Grants & Awards

Strong Island

– by Yance Ford

    1. Nonfiction

    2. Date Awarded: Winter 2011 & Summer 2009

    3. Directors(s): Yance Ford

    1. Producer(s): Esther Robinson

    1. Film Status: In Post-Production

About the Film:

In April 1992, William Ford, a black 24-year-old teacher argued with a white 19-year-old mechanic about the quality of a repair job. This common scenario turned deadly when the mechanic retrieved a .22 caliber rifle from the shop office and shot Ford once in the chest. Though he was unarmed, the mechanic claimed self-defense. When a Grand Jury decided not to pursue charges, his killer returned to his life and his family retreated into a devastating silence. Now, nearly 20 years after her brother’s death, director Yance Ford is asking questions. Set in the suburbs of the black middle class, Strong Island is a classic investigation propelled by the director’s search for answers that might heal what remains of her shattered family.  Each character in the film holds a unique perspective on her brother’s death: his childhood friend who witnessed the shooting, the detective who lead the investigation, the prosecutors, his mother, sister and potentially his killer. Through intimate interviews the details of the shooting and its aftermath emerge, each character providing insight into the complexities of fear, guilt, racial violence, criminal justice and betrayal; each revealing the human dimension of tragedy; each revealing how easily things fall apart.

About the Filmmakers:

Yance Ford (Director/Producer) is Series Producer of POV and has been instrumental in curating the acclaimed documentary film series on PBS since 2002. A graduate of Hamilton College and the production workshop at Third World Newsreel, Strong Island is her first film. Esther Robinson (Producer) has worked on behalf of America’s artists for more than 15 years in many capacities including: foundation program officer, film & television producer/director, technology entrepreneur and arts activist. She is the founder of ArtHome an entrepreneurial nonprofit that helps artists build assets and equity through financial literacy, homeownership, self-sufficiency and the responsible use of credit. Robinson is also an award-winning filmmaker and producer (with a film and television degree from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts). Chosen as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2006, her critically acclaimed directorial debut A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and The Warhol Factory took top prizes at the Berlin, Tribeca and Chicago film festivals; and is available on DVD, on The Sundance Channel, Netflix and itunes. Other producing projects include Cameron Yates’ The Canal Street Madam, Darius Marder’s Savior, Doug Block’s Home Page, the digital satellite release of The Last Broadcast to five cities; and three seasons of the award winning PBS series Alive From Off Center. From 1999-2006, Robinson served as the Director of Film/Video and Performing Arts for the Creative Capital Foundation and was one of the principal architects of its innovative grant-making system. She is also a contributing editor to Filmmaker Magazine, a co-director of the Cinema Eye Honors and a board member of Women Make Movies.