Nova Scott-James (she, her, hers) is a filmmaker, artist, and creative coach from Harlem, NYC. Her childhood experiences of being flooded with the sounds and culture of jazz have impacted her creative aesthetic greatly as her work honors improvisation, altered states of consciousness, ritual, and collaboration. Scott-James is also a reiki practitioner and dedicated intuitive worker—she uses these abilities to serve people as a director and creative coach by guiding them in honoring their creative genius.
Wild Darlings Sing The Blues (And it’s a Song of Freedom) is a feature-length documentary following the Wild Darlings, a queer healing arts collective of black women and non-binary activists, as they embark on an epic road trip from New York to a former slave plantation in Virginia. The Darlings are tasked with harnessing their “healer within” to bless the plantation land, honor their ancestors and explore their experiences of racial and gender-based violence. They create a performance art homage to The Blues.
Rafael Samanez (he, him, his) was born in Brazil to Peruvian parents. He resides in Queens, NY. His previous work as a community organizer inspires his films which delve into the intersections of gender, race, migration, and class. He graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from the City College of New York in 2019 and received a 2018 Princess Grace Award/Honoraria. Rafael was a John Grist Documentary/BAFTA New York Scholar and a top finalist for the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship in 2020. His film Out of the Shadows won Best Documentary in the 2019 Cityvisions Film and Video Showcase. It appeared in nine film festivals, including the Urbanworld Film Festival and the New York Latino Film Festival. Alongside filmmaking, Samanez teaches media production at the City College of New York.
My Existence is Resistance is a verité-style docuseries covering the life and work of three influential transgender women of color who break down barriers in New York City. Amidst a global pandemic, they lead their communities in the fight for equal housing, healthcare, jobs, political representation, and lives free of violence. Having learned early how to survive the trials life threw at them with quick wit, creativity, and boundless resiliency, these heroines are poised to carve a new path for trans people. We follow their journeys closely as they make bold moves to lead their lives in their truths, harness internal strength during hard times and overcome setbacks on their paths to greatness.
Photo by Leilani Clark.
Hedia Maron’s (pronoun flexible) films highlight the absurdity of life and give voice to weirdos and outcasts. Maron is interested in uncovering deeper truths through humor, unexpected imagery, and an emotional investigation into subjects, which often include family and friends. Maron’s films have screened at Sundance Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, Documenta, SXSW, Outfest, Tribeca Film Festival, New Museum, Anthology Film Archives, The Jewish Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Tensta konstahll, and Queens Museum.
Before Us is a feature-length documentary that reflects on 1960s counterculture, adoption in North America, and changing family structures. The film takes an unconventional approach to the adoption narrative, uncovering the ramifications of Maron’s family secrets and placing them within the context of a counterculture that devalues women and children. Before Us has finished principal photography and Maron is working on contextualizing her family’s story within the larger cultural moment through voice-over and archival footage.
Photo by Lauryn Siegel.
Writer/director Kate Marks (she, her, hers) comes from a long line of tricksters. Her tricky films Pearl Was Here (65 million YouTube views), Manic (NYTVF Best Drama), Miracle Maker (Queens World Best Short), 7 Day Gig, and Homebody have screened at Tribeca Film Festival, Slamdance, Edinburgh International Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival, New Orleans Film Festival, PBS, HBO Go, and more. Past fellowships include the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, Academy Nicholl Award, Film Independent Screenwriting Lab and Project Involve, and the HBO ACCESS Directing Fellowship. After graduating from Brown University, Marks spent nine years writing and directing plays in NYC. She then went on to get her Master of Fine Arts in film directing at CalArts. Additionally, she is a mom, a teacher, and a stilt-walker. www.katemarks.net
The Cow of Queens is an adventure/comedy/coming-of-age mash-up about a father (played by Rob Morgan) and his daughter who embark on one last adventure to save a cow that has broken loose from a local slaughterhouse: running free on the streets of Queens. Chasing an impossible dream like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, they contend with the Butcher who wants his damn cow back and the dad’s cancer, which promises to separate this inseparable duo. Inspired by personal experience (with cancer, not cows), The Cow of Queens is a story about love and the ways we rally for each other when shit hits the fan. It’s about characters having fun in the midst of terrible pain. It’s about finding comedy in the middle of drama. It’s about celebrating the best of humanity in the worst of times.
