artistic practice and process.
From cinematographers to screenwriters, producers and more, The 20/20 Series includes industry professionals spanning filmic disciplines. Guests so far have included award-winning filmmaker and MTF Academy Director (West Africa) Femi Odugbemi, writer, director and producer Sarah Pirozek and Golden Globe nominated actor Piper Perabo, and many more. Liz Hinlein, who curated the discussions to provide insight into the creative vision of artists, has also opened up the conversation to audiences, giving them the chance to ask questions.
“African storytelling is extraordinarily unique and has roots that are deep in traditions and history like no other. New York Film Academy has been privileged to host thousands of African creative storytellers over the years as students and we are always looking for new ways to share NYFA’s approach to film education with aspiring African filmmakers and members of the vibrant African film industry. The NYFA partnership with the MultiChoice Talent Factory is a tremendous benefit in this regard and we are honored that as part of this collaboration MTF will host NYFA’s The 20/20 Series.” – NYFA President Michael J Young
The MTF and NYFA partnership kicked off in 2018, during the inaugural year of MTF, and in 2019, this relationship saw three MTF students – one from each of the three academies in West (Lagos), East (Nairobi) and Southern (Lusaka) – given the once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in an eight-week long film workshop at NYFA campus in New York City.
As one of the world’s leading visual and performing arts schools, NYFA has been an important partner to MTF. Strategic partnerships with internationally acclaimed organisations like NYFA have helped MTF unlock unique opportunities to empower Africa’s creative industries to tell authentic stories to a global audience.
“The launch of NYFA’s The 20/20 Series on the MTF Portal is part of MultiChoice’s commitment to amplify creative voices and constructively impact entertainment industries in Africa. The 20/20 Series enables critical discussions on film and TV, inspires film and TV creatives across the African continent and assists in building global connections into the future.” – Yolisa Phahle, MultiChoice Group CEO General Entertainment.
As part of its “Academy Dialogues: It Starts With Us” series, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a conversation with Oscar®-nominated director Lee Daniels (“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”) and Oscar-winning writer Tarell Alvin McCraney (“Moonlight”) about their personal and professional journeys navigating the film industry as Black gay men. Emil Wilbekin, media executive and founder of Native Son, a networking group for professional Black gay men, will moderate the discussion. For more information on “Academy Dialogues” and upcoming programs, please click here.
Emil Wilbekin, Native Son founder Lee Daniels, director (“Precious”) Tarell Alvin McCraney, writer (“Moonlight”)
Panelists include Victoria Alonso, Lisa Cortés, Debra Martin Chase, Carmen Cuba, Lee Daniels, DeVon Franklin, Whoopi Goldberg, Nadia Hallgren, Taraji P. Henson, Franklin Leonard, Delroy Lindo, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Bao Nguyen, Dawn Porter, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Ivette Rodriguez, Bird Runningwater, Misan Sagay, Bryan Stevenson, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Ligiah Villalobos, Lulu Wang, Emil Wilbekin and Roger Ross Williams
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently announced the launch of a new series of virtual panels for members and the public, as a part of its Academy Aperture 2025 equity and inclusion initiative, called “Academy Dialogues: It Starts with Us,” with conversations about race, ethnicity, gender, history, opportunity and the art of filmmaking. These discussions focus on the industry-wide systemic changes that are needed to afford greater opportunities to women and people from underrepresented ethnic/racial communities and to create a new narrative for recovery.
“With our ‘Academy Dialogues’ series, the Academy is creating a space for our members – and the public – to talk about inclusion in a way that is timely, relevant and allows for a meaningful exchange on how to bring systemic change to Hollywood,” said Lorenza Muñoz, EVP, Member Relations and Awards. “These conversations may be uncomfortable for some, but they are necessary to broaden the stories that are getting told and increase opportunities for those who have been excluded.”
Academy Dialogues: “The Power of Narrative”
The first presentation in this ongoing series, “The Power of Narrative,” took place on July 21 for Academy members and featured a live conversation between Academy governor Whoopi Goldberg and civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. They discussed the role of narrative storytelling in addressing racial and ethnic inequity and touched upon the lasting impact of racist tropes and harmful stereotypes in Hollywood films. This conversation is now available on YouTube.
Academy Dialogues: “Native Son”
The Academy will present a conversation with Oscar®-nominated director Lee Daniels (“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”) and Oscar-winning writer Tarell Alvin McCraney (“Moonlight”) about their personal and professional journeys navigating the film industry as Black gay men. Emil Wilbekin, media executive and founder of Native Son, a networking group for professional Black gay men, will moderate the discussion. Available on YouTube on August 27.
