Brown Girls Doc Mafia Announces Awardees of Black Directors, Sustainable Artist Fellowships


Brown Girls Doc Mafia (BGDM) has announced the recipients of the 2022-2023 Black Directors Fellowship and Sustainable Artist Fellowship, two new programs that will facilitate the creative and professional development of documentary filmmakers through grantmaking, mentorship, and curated industry connections. The joint cohort of awardees will also receive a total of $100,000 in grants, the organization revealed in a press release.

The two fellowships aim to address the gender and racial disparities in the documentary field, which, as BGDM Executive Director Iyabo Boyd points out, fails to recognize the unique experiences and needs of BIPOC women and non-binary filmmakers. “The Fellowships will take a holistic approach that considers the entirety and sustainability of their career and long-term future,” said Boyd. 

The programs, previously known as the BGDM Black Directors and Sustainable Artist Grants, were reconfigured as fellowships in 2022. “Our focus with this reenvisioning is to emphasize the community building aspect of the program as a way to ensure our Fellows thrive within a sense of intentionally cultivated belonging, purpose, safety, and strength. We believe that these relationships are the seeds that will sow deeper change in the documentary industry over the next twenty years, enabling this ‘great age of documentary’ to be more diverse, equitable, just, and inclusive,” Boyd explained. 

Sponsored by the Bertha Foundation, the Black Directors Fellowship supports directors whose work highlights Black experiences and amplifies Black voices by providing fellows with greater visibility, resources, creative enrichment, and professional development. Awardees of the Sustainable Artist Fellowship are directors, producers, editors, and/or DPs distinguished by their unique storytelling and professional potential, and will receive mentorship during critical junctures of their career. These fellowships will henceforth be run annually.

The six selections for the Black Directors Fellowship include Christine Turner, Nyasha Kadandara, Chelsi Bullard, Brittany Ferrell, Zephrine Royer, and Stephanie Saxemard. In addition, Jia Li, Mars Verrone, Xinyan Yu, Robie Flores, and Jude Chehab were awarded the Sustainable Artist Fellowship.

We were taken by the wealth of stories and talent in this year’s applicant pool. The selection process became even more challenging as we recognized the amount of resources still needed to adequately support and compensate the creative work of Black and brown femme and non-binary documentary filmmakers insisting on a more inclusive reality,” the Fellowship Selection jury shared.

BGDM is a collective of BIPOC women and non-binary professionals working in documentary filmmaking, pushing for industry reform, removing barriers to access, and providing mentorship to their 5000 members and counting. The organization works to “disrupt inequity in the film industry by nurturing, amplifying, and investing in the creative capacity and success of our members,” according to their mission statement.

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