The North Star Fellowship supports five filmmakers from diverse backgrounds telling underrepresented stories. In this intimate, focused environment, early-career filmmakers have time to reflect on their artistic process, grow their voices, and build a community of support that will sustain their creative work.
The fellows are joined by a curated group of mentors: accomplished documentary filmmakers, artists, programmers, producers, funders and other special guests who join the fellows in a series of seminars, workshops, informal discussions, and screenings. Each session is designed to create a safe space for artists to articulate their creative vision and reflect critically on both their own practice and power dynamics in the documentary field.
At the end of the fellowship, filmmakers collectively explore the Camden International Film Festival program, attending screenings, conference sessions, networking events, and one-on-one meetings with funders and other industry representatives.
Submissions for the 2020 North Star Fellowship are now closed.
The North Star fellowship deep cleaned my soul and clarified my vision as a filmmaker. Artists of color deserve spaces like North Star where we can support each other through difficult conversations around survival, representation, and healing. It’s also a week full of laughter and adventure!
My life after the North Star Fellowship has actually changed. Like actually. Through the organizers, through the mentors, and through my peers something really shifted for me, being encouraged and challenged in the way I was for those seven days in Maine. I feel like I have a jumping off point—a community that I’m rooted in that I can always come back to.
The North Star Residency was one of the most life-enriching and career-affirming experiences I have had since embarking on the path of the filmmaker. I plan to continue seeking out the people and places that support what I do. After spending a week in Camden, I can assure anyone that these people and places exist.
This was my first time at CIFF and was floored by how valuable this festival is for documentary filmmakers. The curation was stylistically diverse, and rigorous, the intimate size had it possible to make substantive connections, the town quaint, fog majestic, parties a blast, staff warm, logistics smooth…..really I could go on & on!
2020 North Star Fellows
The complex portrait of a young Tunisian activist and the family she counsels before the return of their child who left home to join ISIS. The film witnesses the power of redemption and the endurance of one woman trying to unite a family, country, and heal herself after one of the biggest shocks of her life.
Directed by Leila Abu-saada
Produced by Leila Abu-saada and Nivedita Das
About the Filmmaker
Leila Abu-saada is a Libyan-American journalist and documentary producer.
She has produced international episodic documentaries for PBS, Netflix, HBO and National Geographic. She began as a news producer at Al Jazeera English in Qatar where she was a part of the award-winning newsroom team covering the Arab Spring. She focuses on sensitive access films that merge journalism, investigative rigor and verite filmmaking. She is most interested in creating work that explores cross-culture identity and aims to challenge typical female narratives in the Middle East through first-person narrative film. A native of Tucson, Arizona her identity extends to both the Southwest and North Africa. She holds a MA in International Journalism from City University London.
Long Way Home
Born in prison when his mother was incarcerated while pregnant, Lorenzo Lewis of Little Rock, Arkansas lost both parents at a young age. His interest in mental health was amplified when working at a juvenile detention center, where he noticed many African American teens not receiving treatment for trauma. So, Lewis had an idea – what place could serve as a resource for therapy? The perfect place for that, he concluded, was a barber shop.
Directed and Produced by Nisha Balaram
About the Filmmaker
Nisha Balaram, from Oakland, California, is a documentary filmmaker and activist focused on the intersection of racial equity and mental health. A recent graduate of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, she has worked for over seven years in the public policy sector focused on police use of force, food justice, and land sovereignty. Balaram’s recent work as a director has taken her to Panamá to film ranchers’ actions to combat deforestation. As a cinematographer, she has documented the ethnic studies movement, conservation efforts on California’s rangelands, and the lesser-known world of intimate gymnastics.
She is currently producing a documentary addressing environmental inequities in Kazakhstan.
Balaram is a recent recipient of the Chauncey Bailey Fellowship, an award given to a filmmaker who seeks to use journalism to shed light on racial injustice. She is also a proud member of the Brown Girls Doc Mafia and the Asian American Journalists Association.
For Venida, For Kalief
FOR VENIDA, FOR KALIEF is a poetic cinematic portrait of the complex microcosm of criminal justice reform in New York. The film debuts the poetry of Venida Brodnax Browder, mother of Kalief Browder, whose unjust arrest and tragic suicide deeply resonates with the majority of New Yorkers, and also launches our exploration of the complicated struggle to end mass incarceration.
