South Summit 2021 Convenes Southern Artists, Filmmakers, and Media Industry


The New Orleans Film Society (NOFS) announced the program for South Summit 2021 which will take place virtually on March 3 – 4, 2021, convening local, regional, and national media makers, arts funders, and institutional stakeholders, with the intent of seeding conversations and actions around creating, resourcing, and amplifying film and media content that shapes how the U.S. sees the South and how the South sees itself. Participation is free and open to the public. South Summit 2021 is made possible with generous support from JustFilms at Ford Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts. Visit to learn more and register.

The 2021 South Summit will be the third iteration, following 2018’s focus on envisioning what it means for Southern filmmaking to thrive, and 2019’s focus on contextualizing and curating film at the intersection of social justice and Southern identity for the cinema, gallery, and museum space.

This year’s event extends the conversation to feature sessions examining how we share power, build mutually beneficial relationships in our region, and mobilize and develop creative leadership and dynamic storytelling within broader power dynamics in film and media that tend to center power on the East and West coast, and with those who benefit from socioeconomic power.

New Orleans Film Society Executive Director Fallon Young said “South Summit 2021 passes the mic to artists and thought-leaders who root their creative journeys in the America South to envision the future of Southern storytelling. We hope South Summit provides a space for deep questioning, bold visioning, and robust dialog that challenges oversimplified narratives about the character and potential of our region, connects artists, and envisions a thriving ecosystem for Southern storytelling.”

The summit will offer two keynote speeches (an opening and closing), four panel discussions, two breakout sessions, and two spoken word performances in addition to four commissioned essays that will be released concurrently with the summit by Southern artists Adam Forrester, Lee Laa Ray Guillory, Michelle Lanier, and Monique Michelle Verdin. South Summit 2021 will begin with a keynote speech by Alabama-based filmmaker Bo Mcguire on lessons he learned from his Alabama-roots that he employed while making his first feature, Socks on Fire, winner of the jury award at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Chaedria LaBouvier’s keynote speech on “How to Live with Your Dead” will end the summit on March 4th. See the full schedule and panel registration links below.



The South Summit is free and open to the public to attend. The Zoom link will remain the same throughout the conference. During breaks between sessions, we’ll be playing Southern tunes. You may either register for the full two-day Summit on this Eventbrite page, or for individual events below (tip: go this route if you’d like to see the South Summit session-by-session on your Google calendar). You will receive an order confirmation from Eventbrite (or multiple, should you choose to register only for select events). On the day of South Summit, you can click “view the event” from your confirmation email to be directed to the Zoom link to join us.


DAY 1 – MARCH 3, 2021 – SCHEDULE


11:00 – 11:15 AM

Welcome Remarks & Land Acknowledgement

Speakers: Fallon Young, Clint Bowie, Zandashé Brown, and Kaila Pulliam Collins

The 2021 South Summit launches on March 3rd with welcoming remarks by New Orleans Film Society staff members Fallon Young, Clint Bowie, and Zandashé Brown. The opening also includes a Land Acknowledgement from NOFS staffer Kaila Pulliam Collins.


11:15 – 12:00 PM

Opening Keynote: “It Still Needs a Title – Reimagining the South in Mariah Carey’s Heels by Bo McGuire”

This note will be delivered by Alabama-based filmmaker Bo McGuire in the key of Mariah Carey with a Dolly Parton twang. It will seek to identify lessons he learned from his own Alabama mama that he employed while making his first feature, Socks on Fire, winner of the jury award at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. This litany will highlight and trace the rich, dependable imaginative, and creative spaces available to (and specific to) Southern film folk as we negotiate all the beautiful, everchanging uncertainties of filmmaking.


12:00 – 12:15 PM – Break


12:15 – 1:15 PM

Session: Reframing Success Through a Regional Lens

Moderated by Kiyoko McCrae, featuring panelists Sharon Arteaga, Edward Buckles, and Christine Hoang

Imagine a world without Sundance – what does it mean for a film’s measure of success if a Sundance premiere or a mention in Variety isn’t on the table? What does success look like if we define it by the power it has to shift narratives, build power and create social change instead?  The film landscape is structured around the notion of prestige and for institutions, it’s being visible, being sought after for partnerships, getting major institutional funding — the focus is often on centering a singular voice and less about collective imaginings. We are structurally incentivized to seek this kind of celebrity, not solidarity. What would it mean for us to look deeper into our immediate surroundings, into our communities here at home and find how our work can find success, validation and build power locally? This conversation will feed into a breakout session around reframing success.


