NYWIFT Blog

Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Ching Juhl

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.

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Kathryn O’Kane on the Emmys, Jeff Goldblum, and the Challenges of Pandemic Productions

When NYWIFT Board Member Kathryn O’Kane headed off to direct season two of The World According to Jeff Goldblum for Disney+ it was, in her words, “the worst of times” – the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, before vaccines were available and film production felt particularly dangerous and fraught. But the difficult work paid off, and has led to the best of times! Season two of the docuseries, which follows the beloved quirky actor as he pulls on the thread of a familiar topic to unravel a world of fascinating secrets, has been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Hosted Nonfiction Series or Special. 

We checked in with Kathryn to offer our congratulations, learn more about the filming process, and discuss what’s next for her.

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Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Sheherzad Raza Preisler

Let’s welcome Sheherzad Raza Preisler to NYWIFT! She is a native New Yorker who attended undergrad at Columbia University, where she majored in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies and followed the pre-medical track. After an identity crisis, Sheherzad fell in love with all things filmmaking and is now an MFA candidate at Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. Much of Sheherzad’s work deals with growing up Muslim in post-9/11 America. She spoke to us about her unusual path from pre-med to science writing to filmmaking, how storytelling is innate to her culture, and her post-graduation plans.

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Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Samantha Alvarez

Welcome to NYWIFT, Samantha Alvarez, an independent documentary and narrative filmmaker born and raised in the Bronx with six years of camera operating and video editing experience. Alvarez started her career as a multidisciplinary teaching artist. She now works as a video freelancer and recently won the 2022 NYWIFT Outstanding Woman Content Creator at the Nova Frontier Film Festival for her short mixed media documentary, "In the Body." We sat down with her to discuss her latest film, her career, and her inspirations.

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NYWIFT @ Tribeca: In Conversation with Producer Su Kim

The 2022 Tribeca premiere "Sansón and Me" traces a young immigrant’s path from coastal Mexico to a life sentence for murder in California. The harrowing tale does not unfold in a traditional documentary format, but instead uses evocative recreations – many of them featuring members of Sansón’s own family as actors – to explore the meaning of a life fragmented by poverty, borders, and incarceration. We spoke to producer Su Kim about the team’s unusual, wildly creative, and ultimately deeply powerful approach to sharing Sansón’s story.

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NYWIFT @ Tribeca: In Conversation with Producer Steffie van Rhee

Cynthia Lowen’s latest documentary "Battleground" offers an eye-opening window into the anti-choice movement, featuring three women from varying walks of life who have dedicated themselves to rendering abortion illegal. Per the Tribeca website: “Told with restraint and balance, director Cynthia Lowen seeks to clarify rather than condemn, and presents a new point of entry for this challenging topic.” While the film itself clearly aligns with progressive pro-choice advocates (who also appear throughout) it offers a fascinating perspective on the sheer systemic power of the anti-abortion movement and the perilous future, felt painfully today, of Roe v. Wade. "Battleground" was Executive Produced by NYWIFT member Ruth Ann Harnisch and co-produced by member Steffie van Rhee, who sat down with us to discuss the premiere and how this film – from this particular perspective – came to fruition.

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NYWIFT @ Tribeca: In Conversation with Filmmaker Violet Du Feng

Violet Du Feng’s "Hidden Letters" tells the story of Chinese women trying to balance their lives as independent women in modern China while confronting the traditional identity that defines but also oppresses them. Connected through their love for Nushu—a centuries-old secret text shared amongst women—each of them transforms through a pivotal period of their lives and takes a step closer to becoming the individuals they know they can be. Hot off her 2022 Tribeca Festival premiere, Director Violet Du Feng, an Emmy-award winning documentarian, spoke to us about Nushu, modern-day China, women’s equality, and her filmmaking process.

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NYWIFT @ Tribeca: In Conversation with Festival Director Cara Cusumano

We kick off our Tribeca coverage with a conversation with Cara Cusumano, Festival Director and VP of Programming! Cara previews exciting changes to this year's festival - including a new name! - as well as some special appearances and events.

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NYWIFT at Sundance: Spotlight on Paula Eiselt

An alarmingly disproportionate number of Black women are failed every year by the U.S. maternal health system – and it is a crisis that has been largely ignored thus far. In the Sundance 2022 documentary Aftershock, Directors Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee follow the bereaved partners of two of these women as they fight for justice and build communities of support, bonding especially with other surviving Black fathers. The story is presented within the historical context of racism throughout the U.S. healthcare system, and the deadly tendency to ignore or minimize Black women’s pain and concerns.

