Announcing the 2017 National MediaMaker Fellows

Published On: February 14, 2017 |

San Francisco, CA – Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC Media) is thrilled to announce the multiplatform documentary makers and projects that will receive the 2017 National MediaMaker Fellows award. The Fellows will receive professional support for their social issue media projects and meet for three immersive workshops in the Bay Area, at the Full Frame film festival in Durham, North Carolina, and at another national industry event in the Fall. A full list of recipients is below. 

The 2017 National MediaMaker Fellows are: Isabel Alcántara (Brooklyn, NY), The Age of Water; Laura Green (San Francisco, CA), Human Conditions; Nyjia July (Los Angeles, CA), Listen to My Heartbeat; Emelie Mahdavian (Benicia, CA), Midnight Traveller; Kristina Motwani (San Francisco, CA), What Happened to Amos?; Tracey Quezada (Oakland, CA), You, Me and the Fruit Trees; Rodrigo Reyes (Merced, CA), Sansón and Me; and Eugene Yi (Astoria, NY), Free Chol Soo Lee

Established through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 1991 and currently supported in part by an award from the NEA and the California Wellness Foundation the National MediaMaker Fellowship program provides training and support for independent artists working on social-issue documentary projects, with a focus on supporting emerging artists and underserved communities. The National MediaMaker Fellowship builds an engaged community of creative media artists, increases their capacity for project completion and lasting impact, and inspires new partnerships and collaboration to support future work.

“These eight filmmakers are truth-tellers and revolutionaries who we believe are capable of changing perceptions and creating real social change. The BAVC Media National MediaMaker Fellowship is proud to nurture their considerable talent through master classes, industry workshops, creative feedback and a tight-knit community of artists who will support one another over the course of the next ten months. I can't wait to get to work.” says Nicole Opper, National MediaMaker Fellowship Creative Director, and 2016 Fellow (The F Word). 

“This year we had close to 100 applicants to the National MediaMaker Fellowship  the largest number of we've ever had in the program's two-decade history. With such a strong pool it was a challenge to choose just eight, and I very much look forward to sharing the work of these eight incredibly talented Fellows with the BAVC Media community over the course of 2017. The Fellowship will help to ensure that these projects are completed, and that they make an impact in the communities where it will matter the most,” adds Carol Varney, BAVC Media's Executive Director.

The training and resources provided to the National MediaMaker Fellows supports a complement of emerging artists, underserved communities, and seasoned artists who are interested in developing new media projects around timely social issues. Fellows are chosen through a competitive process by an independent panel of industry professionals and BAVC Media staff. The selection committee accepts projects at any stage of production, finding value in bringing together disparate project timelines and subject matter, areas of interest, and career paths, to ensure a well-rounded and diverse cohort of Fellows.

Meet the 2017 MediaMaker Fellows: 

Isabel AlcántaraThe Age of Water
Isabel Alcántara is a Mexican documentary filmmaker with a background in photojournalism from the Newhouse School of Public Communications. She has produced award-winning content that has screened at SXSW and major television networks such as A&E and History Channel. She has also shot photographic and multimedia content for Paper Magazine and The New York Times, and is a staff writer for the GLAAD Award-winning queer website, Autostraddle.

The Age of Water tells the story of Nely Baez, a young woman spearheading a grassroots effort to investigate the frequent death of little girls in her Mexican town. Nely soon discovers that the water in her community is toxic and, in the spirit of Erin Brockovich, reaches far beyond her means to stand up to forces greater than herself.

Laura Green, Human Conditions
Laura Green is a Bay Area-based documentary director and editor, whose short documentaries have played numerous film festivals across the country. She is also a lecturer at Stanford University, the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, and California College of the Arts. Human Conditions is her first feature-length film.

The doctor shortage in rural America has reached its crisis point. But at El Centro Family Health, a rural community clinic in New Mexico, healthcare providers offer care to all who walk through the doors, regardless of ability to pay. Human Conditions takes a character-driven, verite look at the journeys of three primary healthcare providers at El Centro as they work towards a shared goal: reaching patients who would otherwise be left out of the healthcare system.

Nyjia July, Listen to My Heartbeat
Nyjia July has dedicated her career to telling the stories of the people who otherwise would go unheard. She has worked on Through a Lens DarklyFreedom Riders and Brick City. As a producer, her credits include BET, WeTV, TLC, and the Center for Asian American Media. She has been a Corporation for Public Broadcast diversity fellow and her second feature, Listen to My Heartbeat, has been awarded development support through ITVS's Diversity Development Fund. The SOURCE Magazine listed her as one of their "25 women to watch" in 2014.

Part rock doc, part political thriller, Listen to My Heartbeat examines the gentrification of Washington, D.C., the people who are displaced in the process, and the future of their folkloric music, Go-Go, which has echoed through the city from the Civil Rights Movement until today. 