Directed and Produced by Sisa Bueno
Originally from New York City, Sisa Bueno is a film & multimedia maker who is fascinated by people of all cultures and seeks to awaken our own empowerment. She studied both film production and interactive technologies at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU). The NBC Network named Sisa a 2013 Latino Innovator for her upcoming documentary “To the Mountains,” (currently in post-production) which highlights Black & Indigenous social justice movements in Bolivia, South America. Sisa is a recipient of the ITVS-PBS Diversity Development grant, HotDocs CrossCurrents grant, and BAVC MediaMaker fellowship for her current work in progress, “For Venida, For Kalief.” Sisa is also currently a 2018-2021 Member of the NEW INC tech incubator program within the New Museum working with Augmented Reality (AR) to create new modes of storytelling with more tech integration.
Untitled Mother Film
I invite my mother into the process of making a film about intergenerational trauma, thus confront and reconcile our own. UNTITLED MOTHER FILM is a personal political process documentary, about the journey of healing relationships, through a postcolonial lens; it is a practice of transformative justice to generate a radical response to cyclical violence.
Directed and Produced by Ash Goh Hua
About the Filmmaker
Ash Goh Hua is a filmmaker from Singapore, based in Brooklyn, NY. She creates documentary and experimental-based work informed by the politics of abolition and autonomy; their filmmaking practice imagines future acts of collective liberation. Seeing film as an expression of humanity and a potential vehicle of resistance, Ash is committed to the process of democratizing, demystifying, and destabilizing traditional conceptions of this form of cultural production. They are currently the Jacob Burns Creative Culture Social Justice Filmmaker Fellow, as well as a NeXtDoc fellow.
The Gardeners will explore how The Worthy Women of Watkins Street Cemetery preserve the memory of a community by physically undertaking the maintenance of the oldest Black cemetery in Natchez, MS. Positioning the cemetery as a dynamic and emotive character within the narrative, the land becomes a proxy for the unaffirmed histories in the community.
Directed and Produced by Crystal Kayiza
About the Filmmaker
Crystal Kayiza was raised in Oklahoma and is now a Brooklyn-based filmmaker. Named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” she is a recipient of the 2017 Jacob Burns Film Center Woman Filmmaker Fellowship and the 2018 Sundance Ignite Fellowship. Her film, Edgecombe, which received the 2018 Gold Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival, was an official selection of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival where it was acquired for distribution by the PBS’s series POV. Her most recent film, See You Next Time, which aired on Starz, was an official selection of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was released by the New Yorker. Crystal received a Heartland Emmy Award in 2012 for her film All That Remains, which profiles Boley, Oklahoma, one of the nation’s last all-black towns.
2020 North Star Mentors
Iyabo Boyd (North Star Consultant & Lead Mentor)
Producer, writer/director, founder of the Brown Girls Doc Mafia
Iyabo Boyd is a screenwriter, director, and producer working in fiction and documentary film. She participated in Sundance Film Institute’s 2018 Screenwriting Intensive and Sundance Film Festival’s 2019 Talent Forum with her feature script Kayla and Eddie en Français, about an estranged black father and daughter reconnecting in Paris. Her 2014 short Forever Ally, about a gay black man writing letters to his recently deceased cat played the Seattle, Atlanta, and Boston LGBT Film Festivals. Iyabo’s latest short Me Time is a feminist comedy about masturbation, and is slated to play festivals in April 2019. As a producer, Iyabo was a Sundance Creative Producers Fellow and an Impact Partners Creative Producers Fellow in 2016 for the feature documentary For Ahkeem about a teenage black girl coming of age in St. Louis just after Ferguson, which premiered at the Berlin International and Tribeca Film Festivals. Iyabo is also the founder of Brown Girls Doc Mafia, a collective for women filmmakers of color working in documentary, which has 2,500 members globally.
