EXCLUSIVE: The Gotham Institute of Film and Media and HBO Documentary Films have established the inaugural cohort and mentors for their Documentary Development Initiative, first announced in June.
Those selected as participants are Zeshawn Ali, Brit Fryer, Juan Pablo González, Melanie Ho, Crystal Kayiza, Jasmín Mara López, Amber Love, Khaula Malik, Habiba Nosheen and Mobolaji Olambiwonnu. Creatives serving as mentors include Cecilia Aldarondo, Geeta Gandbhir, TJ Martin, Smriti Mundhra, Matt O’Neill, Sam Pollard, Alex Stapleton, Jennifer Tiexiera, Rudy Valdez and Matt Wolf.
The Documentary Development Initiative was designed to empower storytellers who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or storytellers with disabilities by giving them the resources to develop contemporary, character-driven, and thought-provoking ideas for documentary films and limited series.
In addition to one-on-one mentoring, each of the selected filmmakers will receive a $50,000 grant sponsored by HBO Documentary Films, OneFifty and WBD Access for research and creative development on new documentary projects, with selected recipients being presented with the opportunity. to receive additional funding.
The show kicks off this month and will continue through fall 2023, with ideas generated through the initiative being offered to HBO at first glance.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with such a talented and unique group of fellows for our inaugural initiative. We can’t wait to see where their ideas take them,” said Sara Rodriguez, Senior Vice President of HBO Documentary Films. “We are also grateful to our mentors whose experience and support will be transformative for the program.”
“The applications we received for the inaugural cohort for this initiative were filled with incredibly strong candidates from a variety of backgrounds with unique perspectives. This made it difficult to select just 10 filmmakers,” shared The Gotham deputy director Kia Brooks. “However, with the funding from HBO and the resources we will provide in Gotham, we will be able to support a group of filmmakers with dynamic visual styles and a knack for telling powerful, boundary-pushing stories.”
More information about the cohort participants and mentors selected for the inaugural Documentary Development Initiative can be found below.
Zeshawn Ali is a director, originally from the Midwest and currently based in New York. His debut feature, two gods, opened at festivals and theaters across the US and aired on “Independent Lens” on PBS. It was named a Critic’s Pick by the New York Times and nominated for a Cinema Eye Spotlight Award.
Brit Freyer (he/she) is a queer and trans filmmaker based in Brooklyn from Chicago. His process-based nonfiction films, including the script, expensive it comes outY Through, beyond and over, uses the act of creating to explore memory and imagine futures that are not here yet. Brit and her work have received support from Sundance Ignite Fellowship, Creative Culture, Chicken & Egg, and GLAAD’s Equity in Media and Entertainment Initiative.
jJuan Pablo Gonzalez
Juan Pablo González is a filmmaker whose body of work includes the loneliness of memory (IDFA 2014), Clouds (IFFR 2017), caballerango (IDFA 2018), and two seasons (Sundance 2022). His work has been supported by IMCINE, Venice Biennale, Sundance, Tribeca, FONCA and the Vilcek Foundation.
Melanie is a Vietnamese American filmmaker and writer with roots in Florida and Mississippi. Her work focuses on trauma, family relationships, gender, displacement, and intimacy.
Crystal Kayiza grew up in Oklahoma and is now a filmmaker living in Brooklyn. named one of Filmmaker magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” received the Creative Capital Award, the Sundance Ignite Fellowship, and the Jacob Burns Film Center Fellowship for Women Filmmakers. Her work has been screened at Sundance, the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Museum of Modern Art, and has been featured in The New Yorker, Starz, and PBS.
Jasmin Mara Lopez
Jasmín Mara López is a Mexican-American filmmaker who lives between Los Angeles and New Orleans. Born in the United States with family roots in Mexico, her childhood was marked by problems experienced on both sides of the US-Mexico border. This instilled in her a strong passion for immigrant rights, youth empowerment, and social change.
Amber Love is a filmmaker and festival programmer based in Chicago, IL. Her work has explored Afrofuturism, alternative families, and black heritage, and she has received support from IF/Then, Short of the Week, Next Doc, and the Sundance Art of Editing Fellowship. His next short film livesis funded by the Firelight Homegrown: Future Visions initiative, and her upcoming feature film One another was selected for the Kartemquin 2022 Diverse Voices in Docs program.
