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SFFILM Festival

Art as Activism: Tackling Racism through Storytelling

As violence once again reminds us of the realities of racism in this country, we talk to Bay Area artists on how their approach to tackling issues of racism in their work has evolved over time.

The live Q&A will take place on this page, and a video recording will be posted here shortly afterward.


Live Talk

Sat, Apr 10 at 4:00 pm PST

Live Talk


Race and identity have long shaped the process of culture creation. As violence once again reminds us of the realities of racism in this country, we talk to Bay Area artists on how their approach to tackling issues of racism in their work has evolved over time. From emerging voices to veteran storytellers, we discuss the different ways that activism has manifested in and influenced their work and their identity, as well as how their voices shape activism in their respective communities. Join us for an open conversation about navigating the deeply personal, social, and political realm of tackling racism through storytelling. (Moderated by Anne Lai, Executive Director, SFFILM)

Panelist Elizabeth Lo

Elizabeth Lo is an award-winning filmmaker whose work has been broadcast and showcased internationally, including at Sundance, MoMA Museum of Modern Art, SXSW, IDFA, True/False, Tribeca, Hot Docs, New York Times Op-Docs, Field of Vision, and PBS’ POV. Elizabeth has been featured in Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film and DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40 List, Cannes Lion’s New Directors’ Showcase, and the artist academies of the New York Film Festival (NYFF) and Locarno Film Festivals. Elizabeth’s award-winning short films – including Hotel 22, Bisonhead, Mother’s Day, The Disclosure President, Last Stop in Santa Rosa, Treasure Island, Notes from Buena Vista – have been released for distribution to educational institutions and libraries around the world. Elizabeth graduated with a B.F.A. from NYU Tisch School of the Arts in 2010, and an M.F.A. from Stanford University in 2015. Elizabeth’s debut feature documentary, STRAY, won the Top Jury Prize at the Hot Docs International Film Festival and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award after premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2020. STRAY was released theatrically by Magnolia Pictures and Dogwoof in 2021. Most recently, Elizabeth was selected for the Concordia Studio Fellowship to develop her second feature-length film.

Panelist Nijla Mu'min

Nijla Mu’min is a writer and filmmaker from the East Bay Area. Named one of 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine in 2017, she tells stories about black girls and women who find themselves between worlds and identities. Her filmmaking and screenwriting have been supported by Sundance Institute, IFP, Film Independent, Women In Film LA, and the Princess Grace Foundation. In 2014, she was selected for the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Intensive, and she was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Screenplay at the 2014 Urbanworld Film Festival, for her script Noor. Her short film Dream was acquired by Issa Rae Productions for online streaming in 2017. Her debut feature film, Jinn, starring Zoe Renee and Simone Missick, premiered at the 2018 South By Southwest Film Festival, where she won the Special Jury Recognition Award for Screenwriting. In 2018, she directed an episode of Ava DuVernay’s critically-acclaimed series Queen Sugar. She recently wrote for the upcoming Apple series, Swagger. She directed an episode of HBO’s Insecure in 2019, and wrote for the Starz show Blindspotting in 2020. She is currently in development on her second feature film, Mosswood Park.

Panelist Lourdes Portillo

Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and raised in Los Angeles, Lourdes Portillo has been making award-winning films about Latin American, Mexican, and Chicano/a experiences and social justice issues for nearly thirty years. Since her first film, After the Earthquake (Después del Terremoto) (1979), she has produced and directed over a dozen works that reveal her signature hybrid style as a visual artist, investigative journalist, and activist. Portillo’s completed films include the Academy Award® and Emmy® Award nominated Las Madres: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (1986), La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead (1988), Columbus on Trial (1992), The Devil Never Sleeps (1994), Corpus: A Home Movie for Selena (1999), My McQueen (2004), and Al Más Allá (2008). Her feature-length film, Señorita Extraviada (2001), a documentary about the disappearance and death of young women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, received a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Havana International Film Festival, the Nestor Almendros Award at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, and an Ariel, the Mexican Academy of Film Award. In 2016 Portillo received the Anonymous Was a Woman Award and grant for her body of work, and in 2017 she was honored with the Career Achievement Award by The International Documentary Association (IDA).

Panelist Boots Riley

Activist, filmmaker, and musician, former FilmHouse resident and SFFILM grantee Boots Riley studied film at San Francisco State University before rising to prominence as the front man of hip-hop groups The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club. His debut feature film Sorry to Bother You premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, was acquired by Annapurna Pictures, and was released to resounding box office success and widespread critical acclaim.

His book of lyrics and anecdotes, Tell Homeland Security-We Are The Bomb, is out on Haymarket Press. He is the recipient of the Independent Spirit Awards for Best Feature Film, and SFFILM’s Kanbar Award. He is currently working on the dark absurdist comedy I’m a Virgo for Amazon.

Panelist Daisuke "Dice" Tsutsumi

Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, originally from Japan, is a filmmaker and painter. A graduate from The School of Visual Arts in New York, Dice has worked as a visual development/color key artist at Blue Sky Studios on Ice Age, Robots and Horton Hears a Who! His credits at Pixar Animation include Lighting Art Director for Toy Story 3 and Monsters University. Dice is a co-founder of an independent animation studio Tonko House. His directorial debut on the animated short film The Dam Keeper earned him an Oscar nomination along with his directing partner Robert Kondo. His charity projects including The Totoro Forest Project and Sketchtravel are recognized as the recipient of the 2021 June Foray Award from ASIFA Hollywood. He is currently directing his original story ONI as a Netflix mini series.