The Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers West (BADWest) - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers West (BADWest)

The Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers West (BADWest) proudly announces its first-ever award recipient – that is, acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson, as the recipient of the St. Clair Bourne Vanguard Award for his body of work and contributions to documentary filmmaking. 

This month, BADWest wrapped up its membership drive with a private reception and master class, honoring Nelson on January 9, 2020, at the Inner-City Arts in downtown Los Angeles. He was presented with the Vanguard award after his presentation, taking attendees down memory lane with clips from some of his most important works. The event was hosted by BADWest in partnership with  the International Documentary Association (IDA).

A chronicler of the African-American experience. Nelson is behind such films as “Freedom Summer,” “Sweet Honey in the Rock,” “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” – just to name a few, works that are essential documents of African-American history, culture, and experience. Nelson and his body of work have garnered every major award in the industry. A MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, the prolific filmmaker has received an Emmy Award, an individual Peabody Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences as well as a National Medal in Humanities from President Barack Obama.  This year, it was nominated for a Grammy Award in Best Music Film. 

“It’s only fitting that we give Stanley Nelson our first Vanguard Award, named after documentary filmmaker and BADWest founder St. Clair Bourne, who also was a mentor to Stanley. These two filmmakers are shining examples of storytellers who offer important portrayals of the Black experience on the big and small screen,” said Denise Hamilton, co-chair of BADWest, on behalf of BADWest officers; co-chair David Massey and treasurer Joyce Guy.

Nelson’s latest film, “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” is a definitive look at the life and career of the iconic Miles Davis. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019, marking Nelson’s tenth premiere at the prestigious festival in 20 years -- the most premieres of any documentary filmmaker.

"I am honored to receive this award, especially from BADWest and IDA, organizations that Firelight is proud to work alongside as we make room for more documentary filmmakers of color. Speaking to young filmmakers during Q & As and masterclasses is something I am grateful to do at this point in my career, and it was a wonderful time. Thank you to everyone at BADWest and IDA for a wonderful event, and the honor," said Nelson, co-founder of the production company, Firelight Media, with his wife, Marcia A. Smith.
In recognizing Nelson, BADWest selects “Miles Davis: Birth of Cool” as its top pick for Black docs of the year. 

The other picks include:

BADWest 2019 Top Black Documentaries
  1. “Miles Davis: Birth of Cool,” directed by Stanley Nelson
  2. “The Apollo,” directed by Roger Ross Williams
  3. “Amazing Grace: Aretha Franklin,” directed by Sydney Pollack, Alan Eliott
  4. “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
  5. “Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes,” directed by Sophie Huber

For more information about BADWest, visit

The Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers West (BAD West) is a professional organization providing people of African descent working in documentary film, video or other media the opportunity to network professionally, share resources, exchange ideas and meet socially in order to enhance the development, production, promotion, and exhibition of documentaries. BADWest also advocates the recognition and professional advancement of Black documentary filmmakers. For more information, visit

The mission of the International Documentary Association (IDA) is dedicated to building and serving the needs of a thriving documentary culture. Through its programs, the IDA provides resources, creates community, and defends rights and freedoms for documentary artists, activists, and journalists. For more information, visit

ON A SOCIAL NOTE:                 

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