Can documentaries change a city? A group of Philadelphia media-makers believes so, and they have the pitches to prove it.
PhillyCAM and Doc Society are teaming up with six local media-makers and four community organizers Tuesday for Good Pitch Local Philadelphia, a virtual event that aims to matchmake media-makers with the partners they need to get their projects made.
The 10 projects take the form of podcasts, short films, multimedia installations, and personal testimonials, and explore a range of issues affecting Philadelphia communities from criminal justice reform, cultural traditions, climate justice, mental health, and more.
Some of the projects are directly inspired by events that took place over the course of the pandemic. “ALX Through The Labyrinth” addresses the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Latino and LGBT communities, while “Testimony 52nd St.: The Invisible Violence of UPenn” takes a look at the police violence that unfolded on the historic Black main street on May 31, 2020, during protests over the murder of George Floyd.
Other projects came out of questions that arose long before the pandemic.
Melissa Langer, of West Philadelphia, has been working on Untitled Illegal Dumping Project for four years.
“The film highlights an issue that we all see in plain sight,” Langer said. “There’s a lot of blame that’s spread about littering and illegal dumping. It seems mundane and simple, but there’s a long and complex history embedded in the landscape that often doesn’t make it into conversations we have.”
In collaboration with Norris Square Neighborhood Project, directors Anula Shetty and Michael Kuetemeyer also hope their project Villa Africana Colobo Garden will inspire change.
The immersive VR documentary takes viewers into the intimate space of a community garden that celebrates the West African diaspora and heritage in Puerto Rican culture. It grew out of a longtime relationship between the filmmakers and Iris Brown, one of the founders of the garden.
Shetty remembers one of her first conversations with Brown. “She talked about how there are so many spaces in this city where, as a person of color, you are made to feel uncomfortable,” Shetty said. “She wanted to create a place where people would feel comfortable, where they would feel that they belonged. “
Shetty is herself a first-generation immigrant and Brown’s vision resonated. “In her work, I see myself and my own journey,” she said.
Local media arts organizations selected the 10 projects through a curatorial committee. The selected teams attended an online story and impact lab in June, before getting matched up with a program mentor to help them develop their project and refine their pitch.
Those interested in watching the pitches can join by selecting the ‘Request an Invite’ button at the bottom of the event page on GoodPitch.org. All registered guests will be emailed a private viewing link before the start of the event at 1 p.m.
Disclosure: WHYY is a promotional partner of Good Pitch Local Philadelphia and the event is co-hosted by PlanPhilly’s engagement editor, Elizabeth Estrada, who is also a PhillyCAM board member.
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