2019 SDF Production and Research & Development Grant Winners



Nailah Jefferson – Louisiana

Danielle Bernard Metz was once labeled a drug kingpin by the US Government and sentenced to triple-life plus twenty years for non-violent drug offenses. In 2016, she was granted clemency by President Obama after serving 23 years in prison. Danielle’s commutation, along with the more than one thousand nonviolent drug offenders granted clemency along with her, was the first federal acknowledgement of excessive sentencing during the decades-long federal War on Drugs. Now, back home in New Orleans, Danielle is fighting to recapture the dreams she lost to prison, while looking at how she is rebuilding her life while working to help others avoid her fate. But perhaps Danielle’s toughest fight is living the dream that kept her going while in prison. That of a reunited family.


Hollow Tree 

Kira Akerman – Louisiana

HOLLOW Tree is a feature documentary that tells the interconnected stories of three young women coming of age in Louisiana during a time of rapid climate change. As they learn about where they live, they come to identify with the Mississippi River and the ways it has been restrained and controlled. Finally, they discover that changes in their environment are the result of politics and power; dynamics that must be imagined anew.


The Land of Fish & Grits 

Justin Robinson – North Carolina

THE LAND OF FISH AND GRITS reinterprets the past and imagines the future of Southern food by centering its Black and Indigenous creators in this avant-garde series.


Natour’s Grocery 

Nadine Natour – Virginia

A view of the 2020 election from the most American of settings: a convenience store run by Arab Muslim immigrants in the town where the Civil War ended.


The Neutral Ground 

CJ Hunt – Louisiana

THE NEUTRAL GROUND is a feature length documentary about New Orleans’ fight over monuments and America’s centuries-long relationship with the Lost Cause. THE NEUTRAL GROUND follows writer and comedian CJ Hunt as he satirically documents the struggle to remove and the struggle to preserve New Orleans’ confederate monuments. After witnessing this fight in his adopted city, CJ then explores how we understand a collective history as a nation with a contentious past.


Prodigal Mary 

Allie Sultan – Tennessee

Born and raised in a small Georgia town to a Southern Baptist preacher, Mary Alice has finally found the love of her life – Juliana. With the help of her pastor, Stan Mitchell, Mary Alice embarks on a journey of spiritual recovery, survival, and rebirth, leading her towards a lifelong dream of marrying and starting a family of her own. PRODIGAL MARY is a story of coming home to self, family, and faith as an LGBTQ+ Christian.



Katie Matthew – Louisiana

ROLEPLAY is a feature documentary that follows a year in the life of a group of American college students as they confront the sexual violence and toxicity on their campus with an artistic experiment, using their experiences to craft an original theater piece aimed at spurring dialogue, healing, and culture change. Juxtaposing cathartic rehearsal scenes, observational portraits of college life, and the performance itself, ROLEPLAY explores the nuance and contradictions of what it means to come of age in our complex times.


Socks on Fire 

Bo McGuire – Alabama

A poet composes a cinematic love letter to his Grandmother as his homophobic aunt and drag queen uncle wage war over her estate in Hokes Bluff, Alabama.


These Kids This City 

Dorian Emerson Munroe – Florida

These Kids This City is a film about the young people of Liberty City Miami and its infamous bike culture, showcased on its unofficial Martin Luther King Day holiday; where thousands flood the streets with their dirt bikes and four wheelers riding in a form of rebellion and community. In light of a hate crime that occurred while protesting the climate gentrification of their lower-income housing and the viral video that followed, this movement has garnered national attention.



Chris Haley and Brad Bennett – Virginia 

Throughout the South, there are many historical African American and unmarked burials of the formerly enslaved that are derelict and almost lost to time. However, recently, there has been a rise in active restoration and preservation efforts by those who have a personal history or appreciation for these historic sites.


