Nailah Jefferson & Laurie Sumiye

Artistic Rising: Climate in Crisis
Type of work
New Media
Louisiana and Hawaii

With nature as their guide, a New Orleans-born filmmaker and Hawaii-born artist from two different tourist-driven, coastal economies grappling with climate-caused sea rise explore the historical effects invasive species have on fragile native ecosystems and relate it to the growing threat of gentrification in their neighborhoods. We ask the question, “Can equity be maintained when invasion occurs?”

Nailah Jefferson is a native New Orleans filmmaker intrigued and inspired by the enduring human spirit, whose films span fiction and nonfiction. Her acclaimed work has been distributed domestically and internationally on the film festival circuit, theatrically and televised. Nailah’s debut documentary Vanishing Pearls: The Oystermen of Pointe a la Hache, told the story of the little known African American oyster fishing community in Louisiana in the aftermath of the 2010 BP Oil Spill. In 2017, Nailah’s short documentary Essence Magazine’s Black Girl Magic Episode 4 was nominated for a National Magazine Ellie award. That same year, Nailah’s first narrative film Plaquemines was chosen as an American Black Film Festival HBO Shorts finalist and streamed on HBO/ Cinemax platforms. Plaquemines is now available on ShortsTV. Nailah’s current work includes the forthcoming short documentary Descended From A Promised Land: The Legacy of Black Wall Street about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 and the feature documentary Commuted-the story of Danielle Metz, a woman whose triple life plus twenty year drug sentence was commuted by President Obama in 2016 after serving 23 years in prison. Commuted is the winner of the 2019 Black Public Media PitchBlack competition. The project is also supported by the Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Perspective Fund, Southern Documentary Fund, Black Public Media, ITVS and Firelight Media.

Laurie Sumiye is a conceptual artist & storyteller whose work about nature and species extinction plays with themes of reciprocity, care and spirituality. Her cross-disciplinary practice spans drawing, painting, animation, sculpture, installation, film and immersive media. She has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Hawai‘i, UK, South Africa and Brazil, and screened her award-winning films at DOCNYC, BAMcinemaFest and PS1MoMA. She was selected for documentary fellowships with Sundance Institute, Firelight Media & UnionDocs Center for Documentary Arts. Laurie was awarded residencies with Blue Mountain Center (NY), Digital Artist Studios (N.Ireland), Sacatar Institute (Brazil) and Artfunkl (UK). Laurie has an MFA in Integrated Media Arts from CUNY Hunter College, BA in Art & BS in Communications from Bradley University, and studied art at Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence and Pratt Institute in New York. Laurie returned to Hawaii where she was born and raised to work on her first feature documentary. A PARADISE LOST is a hybrid animated documentary about the first animal that sued to save its kind from extinction. The project was awarded funding from Pacific Islanders in Communications and Firelight Media, and selected for Good Pitch Local Hawaii. She lives and works in Los Angeles and Mililani, Hawaii.

Headshots by Laurie Sumiye