NYWIFT Member Paula Eiselt spoke to us about how she and Lewis Lee approached this harrowing topic, and why community activists are the natural heroes of her creative work.  

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NYWIFT at Sundance: Spotlight on Sara Bernstein

13 members played a key creative role in 11 different projects featured in Sundance this year – and two of them fall under the Executive Producer expertise of prolific NYWIFT Member Sara Bernstein! Bernstein heads to Sundance with Amy Poehler’s documentary Lucy and Desi, which brings the iconic pair’s humanity to life through an exploration of their personal and professional partnership, as well as Downfall: The Case Against Boeing, comprehensive investigation into the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and a look at the families and officials fighting for justice.

We spoke to Bernstein specifically about Downfall and how she hopes her team’s work will make an impact.

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NYWIFT at Sundance: Spotlight on Rachel Lears

Rachel Lears returns to Sundance on the heels of her 2019 festival smash-hit Knock Down the House, which sold to Netflix for a record $10 million, making it the biggest documentary sale ever brokered at a film festival. The film followed female insurgent candidates hoping to topple incumbents in an electric primary race for Congress, and focused heavily on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as she became the youngest member of the U.S. Congress.

Ocasio-Cortez now appears again in Lears’s To the End, this time as an established leader raising up another generation of young activists. We spoke to Lears about her process, watching Ocasio-Cortez develop as a politician, and why she still has hope in the face of the climate crisis.

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Meet the New NYWIFT Board Members: Audrey Rosenberg

New NYWIFT Board Member Audrey Rosenberg says 'The whole community of creators in New York is really special and there's an aspect of the term “Keeping It Real” that I feel is always very appreciated. It’s a special experience to be in our industry and be a New York biased person and in my case, it’s been an incredible experience and gift to be able to live here and work in this incredible community of people. I am highlighting the special nature of being in the industry in New York. And I think there's something to it. It’s part of what NYWIFT taps into so I’m incredibly honored to be part of it and to be on the board.'

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Meet the New NYWIFT Board Members: Kim Jackson

New NYWIFT Board Member Kim Jackson says 'I'd like to use my skills to support other women and support the success of other women. I think the issues that NYWIFT is interested in tackling which is equity is very very important.'

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FOUND: Highlights from an interview with the Director Amanda Lipitz and Producer Anita Gou (Part 2)

Found is a compassionately told story of the girls finding one another, finding their homeland, and finding themselves. Director Amanda Lipitz and Producer Anita Gou spoke with NYWIFT Board Member Christina Kiely about the experience of making the film and the powerful and often unexpected stories that emerged in the process. This is part two of their conversation.

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FOUND: Highlights from an interview with the Director Amanda Lipitz and Producer Anita Gou (Part 1)

Found is a compassionately told story of the girls finding one another, finding their homeland, and finding themselves. Director Amanda Lipitz and Producer Anita Gou spoke with NYWIFT Board Member Christina Kiely about the experience of making the film and the powerful and often unexpected stories that emerged in the process. This is part one of their conversation.

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Journal from the Woodstock Film Festival: Daughter of a Lost Bird

NYWIFT member Fran Montagnino shares a taste of her experience at the 2021 Woodstock Film Festival, including the poignant screening of Daughter of a Lost Bird, winner of the NYWIFT Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking.

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Crystal R. Emery: Exposing Racism in Healthcare as America’s Most Lethal Pandemic

What makes COVID-19 even deadlier? Racism in medicine. NYWIFT member Crystal R. Emery’s documentary The Deadliest Disease in America traces the history of racism in American health care from the brutal medical experimentation forced upon enslaved peoples to the modern-day inequity in fatality rates and access to treatment experienced by people of color during the pandemic.

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The Dilemma of Desire Empowers Women through a Greater Understanding of Their Sexuality

Maria Finitzo's film "The Dilemma of Desire," a documentary about female sexual desire, was difficult to pitch and sell because, according to Finitzo, “People were afraid of it, they think it's about porn or are worried they're going to see people having sex." Instead, the film delves into the essential, surprising, and often sad truth about most women’s understanding of their own sexual desires and their own bodies.

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