Dart Center Names Inaugural Class of Documentary Film Fellows

The Dart Center has announced the 13 recipients of its first ever fellowship designed to deepen filmmakers' knowledge of emotional trauma and psychological injury. The 2024 fellows include outstanding filmmakers representing four continents.

The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism announced today the recipients of its first ever Documentary Film Fellowship.

"This inaugural cohort brings wide ranging experience telling diverse, powerful stories involving violence, injustice and resilience, while grappling with complex issues of craft and ethics," said Bruce Shapiro, the Dart Center's executive director. "We're excited to be joining them for in-depth exploration of their challenges as trauma-facing documentarians.”

Through seminars with leading experts and practitioners, the weeklong fellowship will harness the energy and innovative spirit of documentarians committed to trauma-aware storytelling, equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to work with vulnerable individuals and communities ethically and effectively, and to advance the well-being of documentary teams on these demanding and crucial projects.

The 2024 Dart Center Documentary Film Fellows are:

Tazeen Bari has been directing and producing documentaries in Pakistan for over 12 years. Her documentaries include the award-winning “The Valleys Our Ancestors Chose,” “Letters From Death Row” acquired by Al Jazeera for Witness, and “Vote for X," which screened widely at queer film festivals across the globe. Her documentary “Qandeel" was released by Guardian documentaries, has nearly two million views and won the Leslie J. Sacks Grand Prize Award. Bari also produced an episode for the Emmy Nominated Vice series "Woman" with Gloria Steinem. She is the co-founder of the Documentary Association of Pakistan and is currently developing her first fiction feature.

Phil Bertelsen is an Emmy and Peabody award-winning producer and director who uses film and television to entertain, inspire, and provoke audiences. His work includes documentaries that show on Netflix, NBC, PBS, and Prime. Through storytelling, Bertelsen explores topics absent from history books and demonstrates how integral Black history is in the whole story of America. 

Currently, Bertelsen is Executive Producer and Director of the documentary "761st Tank Battalion: The Original Black Panthers" (History) and is one of the directors on the landmark documentary series, "The 1619 Project." His recent film, "The Picture Taker," tells the story of a Civil Rights photographer who was also an FBI informant, and premiered on the PBS documentary series Independent Lens after a theatrical release. "Who Killed Malcolm X" (Netflix), is a six-part series he produced and directed that prompted a reinvestigation of a decades-old crime and resulted in the exoneration of two wrongly convicted men. 

Other themes Bertelsen's films touch on include Martin Luther King, the media, and the movement ("Hope and Fury"), the Presidency of Barack Obama ("Through the Fire"), the legacy of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater ("Beyond the Steps"), as well as the significance of Shirley Chisholm’s historic run for President ("Chisholm ‘72"). 

He holds an MFA in Film/TV from New York University where he was a Spike Lee Fellow. He has a BA in Political Science and Journalism from Rutgers University and is a member of both the Writers and Director’s Guilds.

Caio Cavechini is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. In 2011, his mid-length documentary "To the Bone" about workers at meatpacking plants screened at festivals like DOK Leipzig (Germany). In 2015, he released his first feature-length documentary, "JACI, seven sins of an Amazonian work," on the construction of a hydroelectric plant in the Brazilian Amazon, which first screened at “It’s All True Festival” and was awarded the Gabriel Garcia Marquez journalism prize. 

Cavechini worked as a reporter and editor of “Profession Reporter”, a TV Globo weekly program, participating on-the-ground in TV coverage on topics ranging from urban violence in Rio to unprecedented floods in the Amazon, and the earthquake in Haiti to the Gaza conflict. 

He became a regular director of documentaries for Globoplay, a Brazilian platform. He is director, editor and script writer of "Marielle," a six-episode documentary on the life and murder of a Brazilian councilwoman; and "Sieged," on the local press coverage of the pandemic and the denialism spread by president Bolsonaro. "Sieged" was a HotDocs official selection (Canada) and later nominated to Emmy International Awards. Cavechini also directed "Base Kindergarten" (2022), with Eliane Scardovelli, which focused on an accusation of sexual abuse against children.

His most recent work was an eight-episode series on the Brazilian extreme right, "Extremists.Br" (2023), about hate fueling conspiracy narratives that led to the January 8th attacks on the Brazilian Supreme Court and the Presidential Palace.

