Introducing the 2017 Knight Fellows

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April Dobbins, Bahia Ramos (Knight Director of Arts), Iris Devins, Gabriela Arp, Victoria Rogers (Knight VP/Arts), and Leya Hale. © Sundance Institute | Stephen Speckman

As part of their commitment to developing and nurturing the next generation of creative voices, Sundance Institute and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation annually select four Knight Fellows to attend the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. These burgeoning artists are nominated by staff through community outreach networks established over the past three years in eight key cities, including Akron, OH; Charlotte, NC; Detroit, MI; Macon, GA; Miami, FL; Philadelphia, PA; San Jose, CA; and St. Paul, MN. Nominees are also selected through the open application process for the Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Institute Labs and ongoing program outreach. The 2017 Knight Fellows participated in a five-day residency at the Festival, where they took part in a specially curated program that included meetings with Sundance staff mentors, attendance at screenings and panels, roundtable discussions, and other activities. Learn more about this year's Fellows below.

Gabriela Arp

Gabriela Arp is a director of non-fiction films and immersive experiences. She is passionate about bridging digital and physical worlds to create experiential documentary projects that strengthen the human connection. She is the creator of Traces, a virtual reality film that recreates the memories of one woman living with dementia, which premiered this November at Indie Memphis and is currently touring at film festivals across the country. She has created large-scale exhibits and documentary features for The New York Times, Univision, CNN International, International Rescue Committee, and the United Nations. Her work has been recognized by the Alexia Foundation, Vimeo, the Webby Awards, Oculus, and film festivals across the country. She recently received her Master’s in Visual Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Iris Devins

Iris Devins is a writer, director, and producer. She works in narrative and documentary film with an emphasis on intersectionality. She recently received funding from the Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant to complete post-production on her narrative short, After the Date. The film portrays a romance between a trans woman and a straight man. The relationship flourishes, and the two face oppression from the outside world. She completed her MFA in Film and Media Arts at Temple University. She has worked as a freelance filmmaker, editor, graphic designer, and film instructor.

April Dobbins, Iris Devins, Gabriela Arp, and Leya Hale. © Sundance Institute | Stephen Speckman

April Dobbins

April Dobbins is a photographer, writer, and filmmaker. Her work has been published in Calyx Journal, Cimarron Review, Cura, GOOD, Marr’s Field Journal, Philadelphia City Paper, Redivider, Sojourner: The Women’s Forum, Thema, and Transition magazine – a publication of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University – to name a few. She was one of 15 artists invited by renowned photographer Alec Soth to attend his inaugural Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers at his studio in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Camp was featured on BBC and in IMA – a Japanese photography magazine. She was selected out of thousands of applicants to attend the New York Portfolio Review, which was organized by The New York Times Lens Blog. She is a recipient of the S. J. Weiler Fund Award, which is made in recognition of exemplary artistic achievement and creativity in the visual arts as well as significant contributions to the arts community. Her films have screened at festivals across the country including the Los Angeles Black Film Festival, Key West Film Festival, Gary International Black Film Festival, Baltimore International Black Film Festival, West of Cannes Film Festival, Filmgate Miami’s NoLA Film Festival, and many more. She is currently producing her documentary feature, Alabamaland, which chronicles her family’s life and history in the rural South. Most recently, she was awarded a WaveMaker grant to support Alabamaland. April is an alumnus of Grinnell College and Philadelphia’s prestigious Rittenhouse Writers Group. In 2015 she was a speaker for TEDxGrinell. She currently serves as the Director of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships at the University of Miami, where she advises and encourages students who are applying for internationally competitive awards and fellowships.

Leya Hale

Leya Hale is an American Indian filmmaker from the Dakota and Dine’ Nations living in Saint Paul, MN. She currently works as an associate producer for Twin Cities PBS. In 2013 she co-produced The Past Is Alive Within Us: The U.S. – Dakota Conflict, which won an Upper Midwest Emmy Award for Best Historical Documentary. Her portfolio also includes the 2014 historical documentaries, Lost Twin Cities IV and State Fair Stories, as well as Late Life: Language of Health, which won the 2015 Upper Midwest Emmy Award for Best Health Program. Most recently a field producer for Black Brilliance (2015), she continues to work on a variety of local content documentaries and digital shorts. Reclaiming Sacred Tobacco was her directorial debut.


Lead photo:

April Dobbins, Bahia Ramos (Knight Director of Arts), Iris Devins, Gabriela Arp, Victoria Rogers (Knight VP/Arts), and Leya Hale. © Sundance Institute | Stephen Speckman