Khaula Malik is a Pakistani American filmmaker and artist whose work spans the fictional and documentary space and explores intersectional identity and concepts of home. Khaula is currently in post-production on her first documentary feature, which has been supported by DOC NYC and Catapult/True False Rough Cut Retreat. Most recently, she co-produced Apple TV+’s girls status and his work has been featured on PBS, the New York Times, and Sight & Sound.
there was nosheen
Habiba Nosheen is a three-time Emmy Award-winning journalist and filmmaker. She is the creator and host of the investigative podcast, Sentence: The disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan with Gimlet Media and Spotify. His documentaries have received support from ITVS, PBS FRONTLINE, JustFilms, Firelight Media, The Pulitzer Center, and The Center for Asian American Media, among others.
Mobolaji completed his BA at UCLA and his MA in directing at AFI. Mobolaji is the winner of the Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award for his feature documentary Ferguson riseswhich also qualified for the 2022 Academy Awards. Olambiwonnu’s goal is to use cinema as a tool to share diverse cultural and political experiences, criticize the superficial conditions that divide us, and accentuate the merits of shedding our prejudices.
Cecilia Aldarondo is a director and producer from the Puerto Rican diaspora whose feature documentaries Memories of a penitent heart (2016) and Landfall (2020) premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was co-produced by the award-winning PBS series point of view. He is currently directing his third feature, a co-production with HBO. She teaches at Williams College.
Geeta Gandbhir is an award-winning director, producer and editor with over 25 years of experience in the film industry. Her most recent film, After Selma: The Lowndes County Freedom Party, premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival and will air on Peacock. Winner of three news and documentary Emmy Awards, Gandbhir’s directing credits include black and gone, why we hate, i am evidenceY A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers.
TJ Martin is an Academy Award-winning and Emmy Award-winning director and editor whose works include HBO Tub, LA92, unbeatenand the Webby-nominated short film my favorite picture of you. Martin became the first director of African-American descent to win an Oscar for a feature film in 2012 with his documentary unbeaten.
Smriti Mundhra is an Academy Award and two-time Emmy Award-nominated director/producer and one of DOC NYC’s 40 Filmmakers Under 40 to Watch. Most recently, she won a DGA Award for Outstanding Achievement as a Director in Children’s Programs for her work on through our eyes with HBO Max and Sesame Workshop. She is also the creator and executive producer of the Primetime Emmy-nominated series. indian matchmakeran eight-part Netflix original documentary series.
Matt O’Neill is an Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker who has been working with the Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV) for the past 20 years. He co-created the HBO news documentary series. Axios with Perri Peltz and has directed films including HBO Baghdad ER, China’s unnatural disaster Y alternate endings among others, focusing on topics ranging from the US criminal justice system to the Egyptian revolution and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sam Pollard is an accomplished feature film and television video editor and documentary producer/director. In 2020, he was one of the directors of the HBO series. Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Boysand completed MLK/FBI, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. Most recently, she co-directed Lowndes County and the road to black power with Geeta Gandbhir, which will premiere in 2023 on the Peacock channel.
Alex Stapleton is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, television director, and founder of the House of NonFiction production company. His credits include Pride (FX), Hello Privilege. it’s me, chelsea (Netflix), shut up and bargain (Show time), the playbook (Netflix), and Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (A&E). He is currently directing two projects for HBO and a Reggie Jackson documentary for Amazon, all of which will air in 2023.
Jennifer Tiexiera is an award-winning documentary director, producer and editor and one of the co-founders of Lady & Bird, a women-led documentary production company that focuses on telling the stories of underrepresented voices. Her work has been shown at the Tribeca, Sundance, SXSW and Toronto Film Festivals. Tiexiera is a member of the Brown Girl Doc Mafia, Documentary Producers Alliance, IDA, LatinX Directors, Women in Film, and Film Fatales, and has just finished directing the three-part series. Revealed: Surviving The Light of the World for HBO.
Rudy Valdez is a two-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and a 2018 Critics Choice Documentary Awards nominee for Best New Director. Rudy’s directorial debut, The phrasepremiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, won the US Documentary Audience Award, and was acquired by HBO.
Matt Wolf is a documentary filmmaker in New York. His features include wild combination, Teen, Tape recorderand more recently earth spaceship. Matt has made many short films, including another carriage ride Y bayard and me.