February News


"Civil rights march on Washington, D.C. / [WKL]." Original black and white negative by Warren K. Leffler. Taken August 28th, 1963, Washington D.C. Colorized by Jordan J. Lloyd. via Unsplash.com

February is Black History Month, also known as African American History Month! Please join us in celebrating and supporting the creative works and contributions of Black storytellers.

Who Was the First African American Woman Filmmaker? 

Historians at the Women’s Film Pioneer Project at Columbia University have researched early African American women filmmakers in pursuit of the question “Who was the first?” Like most early Black filmmakers, the films and their archives are much more difficult to track down than the more mainstream films of the silent era. Many films have been lost, and so scholars look for evidence elsewhere - in advertisements and in newspapers, looking for any mention of Black women and their work.

Tressie Souders and Maria P. Williams, both of Kansas City, Missouri, were mentioned as “firsts” in their local paper, Souders with her film A Woman’s Error (1922). 

Maria P. Williams produced, distributed, and acted in her own film, The Flames of Wrath (1923). Contemporary filmmaker Yvonne Welbon, an award-winning filmmaker and CEO of Sisters In Cinema, discovered a reference to William’s film on the first page of the Norfolk Journal and Guide which described it as a mystery drama in five reels, “written, acted and produced entirely by colored people.” 

Altogether five African American women are known to have made films in the early days of cinema: Tressie Sounders, Maria P. Williams, Eloyce King Patrick Gist, Zora Neale Hurston, and Madame E. Touissant.

The Women Film Pioneer Project (WFPP) is a digital publication and resource that advances research on the hundreds of women who worked behind the scenes during the silent film era. Always expanding, WFPP publishes original scholarship on women who worked all around the world as directors, producers, screenwriters, editors, and more. The source used in this article was generously  provided by the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine

Source: Morgan, Kyna. "Maria P. Williams." In Jane Gaines, Radha Vatsal, and Monica Dall’Asta, eds. Women Film Pioneers Project. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2013.

-by Amy Harrison

Ava Duvernay and Free Resources through Array101

Filmmaker Ava Duvernay includes educational materials with her online education initiative, Array101. This project creates learning resources that accompany many of the films she distributes. These Learning Guides are provided free of charge, in an effort to expand knowledge and put tools in the hands of educators wanting to support learning about racial justice. Films that offer companion learning guides include Selma, When They See Us, Colin in Black and White, and more.

A Thousand and One - Review

I got the chance to catch A.V. Rockwell’s poignant film A Thousand and One through Sundance online this year after it won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. The film stars Teyana Taylor as a struggling Harlem mother in the 90s who kidnaps her son from foster care and chronicles their life over the course of his childhood.

It was a very moving portrait of a mother-son relationship with heartfelt, authentic performances. The city of New York was its own character as it both felt like home but also biting as it turned its back on the family that Inez (Taylor) was desperately trying to create and maintain. The harsh realities of trying to survive as gentrification takes hold in NYC, and keeping a secret from everyone including her son, creates a sense of impending doom as Inez makes her way through life…yet she is always striving, fighting, and confident, trying to do what’s best for herself and her son. The father-son dynamic between Lucky, Inez’ boyfriend (William Catlett) and Terry, Inez’ son (played by three actors Aaron Adetola, Aven Courtney, Josiah Cross over time) also starts rough around the edges but develops into unexpectedly touching and heartbreaking. 

With a final unexpected twist at the end, the film elevates itself, enabling the audience to understand an even deeper level of harsh reality yet empathy emanating from its heroine.

The film comes out in theatres at the end of March. Check it out!

A Thousand and One Official Site

-by Nil Unerdem


Museum of the African Diaspora

When: Various dates throughout February

Where: MoAD, 685 Mission St., San Francisco


MoAD in downtown San Francisco is presenting a month of special programs including film screenings. Check them out here!

Programs & Events | Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

Film Screening: The Black Kung Fu Experience

When: Feb. 19th, 2pm-5pm

Where: Great Star Theater, San Francisco


The Chinese Historical Society of America celebrates Black History Month with a film screening of Black Kung Fu Experience and a kung fu demonstration. 

Black History Month Film Screening: The Black Kung Fu Experience

Black Centric Showcase

When: Various dates throughout February 

Where: Odell Johnson Performing Arts Theatre, Oakland


Check out these performances at the Odell Johnson Performing Arts Theatre, 900 Fallon St., Oakland. 

