Laura Nix: 2018 Breakthrough Award Recipient
Laura Nix is an award-winning director, writer and producer. Her latest film Inventing Tomorrow, about teenagers from around the globe who are tackling environmental issues through science, premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival 2018. Awarded the 2017 Sundance Institute/Discovery Impact Fellowship, Nix previously directed The Yes Men Are Revolting (Toronto Film Festival 2014, Berlinale 2015), which was released domestically and in multiple international territories. Her film The Light in Her Eyes premiered at IDFA; was broadcast on the PBS series POV and Al Jazeera Middle East; and toured the world as part of Sundance’s Film Forward program. Other feature directing credits include the comedic melodrama The Politics of Fur, which played in over 70 festivals internationally and won multiple awards including the U.S. Grand Jury Prize at Outfest; and Whether You Like It Or Not, about the phenomenon of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. She is currently a film expert for the U.S. State Department’s American Film Showcase, and her nonfiction work has screened at hundreds of film festivals internationally, on The New York Times Op-Docs, and on television via HBO, Arte, ZDF, VPRO, CBC, NHK, Canal+, and IFC.
Natalia Almada: 2018 Breakthrough Award Recipient
Recipient of the 2012 MacArthur “Genius” Grant, Natalia Almada combines artistic expression with social inquiry to make films that are both personal reflections and critical social commentaries. Her work straddles the boundaries of documentary, fiction, and experimental film. Her most recent film Todo lo demás (Everything Else) is a narrative feature starring Academy Award®-nominated Adriana Barraza; it premiered at the New York Film Festival and was nominated for an Ariel Award. El Velador (The Night Watchman) premiered at the 2011 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and broadcast on the award-winning PBS program POV, along with her other two feature documentaries Al otro lado (To The Other Side) and El General (The General). Almada’s short film All Water Has a Perfect Memory premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and received the Best Short Documentary award at the Tribeca Film Festival. Almada was the recipient of the 2009 Documentary Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, United States Artists, the Herb Alpert Foundation, and The MacDowell Colony. Almada graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and currently lives between Mexico City and San Francisco.
Nanfu Wang: 2018 Breakthrough Award Recipient
Nanfu Wang is an Emmy Award®-nominated and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker based in New York City. Wang’s feature debut Hooligan Sparrow was shortlisted for the 2017 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Since its premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, Hooligan Sparrow has won over twenty awards internationally including two Emmy Award® nominations, a Peabody Award, a Cinema Eye Honor for Outstanding Achievement in Debut Feature Film, a George Polk Documentary Film Award, the IDA’s Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award, and the Truer than Fiction Award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Hooligan Sparrow opened theatrically across North America and was later released on POV, Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes. Her latest feature documentary I Am Another You premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2017 and won two awards: the LUNA® Chicken & Egg Award – Documentary and the Special Jury Award for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling. Originally from a remote village in China, Wang overcame poverty and lack of access to formal secondary education and went on to earn three master’s degrees from Shanghai University, Ohio University, and New York University in English Literature, Media Studies, and Documentary respectively.
Kimi Takesue: 2018 Breakthrough Award Recipient
Kimi Takesue is an award-winning filmmaker and recipient of Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellowships in Film. Other honors include two fellowships from New York Foundation for the Arts, an Eastman Kodak Cinematography Fellowship, and grants from ITVS, NYSCA, and Arts Council England. She is a six-time fellow at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. Takesue’s feature-length documentary 95 and 6 to Go was nominated for the prestigious 2017 Doc Alliance Selection Award and screened at over twenty-five international festivals including CPH:DOX, DOK Leipzig, Doclisboa, FIDMarseille and DOC NYC. The film was awarded a Special Jury Award at both the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and Indie Memphis. Commissioned by International Film Festival Rotterdam, Takesue’s acclaimed Ugandan documentary Where Are You Taking Me? screened at Rotterdam, MoMA’s Doc Fortnight and the LA Film Festival. The film was theatrically released by Icarus Films, was a Critics’ Pick by Time Out New York and LA Weekly and was described by The New York Times as, “Fascinating…an unusual, visually rich visit to the nation.” Takesue’s ten films have screened at over two hundred festivals/museums internationally including the Sundance Film Festival, the Locarno Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, SXSW, and the Museum of Modern Art and have aired on PBS, IFC, Comcast, and SundanceTV.