Sonia Malfa (pronoun flexible) is a filmmaker who incorporates her love of the surreal, culture, and nature with a passion for visual poetry and storytelling. Malfa’s short experimental documentary Simone: A Survivor’s Story won a Clio Award, Webby Award (Jury), and was shortlisted at the 1.4 Awards, One Show Awards and Kinsale Shark Awards. It also screened at the Atlanta Film Festival. Her narrative short, Close Your Eyes, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival. Malfa has been awarded the NYSCA Individual Artist grant and was selected for the DGA/AICP Commercial Director’s Diversity Program. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in American Studies (Gender and Race Relations).
Following the death of her father, a young poet seizes the opportunity to escape her controlling mother by embarking on a magical, cross-country journey. It’s Always Sunny is a queer coming-of-age road trip drama of a young, Black woman’s empowering journey of self-discovery. The film creates a distinct cinematic style that blends poetry and narrative drama exploring storytelling beyond genre molds. Co-written by Sonia Malfa and Trae Harris, the film will be Malfa’s feature directorial debut with Trae Harris performing the lead character, Sunflower.
Photo by Delphine Diallo.
Ash Goh Hua (any pronouns) is a filmmaker and cultural worker from Singapore, based in New York. They create documentary and experimental-based work informed by the politics of abolition and autonomy. Often utilizing archives and anachronistic formats (Super8, VHS), Hua’s films show different imaginings of the possibilities of liberated futures. They have been supported by programs and fellowships from the Sundance Institute, Jacob Burns Flim Center Creative Culture, NeXt Doc, IF/Then, and NYFA. Their films have screened and won awards at film festivals internationally and have been distributed by PBS and Third World Newsreel. Hua is also a Common Notions collective member.
The Feeling of Being Close to You 能靠近你的感觉 documents an attempt at healing the trauma of touch between mother and child. Driven by a pure desire for intimacy, Hua talks openly with his mother for the first time about the intergenerational trauma and abuse within their lives. Using present-day phone conversations juxtaposed with archival VHS footage, this act of filmmaking becomes a vessel to reconnect with past selves and re-write once cyclical destinies, thus generating new possibilities of living and relating.
Photo by Kristie Chua.
Natalie Gee (she, her, hers) was made in England, assembled in Australia, and directly imported to NYC. She’s a filmmaker and festival programmer based in Brooklyn. Her shorts have premiered at Oscar-qualifying festivals in the U.S. and overseas. Most recently, she wrote and directed Waves, a dance narrative starring Lily Baldwin. Her experimental short Queendom was featured on NoBudge and nominated for Best Experimental film at the Miami Short Film Festival. Gee shadowed Oscar-nominated director Steph Green on HBO’s The Deuce with James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal. She’s a programmer for Santa Barbara, HollyShorts, and Aesthetica film festivals and has curated feminist film nights at the Brooklyn Museum. She’s previously been on the screening committee for the Telluride Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, and Hamptons International Film Festival.
Buried is a hybrid narrative and experimental film exploring the physical and the surreal experiences surrounding work burnout, grief, and rage. The lyrical story, to be shot on 16mm, follows a winemaker plagued by stress and sickness who is convinced her vineyard is being poisoned until a sinister presence reveals the truth around her chaotic and mysterious illness. With bold scores and physical soundscapes, Gee’s intimate approach to stylized terrains explore how difficult it is to channel self-compassion when we push ourselves to exhaustion.
