2023 NYWIFT Film Festival Award Winners

NYWIFT Board Member Joyce Pierpoline, Filmmaker Jennifer Esposito, and NYWIFT CEO Cynthia Lopez at the 2023 Hamptons International Film Festival, where Esposito received the NYWIFT Award for Excellence in Narrative Directing. (Photo Credit: NYWIFT)


New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) was proud to present 11 NYWIFT Festival Awards to emerging an established filmmakers throughout 2023.

The organization’s festival awards initiative was first established in 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, to provide cash support and association memberships to filmmakers demonstrating remarkable achievements in narrative and documentary directing.

Last year, NYWIFT presented 11 festival awards for Excellence in Directing across various categories to: Jennifer Esposito (Fresh Kills), Madeleine Gavin (Beyond Utopia), and Erica Tremblay (Fancy Dance) at the Hamptons International Film Festival; Daisy Friedman (As You Are) at NewFest Film Festival; Frances Causey (Final Fight: When the Trauma of War Comes Home) and Vivian Kerr (Scrap) at SOHO International Film Festival; Anne Hu (Lunchbox), Zainab Jah (Reunion), and Apolline Traoré (Sira) at UrbanWorld; and Kristi Jacobson (No Accident) Jane Weinstock (Three Birthdays) at Woodstock Film Festival.

Read more about the 2023 award winners below.

About the 2023 NYWIFT Festival Award Winners


Hamptons International Film Festival

Jennifer Esposito – Fresh Kills

The women of the Larusso crime family are no strangers to adapting to tough circumstances. In the wake of their world being unexpectedly uprooted, these women learn to fend for themselves in New York City during the late 20th century, even with the cards stacked against them. Led by their unsteady but loving mother Francine (Jennifer Esposito), two very different sisters — destructive Connie (Odessa A’zion) and dutiful Rose (Emily Bader) — are the next generation of women who must grow up in this turbulent world controlled by unspoken rules that dictate who they are and who they become.

Jennifer Esposito is a Screen Actors Guild, Critics Choice and Hollywood Foreign Press award recipient with a career that spans over 25 years. She’s had notable roles in Crash by Paul Haggis, Summer of Sam by Spike Lee, Welcome to Collinwood by The Russo Brothers, Spin City, Samantha Who, Blue Bloods, The Affair, The Boys, Nora from Queens, among others. Jennifer is also the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Jennifer’s Way. Now she takes on a new career as a filmmaker with the debut of Fresh Kills which she directed, wrote, produced and co-stars in.


Madeleine Gavin – Beyond Utopia

Courageous South Korean pastor Seungeun Kim acts as a guide for those risking their lives to flee the oppression of North Korea, a land they grew up believing was a paradise. When a family of five—including small children and an elderly grandmother—contacts Kim for help, he embarks with them on a treacherous journey into the hostile mountains of China and through southeast Asia. Gripping, thrilling, and timely, director Madeleine Gavin’s Sundance Audience Award-winning film uses harrowing vérité footage to embed the viewer with the subjects during their perilous escape, crafting a suspenseful, riveting portrait of the lengths people will go to gain freedom.

Primarily an editor, Madeleine Gavin works in both narrative and documentary film. She edited Julius Onah’s, LUCE starring Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer (Sundance Film Festival, three Independent Spirit Award nominations). Before that, she finished her second collaboration with director Reed Morano on I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW starring Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning (Special Jury Prize for Outstanding Filmmaking, Sundance). Her work on Rebecca Cammisa’s Academy Award-nominated documentary WHICH WAY HOME earned her an Emmy nomination. She and Cammisa recently completed the HBO documentary, ATOMIC HOMEFRONT, which received a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. Madeleine teaches in the Graduate Film program at Columbia University and is a member of the Academy.

Erica Tremblay – Fancy Dance

Native American hustler Jax (Lily Gladstone, KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON) searches tirelessly for her missing sister while caring for her niece Roki (Isabel Deroy-Olson). When child services places Roki under the care of her white grandparents (Shea Whigham, Audrey Wasilewski), Jax and Roki run away together in hopes of reuniting their family at the state powwow. Director Erica Tremblay delivers an affecting, accomplished debut feature full of heart, which premiered to critical acclaim at Sundance. Anchored by tender, powerful performances from Gladstone and newcomer Deroy-Olson, FANCY DANCE captures both the devastation of loss and the resilience of those left behind.

Erica Tremblay is a writer and director from the Seneca-Cayuga Nation. She recently worked as an Executive Story Editor on RESERVATION DOGS at FX, where she directed her first episode of TV for the series. Together with Sterlin Harjo, she is developing a series adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize finalist, YELLOWBIRD, for Paramount. Erica was an Executive Story Editor on the upcoming AMC series, DARK WINDS, produced by George R.R. Martin and Robert Redford. Her feature project, FANCY DANCE, was accepted into the 2021 Sundance Directors and Screenwriters Labs. In 2021, she was also awarded the Walter Bernstein Screenwriting Fellowship, the Maja Kristin Directing Fellowship, the SFFILM Rainin Grant, and the Lynn Shelton Of a Certain Age Grant. Her short film, LITTLE CHIEF, premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was included on IndieWire’s top-ten list of must-see short films at the fest. In addition to writing and directing, Erica is also studying her Indigenous language.

