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NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theatre awards grants to Queens creatives

Shayna Dunkelman, of Long Island City (Courtesy of Shayna Dunkelman)

May 5, 2023, By Tammy Scileppi

Recently, the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) – which is a critical part of our city’s economic development – recognized a diverse group of talented women for their outstanding creative contributions. These recipients – including many from Queens – were awarded grants from the NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theatre for their unique and enlightening works that will enrich their audiences’ entertainment experiences, as well as the cultural fabric of New York City and beyond.

Queens Post is shining a spotlight on these amazing creative voices, and several Queens-based awardees were eager to share their stories.

To ensure post-pandemic content continues to be inclusive of women creatives, this groundbreaking initiative provides finishing funds that help bring projects, by, for or about women, to fruition so they can achieve their personal and professional goals – while creating opportunities for them in the film and theater industries.

“New York City is filled with powerful women, whose unique stories and voices have the ability to change lives and inspire future generations,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “Our administration is dedicated to ensuring those stories are shared in theaters, at venues, on stages, and on screens all over the world. I salute the newest recipients of the NYC Women’s Fund and I am proud our city is investing $7.5 million here to create a more equitable media and entertainment industry.”

MOME, in partnership with New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), has awarded $2 million to 96 projects for the latest round, through the NYC Women’s Fund. This initiative, which aims to address the underrepresentation of women in film and digital media, music and theater, has provided a total of $7.5 million to 342 projects (89 in 2022, 94 in 2020, and 63 in 2019). The full lists of categories, awarded projects and industry panelists who made the selections can be found at nyc.gov/nycwomensfund.

Selected from 1,103 applications, the fourth round of NYC Women’s Fund projects represent a broad range of work by a diverse group of creatives at various stages of their careers. Grants were awarded in nine categories, including general music, classical/jazz/experimental music, theatre productions, fiction shorts, documentary features, documentary shorts, documentary webisodes/web series and fiction webisodes/web series, as well as fiction features.

“We are proud to congratulate the 2023 award recipients of the NYC Women’s Fund, which will further these 96 projects by, for and about women, and expand opportunities for these creatives to elevate their craft,” said NYC Media and Entertainment Commissioner Anne del Castillo. “The success of these projects underscores the increasing demand for more diverse content and representation on screen, on stage and in song.”

Here is a sampling of projects created by several Queens-based awardees:

Rana Abdelhamid (Astoria): “From Queens” (Documentary web series)

Told through the lens of native New Yorkers in the face of ongoing housing challenges – the documentary web series features six 10-minute episodes about ethnic enclaves in the “World’s Borough.”

“The story will highlight the diversity, history, foods and languages of Little Colombia, Little Guyana, Little Egypt, Little Manila, and Little Bangladesh, as an entry into NYC’s rich cultural, migrant and movement history.”

Shayna Dunkelman (Long Island City):  “NOMON” (Music)

This experimental percussion and electronic music duo is composed of sisters Shayna and Nava Dunkelman.

“This award will not only help us realize the vision for our next album, but also contribute to greater female representation in the music field.”

Grace Kim (Woodside)

A music video for fellow Korean American artist HUNJIYA’s single, “Hypochondriac” is an autobiographical recollection of the singer’s personal mental health journey and dependency on antidepressants. Through the video, the two women seek to offer solace and solidarity for other women who may have struggled or are struggling mental health disorders.

“Receiving this award means an opportunity to expand my filmmaking practice and to collaborate with other like-minded artists, who are driven by the same values as I am,” Kim said.

Dena Igusti (Jamaica): “First Sight: A Queer Indonesian Love Story” (Theater)

A chance encounter between singer, Sari, and Indonesian zine editor and journalist, Lisa, in 1997 Jakarta, leads to a love that spans across two generations and countries.

“Receiving this award allows me to not only compensate long-time collaborators, who have worked with me on the development of this story from the very beginning but will also give me a chance to bring to life a part of queer Indonesian history that has been long-censored,” Igusti said.

Goussy Celestin (Jackson Heights): “ANBA DLO: BENEATH THE WATER” (Music)

Blending musical traditions of Haiti and New Orleans, this immersive sound experience explores our connection to water.

Loulwa El Khoury (Astoria): “We Never Left” (Documentary feature)

Loulwa El Khoury (Courtesy of Loulwa El Khoury)

Portraying an emotional duality between Beirut, Lebanon, and New York, “We Never Left” is an impassioned testament to the Lebanese diaspora’s unrequited love for their homeland.

“As a first-time filmmaker, I’m grateful for the help and support of the NYC Women’s Fund, which gives me the opportunity and creative freedom to focus on the landscape of the film, and to shape the story through production and editing. The grant will help make an impact by fostering engagement with the communities represented in the film, offering space for a provocative discourse, and providing a spark for change.”

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