Originally from New York City, Sisa Bueno (she, her, hers; pronoun flexible) is a traveling film and multimedia maker dedicated to making inaccessible stories more accessible to audiences. She studied film production and interactive technologies at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The NBC Network named Bueno a 2013 Latino Innovator for her upcoming documentary To the Mountains (in post-production) about decolonization in Bolivia. She has completed a short film for AJ+ related to the same subject. Bueno is a recipient of the ITVS-PBS Diversity Development grant and ITVS Open Call, Hot Docs CrossCurrents grant, Bay Area Video Coalition MediaMaker fellowship, Points North Institute North Star Fellowship, and the IDA Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund for her current work in progress, For Venida, For Kalief (in production).
A late mother’s poetry echoes a movement for criminal justice reform for her son in For Venida, For Kalief. This lyrical film is an intentional departure from current storytelling approaches, focusing on personhood to inspire and reimagine a new kind of legacy for Kalief Browder. The film presents Venida’s words as poetic cinema, showcasing the full spectrum of everyday life for people of color in New York City, reveling in lyrical moments of Black and Brown joy and spirituality, as well as constant police surveillance, struggle, and activism. The film explores the concept of legacy and personhood, lyrically weaving together the deeply personal emotions of Venida’s poems with the community activism that emerged in the aftermath of Kalief’s death.
Illya Szilak (she, her, hers) is a writer, artist, director, and creative producer. Shaped by her experiences as a physician, her richly collaborative, multidisciplinary art practice explores mortality, embodiment, identity and belief in an increasingly virtual world. Her longtime artistic partner is Cyril Tsiboulski (he, him, his). Their first virtual reality piece, Queerskins: a love story (2018), received a Peabody Futures of Media Award for transmedia. Their second, Queerskins: ARK, which features live dance performance was developed at The Venice Biennale College V.R. Lab. Their most recent work, In My Own Skin (2021), premiered at CPH:DOX festival. It combines handmade textiles, photography, wearable avatars, and virtual architecture. Szilak continues to work as a doctor, currently caring for inmates at Rikers Island, NYC.
Fly Angel Soul is a short experimental narrative film shot within virtual reality. It tells the story of Sebastian, a young gay physician estranged from his rural Catholic Missouri family, who, having moved to Mali to heal the sick, is diagnosed with AIDS. Inspired by a quote from Meister Eckhart “(let us) rejoice in the everlasting truth in which the highest angel and the soul and the fly are equal,” Fly Angel Soul is shot in real-time, from the unique points of view of three networked virtual cameras adopting the “roles” of the eponymous characters. The “human” p.o.v. will be that of a live cinematographer moving through the virtual set. Thus, in Fly Angel Soul, “liveness” resides in the “embodied” cameras even more so than in the actors in the story. Finding commonality with video games and live performance, Fly Angel Soul explores the potential for virtual production techniques to expand 2-D cinematic language.
Jingjing Tian (she, her, hers) is a Chinese American filmmaker based in NYC. Born in Northeast China, she immigrated to Texas at the age of nine, where she learned to speak with a twang, wore a belt buckle, and discovered her Asian American identity. Tian explores these identities and the themes of autonomy and oppression in her work and her life. Writing and directing are therapy for her. A Sundance Uprise Grantee, she is working on her first feature film, Kid C. Her short films have been screened at Nitehawk Cinema with MoMA, Cleveland International Film Festival, Bentonville Film Festival, Seattle Asian American Film Festival, and Museum of the Chinese in America. Her work has been profiled in Paper Magazine, AM New York, BuzzFeed, High Country News, South China Morning Post, and more.
A character and emotionally driven film, Kid C is a narrative feature that follows Lee during her first year as a Chinese immigrant in a small town in Texas during the late 1990s. Cracking under the pressures of volatile parents, Lee, a rambunctious 10-year-old, attempts to reclaim a sense of childhood with her best friend John, an African American boy. But when she accidentally reveals a secret that he shares, their friendship is threatened and life begins to collapse. Drawing from field research and personal experiences, Kid C explores a child’s agency in the face of parental abuse and intergenerational trauma.