2022 Cucalorus Works-In-Progress Lab Filmmakers

📢 Announcement! 📢 We are delighted to continue our partnership with Cucalorus Film Foundation for the 14th annual Works-in-Progress Lab (WiP) and excited to reveal the 2022 cohort of filmmakers who are working on stories exploring music’s cultural impact on society, self-made hair stylists creating authentic hairstyles, and a Detroit mother fighting for freedom. Send your congrats to the filmmakers! 🎉

The Cucalorus Works-in-Progress Lab, co-designed and coordinated by Working Films, serves filmmakers making social justice documentaries, with a focus on Black filmmakers.

The following documentary films were selected for the Cucalorus 2022 WiP lab:

2022 Works-in-Progress Lab Filmmakers

Black Strings by Marquise Mays

Marquise Mays headshot

An all-African American string orchestra in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, performs in the immediate aftermath of incidents of gun violence, altering the notion of “first responders.”

Marquise Mays is an award-winning filmmaker and film professor based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Experienced in an array of media and arts practices—from cinematic storytelling to exhibition curation—Marquise brings imagination, technical expertise, and cultural awareness to entertainment productions, journalistic undertakings or media-rich events and civic engagements. He holds a M.A in Cinema and Media Studies from the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California (USC) and a B.A in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison).

Tribal Strands by Suzette Burton

Suzette Burton headshot

Self-made hair stylists create authentic hairstyles, leading the anti-hair discrimination movement. They inspire people to embrace their natural hair worldwide while exploring the intersections between modern and ancient African tribal indigenous hairstyles.

Suzette Burton is an award-winning filmmaker and received a B.F.A. in Film/Video from Pratt Institute. She has directed the short documentary film “Disconnected” about her father’s mysterious death, which premiered at The B.A.M. Theater (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in 2006. Since graduating, she has co-produced the documentary “Daddy Don’t Go,” directed by Emily Abt. The film was also executive produced by Omar Epps and Malik Yoba. It aired on the Starz network in 2015 and screened at over 30 film festivals, winning eight best documentary awards. Suzette has also worked as a co-director, producer, cinematographer, and editor.


Raza Rap by Camilo Hannibal Smith

Camilo Hannibal Smith headshot

The untold story of how Chicanos created their own rap scene in the largest city in the South.

Camilo Hannibal Smith is an Afro-Latino filmmaker and journalist based in Houston, Texas. He began shooting his first documentary film Raza Rap Project in the fall of 2018.  It’s the untold story of Southern Latino rap from Houston, through the eyes of the city’s first Latino gangster rapper, Ikeman, and Uncle Tino, a rapper fighting to realize his truest self. Camilo’s work is focused on storytelling that lies at the intersections of history, identity, culture, and justice. He’s created video content and written about hip-hop in Venezuela and Mexico, where he presented a multimedia project at Postopolis! (2010) about Mexico City’s underground rap scene. He directed and produced the short news doc Petare: a little hope for the most dangerous slum in the world, about a Christian rapper in Caracas in 2014.

I Believe in Our Power by Kimberly P. Mitchell and Siwatu-Salama Ra

Kimberly Mitchell headshot

Detroit mother and organizer Siwatu-Salama Ra fights for freedom following an unjust conviction, and shares her story as a love letter to her children.

Co-director Kimberly P. Mitchell developed a strong commitment to creating socio-economic change through dynamic, storytelling, photography and video at the Detroit Free Press. Dedicated to covering local issues in metro Detroit, she has documented the passing of civil rights activist Rosa Parks, Michigan prison neglect and the abandonment of inmates, Super Bowl XL nightlife, rare diseases like Progeria, and homelessness affecting children. She hopes to honestly reflect the people, events and moments that have defined the community through her photography.

I Believe in Our Power by Kimberly P. Mitchell and Siwatu-Salama Ra

Siwatu-Salama Ra headshot

Siwatu-Salama Ra is a mother and organizer who was born and raised in Detroit. She grew up in the environmental justice movement, and served as the co-director of East Michigan Environmental Action Council. In addition to her work locally and across the country, Siwatu represented Detroit and the United States at global social justice events in France, Turkey, and Senegal. She also led youth organizing and media justice work with the Young Educators Alliance and Detroit Future Youth. In March of 2018 Siwatu was incarcerated for defending herself, her mother, and daughter. At the time she was in her third trimester of pregnancy and was forced to give birth to her beautiful son during her imprisonment. After nearly nine months at Michigan Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, Siwatu was released in November 2018 on bond, in order to appeal her unjust conviction and was reunited with her family. In August 2019 she won her appeal and her conviction was reversed. In February 2020 she won her total freedom. She continues to advocate for the liberation and dignity of thousands of women and people inside Michigan’s Women’s prison, as well as organize for environmental justice, climate justice, and a world without prisons or militarism. FreeSiwatu.org

Salsa, A Caribbean Swing by Beni Marquez

Beni Marquez headshot

Afro-Venezuelan director Beni Marquez explores salsa music’s cultural legacy and evolution from the heart of Caribbean barrios to New York in Salsa, A Caribbean Swing.

Beni Marquez is an Afro-Venezuelan filmmaker and music video director from San Agustin, Caracas. His current project Salsa, A Caribbean Swing (Salsa, un tumbao’ caribeño) explores salsa music’s cultural legacy and contemporary realities from the heart of Caribbean barrios to New York City. Beni’s African ancestry, experience as an Afro-Latino immigrant, and upbringing in San Agustin, a working-class barrio in Caracas, guide his filmmaking approach and serve as inspirations for this story. Beni’s previous documentary, Mamá África (2018), focused on the timeless cultural connections between Nigeria and Venezuela.

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