NewFest Film Festival

Daisy Friedman – As You Are

When an interabled queer couple spends the night together for the first time, they navigate the power of loving someone else through healing their relationships with their own bodies.

Daisy Friedman is an independent filmmaker based in New York City. She is passionate about authentically representing the stories of marginalized communities. Her history as a multi-organ transplant recipient has drawn her to create work that centers on the intersections of disability, desire, and embodiment. Her directorial debut short film, As You Are, won her the Colin Higgins Youth Foundation Grant at the Frameline Film Festival. The film also received the U.S. Narrative Short Grand Jury Prize Special Mention at Outfest and the Newfest + NYWIFT Emerging Filmmaker Award. As You Are has also played at the Chicago International Film Festival, Berkshire International Film Festival, and more. Daisy has previously held positions at FilmNation Entertainment, Americans For the Arts and It Doesn’t Suck Productions. Daisy has also been recognized for her creative writing. In 2020, she was awarded a National Scholastic Gold Medal and American Voices Award for her poem “Dear Organ Donor.”

SOHO International Film Festival

Frances Causey – Final Fight: When the Trauma of War Comes Home

When the Trauma of War Comes Home goes deeper than any documentary to date in revealing the root causes of this tragic epidemic by profiling a diverse group of veterans struggling with either combat and sexual assault-related Post Traumatic Stress, a major cause of suicide.

Director Frances Causey is an Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker, journalist, and TED contributor with 15 years experience as a Senior Producer at CNN and previous work hailed as a New York Times Critic’s Pick. Her body of work has been featured on Netflix, PBS, and The History Channel-among other international outlets. Films include Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?, The Long Shadow, Is Your Story Making You Sick?, Final Fight: When the Trauma of War Comes Home, Coronado: The New Evidence. , Ours is the Land, and There’s No O’odham Word for WallShe loves making films about her local community in Arizona, particularly stories about First Americans. She is a proud member of the Producers Guild of America. 

Vivian Kerr – Scrap

Beth (Vivian Kerr) has recently been laid off and struggles to maintain the appearance of a successful middle-class lifestyle as she bounces around Los Angeles. Hoping to land a new job and change her situation before her estranged older brother Ben (Anthony Rapp) finds out, Beth must confront her own pride in order to reconnect with him and provide for her young daughter Birdy. Meanwhile, Ben and his wife Stacy (Lana Parrilla) consider a third round of IVF and Stacy, a successful attorney, must re-evaluate her own conflicted relationship with motherhood.

Vivian Kerr is an LA-based actor, writer, director, and producer. SCRAP, her feature film debut, world premiered in competition and was nominated for the Grand Prize at the Deauville-American Film Festival. She won a Special Jury Prize in Acting Achievement at the Phoenix Film Festival, Outstanding Actress at the Micheaux Film Festival, the NYWIFT Award for Excellence in Narrative Directing at the SOHO Film Festival, Best Director at Mystic Film Festival, the MINT Spirit Award at the Montana International Film Festival, and the Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature at both Naples International Film Festival and Coronado Island Film Festival. Her screenplay for SCRAP was a Top 10 Finalist in Final Draft’s Big Break Screenwriting Competition.  Her second feature, SÉANCE, a Victorian-era psychological thriller, was selected for Wscripted’s Cannes Screenplay List and is in post-production. She was a Finalist in Sony Pictures TV’s Rising Storytellers Search with her pilot FIVE POINTS, about the female-led gangs of 19th century New York, which was also invited into the Stowe Story Labs, the Story Incubator Writing Lab, and selected as one of eight pilots for the inaugural Women’s Weekend Film Challenge TV Pilot Accelerator. 



Anne Hu – Lunchbox

When a Taiwanese American woman prepares lunches from her childhood, she struggles to forgive herself for pushing away her immigrant mother.

Anne Hu is a Taiwanese American, award-winning director, writer, editor, and actress. Her directing focus is in narrative film and TV. Hu finished the pilot Netflix Original Series Directors Development program in Spring 2022.  As seen in The Hollywood Reporter, Hu made the 2020 Alice List for Emerging Female Filmmakers who Have Not Yet Directed a Feature. She shadowed director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) on Netflix’s The Society. Hu is also a fellow of the 2019 Space on Ryder Farm Film Lab. She has directed, written, and starred in award-winning short films. Her short CAKE was accepted into 38 festivals, earned 9 awards, and was featured in The Washington Post. As an actor, she has trained at T. Schreiber Studio, The Barrow Group, and The Freeman Studio. In CAKE, she and the cast were nominated for Best Ensemble. Hu hopes to provide catharsis for audiences and inspire them to regard marginalized voices with their whole humanity.


