The Gotham Film and Media Institute has partnered with HBO Documentary Films for its inaugural Documentary Development Initiative. The new program gives storytellers who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+ or those with disabilities the resources needed to develop thought-provoking, character-driven and contemporary ideas for documentary films and limited series.

Four Black documentary filmmakers, along with several other diverse creators, are receiving grants of $50,000 for research and creative development of their projects, along with mentorship and the possibility to receive additional funding, through sponsorship from HBO Documentary Films, OneFifty and WBD Access.

With a knack for telling "powerful and boundary-breaking stories,” here are four filmmakers to watch:

Crystal Kayiza

Crystal Kayiza HBO Documentary Directive Initiative
Documentarian Crystal Kayiza. Image: courtesy of HBO.

Raised in Oklahoma, Crystal Kayiza is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker. Her film, Edgecombe, was an official selection of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Her most recent film, See You Next Time, became an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020. Named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” she continues to seek truth in art that highlights and empowers themes of womanhood.

Amber Love

Documentarian Amber Love. Image: courtesy of HBO.

Amber Love's work explores themes of Afrofuturism, alternative families and Black heritage. A Galaxy Sits in the Cracks is her short experimental documentary exploring the ways Black communities in Chicago, Detroit, and Durham, North Carolina, use Afrofuturism as a tool to inspire young people, organize politically and economically, and reimagine the spaces around them.

Brit Fryer

Brit Fryer, HBO Documentary Recipient
Documentarian Brit Fryer. Image: courtesy of HBO.

Brit Fryer is a Brooklyn-based queer and trans filmmaker from Chicago. He co-directed Caro Comes Out, the true story of a young writer coming out to her traditional Cuban-American family, as well as the documentary Across, Beyond, and Over. Fryer uses the act of creation to explore memory and imagine futures that are still yet to come. 

Mobolaji Olambiwonnu

Mobolaji Olambiwonnu
Documentarian Mobolaji Olambiwonnu. Image: courtesy of HBO.

Mobolajia Olambiwonuu is a Nigerian immigrant who shares how he's struggled with what it means to be Black in America when he is literally an African American. With a unique outlook on race in America, he shares his persepective as a film school professor and documentary filmmaker. His film, Ferguson Rises, examines the senseless killing of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown Jr. by a white police officer in 2014, exploring how the heinous act ignited a national protest and a rebirth of civil rights activism.