Ramona Diaz: 2018 Breakthrough Award Recipient
Ramona Diaz is an award-winning Asian American filmmaker best known for her compelling character-driven documentaries that combine a profound appreciation for cinematic aesthetics and potent storytelling. Her films have demonstrated her ability to gain intimate access to the people she films—be they rock stars, first ladies, dissidents, teachers or mothers—resulting in keenly observed moments and nuanced narratives. While she has focused exclusively on stories of Filipinos and Filipino Americans, the themes of Ramona’s stories are universal. Her films have screened and won awards at the Sundance Film Festival, the Berlinale, and the Tribeca Film Festival, among others. All four of Ramona’s feature length films—Imelda, The Learning, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, and Motherland—have broadcast on either POV or Independent Lens on PBS. She has also served on numerous film festival juries and funding panels. Ramona is a graduate of Emerson College and has an MA in Documentary Filmmaking from Stanford University. Recently she was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and was inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Dawn Porter: 2017 Breakthrough Award Recipient
Dawn Porter is a documentary filmmaker whose first feature, Gideon’s Army, won the Sundance Film Festival Editing Award in 2013 and later broadcast on HBO. The film was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and an Emmy®. Dawn’s other films have appeared on PBS, OWN, and the Discovery Channel. In 2015, Porter interviewed President Barack Obama for Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper. Dawn’s latest feature project, Trapped, explores the impact of laws regulating abortion clinics in the South. Trapped premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking. In 2016, Porter was named to Variety’s “10 Documakers to Watch” and received the Robert and Anne Drew Award for Documentary Excellence at DOC NYC’s Visionaries Tribute. She also recently created a short film for The New Yorker Presents, a digital series executive produced by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney.
Grace Lee: 2017 Breakthrough Award Recipient
Grace Lee is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker whose work explores questions of history, race, politics, and community. She directed American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, which won six festival audience awards and aired on the POV documentary series. Other directing credits include The Grace Lee Project, Janeane From Des Moines, the Emmy-nominated Makers: Women and Politics, and Off the Menu: Asian America. Lee’s work has been supported by the Ford Foundation, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Center for Asian American Media, Film Independent, and the Sundance Institute, where she was a Women at Sundance Fellow. She recently co-founded the Asian American Documentary Network and is currently in production on KTOWN 92, an interactive documentary that explores the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots through the eyes of the greater Koreatown community.
Penny Lane: 2017 Breakthrough Award Recipient
Penny Lane’s most recent feature NUTS! premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival where it won a Special Jury Prize for Editing. Her debut feature documentary Our Nixon premiered at the 2013 Rotterdam, had its North American premiere at SXSW, won the Ken Burns Award for “Best of the Festival” at Ann Arbor, and was selected as the Closing Night Film at New Directors/New Films. Lane was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in 2012 and “Most Badass” at the Iowa City Documentary Film Festival in 2009. Film festival screenings span the independent and experimental film worlds, including Sundance, Rotterdam, Images, Impakt, Hot Docs, Full Frame, CPH:DOX, and Oberhausen. She is currently a professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Colgate University.
Kirsten Johnson: 2017 Breakthrough Award Recipient
Drawing on footage she shot for a myriad of documentary directors over the last 25 years, Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival; won the Cinema Eye Honors for Best Documentary, Best Editing, Best Cinematography; and the National Board of Review Freedom of Expression Award. Widely reviewed as one of the top films of 2016, it received awards at nine international festivals, was nominated for the Gotham Independent Film Awards, the IDA Documentary Awards, the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards, and is currently shortlisted for an Academy Award®. Johnson’s short film, The Above, was nominated for 2016 Best Short Film Award by the IDA. Her interest in image-making, collaboration with documentary filmmakers, and the ethical dilemmas faced by camerapeople around the world is ongoing.
Geeta Gandbhir: 2017 Breakthrough Award Recipient
Geeta began her career in editing. As an editor, she has won two Emmy Awards. Her latest feature documentary, Prison Dogs, which she co-directed with Perri Peltz, premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. Her film with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers, premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival; won the Jury award for Best Documentary at the Bentonville Film Festival; and won the Humanitarian Award at the RiverRun Film Festival. She co-created and was a director on a series about race for The New York Times Op-Docs entitled The Conversation, which won an Online Journalism Award. Her film with Ms. Peltz, Remembering the Artist, Robert De Niro, Sr., for HBO, premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. She is currently finishing a feature documentary on a bomb disposal unit in Pakistan.