Zainab Jah – Reunion

Isata, an African immigrant, discovers the child soldier who had wiped out her family, is now a best selling author living in New York City. Compelled to take action, will she go through with her plan to hold him accountable?

Zainab Jah is a British award-winning theater, television and film actress of Sierra Leonean descent. She is mostly known for her theater performances as Maima (Wife Number Two) in Danai Gurira’s Broadway play Eclipsed, Venus, and School Girls, among others. She has also worked in film and television. She plays anti-corruption minister Aminata Sissoko in the second season of Deep State, and Aby Bah in Homeland. She has also appeared on Blindspot and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.




Apolline Traoré – Sira

After a brutal attack, a young nomad named Sira refuses to surrender to her fate without a fight and instead takes a stand against Islamist terror. A feminist counterpoint to current reporting from the Sahel region.

Apolline Traoré is a Burkinabé director, winner of several distinctions and awards. She completed her bachelor’s in fine art from the Emerson College School of Art in Boston. Her graduation film: “The Price of Ignorance” won the Jury Prize at Fespaco 2001. At 25, she directed and produced the cult series “Monia and Rama” and a few years later “The Testament”. Her first short film “Kounandi” was selected at the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival in 2004. She worked on independent films in Hollywood before returning to the country in 2008. Her work places a particular emphasis on the voice of women and the scourges that plague the African continent. After “Frontières” in 2017, “Desrances” in 2019 is her fourth feature film, both of which have won multiple awards around the world. She was distinguished in 2019, Knight of the Order of Merit, Arts, Letters and Communication and in 2020.

Woodstock Film Festival

Kristi Jacobson – No Accident

In the aftermath of a deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, VA, attorneys Roberta “Robbie” Kaplan and Karen Dunn file a civil lawsuit against 17 white nationalist leaders and organizations.

Kristi Jacobson is a NY-based Emmy Award-winning filmmaker whose films capture nuanced, intimate, and provocative portrayals of individuals and communities. Her films have premiered at the Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals, been released in theaters worldwide and screened on platforms including Netflix, HBO, ESPN, PBS, ABC, CBS and Discovery. Her 2016 film Solitary (HBO) takes audiences deep inside a supermax prison in Western Virginia. The film won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Investigative Documentary as well as a nomination for Independent Spirit’s Truer Than Fiction Award. In 2021, Jacobson directed Homefront, part of the HBO/Max and Sesame Workshop series Through Our Eyes, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Also in 2021, Jacobson directed The Protectors episode of Dogs (Netflix),  and “I can’t change 400 years in four (co-directed with Angela Tucker), a short documentary streaming on Mother Jones and PBS’ Independent Lens. Jacobson’s 2012 film A Place at the Table  premiered at Sundance before its theatrical release in over 35 U.S. cities. The film examines the shocking paradox of hunger in the wealthiest nation on earth through the very personal stories of three American families who face food insecurity daily. The film won the International Documentary Association Pare Lorentz Award, and was nominated for Best Feature Documentary by the Producers Guild of America. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Science (AMPAS) and the Director’s Guild of America (DGA). 

Jane Weinstock – Three Birthdays

Bobbie is determined to lose her virginity on the day of her 17th birthday, but she will lose more than that. Serious, humorous, and intimate, Three Birthdays follows a left-leaning, academic family in 1970 as each of its members wrestles with the contradictions of the sexual revolution in the era of the Vietnam War. When Bobbie discovers her mother’s infidelity and acts out furiously, she sets off a chain of confrontations that forces her father and mother to face their own insecurities as accomplished middle-class intellectuals. On each of their birthdays, hopes are dashed, and secrets revealed. Culminating on a day of national reckoning, the film sits right in the middle of that uncomfortable place where the personal and the political collide.

Jane Weinstock’s films have been shown at the Toronto International Film Festival,  Venice Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, and Tribeca Festival. Her writings have been published in Art in America, Camera Obscura,  and October. Weinstock has written and directed two feature length films. The first, Easy (2003), centers around a woman (Marguerite Moreau) and her romantic life. It was shown at Sundance and Toronto. Weinstock’s second feature, a psychological thriller, The Moment (2013) starred Jennifer Jason Leigh, Martin Henderson, Alia Shawkat, Mariane Jean-Baptiste and Meatloaf. It premiered at Tribeca Festival. Earlier in her career, while working towards a PhD in film studies and psychoanalytic theory that she did not finish, Weinstock co-wrote and co-directed a short film, Sigmund Freud’s Dora, which screened at the Berlin International Film Festival, the Whitney Museum, the Collective for Living Cinemam and the Whitechapel Gallery. Weinstock had a change of heart and pivoted her career towards actually making films and went on to make Voices of Silence for German TV. She then made The Clean Up, which played at the Sundance, Toronto, and Venice Film Festivals.