Emelie Mahdavian, Midnight Traveller
Emelie Mahdavian is a filmmaker, dancer, musician, and Fulbright scholar whose work frequently deals with gender, media, and global politics. Previously, she was Director of the Davis Feminist Film Festival, Panels Coordinator for the Mill Valley Film Festival, and Assistant Director of Ballet Afsaneh. Her documentary After the Curtain premiered at Lincoln Center as part of Dance on Camera 2016 and her experimental motion-capture short film Intangible Body is currently installed at the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum and the Czong Institute of Contemporary Art. Emelie studied filmmaking at London Film School and has Ph.D. in Performance Studies with an emphasis in Film Practice as Research from the University of California, Davis.

Midnight Traveler is a feature-length autobiographical documentary chronicling the struggles of a family of Afghan filmmakers on the run after they become targets of the Taliban. Touching on current political topics like the refugee crisis in Europe, the film puts a human face on these issues by providing first-person access to one family's choices, anxieties, and hopes as they try to survive the smuggling route to Europe.

Kristina Motwani, What Happened to Amos?
Kristina Motwani is a San Francisco-based editor whose work includes the feature documentaries First FridayAfter Tiller and An Honest Liar as well as documentary shorts and media for nonprofits. She has also worked on ITVS's Independent Lens and for Discovery, and is currently editing a six part series of short docs on guns in America for AJ+.

What Happened to Amos? is a feature length documentary film that marries interviews, vertié scenes, and animation to tell a story of a journalist and a missing man and how their intertwined stories could help each of them reach peace.

Tracey Quezada, You, Me and the Fruit Trees
Based in Oakland, Tracey Quezada is a documentary filmmaker, editor and journalist. She currently owns and operates a full service media production company that works with educational institutions and nonprofits to produce short documentaries that advance their missions and policy goals. As a journalist, Quezada has covered stories on immigration, communities of faith, women's issues, and LGBTQ civil rights. In 2014, she was recognized by the San Francisco International Women's Film Festival for her achievements in media and activism.

You, Me and the Fruit Trees is a multimedia project that explores the possibility of healing and transformation in the lives of adult survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA). We tell the story through our main character Aqueila and two supporting characters. Aqueila's personal journey to end generations of sexual abuse in her family is at the core of the film, and sheds light on the most taboo issue of our time. It asks the question: against the odds, can you recover from the trauma of childhood abuse to build the future you dreamed of?

Rodrigo Reyes, Sansón and Me
Rodrigo Reyes is a Mexican-American filmmaker working whose narrative and documentary work examines how borders and identity intersect within the Latino experience in the US. He was named one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film" by Filmmaker magazine in 2013, and has screened his work internationally at film festivals and museums.

Sansón and Me is a heartbreaking, multi-layered portrait of how immigration, opportunity, and the prison pipeline intersect with the lives of young men of color, sketched through the filmmaker's correspondence with the now-incarcerated undocumented immigrant at whose trial he served as an interpreter. 

Eugene Yi, Free Chol Soo Lee
Eugene Yi is an award-winning editor, filmmaker and journalist. He has edited documentary and narrative feature films, including Out of My Hand, which premiered at the 2015 Berlinale, was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, and won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival; and Farewell Ferris Wheel, which premiered earlier this year at AFI Docs, and was selected to be part of the 2014 Film Independent Documentary Lab. His video work has been featured in The New York Times, where he worked as a video editor, and at other online outlets, including Frontline and Deadspin. He served as assistant editor on Inside Job (2010), which won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary. He is a native of Los Angeles and a graduate of Brown University. 

Free Chol Soo Lee is a feature-length documentary which tells the harrowing tale of a Korean American death row inmate whose wrongful conviction of a 1973 Chinatown gang murder spurred an unprecedented pan-Asian American social justice movement to free him. We look at this landmark yet largely forgotten case through the eyes of the Korean American investigative reporter whose articles first brought this injustice to light, the young Asian American activists who embodied the "Free Chol Soo Lee Movement," and the late Lee himself. 

Learn more at

BAVC Media especially thanks the 2017 MediaMaker Fellows selection committee:

  • Karim Ahmad, Senior Strategist, Digital Content, ITVS
  • Susie Hernandez, Program Director, Public Television, KQED
  • John Lightfoot, Program Officer, Cal Humanities
  • Carrie Lozano, Director, Enterprise Documentary Fund, IDA
  • Lauren O'Connor, Development and Marketing Associate, BAVC Media
  • Nicole Opper, National MediaMaker Fellowship Creative Director, 2016 National MediaMaker Fellow (The F Word), BAVC Media
  • Matt Sussman, Public Programs and Fellowships Manager, BAVC Media
  • Debra Wilson, 2015 National MediaMaker Fellow (A State of Mind)