The first photo professionally taken of six-month-old Martine and her mother, Felita Granby in Texas. Still from The Mask that Grins and Lies Credit: courtesy Martine Granby

Los Angeles and New York might still be the film industry’s biggest hubs, but Kartemquin Films is a reminder that, with support, filmmakers can thrive in Chicago too.

Ahead of their Empowering Truth benefit luncheon, Kartemquin Films announced the 12 recipients of their 2019 Diverse Voices Accelerator Fund and Emerging Storyteller Fund grants. Grantees are emerging documentary filmmaker who have participated in one of Kartemquin’s filmmaker development programs, such as Diverse Voices in Docs, or are engaged in coproductions with the company that tell stories not often covered in popular media; the DVID fellowship is intended for documentarians of color. Themes among the selected films include subjects such as gender equity in brewing and the impacts of immigration and displacement.

In June, Latesha Dickerson stepped away from her 22-year teaching career to delve into documentary filmmaking full-time, a feat she says was mostly made possible by her involvement with Kartemquin as a DVID fellow in 2017.

Through the fellowship Dickerson learned about pitching films to funders, the process of film distribution, and other topics. Now, she’s combined her filmmaking skills with her passion for education in her documentary, Teaching While Black, which explores how Chicago-area schools may be pushing Black teachers away from the profession.

“There was a high school I was in on the north side, there were less than five—probably less than three [Black teachers],” she said. “I saw a lot of peer professionals that were Black, security staff, cafeteria food service workers, but not a lot of ‘This is the science teacher in the classroom and she is Black.'”

Martine Granby is another 2019 grantee, which follows her 2015 DVID fellowship. For her new film The Mask That Grins and Lies, she began by centering mental health in Black communities, but the project soon turned into an introspective look into her own family’s struggles with mental health.

“The process became [my family] pinpointing points in our past where it became so clear that we needed to talk about x, y, and z and we didn’t. The film really talks about the why and how we moved forward,” Granby said.

Though Granby moved back to her home state of New York in 2017, she still calls Chicago home, and Kartemquin her film family. She’ll be attending the October 29 luncheon, which will feature a one-minute preview of The Mask That Grins and Lies along with select other films.

“So many people need to see this [film], and you don’t really know if anyone outside that community would care or want to see it,” Granby says. “For Kartemquin to give this funding and acknowledge the film, it really means a lot. This goes beyond me, myself, my family and my community.” v