Black Public Media hosts Sam Pollard Film Retrospective during PitchBLACK

Select films by the 2024 Trailblazer Award recipient will stream free during BPM’s PitchBLACK season. The Trailblazer honor is one of six awards being presented at PitchBLACK, for a total of $610,000.

Every spring, since 2021, Black Public Media has presented a Trailblazer Award during its annual PitchBLACK Forum & Awards event. This year, the award is presented to acclaimed filmmaker Sam Pollard. As part of its celebration, BPM will host a retrospective of Pollard’s prolific body of work that includes virtual and in-person screenings. The two-week virtual retrospective runs Mon., April 22- Sun., May 5. BPM is partnering with several nonprofit and educational institutions across the country to co-host in-person community screenings of Pollard’s work, many of which will be followed by conversations with the filmmaker.

“Sam Pollard’s films have been a staple of my personal film library for as long as I can remember,” says Leslie Fields-Cruz, BPM’s executive director. “It’s rare to find a filmmaker who has been so prolific in both television and film, across narrative and documentary genres. Sam also is a beloved mentor and friend to SO many filmmakers. I can think of no one more deserving of BPM’s Trailblazer Award.”

BPM’s Trailblazer Award is given to documentary filmmakers whose body of work and commitment to mentoring emerging Black filmmakers are exemplary. Past recipients include: Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster, (2019) Marco Williams (2021 Trailblazer), Orlando Bagwell (2022 Trailblazer), and Yoruba Richen (2023).

Between 1990 and 2010, Pollard edited several of Spike Lee’s films, including: Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle FeverGirl 6Clockers, and Bamboozled. He and Lee also co-produced documentary productions for the small and big screen, 4 Little Girls, a feature-length documentary about the 1963 Birmingham church bombings, which was nominated for an Academy Award, and When The Levees Broke, a four-part documentary that won numerous awards, including a Peabody and three Emmy Awards. Five years later, he co-produced and supervised the edit on the follow up to Levees: If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise.

In the decade that followed, Pollard’s work as a producer/director generated several documentaries that have aired on PBS American Masters, the Discovery Channel and HBO. In 2023, he partnered with his long-time collaborators Geeta Gandbhir and Alisa Payne to form Message Pictures. The company’s mission is to amplify quiet voices, throw light in the shadows and share stories that dare to be told. 

“We look forward to celebrating Sam’s work and giving viewers another chance to appreciate the breadth and depth of his storytelling,” Fields-Cruz said. “In his capable hands, our stories are crafted by an artist whose commitment to integrity, justice and grace are held in equal measure with his desire to inform, amuse and entertain. The canon of American film is  enriched by the work of Sam Pollard.” 

BPM’s Sam Pollard Film Retrospective includes Style Wars (1983); Eyes on the Prize, episodes 2 and 5 (1990); 4 Little Girls (1997); Bamboozled (2000); Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power (2022); andMax Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes (2023).

The Sam Pollard Film Retrospective is available on-demand at no charge to all PitchBLACK registrants during the two-week window.

PitchBLACK opens on Wed., April 24, with the PitchBLACK Forum, featuring five documentary film teams and six emerging media teams competing for up to $150,000 in production funding. The Forum is hosted by Tameka Kee. PitchBLACK concludes on Thurs., April 25, with an awards ceremony honoring Pollard, the 2024 Nonso Christian Ugbode Fellow (to be announced), winner of the Jacquie Jones Memorial Fund Award (to be announced), and winners of the PitchBLACK Forum. BPM will distribute a total of $610,000 in awards during the ceremony. Jazz vocalist Andromeda Turre will offer a musical selection in tribute to Pollard, NPR’s Brittany Luse will conduct a Filmmaker’s Chat with Pollard, and the ceremony will be hosted by Baltimore-based comedian “Sir Alex” Robinson. The festivities conclude with an afterparty featuring DJ King Iven.

All PitchBLACK events are hybrid. In-person guests will attend at The Greene Space in Manhattan. PitchBLACK Awards will be held at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse of Lincoln Center. Once registered, online guests will receive a virtual access code the day of the events.

All Pollard Retrospective tickets are free, but viewers must register through the PitchBLACK portal to receive access. Go here to register. For breaking news about these events, visit the BPM website, or follow Black Public Media on Facebook and Instagram.

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