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Announcing the 2024 Rockwood Documentary Leaders Fellows

By April 29, 2024May 9th, 2024No Comments


Rockwood is proud to announce the 2024 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, producers, filmmakers, educators, curators, and journalists. 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.

The 2024 Documentary Leaders Fellows are:

Amber Espinosa-Jones | Senior Manager, Artist and Audience Impact, Sundance Institute

Amber is a creative producer and DEIA strategist from Oakland, CA. She is a 2024 ArtEquity BIPOC Leader, 2022 DOC NYC Documentary New Leader, and recently produced the feature film STANDING ABOVE THE CLOUDS following Native-Hawaiian mother daughter activists executive produced by Multitude Films. Amber currently serves as Senior Manager of Artist + Audience Impact at Sundance Institute overseeing strategy and granting programs for marginalized artists and audiences. With a diverse background in theatre and film, Amber is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s Dramatic Arts and Media Arts + Practice programs with an interest in social change and collaborative community building.

Anuradha Rana | Professor, Co-chair, Documentary Program, Isthmus Films, DePaul University, and Asian American Documentary Network

Anuradha is an independent filmmaker, educator, and artistic lead whose creative and professional work aims to catalyze a more diverse media ecosystem. She has produced and directed award-winning films internationally, supported by Kartemquin Films, Tribeca Film Network, If/Then, PBS, DOC NYC, IL Arts Council, Chicago’s DCASE, CAAM, American Institute for Indian Studies, Chicago International Film Festival, and Full Spectrum Features. Anuradha was formerly the Creative Lead for the Diverse Voices in Docs fellowship organized by Kartemquin Films and the Community Film Workshop of Chicago (CFW). She is the co-chair of the Documentary Program at DePaul University where she co-founded the Collective Futures Film Lab. She is on the steering committee for the Asian American Doc Network (A-DOC) and has been named one of Chicago’s 50 Screen Gems, a DCASE esteemed artist, a DOC NYC’s Documentary New Leader, and a part of the ArtEquity BIPOC Leadership circle.

Emily Abi-Kheirs | Programming Manager, GBH; Program Director, Salem Film Fest

Emily is a queer Middle Eastern-American documentary programmer and producer based in the Greater Boston area. Currently, she is the Programming Manager at GBH, a renowned public broadcaster and producer of PBS content, and Program Director at Salem Film Fest, a filmmaker-friendly, documentary film festival in Massachusetts. Since beginning her career at WORLD Channel, they have been passionate about uplifting and amplifying stories that have been historically excluded through film programming and distribution. Recently, Abi-Kheirs reimagined the 2023 Fall Flaherty Seminar MAKA: Many Eyed Vessel in collaboration with a collective of curators. In 2022, she was recognized as a DOC NYC Documentary New Leader for their work to create a more inclusive and equitable field through community building while in her former role at Women Make Movies.

Gerry Leonard | Director of Filmmaker Services and Impact, Working Films

Gerry is an impact strategist, cultural worker and community organizer from Jakarta, Indonesia and based in Brooklyn, New York. He is the Director of Filmmaker Services and Impact at Working Films, an organization that leverages the power of documentary film and storytelling to support social justice movements. His career across the media arts and narrative ecosystem spans over a decade—blending a background in grassroots movement building and policy advocacy towards structural and cultural change. He is interested in equitable funding strategies, resource redistribution for artists and storytellers, and non-traditional leadership structures. Gerry was named as one of the 2023 DOC NYC’s New Leaders and the LEAP (Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics) Impact ’22-’23 cohort. He currently serves on the Steering Committee of the Asian American Documentary Network (A-DOC) and Global Impact Producers Alliance (GIPA). In his spare time, he enjoys biking around the city, playing chess and writing poetry.  

