Virtual Ready, Set, Pitch! With CAAM Fellows on Thursday, July 29, 2021 at 8:00-10:30 a.m. PT/ 11:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET
The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) invites you to the 2021 Virtual Ready, Set, Pitch! Join our 2020 & 2021 CAAM Fellows as they present their Asian American non-fiction films to a jury of representatives from the Ford Foundation, the International Documentary Association (IDA), the Independent Television Service (ITVS), and the Sundance Institute.
Kathy Im, Director of the Journalism & Media program at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will start us off with a few words. The Fellows will have seven minutes to pitch and eight minutes for jury Q&A. The winning pitch will receive a $10,000 grant from CAAM supported by the MacArthur Foundation, and the winner will be announced on August 2.
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2021 CAAM Fellows
Elizabeth Ai is a Los Angeles based Emmy award-winning producer. She writes, directs, and produces independent narratives and branded content for companies like National Geographic, ESPN, and VICE. She produced documentary features; Dirty Hands: The Life & Crimes of David Choe (2008), on the titled artist after his prison release and before his meteoric rise and A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem (2019), which examines wage theft and exploitation of the only visible NFL women. She produced Saigon Electric (2011), a narrative feature set in Vietnam’s world of breakdancing. At VICE, she created the original pilot for Bong Appétit (2014), which got picked up for series on Viceland. She’s currently directing and producing feature documentaries New Wave and In the Shadow of the Hills. As a producer, she’s currently in post with The Longest Sleep (2022) and has a slate of narratives in development. She’s a fellow of Berlin Talent Campus, Center for Asian American Media, Film Independent, Sundance, and Tribeca. Her film projects are supported by California Humanities, Firelight Media, ITVS, Knight Foundation.
Project: New Wave
Mile-high hair. Synthesized sounds. Underground parties. The “Viet New Wave” music scene of 1980’s California was the catalyst to healing for an entire generation of boat refugees stranded in cultural limbo as new Americans. New Wave E is a coming-of-age story which celebrates the trail-blazers who rebuilt community and forged a vibrant music industry more influential than the one they left behind in their homeland post Fall of Saigon.
Bree Nieves (b. Oklahoma) is an emerging independent documentary and fiction director and producer. She works across narrative, doc, and experimental modes of filmmaking to address themes such as faith, race, queerness, class, familial relationships, social justice, southern culture, and the asian and black diaspora in the United States. She is a 2021 Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and Asian American Documentary (A-DOC) Non-Fiction Fellow and a 2021 CAAM + NOVAC, Asian American Filmmakers in the South Fellow, a 2021 Unlock Her Potential Mentee, and a 2021 Flaherty Seminar Fellow. Her direct mentor for the CAAM + ADOC fellowship is the acclaimed documentary director, Steve Maing, Crime + Punishment on Hulu (Sundance, 2018) Her narrative short Niceville will have its online release in Spring of 2021, premiering at CAAMFest, Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, and Lift Off, along with a number of other official selections. She holds her Masters in Film and Television Directing and Production from MET Film School London and her B.A. in Religion and Philosophy with concentrations in Russian Literature and Language, Sociology, and Performative Art from the New College of Florida.
Project: Arise, My Beloved: An Intimate Look at Cloistered Life
On the sleepy shores of Carmel, C.A. The last group of Guamanian nuns find home at the Monastery Carmel of Our Lady and St. Therese with the backdrop of the rapid decline of young women electing to become nuns and international disdain due to sexual scandals and abuse by nuns and priests. Arise, My Beloved is a verite driven, personal film about the nuances of intergenerational friendships, matriarchal cloistered life, the AAPI community, aging with purpose and the top down “business” of the Catholic faith in light of the flawed history of the Catholic Church.
So Yun Um is a Korean American Filmmaker born and based in Los Angeles. She explores the intimate stories of marginalized people through her poetic visual language and poignant editing style. Currently, she is working on her documentary feature film, Liquor Store Dreams, which is about second generation Korean American children of Liquor Store owners in Los Angeles. Her work has screened at Palm Springs Shortfest, LA Asian Film Festival, San Diego Film Festival. So has also programmed films for AFI FEST, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, LA Film Fest and more. So is a CAAM 2021 Fellow with mentorship support from acclaimed Director Nanfu Wang. She is also an alumnus of the Armed with a Camera Fellowship by Visual Communication, recipient of the Sundance Uprise Grant and a Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program Grantee. She is a proud member of Brown Girls Doc Mafia and the Asian American Documentary Network.
Project: Liquor Store Dreams
Through the personal lens of Director So Yun Um, the film is an intimate portrait of Korean American children of liquor store owners. Tracing through the ‘92 LA Uprisings to the current BLM movements, the film examines the generational and political differences between the first and second generation.
