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
NYWIFT member Maleni Chaitoo is an actress and a producer. She is known for her appearance in the “New York, I Love You” episode of Master of None and her role as Kayla on the web series Don’t Shoot the Messenger, on which she is also an executive producer. The series is a comedy about a socially awkward sign language interpreter who, despite being fluent in two languages, still “fumbles through life in NYC hopelessly lost in translation.” In addition to having Deaf and hearing cast members, the series also had Deaf and hearing directors, designers, and crew working side by side.
Chaitoo states that her proudest achievement was receiving the Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness Grant at the 2016 NYWIFT Muse Awards, “I was quite amazed, inspired, and honored to see all of these attendees laughing at a short video clip of me playing [the] Kayla character in the episode three. It was amazing sharing our joy with our audiences.”
Don’t Shoot the Messenger is available for streaming on YouTube.
In the 2023 Sundance Film Festival short film Take Me Home, a cognitively disabled woman and her estranged sister must learn to communicate in order to move forward after their mother’s death. It captures of a moment of terror experienced by so many siblings of those with disabilities, when they are suddenly responsible for making a plan for a loved one who cannot live on their own, potentially upending both their lives as they also work through their grief. For writer and director NYWIFT member Liz Sargent, the story hits close to home. And she cast her own mother and younger sister to play versions of themselves. Sargent spoke to us about finding support in her identity as a sibling guardian, beautiful moments working on set with her family, and her joyous Sundance experience.READ MORE
Muse on TV: NYWIFT is thrilled to announce that the Muse Awards will make its broadcast premiere on CUNY TV in celebration of Women’s History...READ MORE
NYWIFT member Jodie Alexandra Taylor's documentary Pennhurst, which screens at the Member Screening Series on February 25th, was inspired by her visit to what remains of one of the largest and oldest institutions for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. One chapter of the story ended when the institution closed, but the fight for equitable treatment and representation for the disabled continues to this day. Making the movie inspired a fervent commitment on Taylor’s part to continue that dialogue and, in so doing, change the future narrative. Taylor sat down with us to discuss the film and its potential impact.READ MORE
Nancy Schwartzman: Last week NYWIFT hosted a Twitter chat with director Nancy Schwartzman of Roll Red Roll, available now on PBS’ POV. If you haven’t...READ MORE