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DC/DOX Film Festival 2024

Reality Check Panel: Documentary and the Real World – Impact Case Studies

Saturday, June 15
11:45 AM - 1:00 PM

Planet Word, Friedman Family Auditorium

925 13th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005

Reality Check Panel: Documentary and the Real World – Impact Case Studies

Cecilia R. Mejia, Moderator; Vice President of External Affairs, American Documentary | POV

Darcy McKinnon, Producer, Under G-d and The Neutral Ground

Lisa Y. Allen, Impact Producer, First Vote

Yi Chen, Director, First Vote

Maya Cueva, Co-director & Producer, On the Divide

The potential has never been greater for documentary filmmaking to serve as a catalyst for critical conversations that can lead to real fundamental change and affect policy. However, the question remains: what practical steps are required to make this a reality? This is where impact producers come in. Through impact case studies presented by filmmakers and impact producers, this panel will spotlight specific impact campaigns and share tools and best practices applicable to reaching diverse audiences and contexts. Panelists will delve into successful initiatives on both federal and local levels, shedding light on effective strategies for effecting change. 

Curated by POV | American Documentary

Producer, Gusto Moving Pictures, Under G-d and The Neutral Ground

Darcy McKinnon is a documentary filmmaker based in New Orleans, whose work focuses on the American South and the Caribbean. Recently released projects include A King Like Me and Roleplay, premiering at SXSW 2024, Commuted (PBS, 2024), Algiers, America (Hulu, 2023), Under G-d (Sundance 2023), Look at Me! XXXTENTACION (SXSW, Hulu, 2022) and The Neutral Ground (Tribeca, POV, 2021), recipient of LEH Documentary of the Year 2022. Current projects in production include Jason Fitzroy Jeffers’ The First Plantation, Abe Felix’s Turnaround, CJ Hunt’s Unlearned, and Suzannah Herbert’s Natchez. Her work has been on POV, Reel South, LPB, Cinemax, and Hulu and has screened at Sundance, Tribeca, SXSW, CPH:DOX, and more. Darcy is an alum of the Impact Partners Producing Fellowship and the Sundance Institute Creative Producing Fellowship, and a recipient of American Documentary’s Creative Visionary Award in 2023.

Vice President of External Affairs, American Documentary | POV

Cecilia R. Mejia is a second-generation Filipino-American born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She has worked for over a decade in development for nonprofit organizations, including NGOs at the United Nations. Cecilia has several producing credits on films focusing on critical social impact issues, including the award-winning feature films Yellow Rose (Sony, 2020) and Lingua Franca (Array, 2020) and the documentary feature Who We Become (Array, 2023). Concurrent with her work, Cecilia is also an adjunct at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, teaching courses designed for the next generation of social impact producers and filmmakers.

She founded Remedias Productions, a production company focused on social impact storytelling and producing. Her documentary and narrative film work have been screened at festivals, including Tribeca Festival, Cannes Film Festival, and CAAMFest; she has been featured in numerous profiles and has published widely about the impact producer profession. She was one of the 2022-2023 recipients awarded NYU’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award, which acknowledges outstanding faculty who exemplify the spirit of Dr. King through scholarship and justice work and who promote his principles in their research, teaching, leadership, and community-building efforts.

Impact Producer, First Vote

Lisa Y. Allen is a distribution strategist and impact producer based in Washington, DC. She builds partnerships for documentary films, focusing on issues of Asian-American voting, criminal justice reform, addiction and recovery, LGBTQ+, and safe and dignified housing. Films include First Vote (2020 America ReFramed, Hot Springs, Hawaii), Home Is a Hotel (2023 SFFILM, Big Sky, Austin), No Matter What (2023 Association for Justice-Involved Females and Organizations), and Mama Has a Mustache (2021 Mountainfilm, Outfest, Mill Valley, Nantucket). She has organized film events and speaking engagements with companies, conferences, and nonprofits, including JPMorgan Chase, Impossible Foods, Google, United Way Bay Area, PFLAG, and Grace Cathedral. Previously, Lisa was festival manager at Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival, served as a Japanese-English interpreter for The Phillips Collection Japan Tour, head of outreach at Kyoto Journal, and outreach director at Meridian Hill Pictures and their 2015 film City of Trees.

Documentary Filmmaker, First Vote

Yi Chen is an independent documentary filmmaker and founded C35 Films to focus on social justice storytelling by filmmakers of color to advance new narratives from underrepresented perspectives with high-impact distribution to engage targeted audiences, start conversations, and drive social change. Yi’s films have been screened at the Berlinale European Film Market, IDFA Docs for Sale, Hot Docs Doc Shop, and AFI DOCS. First Vote (2020, PBS Distribution) qualified for the 93rd Academy Awards and won a Telly Award. The film partnered with civic engagement organizations to mobilize Asian American voters in 2020. Dissidents (2024, Java Films) investigates one of the most unusual criminal complaints of recent times – a Chinese dissident artist’s new sculpture in the Mojave Desert was burnt down, and the man who posed as an art collector was alleged for spying and destroying the sculpture on behalf of the Chinese government. Yi’s work has received support from Ford Foundation JustFilms, Open Society Foundations, ITVS, Center for Asian American Media, New York Foundation for the Arts, and DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. She was a 2019 Soros Equality Fellow and holds an MFA in Film and Media Arts from American University.

Film Director & Producer

Maya is a Latina award-winning director and producer with a background in documentary, radio, and audio production. She was a Netflix Nonfiction Director and Producer fellow, where she worked on a documentary feature and series. She was also listed on DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40 Filmmakers, co-presented by HBO Documentary Films. Maya’s work has been featured on The New Yorker, NPR’s All Things Considered, Latino USA, The Atlantic, Teen Vogue, and National Geographic. She received a student Emmy for her short film, The Provider, and her feature film, On the Divide, premiered in the documentary competition at Tribeca Film Festival in 2021. She was also a Sundance Ignite fellow in 2019. Her most recent short documentary, Ale Libre, was acquired by The New Yorker and was selected to screen at several Oscar-qualifying festivals, including Big Sky Documentary Festival, Hot Docs, Aspen Film Festival, and SFFILM. On the Divide was broadcast on POV on PBS in Spring 2022, reaching over a million viewers, and has screened around the world. Her current documentary in production follows the story of her grandfather, Dr. Quentin Young, who was the personal physician to Fred Hampton and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and explores his fight for free healthcare, which triggered FBI surveillance and harassment.