In honor of Women’s History Month, NYWIFT looks back at some of the remarkable women who have shaped the film, television and digital media industries through the decades.
By Mellini Kantayya
Sandra Osawa is a director, producer, and writer. She is a member of the Makah Nation of Washington State.
One could argue that news coverage of Native American issues is still vastly lacking today. Thus, Sandra Osawa was a true ground-breaker in 1974 by directing, producing, and writing NBC’s first news program on Native American issues. She later also became the first Native American filmmaker to produce a POV program for PBS, Lighting the 7th Fire.
Lighting the 7th Fire (1995, PBS)
“I jumped into the film world early,” Osawa said. “At a time when no other Indians were producing. I did so mainly because the images I saw of Indian people in everyday life and the images I saw on the screen were so vastly different. I also thought it was difficult for us to achieve the political victories we sought in the 60’s and 70’s because our image in the media was so poor. I thought American Indians should be portrayed as contemporary figures with a vibrant culture, full of humor and strength, and with our own inspiring role models.”
NYWIFT member Sascha Just directed and produced Ellis, the first feature-length documentary about the late legendary New Orleans pianist and educator, Ellis Marsalis, Jr. Marsalis composed and performed major works of modern jazz infused with a uniquely New Orleans touch. Just spoke to us about all the ways in which jazz has influenced her work, getting to know a creative legend, and her DOC NYC premiere.READ MORE
In the documentary short The House of LaBeija, directed and produced by NYWIFT member Fredgy Noël, we meet the eponymous prominent ballroom family and safe haven for transgender women, queer people, and those in need of community. Over the course of 10 minutes, several members of the house dance, vogue, and celebrate their identities across a strikingly glamorous mansion that seems to be an embodiment of their safe harbor. Fredgy Noël spoke to us about ballroom culture, creative inspirations, and what’s next on her horizon.READ MORE
NYWIFT member Jill Woodward edited the documentary 1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted a Culture, which won the Audience Award at DOC NYC 2022. In this deeply personal tale, a gay seminary scholar and a straight activist, seeking to uncover the origins of the rabid homophobia of the conservative church, make a shocking discovery: an erroneous translation of the term “homosexual” in the Bible in 1946 that has been weaponized against the LGBTQIA+ community ever since. Woodward spoke to us about the editing process, what she learned along the way, and which types of projects excite her the most.READ MORE
Welcome, new NYWIFT member Ching Juhl! Ching is a Chinese American filmmaker, video journalist, and music educator who has directed, filmed, edited, and produced three feature films, promotional videos, and hundreds of shorts. Her feature documentary My Yang Gang Diary, which she shot entirely on an iPhone 11, won Best Feature Film Award at Toronto Documentary Film Festival in 2021. Ching spoke to us about the benefits of shooting on iPhone, the intersection of music and filmmaking, and the friends who brought her to NYWIFT.READ MORE