Private Project

Finding Elijah

Told from a mother’s perspective, Finding Elijah follows a young man’s journey from home; into mental illness, to homelessness, and ultimately to suicide. It explores how a search for answers leads a mother to action.

  • Yolonda Johnson-Young
  • Yolonda Johnson-Young
  • Aleks Martray
  • Yolonda Johnson-Young
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    24 minutes 58 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 31, 2019
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • BlackStar Film Festival
    United States
    August 1, 2019
    Audience Award for Short Documentary
  • Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival and Lecture Series
    United States
    October 5, 2019
    New York Premiere
    Spirit Award
  • Ocktober Film Festival
    United States
    October 5, 2019
    Brooklyn Premiere
    Best Documentary
  • Baltimore International Black Film Festival
    United States
    October 11, 2019
    Baltimore Premiere
    Best Short Documentary - Drama
  • Newark Short Film Festival
    United States
    October 12, 2019
    Newark Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Cucalorus Film Festival
    United States
    November 14, 2019
    North Carolina
    Official Selection
  • Lancaster Avenue Harvest Film Festival
    United States
    November 22, 2019
    Official Selection
  • The Black Gatsby
    Oklahoma City
    United States
    December 14, 2019
    Best Short Documentary
  • Hayti Heritage Film Festival
    Durham, SC
    United States
    February 14, 2020
    Official Selection
  • HerStory - Women's History Month Film Salon
    United States
    March 7, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Philly Film Showcase
    United States
    May 21, 2020
    Official Selection
  • The Impact DOCS Awards
    La Jolla
    United States
    July 28, 2020
    Award of Merit for Documentary Shot and Award of Merit for Use of Film for Social Change
  • Revolution Me Film Festival
    New York
    United States
    August 7, 2020
    Best Social Awareness Award and Best Mini/Long Documentary
  • MOM Film Fest

    United States
    August 14, 2020
    Best Short Film
  • Richmond International Film Festival
    United States
  • Harlem International Film Festival
    United States
    September 18, 2020
    Best Short Documentary
  • Beyond the Curve International Film Festival
    September 30, 2020
    International / European Premiere
    Outstanding Achievement for Best Documentary (Narrative/Short)
Director Biography - Yolonda Johnson-Young

Yolonda Johnson-Young is a Philadelphia, PA native director and filmmaker. After the 2017 tragic loss of her 20-year-old son Elijah, a filmmaker, to suicide she needed an outlet for her pain. Yolonda learned documentary filmmaking at Scribe Video Center, the very place her late son had attended workshops as a young teenager.

Prior to filmmaking, she earned a degree at Pierce College in entrepreneurship and through her hard work and dedication; she merited induction into Delta Mu Delta, the national honor society for business degrees holders.

Yolonda received full funding to complete her first 15 minute short film Finding Elijah (via scholarship), attending Scribe Video Center’s inaugural Film Scholar Program, supported by AMPAS.

Receiving one of the ’18 Leeway Art and Change Grants furthered Yolonda’s goal to expand Finding Elijah to a 25 minute social justice film to shine a light and create a dialog surrounding mental health issues and suicide prevention awareness.

In December 2018, Good Pitch Local Philadelphia, a Doc Society event, invited Yolonda to pitch her film project, Finding Elijah to gain support in expanding the short to 25 minutes. Yolonda pitched to a room full of other media makers, organizers and philanthropists eager to assist. Having met her mentor there and receiving an in-kind production donation, those connections will continue to serve as a valuable network in her future filmmaking.

Yolonda also received one of the 2019 Philadelphia Independent Media Finishing Fund grants to complete post-production work on Finding Elijah.

In 2019, Yolonda became a founding member of the WOC film collective, SIFTMedia 215. SIFTMedia 215 is a support system of several independent media artists who work in the Philadelphia metropolitan area and provide a community of support for socially conscious women identified filmmakers. The goal at S.I.F.T. Media is to amplify the work of and create opportunities for Black and Latinx Women content creators.

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Director Statement

I believe that my work on Finding Elijah can create a collective consciousness to open the dialogue about suicide awareness and prevention, with solutions on to how to break the stigma surrounding mental health conditions and homelessness, and have real conversations to stop suicide. I want to help individuals and families to have more understanding when it comes to mental health issues. I hope to create a space for those who are in need to talk and to access help, and to partnerships with mental health agencies, homeless shelters and social service centers.