BIPOC Filmmakers in Documentary

90 min

This seminar will address issues related to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) documentary filmmakers, exploring such topics as the opportunities and specific challenges that exist in the doc world and examining the question of who should properly tell certain stories. The panel includes the following participants:

Srikant Chellappa (moderator), a board member of Cinema St. Louis, is an Indian-American director, producer, actor, and screenwriter based in St. Louis. His film credits include the action-comedy “Bad Grandmas,” the drama “Sleep with Me,” the thriller “Fatal Call,” the horror film “Ghost Image,” and the documentary “Running Against Dick” (2004).

Debbie Lum, a former St. Louisan, is an award-winning filmmaker whose projects give voice to the Asian-American experience and other unsung stories. She’s the director of “Try Harder!,” which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and plays SLIFF, and “Seeking Asian Female,” which premiered at SXSW and won Best of Fest at AFI Docs.

Mobolaji Olambiwonnu’s goal is to use cinema as a tool to share diverse cultural and political experiences, critique the superficial conditions that divide us, and accentuate the merits of shedding our prejudices. His work includes “Ferguson Rises,” which plays SLIFF; the YouTube Originals docuseries “Resist”; and the short “The Visit,” which won the Directors Guild of America Student Award.

Natalie Pattillo is a journalist, filmmaker, and co-director of the SLIFF film “And So I Stayed,” an award-winning documentary about survivors of domestic violence who are unjustly incarcerated for killing their abusers in self-defense.

Damien D. Smith, a former St. Louisan, is an actor and filmmaker driven by a responsibility to shed light on injustice and oppression. He’s directed the narrative short “About That …” and the SLIFF film “Target: St. Louis Vol. 1,” which was named the Best Documentary Feature at the 2021 Urban World Film Festival. 

John J. Valadez is a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker whose documentaries explore Latino history and the larger struggle over race and power in America. His work includes the SLIFF film “American Exile,” the PBS series “Latino Americans,” “Beyond Brown,” “The Last Conquistador,” and “The Longoria Affair.”


Sponsored by the Chellappa-Vedavalli Foundation