Rowan professor Keith Brand secures $300,000 grant for documentary on civil rights advocate Kiyoshi Kuromiya

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"In 2021, Brand produced an audio-only documentary about Kuromiya, and now he has decided he wants to create something with a visual component. This will be Brand's first feature-length film." - Contributor / Timothy Hawk

Keith Brand, a professor in the radio, television, and film department at Rowan is working on a documentary that was just awarded a $300,000 grant from the Pew Center of Arts and Heritage. A Philadelphia native and lifelong lover of the arts, Brand pursued a career in radio, having a show on Philadelphia’s WXPN and doing freelance work for NPR. 

“I grew up listening to a radio station in Philadelphia called WMMR…And I used to listen like in the middle of the night and it was the best thing that I ever heard, like these good people that knew music,” Brand said.

He started teaching at Rowan in 2001 and by 2013 he was chair of the department. Brand stepped down a couple of years ago and with his newfound free time, he has been enjoying reconnecting with his creativity, working on documentaries, and developing a podcast. The subject of Brand’s current project is Kiyoshi Kuromiya, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Front and prominent civil rights and anti-war advocate.

Brand became aware of Kuromiya many years ago and had the opportunity to interview him for WXPN before his passing in 2000. In 2021, Brand produced an audio-only documentary about Kuromiya and now he has decided he wants to create something with a visual component. This will be Brand’s first feature-length film.

“All of my friends said, if you’re going to do something, you should do something about him,” Brand said.

The film is being developed in collaboration with director Glenn Holstein and the William Way LGBTQ Center in Philadelphia, which is the recipient of the grant. Applying for the grant was a multi-step process. After filing the initial application, the team had to go through meetings with Pew where they presented a detailed plan and budget. It was only after everything was up to Pew’s standards that they were formally in the running. They found out they had been selected late last summer. Brand said that the film is still in the early stages of development and even with the grant, they are only about half funded.

“Right now we’re in the fundraising process. We’re looking at other philanthropies that may want to fund it. We may crowdsource some of it, but you know, we have enough money to get started on this project. And also, Pew is a prestigious foundation. And so, they have said this project has our stamp of approval. So that’s very, very helpful that might open other doors,” Brand said.

Brand and his colleagues are already hard at work trying to plot out the documentary, find interesting people to interview, and locations to film in.

Brand continued, “All of [Kuromiya’s] archives are at the William Way Community Center. So, everything, you know, he just gave to William Way, like all of his stuff. So the director of the film is in there now looking through this treasure trove of material that you know, basically kind of told the story of Kiyoshi’s life….One of the things that we’re pretty sure we want to do is go visit what’s left of Heart Mountain internment camp, which is where Kiyoshi was born.”

If all goes according to plan, Brand expects the film will be finished by summer 2025. Upon completion, the team is hoping to submit it to a variety of film festivals across the Philadelphia area.

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