Lowen Kainoa Rudolfo | Program Manager, Pacific Islanders in Communications

Kainoa, hailing from Oahu, is a highly accomplished professional with a Master’s Degree in Communication from the University of Hawai’i. His academic excellence is complemented by a rich background in production, honed at Oiwi TV on Oahu. At Oiwi TV, Kainoa led the production of the short documentary “Ancestral Ink – Keone Nunes”, a significant contribution to PIC’s Pacific HeartBeat Series. After Oiwi TV, Kainoa co-founded the Hawaii Filmmakers Collective (HFC), a non-profit supporting Hawaii’s independent filmmakers. Under his leadership, HFC has grown from 2 to over 250 members. With a strong filmmaking background and proven community facilitation skills, Kainoa offers a unique blend of expertise. Driven by a deep passion for film and Hawaiian cinema, Kainoa envisions a future where creativity, storytelling, visual richness, and cultural significance merge to create impactful cinematic experiences for global audiences. 

Michelle Plascencia Esparza | GIPA Co-coordinator, Global Impact Producers Alliance

Michelle is a cultural organizer and an impact strategist based in Mexico City. She directed the Good Pitch program in México 2020 & 2022, as the Outreach and Partnerships Coordinator at DocsMX, a documentary film platform in Mexico City. She co-founded Impacta Cine, the first film and social impact collective in Mexico aimed at working with filmmakers to design and implement impact campaigns and has worked with films such as Now that we are together and Toshkua. She is also a co-coordinator of GIPA, Global Impact Producers Alliance, a community led network to connect, support and uplift impact practitioners around the globe. In March 2022, she culminated the Creative Leadership Program led by Goldsmith University and presented by British Council Mexico. Aside from seeking creative ways to unite film for impact, she is an avid runner, cyclist, hiker and curious traveler.

Netsanet Negussie | Producer, ABC News Studios

Pronouncer: Net-Suh-Net, Nay-Goo-Say 

Netsanet is a documentary film & tv producer with physical production experience. Her work is featured on Netflix, HBO, PBS, Max, Hulu, Disney+, ABC News, and Mother Jones. Her oeuvre covers a wide range of topics and themes including the criminal justice system, gun violence and legislation, right-wing extremism, and mental health. Netsanet is producer of Power (Netflix, 2024), an essay film about the evolution of policing, directed by Oscar-nominated Yance Ford and produced by Emmy Award-winning Multitude Films. Power had its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival. Netsanet was also a Fulbright Scholar in Germany where her research and reporting focused on the convoluted matrix of EU immigration policy, mis- and disinformation, and the resurgence of extremism. She holds a BS degree in neuroscience and minor in philosophy from the University of St. Thomas and a MA degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. 

Rahi Shahab Hasan | Co-founder, Funding and Development Lead, Undocumented Filmmakers Collective

Rahi, a trailblazing force, challenges power dynamics as a formerly undocumented queer Muslim Bangladeshi dancer, filmmaker, and impact strategist, carving spaces for healing and radical imagination. They are currently developing their first feature documentary, “Dhupshikha: Fragrance in the Flames,” a personal documentary exploring allyship, art, and acceptance amidst trauma. A Sundance Institute Fellow, Center for Asian American Media grantee, and Firelight Media Impact Producer fellow, Rahi’s diverse skills are accredited with a Documentary Arts Certificate from Duke University. Their leadership earned the 2021 Doc NYC New Leaders award, and they co-founded the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective, also leading youth documentary curriculums and designing Impact Labs for documentary filmmakers. At Dhaka Doc Lab, Rahi uses US networks to support Bangladeshi filmmakers, offering scholarships and securing the region’s first US grant for an impact lab. Rahi’s efforts amplify underrepresented voices, driving impactful change in filmmaking and beyond. 

Resita Heavenly Cox | Independent Filmmaker, Black Archive Media

Resita is an Emmy Award winning documentary film director and producer. Her films are a poetic portrayal of her community’s irrepressible spirit and resilience in the face of racism. Resita’s documentary film work is people based, meaning it not only features unique, personal stories, but it also prioritizes relationships and is constantly working to reimagine an equitable filmmaking model. Born and raised in the South, her films center Southern, Black communities and use them as a lens to examine topics ranging from environmental justice to racial justice. She is the director/producer of Freedom Hill, an award-winning documentary about the environmental racism that is washing away the first town chartered by Black people in the nation, with which she was named a 2021 Hulu/Kartemquin Accelerator Fellow. She holds an MFA from Northwestern University in Documentary Film and was named a 2022 Esteemed Artist by the City of Chicago.

