We’re counting down the 40 days to NYWIFT’s 40th Anniversary Muse Awards with a look at some of our favorite honorees, all women of vision and achievement who have contributed to the film and television industry. Join us as we look back at #Muse40for40, and buy your tickets for the Muse Awards on Tuesday, December 10th at nywift.org/muse!
#31: Lisa Nishimura
By Kathryn O’Kane
13-year Netflix veteran Lisa Nishimura was the VP of Original Documentary and Comedy Programming when we honored her at 2018; just three months later, she was named the head of Independent Film and Documentary Programming. In 2017, she was named one of the 100 most powerful women in entertainment by The Hollywood Reporter.
Under her leadership, Netflix has provided a global platform for critically acclaimed documentary work including Making a Murderer; Wild Wild Country; Chef’s Table; Icarus; What Happened, Miss Simone?; 13th; White Helmets and Salt Fat Acid Heat. In addition, her team has produced global stand-up comedy specials including Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette and Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife as well as work from the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, and Amy Schumer, with forthcoming specials from Ellen DeGeneres and Chris Rock. The current slate of films including Reversing Roe, Shirkers and Quincy, showcases Netflix’s commitment to female documentarians and compelling storytelling.
“I think this is the very reason why I absolutely love and feel so privileged to do the work I do. I get to support incredible storytellers — documentarians, comics – true creators who are the brilliant social commentators of our day.” – Lisa Nishimura at the 2018 Muse Awards
In director Tracy Droz Tragos feature documentary Plan C, a hidden grassroots organization doggedly fights to expand access to abortion pills across the United States, keeping hope alive during a global pandemic and the fall of Roe v. Wade. With abortion restrictions and bans going into effect, Francine Coeytaux and her team of providers established Plan C — a grassroots organization dedicated to expanding access to medication abortion. NYWIFT member Jess Jacobs, the film’s executive producer, has a career-long history of activism – including work with the Plan C organization before the movie was even made! She spoke to us about Plan C’s Sundance premiere, her passion for reproductive justice, and the power of community.READ MORE
Let’s welcome new member Arielle Duran to NYWIFT! Having been raised in Ridgewood, Queens, Arielle Duran is a proud New Yorker and versatile storyteller of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent. Since graduating from the University of South Florida's Zimmerman School, where she studied broadcasting and production, Arielle’s theatrical talents have been showcased in notable television shows such as The Calling and American Rust, among other projects. In addition to acting, Arielle is currently pursuing screenwriting as a graduate student at the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. Arielle spoke to us about her New York roots, storytelling, and honing her craft.READ MORE
Since premiering and winning the Jury Prize in the 2022 Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival (the first to do so from the Indian subcontinent), Joyland has moved audiences worldwide with its human portrayal of the limits of love in the face of patriarchy. The film follows the youngest son in a traditional Pakistani family as he takes a job as a backup dancer in a Bollywood-style burlesque, and quickly becomes infatuated with the strong-willed trans woman who runs the show. The film is both a loving portrait of the people of Lahore, Pakistan, and a painful depiction of how rigid traditional gender roles and repressed sexuality can have a ripple effect that harms the whole community. NYWIFT member Katharina Otto-Bernstein, who produced Joyland, spoke to us about discovering new artists through mentorship, political pushback on Joyland, and how Malala Yousafzai helped the film finally reach Pakistani audiences.READ MORE
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