New York Women in Film & Television recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the NYWIFT Muse Awards honoring women of outstanding vision and achievement both in front of and behind the camera in film, television, and digital media. This year’s honorees included some extraordinary women: Gloria Estefan, Ann Dowd, Kasi Lemmons, Jane Rosenthal, Anjali Sud and Shoshannah Stern.
Take a look back as we introduce you to what our Muse Honorees consider a Muse:
Director / Writer / Actress
NANCY MALONE DIRECTING AWARD
Kasi Lemmons received the Nancy Malone Directing Award, which is named for Nancy Malone, an Emmy Award-winning producer and director, one of the first female directors in television, and a founding member of Women in Film in Los Angeles who dedicated her life to women’s advancement in TV, film and digital media.
Lemmons is an award-winning director, writer, actress and professor who has been a staple in Hollywood for nearly three decades. She began her career with the acclaimed 1997 feature directorial debut, “Eve’s Bayou”, which was recently inducted into the National Film Registry. She received the Independent Spirit Award for ‘Best First Feature’, and a special first-time director award by the National Board of Review. Lemmons’ sophomore feature, “The Caveman’s Valentine,” opened the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, while her third film, “Talk to Me,” earned the 2008 NAACP Image Award for outstanding directing. She also adapted Langston Hughes’ musical “Black Nativity” for the big screen in 2013. Her latest opus is “Harriet,” a deeply resonant drama based on the life of American icon Harriet Tubman starring Cynthia Enviro.
As an actress, Lemmons appeared in such notable films as Jonathan Demme’s “Silence of the Lambs”, John Woo’s “Hard Target”, and Spike Lee’s “School Daze.” Lemmons has worked extensively as a mentor and educator and currently serves as an Associate Arts Professor in the Graduate Film Department at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has shared her passion for writing and teaching with institutions across the world, including Yale University, MIT, USC, UCLA, Los Angeles Film School, and The University Pristina Film School in Kosovo. She has served on the board of Film Independent since 2004. Along with Academy-Award nominated composer Terrence Blanchard, Lemmons recently added librettist to her formidable body of work, creating the stage adaptation of Charles Blow’s New York Times bestselling memoir “Fire Shut up in My Bones,” for the Opera Theater of Saint Louis.
*Photo by Flor Blake
*Video shot by Terrence Romney
Welcome to NYWIFT, Aisha Amin! Aisha is an NYC-based writer and director. As a director, her work expands across narrative, documentary, and experimental forms to tell authentic stories built from real experiences. Her past film projects have explored and highlighted overlooked communities particularly in New York City, including formerly incarcerated mothers and communities struggling with the presence of gentrification in their neighborhoods. Amongst her directing, Aisha is an emerging screenwriting and was selected to participate in Cine Qua Non’s 2022 Screenwriting Lab. She is a 2022 recipient of NYFA’s Tomorrowland Grant and a 2021 recipient of the NYFA Women's Fund grant. She was a recipient of the 2019-2020 Sally Burns Shenkman Woman Filmmaker Fellowship at the Jacob Burns Film Center where she directed two short documentaries. She is also a recipient of The Shed's Open Call Fellowship where she expanded her film practice to installation art. Aisha spoke to us about her favorite styles of storytelling, the intersection of narrative and documentary, and her latest projects.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Lorena R. Valenica! Lorena R. Valencia is a Mexican writer-director based in New York. Her directorial debut and MFA thesis film, Cuanacaquilitl (Dandelion), received the 2022 National Board of Review Student Award and is an Official Selection in several international film festivals, including the Morelia International Film Festival, the Atlanta Film Festival, the New York Latino Film Festival, and the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles Film Festival. Lorena is passionate about both narrative and documentary storytelling and is interested in addressing issues such as reproductive rights, identity, and belonging. Currently, she is directing Mi Ranchito, a documentary short film that explores resilience and love for the land, while she is developing her debut feature film, Mayahuel. Lorena spoke to us about inspiring empathy through storytelling, the overlap of narrative and documentary filmmaking, and her latest projects.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Mary Skinner! Mary is a New York-based filmmaker whose projects include the widely-celebrated 2010 documentary Irena Sendler: In the Name of Their Mothers and Cuba Cubano Cañibano. The former was showcased at many festivals and events before being acquired by PBS and presented in many languages worldwide, in addition to receiving accolades that included the Best Documentary at the UK Jewish Film Festival and the 2012 Gracie Award for Best Public TV Documentary by and about a woman. The latter was an Official Selection of the United Nations Association Film Festival in 2017. Having graduated from UC Berkeley with a specialization in theater, Mary was one of the founding members of the Riverside Shakespeare Company in New York and the producer of the play Coming to See Aunt Sophie. Previously, she worked as a corporate marketing executive in New York and San Francisco and established 2B Productions in 2003. Read more about Mary as we discuss her close friendship with a legendary historical figure, the relationship between her artistry and family’s connection to the Holocaust, and the magic of both theater and PBS!READ MORE
Let’s all say hello to Allegra Oxborough! Originally from the Midwest, Allegra now resides in Brooklyn, NY. A versatile filmmaker who directs, produces, edits, and writes (among other talents), their body of work ranges from the short film series The Endless Sleepover to the docu-film short A Blue Morning, and the compelling short film narrative Distance. In addition to these titles, some of their other film projects include working on The Tiny Death’s music video US, the Peter Hujar-inspired Fear for Eliot Krimsky, and the upcoming I Already Went. Read more about Allegra as we discuss the common and complex dynamics experienced by artists who are trying to honor their craft while being devoted parents, and the Ira Glass quote they revisit frequently and find applicable to their art. Also, remember to check out Allegra’s website and Vimeo page, where you’ll be able to access and experience a variety of her film projects!READ MORE