Robin J. Hayes | Chief Creative Officer, ROOF Media

Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Dr. Robin was born in Brooklyn before it was artisanal. Working with the producers of QUEEN OF THE SOUTH, she was Co-Executive Producer on Fremantle’s forthcoming pirate series SANDOKAN. Prior to her career in film and television, Robin studied at Yale, NYU, and the Sorbonne, led humanitarian aid missions to Latin America, and was a professor of international affairs and Black studies at prestigious institutions including Williams and Northwestern. She wrote, directed, and produced the award-winning documentary BLACK AND CUBA (Peacock, Tubi), which was exhibited at film festivals, campuses, and community-based organizations throughout the US and internationally. In addition to collaborating on acclaimed documentaries for Netflix and PBS, Robin was selected for The Black List Episodic Lab and Women in Film Shorts Lab, funded by Google. She’s also a trilingual surfer and fine art enthusiast. Robin is based in Santa Monica, California.

Sara Archambault | Program Director, Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy

Sara is the Project Director of the Documentary Film in the Public Interest Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Sara has a professional history in programming, foundation work and independent documentary producing. Her award-winning films have screened in festivals around the world and received support from Sundance Film Institute, Ford Foundation, SFFILM, Catapult Film Fund, IDA, and Perspective Fund among others. Sara was a 2020 Impact Partners Producing Fellow and a 2013 Sundance Creative Producers Lab Fellow. Recent titles include RIOTSVILLE, USA; TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES; A DECENT HOME; NO TIME TO FAIL and RICHLAND. She is a member of the Documentary Producers Alliance and a trustee of The Flaherty. A resident of Providence, RI, she is mother to two incredible children, partner to a tireless public school teacher, and loves going to the movies by herself.

Tadashi Nakamura | Director of the Media Arts Center at JANM, Japanese American National Museum

Tadashi is an award-winning filmmaker and Director of the Watase Media Arts Center, a production company of the Japanese American National Museum. Tadashi was named CNN’s “Young People Who Rock” for being the youngest filmmaker at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Now with over 20 years of filmmaking experience, his films include MELE MURALS (2016), JAKE SHIMABUKURO: LIFE ON FOUR STRINGS (2013), A SONG FOR OURSELVES (2009), and PILGRIMAGE (2006). He is currently working on THIRD ACT, about his pioneering filmmaker father, Robert A. Nakamura, and his current battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Tadashi has an M.A. in Social Documentation from UC Santa Cruz and a B.A. in Asian American Studies from UCLA. He was a 2020-22 Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellow, 2022-23 Sundance Asian American Fellow, selected for the DOC NYC ‘40 Under 40’ list in 2019, and is currently a mentor for the 2024 CAAM Fellowship.

Zaferhan Yumru | Director of Marketing, Communications, and Design, International Documentary Association

A queer Turkish immigrant to the US, Zaferhan is a filmmaker, photographer, and nonprofit communications professional whose award-winning work has been screened at and licensed by Sundance, SXSW, Hot Docs, PBS, TIME Magazine, and more. In their film and communications work, Zaferhan mainly focuses on LGTBTQ+ experiences in organizing, immigration, displacement, community (re)building, healing, romance, and joy. Zaferhan currently serves as the Director of Marketing, Communications, and Design at the International Documentary Association (IDA). They previously held equivalent roles in the New Orleans Film Society & Festival and !f Istanbul Independent Film Festival. They are a member of the PATOIS Collective in New Orleans, whose mission is to create accessible spaces at the crossroads of art and social justice. Zaferhan believes in the power of documentaries to heal, educate, entertain, change, and guide us for a de-weaponized, de-colonized future of humanity. Learn more at

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