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Harvard's new project will support films on Black history and culture

The project is the brainchild of Henry Louis Gates Jr., host of the PBS show "Finding Your Roots" and director of Harvard's Hutchins Center.
Harvard's new project will support films on Black history and culture
Posted at 1:16 PM, Feb 13, 2024

Harvard University has partnered with the Smithsonian Institution for the creation of the Black Film Project, designed to support filmmakers of any race who illuminate Black history and culture through nonfiction films, the university recently announced

The project will award two prizes to support filmmakers in the completion of their projects rather than jump-starting them. 

It will inaugurate the Henry Hampton Prize for Documentary Filmmaking on Black History and Culture, a $200,000 award meant for independent filmmakers of late-stage full-length documentary films exploring themes about African Americans, Africans or Afro-Latin Americans. 

Additionally, the Baldwin Richardson Food Prize of $50,000, funded by philanthropist Eric G. Johnson, will be awarded to a filmmaker of any genre to finish their projects. 

Harvard and the Smithsonian will set up an internal review committee and a national jury to select recipients of both prizes. 

The project is the brainchild of Henry Louis Gates Jr., professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard, and he will serve as the founding director. Gates, an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, is also the host of the hit PBS show “Finding Your Roots.”

“I conceived of the Black Film Project as a way of contributing to the growing momentum of filmmaking about the Black experience, and as a way of honoring the field that has given me my second career,” said Gates. “The field is in the midst of a renaissance, one fueled by the democratization of filmmaking technology and an ever-growing demand for exciting new stories about Black culture and history that entertain and educate. We want the Black Film Project to identify, celebrate, and seed the work of talented artists of any ethnicity and, in doing so, to create an environment in which this renaissance can continue for many years to come.”

The Black Film Project will also establish three annual paid fellowships as part of Hutchins’ W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute Fellowship Program. The fellows will be able to make use of the university’s extensive research and filmmaking resources, visit classes, meet with faculty and students, present their films to the public and connect with Boston and New York exhibition opportunities, Harvard said. 

Jacqueline Glover, who was previously head of documentary programming for Onyx Collective and ABC News and senior vice president of HBO Documentary Films, will be the project’s inaugural executive director.

“It is the perfect time to ensure that leading and emerging filmmakers who tell Black stories are supported and celebrated. I am thrilled that, with Harvard’s resources for filmmakers, the Black Film Project will be a central place for storytelling about the Black experience,” said Glover. 

SEE MORE: AMC offering $5 tickets for movies to celebrate Black History Month

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