Sara Creta is a documentary filmmaker and investigative journalist. Her documentaries and investigations on human rights issues — from violence at European borders to Libyan coastguard interceptions in the Mediterranean — have led to criminal investigations, sparked campaigns and been shown on television and at festivals around the world. For the Franco-German broadcaster ARTE, she made the 60-minute documentary "Libya, no escape from hell" about the prison system and the role of the militias, which was nominated for the highest French journalism prize. She also made "Women on the frontline," a documentary about women during the revolution in Sudan. Her recent investigative work includes "Death on the Border," a data-driven documentary for BBC’s Africa Eye about deaths at the border between Morocco and Spain, and "The Ship that Stopped 7,000 Migrants, and Smuggled 700,000 Cigarettes," an investigation for the New York Times about the Italian navy in Libya. She is currently working on a feature documentary about the Nile, which she shot across Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. 

Rachel de Leon is a reporter and producer for TV and documentaries for Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. De Leon has worked in filmmaking and journalism as a videographer and producer for more than 15 years. Most recently, she was the reporter and producer for the original Netflix documentary, "Victim/Suspect", which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2023. Prior to this film, she worked on shorter investigative video projects, primarily partnering with PBS NewsHour. Her work has earned her two Emmys, one for the web series "The Dead Unknown" and the other for the PBS NewsHour segment "Deadly Oil Fields." In 2018, de Leon’s two-part video series about modern-day redlining was part of a larger investigative project “Kept Out” which was awarded a duPont and Sigma Delta Chi award. In 2014, she completed her first short documentary, “Cab City,” for her master’s thesis in the documentary program at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Cassandra Herrman is a documentary filmmaker, immersive storyteller and journalist. She is drawn to stories that explore the intersection of the criminal justice system, gender and race, and those that disrupt mainstream media representations. Her immersive storytelling work includes After Solitary, a collaboration between Emblematic Group and PBS FRONTLINE, which was honored with the Jury Award for Room Scale VR at SXSW and ONA’s Excellence in Immersive Storytelling Award. She directed and produced the Emmy-nominated documentary "Tulia, Texas" — co-produced with ITVS and broadcast on PBS Independent Lens — about a town torn apart by the racial injustices in America’s War on Drugs. In addition to developing a documentary about intimate partner violence, she is in post-production on the independent film, "When I Say Africa," about enduring representations and stereotypes of the African continent. Her work has been nominated for three News and Documentary Emmys, has shown­ at film festivals around the world, and appeared on Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines series, FRONTLINE/World, PBS NewsHour, and in the New York Times. She is a continuing lecturer in visual storytelling at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where she received her master's degree.

Sofian Khan is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and founder of Capital K Pictures. He directed, produced and shot "The Interpreters," a feature-length documentary following Afghan and Iraqi interpreters being targeted for their work helping American forces that made its broadcast premiere on the 2019 season of PBS Independent Lens. His episode of the PBS American Masters series "In the Making" (2021), co-directed with Joseph Patel, received a Webby Award and NAACP Image nomination. In 2022, Khan directed an episode of the new series "Takeout with Lisa Ling" on HBOMax and produced "An Act of Worship" under the Capital K Pictures banner, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and broadcasted on PBS POV series. He was one of DOCNYC’s 40 Under 40 in 2019 and a Sundance Producing Fellow in 2019-2020. His short work has appeared on Field of Vision, The Atlantic, TOPIC, Al Jazeera and NBC Digital.

Hannah Livingston is a multi-award-winning freelance documentary filmmaker based in London. Her background in investigative journalism drives a lot of her films, which she has made predominantly for UK public service broadcasters Channel 4 and the BBC. At the beginning of her career she investigated the prolific sex offender Jimmy Savile, and subsequently worked with survivors on films uncovering many different kinds of abuse.

Livingston’s interest in the public and private nature of trauma, and of what justice looks like and who has access to it, has increasingly led her to projects that explore the criminal justice system. In 2019 she produced the Scottish BAFTA award-winning series "Murder Trial: The Disappearance of Margaret Fleming," a two-part series with unprecedented access to film a murder trial from start to finish. In her most recent project she directed across an observational documentary series following detectives in the UK as they investigated gun crime and two high-profile murders. The films are due to air in 2024. A creative self-shooter, Livingston takes pride in making trauma-aware documentaries that take duty of care seriously, finding humanity even in the least forgiving of circumstances.