1:15 – 1:45 PM

Breakout Session: Reframing Success Break-Outs

1:45 – 2:00 PM – Break


2:00 – 2:15 PM

Spoken Word Performance: “What’s in Ya Hand?” by Zaire Love

“What’s in ya hand?” explores the power Black folks hold in the South. Zaire Love is a multi-disciplinary artist, award-winning filmmaker, TEDx speaker, and social entrepreneur working and living in the South.

2:15 – 3:30 PM

Session: Collective Leadership in Documentary and the Arts

Moderated by Rahi Hasan, featuring panelists Sufia Ikbal, Ade Oni, and Reeyana Sehgeh

White supremacy and Capitalism forces hierarchical leadership structure. With hierarchy comes competition, with competition, comes urgency. Urgency restricts us from nurturing one another and accessing our own power. What does power look like in a nurturing environment? This panel will feature perspectives from Southern creatives and storytellers committed to re-imagining leadership to build collective power. This panel will explore what decentering leadership means and looks like in the Documentary field through the lens of media collectives. It will also address how competition for resources can be sidelined within underfunded regions like the South, both for artists and nonprofits.


DAY 2 – MARCH 4, 2021 – SCHEDULE


11:30 – 11:40 AM

Welcome Remarks + Day 1 Debrief

Speakers: Fallon Young, Clint Bowie, and Zandashé Brown


11:40 – 12:00 PM

Screening – Hoktiwe: Two Poems in Ishakkoy

Writer Jeffery U. Darensbourg introduces his film with Fernando López, “Hoktiwe: Two Poems in Ishakkoy.” Darensbourg is a writer, editor, and storyteller who is an enrolled member of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Indians of mixed Indigenous, European, and West African ancestry.


12:00 – 1:00 PM

Session: Southern Identity, Place, and Authorship

Moderated by Clint Bowie, featuring panelists Adam Forrester, Lee Laa Ray Guillory, Michelle Lanier, Monique Michelle Verdin

Four Southern artists (Adam Forrester, Lee Laa Ray Guillory, Michelle Lanier, Monique Michelle Verdin) share brief passages from their essays and reflections on topics ranging from storytelling as a survival tactic to ethics and authority in the film world. All work is commissioned for the 2021 South Summit. This conversation will feed into an interactive breakout session with participants.


1:00 – 1:30 PM

Breakout Session: Southern Identity, Place, and Authorship


1:30 PM – 1:45 PM  – Break


1:45 – 2:00 PM

Spoken Word Performance: “Roots” by Kayla Martinez

“Roots” is a perspective on bringing one’s Southerness into a new place. Kayla Martinez, originally from Louisiana, is an undergraduate at the University of Chicago studying Creative Writing and Inequality, Social Problems, and Change.


2:00 – 3:00 PM

Session: Southern Futurism

Moderated by Zandashé Brown, featuring panelists Rodneya Hart, Faren Humes, Daneeta Loretta Jackson, MJ Slide

What does it mean for Southern artists to leverage their firm grasp on the past to envision a better future? This panel invites Southern artists and filmmakers to be creative around the ways we incorporate technology, politics, climate change, and more into our storytelling. We’ll discuss the ways in which a Southern upbringing lends itself to the preservation, sustainability, and imagination.  The American South is radically changing every day and art is at the root of so much of that change. Join this panel of visionary southern artists in imagining a future for a region so well known for its past. Register here.


3:00 – 3:15 PM – Break

3:15 – 4:00 PM

Closing Keynote Speech: How to Live with Your Dead by Chaedria LaBouvier

The South offers a blueprint for a country struggling with how to still integrate its literal

ghosts. The South is built upon coffins, like America. New Orleans has no choice but to live side-

by-side its undead, creating a city in which the veil between the living and dead is thin, if at all.

But it is perhaps what the U.S. may be able to hope for itself. Empire has nothing to offer us,

but the end of the empire may offer us something of integration of history, and with it, the

peace of the truth, for the truth, is the undead.


South Summit received critical support from JustFilms, which is part of the Ford Foundation’s Creativity and Free Expression program, and is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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