Haile Gerima makes movies about social justice, inner-city poverty, and the African American experience. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his films don’t tend to be financed by major studios. He’s typically relied on funding from nonprofits and coproducers in Europe, but this time around, he’s taking a more modern approach by launching a crowdsourcing effort for the first time. There’s just one problem: In a month, the IndieGoGo campaign has only raised about 10 percent of its goal of $500,000, which will be matched by an independent coproducer.
Saaret Yoseph, the campaign’s project manager, isn’t worried. She says she’ll continue working to raise the remaining funds for as long as it takes to make the movie, Yetut Lij, which explores human rights abuses in 1960s Ethiopia. “[Gerima’s] been very vocal about the realities for independent filmmakers, so it is a struggle, and it is challenging. We’re navigating the landscape,” says Yoseph, who is also involved with the film’s production.
The campaign got an unexpected boost on Monday, thanks to the very visible encouragement of Selma director Ava Duvernay. On Twitter, she pleaded with her more than 32,000 followers to help support and promote Gerima’s IndieGoGo campaign—if not because he’s “a giant of cinema,” then because he’s a rare role model, an Ethiopian-born American director who’s continued making films well into his 70s.
“It’s challenging enough for women and people of color filmmakers when they are considered ‘prime.’ How about when you add age?” she tweeted, using her social media influence to start a conversation about race and age bias in Hollywood. The IndieGoGo campaign was set to expire on Wednesday night but has since been extended three weeks.