“In 1992, 11,175 black men were murdered in the United States. That number does not include my brother because his death was not a crime.”
On November 27th, I spoke those words to a room filled with celebrities and independent filmmakers as my Creative Capital project, the feature documentary Strong Island, won the 2017 Gotham Award for Best Documentary. That evening was another incredible step in a creative process that began over 25 years ago and premiered at Sundance last January. It has been an exciting year!
Telling an intimate story set within ones’ family involving a murder case requires a unique balance of dis-ease and obligation. It felt impossible and inevitable. Strong Island was the film I needed to make before I moved on to the movies I want to make. Creative Capital understood that.
I became a Creative Capital grantee in January 2012 and in July 2012 attended the Creative Capital Retreat. That retreat was another turning point in the odyssey of turning my family’s story into a documentary film that asks urgent questions about our judicial system and the un-interrogated fear that runs through it. Creative Capital introduced me to the idea of strategic planning and career sustainability. Creative Capital gave every artist in my cohort the space to ask questions, to be unsure of what was “next” and gave me the support to keep working on Strong Island.
On September 15th, Strong Island launched in over 190 countries on Netflix and opened in limited theatrical release: another exciting milestone. I have traveled the world with Strong Island from Berlin to Cape Town to Toronto and New York—in these cities and beyond the struggle to dismantle inherent bias of judicial systems continues. It is no longer a question of if. The data has caught up to and bares out the lived experience of families like the one in Strong Island.
Film Quarterly has called Strong Island “a masterpiece for difficult times.” I can think of no better tribute to the community of funders that came together to make Strong Island possible. I am grateful and proud that Creative Capital is among them.
I look forward to the day when I, like the artist advisors at my first Retreat, can help another filmmaker embrace uncertainty while moving forward. In the meantime, I encourage you to join the community of individuals who support Creative Capital as they continue to support artists like me.
Yance Ford, Director — Strong Island
2012 Creative Capital Awardee