The Muslim Artist Fellowship

Sundance Institute and The Walt Disney Company Announce First Cohort of The Muslim Artist Fellowship

Collaboration Promotes Inclusivity and Expands Access to Opportunities in the Entertainment Industry

Park City, UT, February 21, 2024 – Today, Sundance Institute, the nonprofit film organization behind the Sundance Film Festival and labs and The Walt Disney Company, announced the first cohort of the “Sundance Institute | The Walt Disney Company Muslim Artist Fellowship.” This fellowship program aims to provide four Muslim artists with comprehensive creative and tactical support, enabling them to cultivate their skills and empowering them to advance within the industry. The Fellowship offers an immersive, year-round professional development experience, fostering a positive impact on film and television.

“We are honored to join forces with the Sundance Institute to launch the Muslim Artist Fellowship – an initiative that reflects our shared dedication to fostering the next generation of filmmakers,” expressed Mahin Ibrahim, Director of Creative Talent Pathways, Representation & Inclusion Strategies. “Through this collaborative effort, we aim to amplify the diverse perspectives of these artists while empowering them to propel their careers and craft compelling narratives that resonate with audiences worldwide.” 

Disney’s support of the Muslim Artist Fellowship is part of Disney Future Storytellers, an initiative to deliver on the Company’s commitment to empower the next generation of storytellers. 

Each selected artist is granted an unrestricted grant of $15,000, facilitating the advancement of their individual projects. Additionally, the fellowship offers personalized support from the Institute, tailored to the unique goals of each artist. 

In addition, the fellowship extends exclusive opportunities for networking and community-building events, allowing artists to connect with fellow creatives and industry professionals. 

“Our partnership with The Walt Disney Company will help further opportunities to uplift Muslim artists and their narratives. Supporting these artists through a bespoke fellowship will not only elevate Muslim representation but also bring more visibility to their stories,” said Hajnal Molnar-Szakacs, Sundance Institute’s Director of Artist Accelerator and Women at Sundance Programs. “We’re thrilled to launch this new initiative to provide support to these four talented artists—Kamau Bilal, Razi Jafri, Sarah Mokh, and Jumai Yusuf—through this fellowship.” 

The fellows selected for the Sundance Institute | The Walt Disney Company Muslim Artist Fellowship are:

Kamau Bilal 

  • About the Artist: Kamau Bilal is a Black American filmmaker based in the Midwest. His short film Baby Brother premiered at Sundance in 2018 and lives on the website of The New York Times. In 2018 he was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Film. Brick Thieves is his first feature.
  • Project: Brick Thieves is a feature film. When William’s only son and business partner decide to leave their antiquated demolition business, William finds himself knee-deep in the black market brick theft world to keep his family together.

Razi Jafri 

  • About the Artist: Razi Jafri is a documentary filmmaker. His film, Hamtramck, USA, premiered at SXSW and aired on PBS. Recently, Razi produced Three Chaplains, which aired on PBS in Fall 2023. He is an alumnus of the Sundance Producing Fellowship and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan.
  • Project: Sanctuary, Purgatory is a documentary feature film that follows a refugee living in South Korea after fleeing the Yemeni civil war as he struggles to reunite with his family in the US, who are living in Michigan.

Sarah Mokh 

  • About the Artist: Sarah Mokh is a writer and director interested in what our stories reveal about our deepest beliefs. She is a graduate of Harvard College and currently a graduate student at NYU. Her screenplays have been supported or recognized by the Sundance Institute, Film Independent, the Academy Nicholl Fellowship, and others.
  • Project: Diary of a Muslim Cynic tells the story of a woman desperate to escape her Midwest small-town life after a tragedy; a depressed teen’s pursuits of love and big-city dreams are upended by the ghosts of her past and mystical encounters.

Jumai Yusuf 

  • About the Artist: Jumai Yusuf is a director, writer, producer, and a Muslim, Nigerian immigrant who is passionate about telling BIPOC genre stories. Her screenwriting has been supported by MPAC Hollywood and the Black List. She has a B.A. in Neurobiology from Harvard and an MFA from USC.
  • Project: Layla and the Starship Afrotopia, follows Layla, a shy Black Muslim girl who discovers the power to create wormholes; she’s whisked away from her small town to Afrotopia, a spaceship searching for a home planet. This is an afrofuturist coming-of-age animated series. The target audience is Family & Older Children (like “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power”).

Sundance Institute
As a champion and curator of independent stories, the nonprofit Sundance Institute provides and preserves the space for artists across storytelling media to create and thrive. Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, the Institute’s signature labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. Sundance Collab, a digital community platform, brings a global cohort of working artists together to learn from Sundance advisors and connect with each other in a creative space, developing and sharing works in progress. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences and artists to ignite new ideas, discover original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Through the Sundance Institute artist programs, we have supported such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Big Sick, Bottle Rocket, Boys Don’t Cry, Boys State, Call Me by Your Name, Clemency, CODA, Drunktown’s Finest, The Farewell, Fire of Love, Flee, The Forty-Year-Old Version, Fruitvale Station, Get Out, Half Nelson, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Hereditary, Honeyland, The Infiltrators, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Little Woods, Love & Basketball, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Mudbound, Nanny, Navalny, O.J.: Made in America, One Child Nation, Pariah, Raising Victor Vargas, Requiem for a Dream, Reservoir Dogs, RBG, Sin Nombre, Sorry to Bother You, The Souvenir, Strong Island, Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Swiss Army Man, Sydney, A Thousand and One, Top of the Lake, Walking and Talking, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and Zola. Through year-round artist programs, the Institute also nurtured the early careers of such artists as Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Gregg Araki, Darren Aronofsky, Lisa Cholodenko, Ryan Coogler, Nia DaCosta, The Daniels, David Gordon Green, Miranda July, James Mangold, John Cameron Mitchell, Kimberly Peirce, Boots Riley, Ira Sachs, Quentin Tarantino, Taika Waititi, Lulu Wang, and Chloé Zhao. Support Sundance Institute in our commitment to uplifting bold artists and powerful storytelling globally by making a donation at Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), and YouTube.

About The Walt Disney Studios
For 100 years, The Walt Disney Studios has been the foundation on which The Walt Disney Company was built. Today it brings quality movies, episodic storytelling, and stage plays to consumers throughout the world. The Walt Disney Studios encompasses a collection of respected film studios, including Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, Searchlight Pictures, and 20th Century Studios. It is also home to Disney Theatrical Group, producer of world-class stage shows, as well as Disney Music Group.

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