Rockwood is proud to announce the 2023 cohort of the Rockwood Documentary Leaders Fellowship. This Fellowship brings together 12 leaders working at the intersection of storytelling, film, and social change to learn powerful skills that will shift their capacity for leadership and collaboration. This cohort represents a wide range of established leaders in the film and digital storytelling sectors including organizational leaders, media impact producers, filmmakers, thought leaders, curators, archivists, and critics. Through two retreats, peer coaching sessions, and additional leadership support, they will develop stronger working partnerships with each other and leaders of other social movements.
Please join us in congratulating our 2023 Fellows:
Adamu Chan | Filmmaker, Working Films
Adamu is a filmmaker, writer, and community organizer from the Bay Area who was incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison during one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the country. He produced numerous short films while incarcerated, using his vantage point and experience as an incarcerated person as a lens to focus the viewer’s gaze on issues related to social justice. In 2021, he was a recipient of the Docs in Action Film Fund through Working Films, and was tapped to produce and direct his film, What These Walls Won’t Hold. Adamu is currently working on the doc-series ‘Bridge Builders”, partnering with ITVS. He is also a 2022 Stanford University Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity Mellon Arts Fellow. Adamu draws inspiration and energy from the voices of those directly impacted, and seeks to empower them to reshape the narratives that have been created about them through film.
Amir George | Artistic Director, Kartemquin Films
Amir is an award-winning filmmaker and Artistic Director of Kartemquin Films, a non profit documentary organization that creates social justice oriented documentaries and provides artists support programs. George co-founded Black Radical Imagination, an experimental short film screening series. George has served as a programmer at True/False Film Fest and Chicago International Film Festival. As an artist, George creates spiritual stories, juxtaposing sound and image into an experience of non-linear perception.
Cheryl Green | Access Artist, Social Audio Description Collective
Cheryl is a chronically ill, disabled Access Artist focused on creative audio description and captions for independent film and art. She has been a member of New Day Films since 2016 and served three years as Digital Operations Lead. She co-hosts Blind-Centered Audio Description Chat with Nefertiti Matos Olivares and Thomas Reid. She and Thomas co-teach culturally responsive audio description and are co-creating POD Access for the Disability Visibility Project, an upcoming database and learning hub for D/deaf and disabled podcasters. She won the Disability Justice Award in 2018 at Superfest International Disability Film Festival for “Who Am I To Stop It: Dani’s Story” (co-directed by Cynthia Lopez) and now serves on the jury. She is a member of Social Audio Description Collective, a team collaborating on audio description that reflects the multicultural and multi-racial world we all live in.
Hansen Bursic | Marketing Manager, Outfest
Hansen is an award-winning journalist, filmmaker, and thought leader from Pittsburgh, PA. Starting in grassroots advocacy, he broke into the nonfiction space creating documentaries for a leading LGBTQ+ youth advocacy organization in Pennsylvania. His work with the organization culminated in leading a media campaign for Pennsylvania Values, a campaign to add sexuality, gender identity, and expression to Pennsylvania’s state nondiscrimination protections. During the pandemic, Bursic left Pennsylvania for Los Angeles to work on a communications team at the International Documentary Association. There, he organized Documentary Workers United, a first-of-its-kind union in the film nonprofit space. Bursic now works at Outfest, overseeing communications for their artist programs and film festivals, including the world’s largest LGBTQ+ film festival. He currently sits on the editorial board of cinéSPEAK and the board of the Los Angeles NLGJA chapter. He was also recently named one of Temple University’s 2023 30 Under 30.
Kristal Sotomayor | Journalist, Filmmaker, Programmer
Kristal is a bilingual Latinx festival curator, awards manager, film critic, and filmmaker based in Philadelphia. They serve as the Interim Editor-In-Chief of the cinéSPEAK Journal and are a Festival Programmer for SFFILM, True/False Film Fest and Frameline. Formerly, they were the Programming Director of the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival and Awards Competition Manager for the IDA Documentary Awards, along with being an IDA union organizer. Currently, Kristal is working on EXPANDING SANCTUARY, a documentary about the campaign led by the Latinx immigrant community in South Philadelphia to limit police surveillance. They are also developing a docu-animation film ALX THROUGH THE LABYRINTH that takes a dive into the nonbinary Latinx Alice In Wonderland-like reality of contracting COVID-19.
Lauren Monzón | Chief Operating Officer, CaFA-Third Horizon, Inc.
Lauren is a film and video game producer, and a cultural organizer from Miami, FL. Through the lens of economic science fiction, Lauren brings ten years of experience scaling support for artists, audience engagement, and operations at media organizations focused on South Florida, Latin America, and the Caribbean. As a film producer, Lauren’s work has screened across leading festivals including Sundance, SXSW, AFI Fest, Rotterdam, BlackStar, and Berlinale. As a video game producer, her work with Levels & Bosses and Otro Inventario has exhibited at Haus der Elektronischen Künste Basel, Switzerland, Locust Projects, and the 2022 Allied Media Conference with Restoring The Future. Lauren currently serves as Chief Operating Officer at Third Horizon, focused on developing regenerative ecosystems that expand the economic, artistic, and leadership opportunities available for Caribbean filmmakers.
