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 44 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
Director Biography - Yolonda Johnson-Young

Yolonda is a formerly homeless Philadelphia native filmmaker, survivor, and activist.

In 1999, after fleeing from domestic violence, Yolonda became homeless. She spent some time in a shelter for abused women.

A mother to three boys, Yolonda is also a twice-bereaved parent. Having lost her daughter De’Andra to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in 1989, and most recently, the tragic loss of her 20-year-old son Elijah to suicide; she needed an outlet for her pain and grief.

In 2017 after Elijah’s death, Yolonda began to learn documentary filmmaking at Scribe Video Center through the Film Scholars Program, co-sponsored by Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. She merited a scholarship to complete the nearly yearlong fellowship.

In October 2018, Yolonda received the Leeway Foundation’s Art and Change Grant to further her endeavors as a 1st time filmmaker. The Art and Change Grant (ACG) provides project-based grants to women (and trans artists) and cultural producers in greater Philadelphia to fund art for social change projects.

Good Pitch Local Philadelphia, a Doc Society event, invited Yolonda to pitch her film project. On December 4, 2018, Yolonda pitched to a room full of other media makers, organizers and philanthropists eager to assist. Those connections will continue to serve as a valuable network in her future filmmaking.

Yolonda is also a recipient of the Philadelphia Independent Media Finishing Fund grant.

Finding Elijah screened at the 8th annual BlackStar Film Festival in Philadelphia. It garnered the 2019 Short Documentary Audience Award.

Add Director Biography
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.