Milton Guillén is an award-winning Nicaraguan filmmaker and programmer whose work centers on the cinematic intersections of de-colonial ethnographic research and affect. Milton’s films have screened globally at CPH: DOX, Hot Docs, DOK Leipzig, Rooftop Films, and more. In 2017, his debut feature, The Maribor Uprisings, co-directed with Maple Raza, received the Society for Visual Anthropology’s Best Feature Award. Milton recently received support from the Tribeca Film Institute and ITVS for his project, On the Move. He also was named a North Star fellow at the Points North Institute, a MediaMaker Fellow at Bay Area Video Coalition, a Kartemquin Diverse Voices in Documentary, and is the recipient of several international artists’ residencies and grants.
Director, The Giverny Document (Single Channel)
Ja’Tovia M. Gary (b. Dallas, TX. 1984) is an artist and filmmaker currently living and working in Brooklyn, New York. Gary’s work seeks to liberate the distorted histories through which Black life is often viewed while fleshing out a nuanced and multivalent Black interiority. Through documentary film and experimental video art, Gary charts the ways structures of power shape our perceptions around representation, race, gender, sexuality, and violence. The artist earned her MFA in Social Documentary Filmmaking from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 2017 Gary was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Filmmaking. Her award-winning films, An Ecstatic Experience and Giverny I (Négresse Impériale) have screened at festivals, cinemas, and institutions worldwide including Edinburgh International Film Festival, The Whitney Museum, Anthology Film Archives, Atlanta Film Festival, the Schomburg Center, MoMa PS1, MoCA Los Angeles, Harvard Film Archives, New Orleans Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival and elsewhere. She has received generous support from Sundance Documentary fund, the Jerome Foundation, Doc Society, among others. In 2016 Gary participated in the Terra Foundation Summer Residency program in Giverny, France. She was a 2018-2019 Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University. Gary is a 2019 Creative Capital Awardee and a Field of Vision Fellow.
Indigenous Media Activist & Managing Director, Nia Tero Foundation
Tracy Rector comes to Nia Tero with a passion for amplifying and empowering Indigenous voices. She brings two decades of experience as a community organizer, educator, filmmaker, film programmer, and arts curator, all infused with her deep roots in plant medicine. For the last 17 years she has directed and produced over 400 films including shorts, features, music videos, and virtual reality projects. Her work has been featured on Independent Lens, ImagineNative, National Geographic, and the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian, as well as at international film festivals including Cannes and Toronto. Tracy is in her second term as a Seattle Arts Commissioner, sits on the board of the Mize Foundation, and is the co-founder of Longhouse Media.
Director, Whose Streets?
A radical truth teller who still believes that love and compassion can save humanity, Sabaah Folayan made her directorial debut at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival with the feature length documentary Whose Streets?. Nominated for Peabody , Gotham and Critic’s Choice awards, the film chronicles the experiences of activists living in Ferguson, Missouri when Michael Brown Jr. was killed. Whose Streets? was distributed theatrically by Magnolia Pictures, and supported by the Sundance Documentary Film Program, Tribeca Film Institute, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation among many others.
Sabaah uses written and visual media to bring a hopeful yet unflinching perspective to the urgent questions of our time. Born in Los Angeles, raised on Maui and educated in New York City, the challenge of thriving in vastly different environments has made Sabaah an expert at resilience. She attended Columbia University as a premedical student and graduated with a degree in biology. Outside-the-box thinking and passion for social good then drew her to the non-profit and grassroots sectors where she honed strategic planning and community organizing skills before becoming a filmmaker. Having gone from homelessness to global recognition, Sabaah’s outlook on social change is heartfelt, experience based, and fearlessly inclusive.
Editor (Harlan County, USA, Trouble the Water, Queen of Versailles…)
Mary Lampson is an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker and editor. Lampson co-edited the Academy Award–winning documentary classic Harlan County, USA. She has worked with documentary legends like Barbara Kopple, Emile de Antonio, Ricky Leacock, and D.A. Pennebakbr. She also produced and directed Until She Talks, a 40-minute dramatic film that aired on the PBS series American Playhouse, and 25 short live-action films for Sesame Street.
