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BendFilm’s Underrepresented Voices Grant will support a BIPOC womxn artist with $7,500 toward making their short or feature film. The grant supports storytellers who are working to tell creative and complex stories told from a point of view that is unique and authentic. 

This event includes the four to five finalists pitching their project to a panel of BIPOC womxn filmmakers who will then decide who wins the $7,500 grant to make their next film.

Our esteemed panel of professionals includes:

Samah Ali

Samah Ali is a distributor and film programmer hailing from Toronto, Canada. A lover of documentaries and virtual reality, she programs for Academy Award qualifying festivals Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, DOC NYC, and Hot Docs Festival. She is also the programmer for Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival. Samah is the founder of Sisterhood Media, a production and distribution company streaming films on their platform, Sisterhood Media TV. You can interact with her on Twitter @sistersamah.

Yalonda "Yoshi" M. James

Yalonda "Yoshi" M. James is an award-winning staff photojournalist and video producer at the San Francisco Chronicle. Her passion is documenting stories focusing on social justice issues. James was a 2008 Pulitzer Prize finalist with her Observer team for a project called, 'Sold a Nightmare,' which earned them a second place Gold Medal for Public Service. James’s photography and videos have been published in The Commercial Appeal, The Charlotte Observer, The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, MSNBC, and Fusion. James’ short documentary films, "The BLM (Black Lives Matter) Bridge Protest: One Year Later" and "Singing for KING" screened at festivals throughout the country including the BendFilm Festival.

Suzi Yoonessi

Currently a director at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Suzi Yoonessi is an award-winning Iranian-American filmmaker. Yoonessi wrote and directed the award-winning feature film Dear Lemon Lima, and directed the Duplass Brothers film Unlovable, which won a jury prize at the SXSW Film Festival. In addition to being an Emmy-nominated episodic director, Yoonessi directed the Scooby Doo origins film, Daphne and Velma, for Warner Brothers. Yoonessi joined Disney Animation mid-2019 and is in development on an animated feature.

This grant has been made possible by support from the Braemar Charitable Trust, the Roundhouse Foundations, the Starview Foundation and Infocus Eye Care.