Academy Dialogues: “Owning Our Stories”
Bird Runningwater, director of the Indigenous Program at the Sundance Institute, will moderate a conversation with writers Misan Sagay (“Belle”) and Ligiah Villalobos (“Under the Same Moon”) and filmmakers Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (“The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open”) and Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”) on the role that gatekeeping at the studios and production companies has played in preventing authentic stories from being told. Available on YouTube on September 3.
Academy Dialogues: “The Erasure of Latinos in Hollywood”
Latinos are the largest ethnic group in the United States, representing 18% of the population, and yet – whether it is in front of the camera, behind the camera or in executive positions – they are largely missing from America’s storytelling. Moderated by Muñoz, this discussion will explore identity, the complexity of being Latin, the legacies of colonialism, and, most importantly, solutions for inclusion. Panelists include Executive Vice President, Production, Marvel Studios Victoria Alonso, casting director Carmen Cuba (“The Martian”), director Nadia Hallgren (“Becoming”), founder/president, American Entertainment Marketing and co-founder, LA Collab Ivette Rodriguez, among others. Available on YouTube on September 10.
Academy Dialogues: “ICON MANN: We Are the Culture”
In partnership with ICON MANN, a media and consulting company committed to positively transforming the dialogue and image of Black men, the Academy will present a town hall focused on the Academy’s Black membership and the challenges to representation and inclusion in the industry, moderated by Shawn Finnie, the Academy’s associate director of member relations and outreach. Panelists include Oscar-nominated actor and filmmaker Taraji P. Henson (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), actor Delroy Lindo (“Da 5 Bloods”) and writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Old Guard”), among others. Available on YouTube in September.
Academy Dialogues: “ICON MANN Part Two: Investing in Yourself”
Presented in collaboration with ICON MANN, this discussion will explore taking ownership and control of one’s stories and content to find success outside of the traditional Hollywood system. In conversation with Franklin Leonard, founder of the Black List, panelists include producer and Academy governor DeVon Franklin (“Breakthrough”) and producer Debra Martin Chase (“Harriet”), among others. Available on YouTube in September.
Academy Dialogues: “Documentaries Through Our Own Lens”
Although the field of talented documentarians is among the most diverse in the entertainment industry, opportunities to tell their stories continue to be a challenge for people from underrepresented racial and ethnic communities. Academy governor and Oscar winner Roger Ross Williams (“The Apollo”) will moderate a discussion on the systemic changes that need to occur for marginalized communities to be able to tell stories through their own lens. Panelists include filmmakers Lisa Cortés (“All In: The Fight for Democracy”), Bao Nguyen (“Be Water”) and Dawn Porter (“John Lewis: Good Trouble”). Available on YouTube in October.
Academy Dialogues: “Color-Conscious Casting”
There is a long history of casting decisions that have severely limited the opportunities for actors of color to stereotypes and minor roles, echoing the overtly racist use of blackface in “classic” films, and there remains a ripple effect of Hollywood’s discriminatory history in hiring practices today. The creative collaboration between casting directors and filmmakers offers a tremendous opportunity to better reflect, on screen, the world as it truly is. This frank conversation will look back at the effects of inequitable and biased casting and look forward to the ways inclusion and authenticity can enrich both our movies and our culture. Available on YouTube in October.
Academy Dialogues: “How Would Gender Parity Change Hollywood?”
Since film is one of the most far-reaching and impactful artforms, what needs to happen for women and girls to see themselves reflected in stories and to find more role models on the screen and behind the camera? How would increasing the number of female directors, producers, executives and others in decision making positions usher in work culture that allows full expression of women’s abilities, leadership skills, intellect and strength? Studies have shown that workplaces with more equity, inclusion, and gender balance result in more collaboration, diversity of thought and higher productivity. This Academy Dialogue will dive into what true equity and inclusion means, how it will inevitably lead to a safer work environment and how to normalize and amplify female leadership and empowerment. Available on YouTube in October.
Academy Dialogues: “Broadening the Aperture of Excellence”
The Academy membership’s role as arbiter of excellence in film has been an influential and important one in the past 93 years. This discussion will center on the importance of broadening the aperture through which cinematic art is viewed and how excellence comes in many forms. Available on YouTube in October.
“Academy Dialogues: It Starts with Us” is part of Academy Aperture 2025, the next phase of the Academy’s equity and inclusion initiative furthering the organization’s ongoing efforts to advance inclusion in the entertainment industry and increase representation within its membership and the greater film community.
For program information and talent updates for the “Academy Dialogues” series, visit www.oscars.org.
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