Meet the 2019 Knight Fellows

(R-L) Jonathan Cuartas, Paige Wood, Ryah Aqel, and Tara Gadomski

As part of our commitment to developing and nurturing the next generation of creative voices, Sundance Institute, with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation annually selects four Knight Fellows to attend the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. These emerging artists are identified and nominated by staff through community outreach networks established over the past six 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. Potential nominees are also selected through the open application process for the Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Institute Labs and ongoing program outreach. The 2019 Knight Fellows participate in a five-day residency at the Festival, where they will take part in a curated track of professional and creative development opportunities, including film screenings, receptions, performances, panels, networking events, and facilitated meetings with industry mentors and Institute alumni. Learn more about this year's Fellows below.

Ryah Aqel

Ryah Aqel was born to a Palestinian family and grew up in Michigan. She is an activist, researcher and visual artist interested in the relationship between indigenous communities, identity and land, in Palestine and beyond. She holds a BA in politics and Middle Eastern Studies (University of Michigan) and an MA in Near Eastern Studies (New York University). Ryah is the Curator of Education & Public Programming at the Arab American National Museum (AANM).

Jonathan Cuartas

Jonathan Cuartas is a first-generation Colombian writer/director from Miami. He began storytelling via homemade comics, later following in his brother Michael's (cinematographer, lifelong collaborator) footsteps to pursue a degree in film. Jonathan's short films include horror-drama Kuru (Palm Springs International ShortFest) and The Horse and the Stag (Best After Dark Short, Indie Memphis). Jonathan and Michael are now in pre-production for their first feature film, shooting in Utah in 2019.

Tara Gadomski

Tara Gadomski is a writer, director, actor, BBC radio producer and participant in the Sundance Institute Philadelphia Screenwriters’ Intensive with her screenplay Mother Mary. In 2018, she wrote and directed the short film, Signs of Aging. Supported by Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, she teaches improv theater in rural schools. She writes and presents BBC radio documentaries, and created the drama podcast, Geste. Acting credits include Orange is the New Black, directed by Jodie Foster.

Paige Wood

Paige Wood is a producer, screenwriter, and creative consultant. Recently, Paige worked as the lead producer/co-writer on two narrative projects sponsored by the Detroit Narrative Agency—Riding with Aunt D. Dot and Femme Queen Chronicles (FQC); and is one of eight fellows within Firelight Media's 2018-2019 Impact Producer Fellowship. Currently, Paige is producing several independent productions across the country, while writing the script for a original urban-fantasy idea and working together with director Ahya Simone to develop FQC as a series.

To learn more about Sundance Institute Knight Programs, visit

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