Sundance Institute Names 2023 Women to Watch x Adobe Fellows

LOS ANGELES, CA, June 22, 2023 — The nonprofit Sundance Institute announced today the eight women selected for the 2023 Sundance Women to Watch x Adobe Fellowship. They were all chosen for their exceptional talent and commitment to furthering their creative practice.


“We’re excited to partner with Adobe to champion and uplift this talented group of women artists who are working across creative disciplines,” said Michelle Satter, Founding Senior Director, Artist Programs at Sundance Institute. “Our 2023 cohort, selected from underrepresented communities, will receive granting and a continuum of support from Sundance and Adobe as they take their next steps to develop and sustain their careers.”


All fellows receive support through a $6,250 cash grant; skill-building workshops; referrals to career development opportunities; a 12-month membership to Adobe Creative Cloud to create, share their stories, and further refine their craft; and a connection to the Sundance ELEVATE professional development initiative.

Created in 2020 under the name Women at Sundance Adobe Fellowship, the program was formed by the Institute and Adobe around a shared commitment to nurture, develop, and champion underrepresented voices at pivotal moments in their careers. Filmmakers are nominated from across Sundance artist programs, including the Documentary Film Program; the Episodic Program; the Equity, Impact, and Belonging Program; the Feature Film Program; the Indigenous Program; and Artist Accelerator. In addition to providing support for Women at Sundance, Adobe is a Presenting Sponsor of the Sundance Film Festival and Founding Supporter of Sundance Ignite (a yearlong artist development program for filmmakers ages 18–25). Adobe also supports Sundance Collab, the Institute’s global digital space for learning and community.

The fellows selected for the 2023 Sundance Women to Watch x Adobe Fellowship are:

Jalena Keane-Lee is a filmmaker who explores intergenerational healing. She has won Tribeca Through Her Lens 2020 and DocPitch 2022. Her films have played at over 50 film festivals, winning Best Documentary Short at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in 2020 and the Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction at the Sundance Film Festival in 2023. Jalena co-founded Breaktide Productions, an all women of color production company that has won two Cannes Lion awards for branded content.

Naomi Ko is a Korean American filmmaker, actor, performance artist, and community organizer based in Minnesota and Los Angeles. Her pilot, Nice, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival. She co-founded a pan-Asian female-identifying comedy group called Funny Asian Women Kollective (FAWK). Naomi is a former Sundance Episodic fellow, Sundance Art of Practice fellow, Jerome Hill Artist fellow, and is currently a Bush Leadership fellow.

Dawne Langford is a filmmaker and Sundance Producers Lab fellow. After years of working as a broadcast television editor, she expanded her role after her acceptance to the PBS Producers Academy in 2013. She shifted her focus to working on independent documentaries to amplify traditionally suppressed narratives.

Neyda Martinez is a producer whose films examine culture, equity, and social justice. Documentaries in production include Bartolo, A Chasm in Chinatown, and The People vs. Austerity. Past credits include Lucky and Decade of Fire. An Associate Professor at The New School, Neyda’s board service includes NYU’s Latinx Project, UPROSE, and Women Make Movies.

Fox Maxy is a filmmaker based in San Diego, California. Her work has screened at TIFF, MoMA, Rotterdam, and BlackStar Film Festival among other places. In 2020, COUSIN Collective supported the director with her first grant. In 2022, Fox was named as Sundance Institute’s Merata Mita fellow. For 2022–2024, she is a Vera List Center Borderlands fellow. Fox premiered her first feature-length film, Gush, at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Currently Fox is working on a film about mental health.

April Maxey is a Los Angeles–based director from San Antonio, Texas. Her short Work, made at AFI’s DWW, screened at Sundance, Tribeca, Palm Springs Shortfest, Inside Out, and Outfest, where it won the Grand Jury Prize for Outstanding U.S. Narrative Short. Her work explores the complexities of queer intimacy, grief, and healing.

Gabriela Ortega is an award-winning interdisciplinary artist from the Dominican Republic. She is an alum of the Sundance Feature Film Program labs with the feature film version of her award-winning Sundance short Huella. She is currently working on her feature film directorial debut to be shot in the Dominican Republic. 

Keisha Rae Witherspoon is a Miami-born writer-director. Her short film T screened in 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival, and later at Berlinale where it won the Golden Bear. T and her experimental short 1968<2018>2068 can be seen on The Criterion Channel. She is writing her first feature film.

Recent highlights for previous Sundance Women to Watch x Adobe fellows include:

  • Deirdre Backs produced and Miciana Hutcherson co-wrote the feature Fancy Dance, directed by Erica Tremblay, which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and won Best Cinematography at SXSW;

  • Aisha Bhoori is currently adapting Huma Abedin’s The New York Times’ bestselling memoir, Both/And, into a limited series with Freida Pinto attached to star;

  • Chris Gris directed three episodes of the recently premiered Max series Ugly;

  • Laura Moss’ directorial debut, birth/rebirth, premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival after being developed at the 2020 Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab with co-writer Brendan J. O’Brien;

  • Dionne Edwards’ feature debut, Pretty Red Dress, opens theatrically this summer after premiering at the 2022 BFI London Film Festival;

  • Iliana Sosa’s feature documentary, What We Leave Behind, had its world premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival and was a 2022 Gotham Award nominee for Best Documentary;

  • Milisuthando Bongela’s debut documentary feature, Milisuthando, premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.


Women at Sundance is made possible by leadership support from The David and Lura Lovell Foundation, The Harnisch Foundation, Adobe, and NBCUniversal. Additional support is provided by Kimberly Steward, The Latinx House, Susan Bay Nimoy, Eagle and the Hawk Foundation, Ann Lovell, Paul and Katy Drake Bettner, Abigail Disney and Pierre Hauser—Like a River Fund, Roger Ehrenberg and Carin Levine-Ehrenberg, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Zions Bank, Pat Mitchell and Scott Seydel, and two anonymous donors.


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 each other and Sundance advisors and connect 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 artists such 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, Twitter, and YouTube.



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