Put Ur Play On Productions

History of the Black Panther Party

Check out Judas and the Black Messiah now streaming on HBO, then explore the history of the Black Panthers in Oakland with various sites on your own.

 Explore the Black Panther Party's History in Oakland, CA

BraveMaker presents Black History Celebration: 2 Short Films & discussion

When: Feb. 28th, 6:30pm-9:00pm

Where: Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, 801 Jefferson Avenue Redwood City, CA 94063


Bravemaker, a local non-profit film arts organization, hosts a program of two short films in Redwood City on Feb. 28th. Two black filmmakers share and discuss their short doc films elevating the Black experience.

BraveMaker: Black History Celebration: 2 Short Films & discussion

Words that Made the Difference: Brown v. Board of Education Play

When: Feb 11th, 6:15pm-9:30pm

Where: Unity Palo Alto Spiritual Center, 3391 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto CA 94306

Set in the courtrooms of history, this play captures the real words from trial transcripts culminating in the landmark case.

Words That Made the Difference: Brown v. Board of Education

Black Life: An Evening with Paige Taul

When: Feb 18th, 5pm

Where: BAMPFA, 2155 Center St., Berkeley, CA

This program will include a screening of short experimental film works and a conversation with the Oakland born filmmaker Paige Taul. Presented by Black Life, co-curated by Ruth Gebreyesus.

Black Life: An Evening with Paige Taul | BAMPFA


Member Poll

As we move forward into 2023, we’d like to hear from you! We are working on a member survey to help us get to know each other and our community better as we plan for the new year. So stay tuned for a link via email! 

New Secretary Announcement

WIFSFBA is happy to announce that Nil Unerdem has been appointed as the new Secretary in the coming 2023-2026 term. Preparations are underway for a thorough transition of the organization between the outgoing Secretary, Amy Harrison, and Nil, through Q1 of 2023. 

The WIFSFBA Board of Directors gives praise to Amy Harrison for her leadership. Since her election as Secretary in 2019, Amy has positioned WIFSFBA as an upstanding, influential, and educational organization and community that supports women in film. During her tenure, the organization has become a strong, diverse organization with a powerful and inclusive board of directors and we are forever grateful. Amy will remain a WIFSFBA member. 

Script Incubator Pitch-A-Pro Event Wrap Up!

Thanks to everyone for joining us at our Pitch-A-Pro event on Jan. 31st evening. We had 35 participants pitching to seven professionals in breakout rooms. And then five more pitches to everyone at the end using the lucky wheel of fortune! Great story ideas were heard, connections were made. If you want to work on your writing and help with events like this in the future, join our Script Incubator that meets once a month on Zoom! Just email bod-admin@wifsfba.org with the subject line: Script Incubator.


Conversations and Connections March Event - Standing in Power Positions

We’re lucky to have Joslyn Rose Lyons and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf join us in our next Conversations and Connections online event on March 23rd. Stay tuned for more details!

East Bay director Joslyn Rose Lyons' film Stand, a new sports documentary about former NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, is now streaming on Showtime Sports, with a global release!  STAND (trailer)

“Joslyn Rose Lyons’ film Stand is a raw and unflinching examination of the courageous life of basketball star and social justice activist Mahous Abdul-Rauf.  Born Chris Jackson, he overcame tremendous adversity to reach the NBA and found his true calling when he converted to Islam.  His decision not to stand for the national anthem, however, turned him from prodigy to pariah.  Told candidly by Abdul-Rauf himself more than 20 years later, it’s the remarkable story of one man who kept the faith and paved the way for a social justice movement.”  (courtesy Showtime)

If you do not already have access to  Showtime, you can sign up for a free 30 day trial!

‘Stand’ Director Talks Bay Area Roots, Career, and Women in Film (3 minutes NBC News)


San Francisco Indie Fest

When: February 2-12, 2023

Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th Street, San Francisco, CA

The San Francisco Independent Film Festival, known as IndieFest, is an annual film festival, held in January or February, that recognizes contemporary independent film. It is run by SF IndieFest, a nonprofit organization, and based at the Roxie Theater in the Mission District.  

MORE INFO: 2023 San Francisco IndieFest

Feature FILM Challenge - In PRODUCTION

When: February 18 @10AM - March 19 @7.30PM

Where:  MMTB Production Studios, Theatre & Lounge, 13 Pacific Ave, Rodeo, CA

Making a feature film -- sometimes, the only way to get it done is EVERYONE pitch in! Here’s your chance to be a part of the DRAMA/Thriller Edition!!! Looking for Executive Producers, Crew, Writers and Actors.

