Academy Award-nominated director and producer Yance Ford, producer Joslyn Barnes and cinematographer Alan Jacobsen took home the 70th Primetime Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking for Strong Island at the Creative Arts Emmy Award celebration last night.
“Winning the Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking is a tremendous affirmation of the power of non-fiction film to ask difficult but necessary questions about whether justice is available to people of color in the U.S. and around the world,” said Ford. “We have seen time and time again that it is not. But I remain hopeful that we who believe in freedom—black freedom, trans freedom—and equality for all, will, in the end, win out.”
“So many people have been recognized by this award—living and dead that I am humbled to receive it in their names,” Ford continued.
This historic win marks the first time an openly transgender, African American filmmaker has won this award. Strong Island was previously nominated for the 2018 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and received a Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Documentary in 2017.
“I am humbled and honored that The Academy has chosen to recognize the uncompromised vision of Strong Island,” said Alan Jacobsen. “For seven years, Yance and I worked to create an experiential visual world that would inexorably compel the viewer to confront ideas and assumptions about systemic bias in our justice system. This award validates the power and urgent responsibility of cinema to confront hard questions and speak the truth to power. I am grateful for the honor.”
“What drew me to the project was the courage and integrity of filmmaker Yance Ford, his collaborative spirit, which is crucial to me as a creative producer, and our shared desire to focus on the issue of fear,” says producer Joslyn Barnes. “Winning [this] Emmy is a beautiful honor…I hope this will be hugely helpful in launching [Yance] as a director because his voice is important and that most rare thing: Necessary.”
A true-crime documentary, Strong Island centers on the 1992 death of Ford’s brother, William, a 24-year-old African American teacher in New York, who was shot by a white auto mechanic. The team created the feature over a seven-year period, culminating in its award-winning premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.