Monika Navarro | Senior Director of Artist Programs, Firelight Media
Monika is an independent filmmaker and the Senior Director of Artist Programs at Firelight Media. Previously, she served as Senior Director of Programs at Tribeca Film Institute and managed content and funding initiatives at ITVS. Monika’s debut film Lost Souls (Animas Perdidas) chronicled the journey of her uncle, a U.S. military veteran deported to Mexico, and bowed on Independent Lens. She has produced for World Channel, American Documentary, the Peabody-award winning PBS series Latino Americans, and most recently the Sundance Institute and ITVS-supported Love in the Time of Fentanyl (DOC NYC 2022). Monika has served as a mentor and pitch coach for the 4th World Media Lab, Big Sky, the CAAM (Center for Asian American Media) Fellowship; as a juror for Blackstar and Hot Docs; and is on the board of the Points North Institute.
Nicole Solis-Sison | Funding and Development Lead/Filmmaker, Undocumented Filmmakers Collective
Nicole is a multi-hyphenate cross-disciplinary artist. Her work focuses on cultural equity, diversity and sustainability across the art, media and film industries. Nicole is a proud founding member of the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective, a nationwide organization that tackles systemic inequities facing undocumented immigrants in the media field. Solis-Sison is a co-producer of the documentary film, Undocumented Justice, that follows protagonis Luis Cortes-Romero, the first undocumented attorney to argue a case in the Supreme Court for immigrants rights in America. She received her BFA at University of California, Berkeley. More recently, Solis-Sison is the recipient of the 2022/2023 Sundance Asian American Fellowship and 2022 Define American Fellowship.
Serge Bakalian | Executive Director, Arab Film and Media Institute
Serge is a non-profit leader, science advisor, filmmaker and the founder of the Arab Film and Media Institute (AFMI), serving as its Executive Director. The California-based AFMI is a unique ecosystem to find, nurture, connect and develop Arab film and media projects, and home to the Arab Film Festival, the largest and oldest festival of its kind in North America. He also works as a science advisor for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Serge caught the artist bug in 2007 and moved to San Francisco to develop and produce film and theatre projects, the latter dedicated to exploring Middle Eastern cultures and identities. In 2011, he completed the award-winning Default: The Student Loan Documentary, which was released on PBS and over 140 broadcasting stations around the country. Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Serge holds degrees in Chemistry and International Relations.
Shanida Scotland | Head of Film, Doc Society
Shanida is a non fiction storytelling film executive producer and commissioning editor and funding professional. Currently leading on global documentary funding strategy as a Director at Doc Society, Shanida is interested in equitable funding models, looking at how to move beyond centres of power toward truly distributed knowledge and funding strategies. The wide range of documentary film, audio and immersive projects Shanida supports and champions is independent, creatively visionary and speaks to the power of non fiction storytelling to speak deep truths and to change society. Always curious and interested in the alternative, the intimate and the liminal, Shanida also experiments in audio documentaries. Prior, Shanida was Commissioning Editor at the Guardian and the award winning BBC Storyville.
Theresa Navarro | Co-Director/Chief Operations Officer, Catapult Film Fund
Theresa is a Pinay cultural worker and working mama who supports storytelling for narrative and social change. Her career in media arts spans two decades, including formative experiences with the Center for Asian American Media and American Documentary, the nonprofit behind PBS series ‘POV.’ Theresa is currently co-director and COO of Catapult Film Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to early-stage support for documentary artists. An Independent Spirit nominated producer, her credits include Emmy-nominated series ‘America ReFramed,’ Sundance special jury prize winner ‘Advantageous,’ and upcoming docuseries ‘Kapwa.’ Across her work, Theresa remains rooted in transnational feminist praxis as she seeks to render visible the dreams, desires, and intrinsic dignity of all peoples affected by systemic oppression. A public school kid born and raised in the East Bay, Theresa holds degrees in History and Ethnic Studies from UC Riverside and completed her graduate work at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.
Vivek Bald | Filmmaker & Principal Investigator, MIT Open Documentary Lab
Vivek is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and scholar whose work over the past twenty-five years has explored the experiences of South Asians in the U.S. and Britain. His documentary films include “In Search of Bengali Harlem” (2022), which uncovers an little-known past of South Asian, African American, and Puerto Rican collective life-making in mid-20th century New York City; “Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music” (2003), about South Asian youth, music, and anti-racist politics in 1970s-90s Britain; and “Taxi-vala/Auto-biography” (1996), an exploration of the lives and organizing efforts of NYC taxi drivers from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Bald is also the author of Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America (Harvard University Press, 2013) and co-Editor of The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in an Age of U.S. Power (NYU Press, 2013). He is the Faculty Director of MIT’s Open Documentary Lab.
What an awesome cohort. Thank you, Rockwood and all those you are supporting. It gives me hope!