MORE INFO:  Feature FILM Challenge - In PRODUCTION Feb 18, 19, 25, 26, Mar 4,5,18, 19


Tribeca Film Festival - Short Films

Extended Deadline: February 22, 2023

A platform for independent filmmaking, creative expression and immersive entertainment, Tribeca is accepting short films (under 40 minutes) -- narrative, documentary, animated, experimental films, and music videos that have not screened publicly in the New York region prior to the 2023 Tribeca Festival. Submitted films cannot have had ANY public screening, broadcast, distribution, or exhibition before January 1, 2022.

MORE INFO: 2023 Festival Submissions Overview | Tribeca

The Script Lab Free Screenplay Contest

Submission Deadline: February 28, 2032 - FREE ENTRY

Come celebrate with us as we reopen our search for top new writers and projects.  We’ve already helped past winners sign with Hollywood managers and option their work to producers.  You could be next. We’re accepting Features, TV pilots, and short screenplays.

MORE INFO:  TSL Free Screenplay Contest (2023) - Coverfly

The Brklyn Film Festival

Submission Period: November 30, 2022 - March 13, 2023

BFF is a festival for and by independent filmmakers. The organizers bring to this annual event 25 years of festival experience. BFF accepts submissions in six categories: Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature, Short Narrative, Short Documentary, Experimental, and Animation.

MORE INFO: Brooklyn Film Festival - FilmFreeway

18th Annual SF International Festival of Short Films

Deadline: April 10, 2023

“SF Shorts explores a wide mix of genres and cultures without circumscribing them into niches. We accept all types of short films, which for us includes music videos. Our festival prides itself on its range. It's our mission to present the widest possible scope of content. Go to our website to view the 2022 season’s diverse range of films, many of which continue to screen there.”



SFFILM Rainin Grant

Submission Period:  February 9 - March 24, 2023

The program is open to filmmakers in the US and internationally who can commit to spending time developing the film in San Francisco. 

The SFFILM Rainin Grant will only fund films if they have a feature plot character, theme, and/or setting that explores social justice issues, such as human and civil rights, anti-discrimination, gender issues, sexual identity and/or other social issues of our time.  Films must NOT be a documentary, short film, or episodic series. The SFFILM Rainin Grant program is the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the US. This grant supports films that address social justice issues - the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges - in a positive way through plot character, theme, or setting and benefit the Bay Area filmmaking community in a professional and economic capacity.

For more info:  SFFILM Rainin Grant: Film Grant - FilmDaily.tv

The Miller/Packan Film Fund - Documentary Films

Submission Deadline: Mat 15, 2023

The Miller / Packan Film Fund supports documentaries that Educate, Inspire and Enrich. The Fund is financed through the Rogovy Foundation. We believe in the transformational power that comes from enlightening narratives and inspiring characters.

MORE INFO:  Documentary Fund – The Rogovy Foundation

Film Independent Sloan Distribution Grant

Rolling Submissions

The Sloan Distribution Grant is a $50,000 grant awarded by Film Independent to a film that is entering its distribution phase. Eligible films must depict themes, stories and characters grounded in real science, technology or economics.

MORE INFO: Sloan Distribution Grant Information

Diversity Development Fund

Looking for exceptional stories by filmmakers from diverse backgrounds: stories that take creative risks, inspire dialogue, and are rarely seen on public media. They are committed to supporting producers of color and creating public media programming that is truly inclusive. Diversity Development Fund gives directors of color up to $35,000 in research and development funding to develop documentaries for public media. The documentary can be on any subject, viewpoint, or style as long as it is in development or pre-production. 

NOTE:  There is only one funding round per year -- check it out now to prepare for the upcoming open admission period. 

MORE INFO: Diversity Development Fund

Roy W. Dean Short Film Grant

Deadline for submissions:  April 29th, 2023

Now celebrating its 30th year, the Roy W. Dean Film Grants fund independent feature films, documentaries, web series, and narrative live action or animated short films with budgets of $500,000 or less that are unique and make a contribution to society that, without its help, might otherwise never get made. 

MORE INFO: Roy W. Dean Short Film Grant

Thanks to Newsletter Contributors:  Nil Unerdem, Diane Walsh, Amy Harrison, Ami Zins, Julie Rubio, Carol Hall

Newsletter designed by Lina Indeeva and edited by Nil Unerdem.  

We're looking for guest editors. Join the newsletter team! bod-admin@wifsfba.org