Little Brother story will receive funding from Southern Documentary Fund

By Cameron Lee

December 15, 2021

The Southern Documentary Fund, a nonprofit founded in 2002 by filmmakers Steve Channing and Cynthia Hill that helps cultivate documentary media in the South, has announced its 2021 grant winners. The fund awards ten projects in the region with $10,000 production grants, and this year’s winners include two notable documentary filmmakers from North Carolina with intriguing subject matters.

The Southern Documentary Fund awarded ten projects throughout the South with $10,000 production grants 

“This year’s applicant pool was rich with Southern talent, telling a vast range of powerful stories from across our region– we were thrilled to be able to expand the recipients from five to ten grantees,” said Southern Documentary Fund Executive Director Kristy Garcia Brenema. “It is an honor to support these voices that are critical to a more accurate telling of America’s story– both historic and current.” 

Holland Randolph Gallagher is a Durham-based filmmaker whose works have been featured in national publications like Okayplayer, HipHopDX, Pigeons & Planes, and Slam. He’s probably now best known for capturing the lives of artists like Charlotte rapper Mavi and Dreamville’s EarthGang through his short documentary series, Rap Portraits. In 2019, Gallagher directed and produced his own web drama, Hype, about a young man who gets caught in the rap and startup world in Durham. Earlier this year, Gallagher released a short documentary following the lives of two young NBA basketball prospects, Josh Hall (Durham) and Ty-Shon Alexander (Charlotte), leading up to the NBA Draft. The film (Hoop Portraits: Two Ways to the League) premiered on the NBA G League’s official YouTube page.  

Big Pooh, 9th Wonder and Phonte of Little Brother pictured in front of Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Gallagher’s documentary feature, May the Lord Watch: The Little Brother Story, will detail the rise, breakup, and reunion of the pioneering North Carolina rap group, Little Brother. This is not a new subject for the filmmaker; in 2019, Gallagher released a short documentary titled,​​ The Listening: The Story Behind Little Brother’s Debut Album, commissioned by the North Carolina Arts Council. The 11-minute film tells the story of how Phonte, 9th Wonder and Big Pooh met at North Carolina Central University and created their debut album (The Listening) featuring commentary by the group and interviews with Questlove, Chaundon, DJ Flash, Cesar Comanche, and Khrysis.

Gallagher, who will be shooting additional interviews and creating sketches to help frame the film, looks forward to piecing together the fabled story of Little Brother. 

“The Little Brother project is a continuation of a lot of the work that I’ve been doing in the rap documentary space, but will differ in its scope,” he said. “Telling a story spanning twenty years has a unique set of challenges in trying to stay concise and poignant and entertaining throughout.” 

Documentarian, writer, activist and executive director at community organization, Durham CAN, Atinuke “Tinu” Diver

The second North Carolina-based filmmaker to receive the grant this year is Atinuke “Tinu” Diver, a documentarian, writer, activist and executive director at community organization, Durham CAN. Diver’s story, This Belongs to Us, hits close to home for many in the state with a topic that is universally relatable: beer. It’s an industry that has exploded in the area over recent years and Diver will chronicle the lack of diversity in the North Carolina beer community, following the lives of Black women brewers in the South, connecting the heritage of brewing to its origins in Africa. A first-generation American and the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Diver is a graduate of University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and also co-directed a short documentary in 2019 about a Black quilter’s circle in Durham, Quilt Journeys. This Belongs to Us will be Diver’s first feature-length documentary film. 

Diver, whose maternal grandmother was a brewer, learned a very Afrocentric history of beer from her parents, who also taught her about the impact of European colonization on the beer industry in Nigeria. This story for Diver is also very personal.

“Beer is political in the truest sense of the word: ‘of and about the affairs of the city,’” Diver said. “It serves as a medium and lens to reflect on a whole range of social issues: environmental stewardship, cultural appropriation, art, religion, education, food origins and culture, economic development, zoning/land use, gentrification, agriculture, policing, race, gender identity, history…”

With $100,000 in production grants disbursed to ten projects across seven Southern states, the Southern Documentary Fund (SDF) takes pride in helping to fund diverse groups of filmmakers and a wide spectrum of topics. This year’s grant recipients from North Carolina certainly have stories that are both topical and highly anticipated. 

For more information about the Southern Documentary Fund and the full list of 2021 grant winners, check out their official website

Read next: 


In this article