Most fathers would do anything to support their children, even if it means taking on an unconventional job. In Justin Floyd's short film Malleable, the protagonist is given a strange opportunity to provide for his son, bringing up questions of what it means to be a man these days.
"It's a film that focuses on the effects that masculinity has on our self-worth, especially as men," Floyd explained.
For inspiration, he drew on his experiences with his single mother and his Afro-Latino upbringing.
"She embodied this father/mother figure. She had to play both roles," he explained. "And machista in our culture is very heavy and very common."
Black filmmakers can bring different perspectives into films that haven't been explored in that way before, points out Tribeca Festival's features programmer Karen McMullen. For the past two years, the New York-based event has highlighted a special Juneteenth track. This year, Tribeca closed the festival with Loudmouth, a documentary on Reverend Al Sharpton.
"You're not aware of how narrow of a view we've been fed of what the Black experience is until you see stories coming directly out of the community itself," she said.
While we're seeing more diversity on screen, black voices behind the camera still remain underrepresented. About 70 percent of directors are White, according to the 2022 UCLA Hollywood Diversity report. Only approximately 6 percent of directors, writers, and actors are Black, according to U.S. Census and Variety data per McKinsey. Compare that to the general population, which is 13 percent African-American.
"We've had enough of what Hollywood usually produces, and let's make room for different people to tell different stories," McMullen said.
Floyd's film was part of Tribeca's Rising Voices, which returned for a second year in 2022. Indeed CEO Chris Hyams said the company used a budget earmarked for advertising to fund BIPOC filmmakers instead. Filmmakers from the first year went on to work with other companies including Netflix and Showtime, and three of them got additional work through Indeed worth up to $2 million.
"We came up with this very simple idea, which is that we might spend $1 million on a TV ad," he explained. "And instead, what if we found 10, Black, indigenous people of color, BIPOC filmmakers, and ask them each to make a short film about the meaning of work."
Hyams, whose father and brother work in the film industry, saw first-hand how hard it was to break into the insular field.
"There are biases and barriers in the world around us. Employment is one of the areas that they show up," he said. "And when you look, in particular at the film industry, that's even more difficult than many of the other industries."
What Black filmmakers need is sustained financial support, Tribeca's McMullen said. McKinsey estimates that Black filmmakers get 40 percent less funding than the average person.
"There's a narrative that I find very annoying in Hollywood is that all Black and people of color in filmmaking need mentorship," she said. "We know how to tell stories. What is really needed is financing."
Having more diverse voices in filmmaking can inspire future generations. Director Cara Lawson, whose film Crooked Trees Gon Give Me Wings was part of Rising Voices this year, didn't see many people like her directing when she was growing up.
"I did not have a lot of people that were biracial that I could even identify with, let alone like a lot of Black people," she said. "So the fact that they're more now is so inspiring as I come into my own as a filmmaker, as an artist to see other people that look like me is key to my own growth. And I hope that one day in the future, I can do that for some curly-haired biracial girl who wants to make movies."
Her film explores mysticism and midwifery during the time of slavery in the southern United States.
"When those stories are told, and they're elevated, and they're celebrated, audiences get to learn about Black people, specifically, but also more about humanity and all the depths that are part of that," she said.
The way we look at the world is influenced by the people we talk to, Indeed's Hyams added. A lot of times, we're in an echo chamber, surrounded by people who think like us.
"By going outside of our day-to-day experience, and listening to a different voice with a different perspective and a different story, It gives us a new lens to see the world around us and to better understand the people around us, and hopefully see a path to creating a better world," he said.
Having more diverse perspectives can only be a good thing.
"The art that we create is a representation of our communities," director Floyd said. "And communities are such an expression of freedom. And I think that we're all hoping for a better future."