Research & Development

A Fine Girl 

Darcy McKinnon and Biliana Grozdanova – Louisiana

A FINE GIRL is a documentary short following Brandi Jarrow, a transgender woman of color in New Orleans. At 27 years old, Brandi is a successful hairstylist, a woman of faith, and a valued member of her community. She holds an active role in her community despite being a Black queer woman. While many documentaries focusing on queer people revolve around trials and tribulations of A FINE GIRL is an optimistic portrait of a thriving woman in a Deep South community that embraces her.


Anonymous (Working Title)

Zac Manuel – Louisiana

ANONYMOUS is an experimental documentary that explores the expansive spectrum of Black masculinity through Black men and boys’ history and relationship to physical touch.


Eve’s Garden

Carl Harrison, Jr. – Louisiana

A love story to the people of New Orleans and the Saint Roch neighborhood.


Madie Sue

Abbesi Akhamie – North Carolina

This is the story of the filmmaker’s grandmother, Mrs. Madie Stanley. She was born in 1939 in Greenville, North Carolina, and was the first and only child of her mother and father. She didn’t know her father, but word is that he lived in New York City. She was raised by her grandmother and continued a legacy of female preachers. Today Madie is 80 years old and she still drives, attends Bible study, and continues to preach on Sundays when she is requested to do so. This story begs the question with a living legend like Madie, what more work is there for her to do?


Nuestro South Travel Diaries

Dorian Gomez Pestana – North Carolina

During the 1990s and early 2000s, US corporations recruited millions of people from Latin America to the Deep South as a means of developing a cheap labor force. Immigrants were drawn by the promise of economic opportunities and a better life for their children. This is a story told from the perspective of those children. It takes the form of a web series where three hosts will set out on a road trip to explore the places where those who came before them navigate life as immigrants in the Deep South.


¿ Que Pasa, USA? 

Danny Mendoza – Florida

¿Qué pasa, U.S.A.? was a groundbreaking show – the first sitcom to be bilingual, without subtitles, and focused on the experiences of three generations of a Cuban American immigrant family in 1970’s Miami. Distributed by PBS, this show became a national sensation and has a legacy that still helps define Miami today. This film is the true story of how it was made and the impact it has had in the words of those who were there and those who live with it in their hearts still today.


Saltwata Vibes

Sherard Duvall – South Carolina

A brother and sister, descendants of the enslaved from West Africa, are determined to find how modernizing their culture can keep it alive. Enlisting four Gullah Geechee musicians from South Carolina and four musicians from West Africa, they find the key: music.


Satana Deberry

Angela Tucker – Louisiana, Story Set in North Carolina

Black officials in cities with significant black populations face a unique task. They are elected by everyone, to protect everyone, knowing all too well that the worst crimes and policies affect their own race. This feature-length film will explore those tensions, as well as the possibilities for real change, by following two black officials elected in Durham, North Carolina in 2018: Satana Deberry, District Attorney, and Clarence Birkhead, Sheriff of Durham County.


Within, Within

Kiyoko McCrae – Louisiana, Story Set in Tokyo and Kobe, Japan

Filmmaker Kiyoko McCrae retraces her mother and grandmother’s footsteps by returning to her hometown Tokyo and her grandmother’s hometown Kobe. By blending vignettes and stories of surviving family members with poetry and animation, Within, Within, is anchored by her imagining of what life would have been like for her grandmother in post-war Japan, pregnant with her mother, who in turn was carrying the seed of herself, within, within. Through this journey she aims to uncover the legacy of generational trauma of war and violence, the impossible choices we make as mothers and daughters and the humility of love, by weaving a visual tapestry that is part memory, part speculation.


You’re Muslim?

Najma Nuriddin

YOU’RE MUSLIM? is about Najma’s upbringing, identity, and community. This story will be told from an honest, raw and reflective space. Archival footage will visualize the African American Muslim experience. Animation will be used to retell key moments in her childhood. And interviews with her parents will be conducted intimately while they move about their daily lives. Najma will be shown navigating the many worlds that she lives in, exposing the different ways in which she
interacts, engages, and moves through this range of spaces.