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On September 9, 1971, inmates at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York enacted the largest prison uprising in United States history, taking staff as hostages. After protracted negotiations and a five-day standoff, the New York State Police raided the facility with shocking brutality, leaving 43 dead, followed by vicious reprisals against survivors and then an elaborate cover-up. It was the bloodiest one-day clash on American soil since the US Civil War. Now, five decades later, when the country has the world’s highest incarceration rate, the story of what happened at Attica deserves fresh attention.
Marcia Smith is president and co-founder of Firelight Media, which produces documentary films, provides artistic and financial support to emerging filmmakers of color, and builds impact campaigns to connect documentaries to audiences and social justice advocates. Under her leadership, Firelight Media was honored with a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Firelight Media’s flagship Documentary Lab program has supported more than 80 emerging filmmakers over the past decade, who have premiered at festivals such as Sundance, and gone on to earn numerous festival, Peabody, and Emmy awards.
She has written several films alongside documentarian Stanley Nelson including: Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities; Through the Fire: The Legacy of Barack Obama; Freedom Riders; Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple; Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind; and The Murder of Emmett Till, for which Smith received a Primetime Emmy nomination and won the Writers’ Guild Award for best nonfiction writing. She also was honored with a 2016 Muse Award from New York Women in Film & Television, as well as the 2019 Luminary Award from BlackStar Film Festival. Marcia will also serve as the writer for Firelight’s upcoming four-hour documentary series, Creating the New World, on the transatlantic slave trade.