Harvard University today announced the establishment of the Black Film Project with Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. serving as director.
The newly created initiative is designed to support any filmmaker who focuses on Black history and culture, and will support both narrative and documentary projects. It will be housed at the Hutchins Center in partnership with Harvard’s Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies (AFVS).
“We want the Black Film Project to identify, celebrate, and seed the work of talented artists of any ethnicity and, in doing so, to create an environment in which this renaissance can continue for many years to come.”
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“I’m thrilled to see the Black Film Project come to fruition. This work marks an important contribution to filmmaking about African and African American history and culture, and I can think of no better person or place to lead and uphold this work than Professor Gates and the Hutchins Center,” said Hopi Hoekstra, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
In partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, the Black Film Project will inaugurate the Henry Hampton Prize for Documentary Filmmaking on Black History and Culture, awarding $200,000 annually to a first-place winner.
“I conceived of the Black Film Project as a way of contributing to the growing momentum of filmmaking about the Black experience, and as a way of honoring the field that has given me my second career,” said Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research. “The field is in the midst of a renaissance, one fueled by the democratization of filmmaking technology and an ever-growing demand for exciting new stories about Black culture and history that entertain and educate. We want the Black Film Project to identify, celebrate, and seed the work of talented artists of any ethnicity and, in doing so, to create an environment in which this renaissance can continue for many years to come.”
“We in AFVS and the Film Study Center are thrilled to welcome the Black Film Project to Harvard’s thriving filmmaking community. It is an extraordinary opportunity to work alongside exceptional filmmakers telling stories of the Black experience,” said Robb Moss, professor in Art, Film, and Visual Studies.
A second prize of $50,000 — the Baldwin Richardson Food Prize — will be awarded to a filmmaker to support completion of their projects.
The brainchild of Gates, who is also an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, the Black Film Project has established two prizes. In partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, the Black Film Project will inaugurate the Henry Hampton Prize for Documentary Filmmaking on Black History and Culture to provide support for independent filmmakers of late-stage full-length documentary films exploring themes about African Americans, Africans, or Afro-Latin Americans. Named for the filmmaker behind the seminal docuseries “Eyes on the Prize,” the Henry Hampton Prize will award $200,000 annually to a first-place winner. Additionally, the annual Baldwin Richardson Food Prize, funded by philanthropist Eric G. Johnson, will enable a filmmaker of any genre to finish their projects with a second prize of $50,000. Harvard and the Smithsonian will set up an internal review committee and a national jury to select recipients of both prizes.
“The Henry Hampton Prize will help independent filmmakers tell important stories about the Black experience, both historic and contemporary,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, secretary of the Smithsonian. “I’ve known Dr. Gates for a long time; he is a friend of the Smithsonian, and he will be a terrific partner to help us widen the aperture through which Americans see ourselves and each other.”
“This is right in the center of what’s important to Baldwin Richardson Foods, and we hope the prize will be part of a greater effort to engage people in producing work that has significance to the Black community,” said Johnson, chairman of the board of directors for Baldwin Richardson Foods.
The Black Film Project will also establish three annual paid fellowships as part of Hutchins’ W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute Fellowship Program. The three fellows will have joint appointments with AFVS and the Film Study Center. Fellows will make use of Harvard’s extensive research and filmmaking resources, visit classes, meet with faculty and students, present their films to the public, and connect with Boston and New York exhibition opportunities.
Jacqueline Glover, previously head of documentary programming for Onyx Collective and ABC News and senior vice president of HBO Documentary Films, has been appointed the project’s inaugural executive director.
“I’m very honored to be working with Henry Louis Gates Jr. and everyone at the Hutchins Center and in the film programs at Harvard on the Black Film Project,” said Glover. “It is the perfect time to ensure that leading and emerging filmmakers who tell Black stories are supported and celebrated. I am thrilled that, with Harvard’s resources for filmmakers, the Black Film Project will be a central place for storytelling about the Black experience.”