Power Player Breakfast: Abigail E. Disney, Documentary Filmmaker, Philanthropist, Activist

Long before inclusion became fashionable, Abigail E. Disney was passionate about advancing women’s roles in the public sphere. As a guest of  NYWIFT’s Power Player Breakfast series, Disney joins a choice roster of speakers through the years who have shared stories of their remarkable journeys and lessons learned along the way. Join us for a rare opportunity to experience and ask questions of this CEO who has used her unique position of influence to produce and direct award-winning work on social issues, spotlighting extraordinary people who speak truth to power.

Abigail E. Disney is an Emmy-winning director and producer, philanthropist and the CEO and president of Fork Films. An active supporter of peace-building, she is passionate about advancing women’s roles in the public sphere.

Disney is the Chair and Co-Founder of Level Forward, a storytelling company focused on systematizing inclusion, innovation and impact through creative excellence to advance social change.

Having grown up in a family of filmmakers, Disney turned to documentaries when inspired to tell the story of a brave group of women who used nonviolent protests and sex strikes to bring an end to Liberia’s long civil war. She and renowned filmmaker Gini Reticker made the widely acclaimed Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which is broadly credited with highlighting the achievements of Leymah Gbowee, who received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. Disney and Reticker went on to found Fork Films, which is known for making and funding high profile, critically acclaimed documentaries that are seen on PBS, Netflix, HBO and other major outlets.

In addition to producing original films, Fork Films awards grants to non-fiction films that promote peace-building, human rights and social justice with a particular emphasis on projects with women behind or in front of the camera. Fork Films has funded over 100 documentary films including Cameraperson, Trapped, 1971, Hot Girls Wanted, and the Academy Award®-nominated films Strong Island, The Square, Sun Come Up and The Invisible War. Fork Films grantees have premiered at top tier film festivals, won major awards and moved the needle on important social issues.

In 2009, Disney founded Peace is Loud, a nonprofit that inspires action through media and live events that spotlight women leaders on the frontline of peace-building worldwide.

Disney’s directorial debut, Emmy-winning The Armor of Light, co-directed by Kathleen Hughes, premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. The film follows Reverend Rob Schenck, an Evangelical minister, and Lucy McBath, the mother of a teenage shooting victim, who ask, is it possible to be both pro-gun and pro-life? Peace is Loud led the outreach and engagement campaign for The Armor of Light  to restore a moral, ethical, and theological framework to the conversation about gun violence in America. The campaign has initiated and supported dialogue with faith leaders and communities around the country, reaching out beyond the documentary film community to target dozens of conservative evangelical influencers. 

In 2011, along with Pamela Hogan and Gini Reticker, Disney created and executive produced the first-of-its-kind series for PBS, Women, War & Peace. The five-part series looked at women in modern war as active agents for peace and positive change makers in their communities. It garnered the Overseas Press Club’s Edward R. Murrow Award, a Gracie Award, and a Television Academy Honor. Season II of the series is currently in production. 

Disney also recently executive produced the Fork Films original production The Trials of Spring, a major multi-platform project that tells the stories of nine women on the front lines of change in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Disney is the recipient of numerous awards including an honor by the International Women’s Media Foundation for advancing women’s issues and peace initiatives; The Amicus Award from the International Documentary Association (IDA), The International Advocate for Peace Award from the Cardozo Law School’s Cardoza Journal of Conflict Resolution; and the Morton Deutsch Award for Social Justice, presented by the Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Disney received her Bachelor’s degree from Yale University, her Master’s degree from Stanford University and her Doctorate from Columbia University. She is a mother of four.


Produced by the Power Player Breakfast Committee
Barbara Alpert, Christina Brown Fisher, Nicole Franklin,
Carey Graeber, Julie Poll, Janet Stilson, and Susan Wagner

Special Thanks to Power Player Breakfast Sponsor
Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz


Photo Credit: Michael Angelo

March 1 @ 8:30am
8:30 am — 10:00 am (1h 30′)



Join the conversation on social media:
#nywift | @nywift

NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.