Emmy nominated filmmaker Cecilia Peck directed the recent Netflix documentary series "Escaping Twin Flames," a survivor-based investigation of the online cult Twin Flames Universe. She also directed, wrote and produced the critically acclaimed documentary series "Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult" (STARZ, 2020) following the journey of India Oxenberg and other former members who were victims of sex and labor trafficking within NXIVM. She directed the Netflix Original feature documentary "Brave Miss World," about rape survivor Linor Abargil’s fight for justice and her journey to reach out to other survivors of sexual violence. She directed (with Barbara Kopple) the Academy Award shortlisted documentary "Shut Up & Sing" about The Chicks (formerly Dixie Chicks) and the backlash against them for speaking out against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A graduate of Princeton University, she has been Contributing Editor at Premiere Magazine (French edition) and has served on the jury at the Aspen Shortsfest. She is a member of the Documentary Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is on the Board of the San Diego Film Festival.

JoeBill Muñoz is a Mexican-American director and producer. He is currently directing and producing an independent feature documentary about solitary confinement in California prisons, and recently produced TV series with Left/Right Media and The New York Times. His work has been supported by the Sundance Documentary Fund, Firelight Media, ITVS, SFFILM, the Reva and David Logan Foundation, and others. He has produced for films and series like The Circus (Showtime), The New York Times Presents (Hulu), and The Grab (TIFF 2022), a feature documentary directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite in collaboration with Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting and Impact Partners.

Mikaela Shwer is a documentary filmmaker and editor based in Los Angeles. As a director and producer, her debut feature documentary about undocumented activist Angy Rivera, "Don’t Tell Anyone/No Le Digas a Nadie," broadcast on PBS/POV in the fall of 2015 and was honored with the George Foster Peabody Award. In 2016, she worked with PBS SoCal and KCPT to direct, produce, and edit eight short documentaries about the pursuit of the American dream for the national online series, Re:Dream. Her work has been supported by Sundance, Film Independent, ITVS, Women in Film, DOC NYC, IFP/Gotham, The Fledgling Fund, The Logan Nonfiction Program, and Women Make Movies. She is an Associate of the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California Berkeley and a fellow of the Logan Nonfiction Program and the Film Independent Documentary Lab. 

Shwer’s editing career spans 15 years of working in post-production. She worked as an Editor, Writer, and Co-Producer on the four-part documentary series "Allen v. Farrow" (HBO) for which Shwer was honored with two Emmy nominations along with nominations for an ACE Eddie award and Cinema Eye Honors for her work on the series. In 2022, she edited for the Netflix documentary series, "Harry & Meghan," which became the all-time most watched documentary on Netflix, and most recently, she edited on the documentary series, "Last Call," for HBO and Story Syndicate to be released in the summer of 2023. She is also currently directing her second feature documentary about the Troubled Teen Industry.

Andalusia K. Soloff is an Emmy nominated documentary filmmaker and multimedia journalist in Mexico who seeks to center the voices of those most affected by violence by focusing on their human dignity and resilience. 

Soloff has produced award-winning documentaries including "A Sense of Community: Iztapalapa," "Frontline Mexico," "Guatemala's Past Unearthed"(Al Jazeera) as well as "Endangered" (HBO), focused on the risks that journalists face. Her new cinematic short, "Poppy Crash," which flips the script on the fentanyl crisis, is part of the official selection of the DOCS MX film festival and IDFA Docs for Sale. She has produced news documentaries and reports for RAI, ZDF, CGTN, Democracy Now!, AJ+, VICE News, TRT World and worked both as a DP, Drone Operator, and Correspondent for numerous other production companies and global news outlets. 

She is Founder of the journalist organization Frontline Freelance México as well as Co-coordinator of the Fixing Journalism initiative, which seeks to change the unequal relationships that exist between local fixers and foreign correspondents. As a multimedia storyteller, Soloff is the author of the graphic novel "Taken Alive" about the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students that has been translated in numerous languages; as well as a podcast series about exiled Guerrillas, and a kidnapping ring in Guanajuato, Mexico. She is currently producing a graphic series on unaccompanied minors and migration for the NYC Board of Education.

Hana Wuerker is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker and documentary editor with a decade of experience in the field. She has edited a variety of features and documentary series that have played at Telluride Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, DOC NYC, IDFA, as well as on HBO, Netflix, PBS and Hulu. Wuerker was an editor and associate producer on "Eating Animals," which won the Environmental Media Award for Best Documentary in 2017. Most recently, she was the lead editor and a co-producer of "The Vow Part II," which premiered on HBO in October 2022. She is a member of the Alliance of Documentary Editors.