Recent projects include: Trouble the Water (Tia Lessin and Carl Deal), Kimjonglilia (NC Heikin), Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield), This Changes Everything (Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein), The Islands and the Whales (Mike Day), The Bad Kids (Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe), Eating Animals (Christopher Quinn) and Generational Wealth (Lauren Greenfield.) She has been both a fellow and advisor at the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Editing and Story Lab and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Director of Narrative Film, Kickstarter
Based in New York since 2015 and currently Director of Narrative Film at Kickstarter. Kickstarter is the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. A home for film, music, art, theater, games, comics, design, photography, and more. Prior to this, 8 years working with documentary filmmakers at Doc Society (formerly BRITDOC), a nonprofit Foundation based in London and New York that develops, implements and evaluates innovative models for informing and engaging communities through documentary film.
2018 North Star Recipients
Daniel Chein is an independent filmmaker whose work explores transculturalism and expressions of identity in the performative. His short film “Basha Man,” examining the impact of tourism on a mountain village in southwest China, premiered at CAAMFest2017 and won the AT&T Student Film Award. His feature documentary in development, “Sonsplitter,” profiles a German Turk dancer for the internationally renowned Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, tracing his identity and intergenerational trauma through the lens of performance. Daniel holds a BA in Anthropology and received his MFA in Cinema from San Francisco State University. He is a member of the Asian American Documentary Network (A-Doc) and a board member of the Global Lives Project. Daniel is a 2018 BAVC National Mediamaker Fellow and recipient of the Princess Grace Award in Film.
Shelby Zoe Coley is a Black queer filmmaker based in New York City working across nonfiction and documentary forms. Shelby uses rhythm portraiture and the spoken word to explore intersections between queerness race and creative practices––from documenting renowned lesbian performance troupe Split Britches to detailing the origin story of #MeToo Founder Tarana Burke. Her work has been featured in publications such as Afropunk, Slay TV, and Curve Magazine. Shelby’s short film “Manley Stanley Takes New York” about a British drag king won the Audience Choice Award for Best Women’s Short at Philadelphia Qflix and was nominated for the 2017 Iris Prize. Most recently her documentary film on London-based podcasting trio Sistren “Talk the Ting” premiered at Toronto’s Inside Out LGBTQ Film Festival in May 2018. Shelby is a 2017-2018 recipient of the Puffin Foundation Grant for Video/Film.
Vicky Du is a Taiwanese-American filmmaker based in New York. Her short film GAYSIANS (2016) screened at 30+ film festivals including Outfest, Hong Kong Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, and Asian American International Film Festival. The film was distributed by Frameline, had a public TV broadcast on KQED, and was distributed to 1000+ middle and high school LGBTQ student groups. Vicky has directed and edited films for Art21, TEDx, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The North Face and more. She is a worker-owner of Meerkat Media, a film production cooperative, and a member of Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective. Vicky is currently in production on her first feature documentary on Chinese diaspora and intergenerational trauma.
Milton Guillén is a Nicaraguan independent filmmaker who dwells in the borders between fiction and documentaries. His main interests gravitate around the cinematic intersections of ethnographic research and sensorial experiences. Milton has worked as a director in several projects worldwide, earning him awards for his short films and interactive pieces. Most notably is The Maribor Uprisings, co-directed with Maple Razsa, a live interactive film that has toured in multiple festivals around the world and has allowed him to continue to create original fiction and commercial work for several clients. At the moment Milton is working on a global project, an observational auteur-ish anthology of displaced activists/refugees that focuses on both the physical and mental health threats they face in their newly found spaces. Currently he’s based in Chicago doing a Documentary MFA at Northwestern.
Brittany Shyne is a writer, director and producer. As a native of Dayton, Ohio she is influenced by artists such as Gordon Parks, Graciela Iturbide, and Mariana Yampolsky. Shyne received a M.F.A. in Documentary Media from Northwestern University and a B.F.A. in Motion Pictures from Wright State University. Her directorial work includes “Painted Lady” which screened at BlueStocking Film Series, Starz Denver Film Festival, St. Louis International Georgia Frontiere Film Festival, BlackStar Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival, Citizen Jane Independent Women Film Festival. “Painted Lady” won awards for best short film, best director and tied for best actor at the Women’s Independent Film Festival. Her aspiration is to create works that combine elements of verité photography with ethnographic cinema. Her works analyze race, gender and culture seeking to examine the complexity of the human experience.