2020 Sundance Film Festival
On Saturday, January 25, FWD.us hosted a music lounge in collaboration with The Blackhouse Foundation during this year’s Sundance Film Festival. We wanted to utilize this unique opportunity to spark an important conversation with creatives in film and television about the many ways that harsh sentences are hurting America’s families, especially Black families, and to engage new voices in the fight to end America’s incarceration crisis.
Event guests enjoyed live performances and discussions from the producer and featured cast of the documentary film AGGIE, including Emmy-nominated director Catherine Gund, renowned composer and activist Samora Pinderhughes, playwright actor Liza Jessie Peterson, and visual artist Russell Craig. The documentary film AGGIE tells the story of art collector and philanthropist Agnes “Aggie” Gund, who sold her beloved Roy Lichtenstein “Masterpiece” painting to fund the nonprofit Art for Justice Fund.
While at Sundance, we also took the opportunity to chat with Emmy-nominated producer Zahra Rasool, Tamanika Evans, and Sister Eli of the film Still Here, an immersive installation featuring a fictional character who returns to her gentrified Harlem community after spending 15 years in prison. The installation is based on the visceral experiences of over twelve formerly incarcerated women who are part of the Women’s Prison Association (WPA). Tamanika and Sister Eli spoke about the human toll the incarceration crisis has taken on them and their children. With more than 10 million kids having experienced parental incarceration in their lifetime, research makes clear that children of incarcerated parents are placed at an increased risk of health challenges that can hurt their wellbeing, including depression, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes – in addition to presenting a host of other threats to their ability to thrive in school and in their daily lives. To learn more about the installation and the stories of the women featured, visit https://stillhere.ajcontrast.com/.
Our experience at The Blackhouse during this year’s Sundance Film Festival was informative and uplifting! I believe that storytelling through film, television, and art is vital to growing the national movement to end America’s incarceration crisis. Storytelling is ingrained in our society — many of our contemporary customs and traditions were passed down from our ancestors through it. Stories provide us with shared values and lived experiences, and they reach beyond the data, statistics, numbers, and analytics to connect us to each other — evoking hope, sparking our imagination, driving conversation, and ignite movements.