2020 CAAM Fellows
Jude Chehab is a Lebanese-American filmmaker based between New York and Beirut. Her cinematic interests have drawn her to the exploration of the esoteric, the spiritual, and the unspoken. She has a richly layered visual and intimate personal shooting style, developed under the mentorship of Abbas Kiarostami’s final student group. Chehab has been credited in collaborations with the BBC, Refinery29, Oxfam GB, and Doctors Without Borders. She has worked as a DP for films in Somalia, Sudan and Pakistan, and was most recently an AP for Sesame Street’s newest show for Syrian refugees. Her work has been awarded fellowships through CAAM, NeXtDoc, Points North Institute, Firelight Media, and Close-Up. Chehab’s first feature documentary, which is currently in production, was based in Lebanon and has been supported by IDA, ITVS, TFI, and Sundance. It was recently awarded First Prize in the Docs in Progress program at the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival.
God works in mysterious ways and so do women. For over fifty years a Syrian movement has been secretly growing into the largest Muslim women’s organization in the world. Through a generational lens, Q takes us deep into the mysterious, unspoken of world of the Qubaysiat, the regime-loving Sufis turned cult through my mother, my grandmother and I’s relationship to the group.
Sarita Khurana is an award-winning film director and cultural producer. Khurana’s feature film, A Suitable Girl, world premiered in the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival documentary competition section, and won the Best New Documentary Director prize. A Suitable Girl has screened worldwide at festivals including Hot Docs, Sheffield, Mumbai Film Festival, AFI Docs, and is currently distributed by Amazon (US) and Netflix (worldwide). The film was used as a basis for the Netflix documentary reality series, Indian Matchmaking (2020). Sarita’s most recent film, Home, Delivered (2020) was commissioned by the Asian American Documentary Network (A-DOC) as part of their Covid-19 storytelling series. Her work has been supported by the Center for Asian American Media, Tribeca Film Institute, NALIP-Diverse Women in Film, Art in General, the National Film Development Corp of India, Women in Film, New York Foundation for the Arts, Asian Women’s Giving Circle, A-Doc, New York Women in Film & Television, the NY Times, and Film Independent. She holds an MFA in Film (Directing) from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. She is currently working with A-DOC to produce the 2021 Asian American Resilience series, which documents stories of the pandemic, anti-Asian racism, and solidarity efforts within the AAPI community. Sarita is a fellow with the Center for Asian American Media, where she is currently working on her second feature film, The Last Resort. Sarita lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Project: The Last Resort
The Last Resort is a documentary film about the first South Asian senior retirement community in the United States. Built with the vision of creating “a piece of India in Florida,” its success is part of a new wave of retirement communities designed for immigrant seniors. Following the daily lives of the residents, The Last Resort, explores the shifting cultural and familial dynamics of aging; how South Asian immigrant seniors are negotiating ideas of home, belonging, death and dying; and of creating new ‘imagined’ communities during the final phase of their lives.
Ligaiya Romero (pronouns: they, them, theirs) is a documentary filmmaker and visual artist working with collective memory and the decolonial imagination. They recently directed the short documentary film, Maia Cruz Palileo: Becoming the Moon, for PBS American Masters, Firelight Media, & Topic. They co-host a podcast about documentary as a tool for liberation, called A Liberatory Lens: Art, Journalism, and Storytelling for Justice, along with their friend and mentor, Sonya Childress. Ligaiya was the Video Producer & Editor for The Argus Project, a transmedia documentary on police violence and citizen counter-surveillance, in collaboration with CopWatch NYC. The project was supported by Tribeca New Media Fund and presented at Tribeca Film Festival in 2016. Ligaiya was a fellow at Firelight Media’s Documentary Story Lab and is currently a member of the Queer Producers Collective, A-Doc, and Brown Girls Doc Mafia. They currently teach at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies in Durham, NC and Purchase College in New York.
Project: Not Your Model Minority!
Not Your Model Minority! is a feature-length documentary film about Asian American activists working to defund the police. With the rise of anti-Asian violence under the global pandemic of COVID-19, some believe more policing of our communities will make us safe, yet these community organizers know the only way to stop hate against Asian Americans is to end White supremacy, abolish the police, and stand in solidarity with Black & Indigenous liberation movements.
Anula Shetty Anula Shetty is an award-winning filmmaker and new media artist. She is a 2020 CAAM Fellow and a recipient of a Pew Fellowship. She was previously awarded three Media Arts Fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and nominated for a USA Artist Fellowship. She received a Project Involve Fellowship, two Independence Foundation Fellowships and a Leeway Foundation Transformation Award for her art and social change work. Anula received her MFA in Film & Media Arts from Temple University and serves on the board of the Alliance for Media Arts and Culture. She is a proud member of A-Doc, Brown Girls Doc Mafia and a co-director of the artist run video collective Termite TV. Her work has been widely screened at festivals and museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, The Flaherty Film Seminar, National Museum of Women In the Arts and the Pacific Film Archive. Current projects include Places of Power, an immersive VR documentary about places of belonging and power in North Philadelphia and Cosmic Egg, a poetic documentary set against the surreal landscape of egg harvesting, transnational surrogacy and the desire for procreation.
