Announcing the 2019 Diverse Voices in Docs (DVID) Fellows

Kartemquin Films and the Community Film Workshop of Chicago today announced the eight new 2019 Diverse Voices in Docs (DVID) fellows. The fellows are Shiraz Ahmed, Aisha Allen, Joua Lee Grande, Milton Guillen, Sebastián Pinzón-Silva, Shawn Taylor, Cai Thomas, and Christine Varisse.

Now in its 7th year, DVID is a professional mentorship program for Midwestern documentary filmmakers of color, created by Kartemquin Films and the Community Film Workshop of Chicago. Fellows are chosen from a pool of applicants with a demonstrated commitment to social issue documentary.

As of 2018, completion of the fellowship makes fellows eligible for the newly established Diverse Voices Accelerator Fund, providing crucial grants of up to $20,000 for works-in-progress. Recipients of the grants in 2018 included Finding Yingying, directed by Jiayan “Jenny” Shi; A Place to Learn, directed by Kevin Shaw; and South Side, directed by Teresa White. The Diverse Voices Accelerator Fund was initiated with founding support from the Sage Foundation and is being supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through 2020.

Fellows receive hands-on support from experienced Kartemquin and Community Film Workshop staff, award-winning filmmakers, and invited experts before pitching to a panel of major funders, including representatives from ITVS, Sundance Institute, Doc Society, POV, Black Public Media, and WTTW Channel 11. The program culminates with a graduation showcasing the fellows’ work and and featuring a keynote speaker.

Founded in 2013, DVID aims to inspire collaboration and skill-sharing among its fellows, and among the larger Midwestern independent documentary filmmaking community.

Previous DVID fellows include Bing Liu, director of Sundance award-winning Minding the Gap (and most recently selected as one of 15 feature length documentary films to advance in the voting process for the 2019 Academy Awards); Kelly Richmond Pope, director of award-winning All the Queen’s Horses, which held the #1 spot for most-streamed documentary on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Video for a week after its VOD release; and Jiayan “Jenny” Shi, director of Finding Yingying, winner of the 2018 Paley Center DocPitch Competition.

2019 support for Diverse Voices in Docs is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Voqal Fund. 2018 support was also provided by The Field Foundation of Illinois, The Chicago Community Trust, and The Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The 2019 Diverse Voices in Docs Fellows and projects are:

Shiraz Ahmed (Detroit, MI) is a journalist, advocate and citizen, who envisioned his future to be at the intersection of public policy and social good from a young age. His career has been interspersed with stints in a Texan gubernatorial campaign, investigating a possible wrongful conviction and as a pub trivia host in Detroit. Now, with his first documentary, Alive in Detroit, he adds a fourth dimension to his work: Artist. He aspires to tell the stories of how a community responds when institutions fail them. Through his work and life, he will encourage citizen engagement and education among the public.

Aisha Allen (Matteson, IL) is a wife, mother to 3 brilliant boys, filmmaker, blogger, entrepreneur and self proclaimed Reel Mama. Allen was raised on the Southside of Chicago and born to an interfaith union of Islam and Christianity. Allen loves creating films about the underdog. Allen has written and directed three short films including:, Intrusive, The One Night Standing and the award-winning Bump)ED. Allen’s passion is to tell stories that promote empathy and compassion.

Joua Lee Grande (Golden Valley, MN) is a Minneapolis-based filmmaker, photographer and community educator who aims to tell stories that uplift underrepresented communities. She produces her own material, does freelance work, and edits the morning news at a Twin Cities news station. Her work has screened at festivals in the Twin Cities. Joua is also a community educator and worker. She currently leads media education programs at the Saint Paul Neighborhood Network. She also currently teaches art through the Minneapolis Institute of Arts' Creativity Academy.

Milton Guillen (Chicago, IL) is a Nicaraguan independent filmmaker who dwells in the borders between fiction and documentaries. His main interests gravitate around the cinematic intersections of ethnographic research and sensorial experiences. Milton's films have screened at CPH:DOX, Hot Docs, Rooftop Films, DOK Leipzig, and more. In 2017 his film, The Maribor Uprisings, received the Society for Visual Anthropology Best Feature Award and was recently named a North Star Fellow by the Points North Institute.

Sebastián Pinzón-Silva (Chicago, IL) is a Colombian filmmaker. His work has screened at festivals including Locarno, Camden, True/False, Popoli, SFFILM, DOC NYC, and New Directors/New Films. He holds a degree in Film from the Savannah College of Art and Design and a master’s degree in Documentary Media from Northwestern University. His short PALENQUE was recognized with awards from FICValdivia, Cinélatino Rencontres de Toulouse, Belo Horizonte, Palm Springs ShortFest, Panorama of Colombian Cinema and the DGA. Sebastián was recently named one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film" by Filmmaker Magazine. He is a recipient of the 2018 Sundance Development Fellowship.

Shawn Taylor (Oak Park, IL) is a native of Alton, IL, former newspaper journalist (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Detroit Free Press, Kansas City Star and Chicago Tribune) and founder/president of a communications and media consulting firm based in Oak Park. She applies journalistic prowess to create content and thought leadership messaging for corporations and nonprofits serving women, families and childhood cancer victims. Over the years, as a ghost writer of commentary for leading Chicagoans, mostly women, Shawn has inadvertently driven important conversations in the Midwest (mortgage crisis, education and wealth gaps, unequal justice, gender and marriage equality).

Cai Thomas (Cicero, IL) is a Liberty City native whose curiosity was born and nurtured in the “Moonlight” neighborhood. She’s a Chicago based filmmaker interested in stories at the intersection of identity, self-determination and location. She is a Sundance Ignite Finalist, NextDoc 2018 Fellow and was a Berlin Capital Fulbright awardee in 2017. She spent two seasons as a production associate on CBS Sunday Morning. A graduate of Boston College, she was a Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar.

Christine Varisse (Chicago, IL) is a young director aspiring to grow in the film industry. A chance opportunity to meet and work with photographer Daniel Shea in high school sparked her desire to pursue film and use it to document the lives of others. She attended Columbia College Chicago majoring in film production with a concentration in directing. In 2015 she was hired as an editing intern for Chicago based film director Cam Be assisting in numerous projects. She has since then branched out into directing and editing projects on her own working under the pseudonym of Varisse.

Learn more about Diverse Voices in Docs (DVID) here.