Project: Cosmic Egg
Cosmic Egg is a story about the desire for procreation, and the long-term physical and emotional impact of reproductive technologies in a global marketplace. Set in Mumbai, the film will explore the filmmaker’s personal struggle with infertility and the characters she meets in her journey through the surreal landscape of fertility mythology, egg harvesting, embryo transfers and surrogate motherhood. Cosmic Egg will be a provocative and poignant reflection on the interplay of humanity, society, capitalism, and technology.
Ready, Set, Pitch! Jury
Amber Espinosa-Jones is an independent producer and racial equity strategist from Oakland, CA. She currently serves as Manager of the Outreach & Inclusion Department at Sundance Institute where she supports artists from underrepresented communities through intersectional fellowships, community programs, and network building. She has worked with a number of arts organizations looking to support narrative change within the entertainment industry and is currently producing her first feature documentary titled Standing Above the Clouds.
Michael Kinomoto is Senior Manager, Production and a Supervising Producer for ITVS where he oversees documentary films in production. Some recent highlights include the Academy Award-nominated and Peabody Award-winning Minding the Gap, the Emmy-winning Best of Enemies, the Peabody Award-winning The Judge, and the Full Frame Film Festival Grand Jury Prize-winner, Quest, as well as many other acclaimed titles. Earlier, he was the Senior Producer of Interactive for ITVS, producing the PBS series website for Independent Lens and the content portal for the web-exclusive FUTURESTATES series. Previously, he worked for Link TV and with filmmaker Steven Okazaki on the Academy Award-nominated documentary short, The Mushroom Club, and the Emmy award-winning feature documentary, White Light/Black Rain, both for HBO.
Poh Si Teng is the director of IDA Funds and Enterprise Program. She is the producer of the Academy Award-nominated documentary, St. Louis Superman. Prior to joining IDA, she was the documentary commissioner overseeing the US, Canada and Latin American for Al Jazeera English’s flagship documentary strand, Witness. Poh was previously a staff journalist for The New York Times, where she was nominated for an Emmy. Before joining the Times, she was an independent filmmaker and journalist based in India for several years. Her latest documentary, Blood On Our Side, recently won best documentary short at the Austin Film Festival.
Chi-hui Yang is the Senior Program Officer at the Ford Foundation and part of the Creativity and Free Expression team that makes grants globally in documentary film, new media, and visual storytelling for the foundation’s JustFilms program. He manages a portfolio that supports artist-led, socially engaged filmmaking, advances a more equitable and inclusive documentary sector, and builds the power of organizations and individuals grounded in communities of color and the Global South. Before joining the foundation, Chi-hui worked extensively as a film curator, including as a selection committee member for MoMA’s Doc Fortnight and consulting series producer for PBS’s POV. Among his independently curated programs are the 2008 Flaherty Film Seminar “The Age of Migration” and the film series and symposium “Lines and Modes: Media, Infrastructure, and Aesthetics.” From 2000 to 2010, he was director of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, the largest event of its kind in the nation.
Keynote Speaker: Kathy K. Im, Director
Journalism & Media, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Kathy oversees investments in the Foundation’s Journalism and Media program, which supports the foremost institutions of public service journalism, documentary storytelling, and participatory civic media. During her tenure, MacArthur has contributed to numerous impactful and award-winning investigative reports, and important innovations in the production and distribution of nonfiction media. In the Fall of 2014, Kathy took a sabbatical from the Foundation to be a Visiting Fellow at MIT’s Open Documentary Lab. At MIT, she explored the intersection of interactive documentaries and digital journalism, and laid the groundwork for new collaborations between interactive media makers and major news organizations. She is the co-author of “Unrestricted funding vital for journalism,” published by the American Press Institute in 2016, a member of the Peabody Board of Jurors, and the board of Media Impact Funders.
At MacArthur, Kathy has also managed or contributed to a number of special initiatives, including the Foundation’s work on gun violence prevention, intellectual property in the public interest, Internet information credibility, migration, and American democracy. Prior to joining the Foundation, Kathy worked at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Bank of America Foundation. In 2007, Kathy was named a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow, a civic program for emerging leaders.
Kathy earned her bachelor’s degree in government from Smith College and her master’s in Public Policy from the Harris School at the University of Chicago, where she was a founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Chicago Policy Review.
Thank You to Our Sponsors
The 2021 CAAM Fellowship Program is made possible with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Jessie Cheng Charitable Foundation, and PBS.