Meet our 2019 Docu Work-In-Progress Lab Filmmakers


October 30th, 2019

We are thrilled to announce the following six projects and participants selected for our 2019 DCTV Docu Work-In-Progress Lab. With projects that intersect styles, length, and topics of timely relevance, and participants with various backgrounds, experience and approach, the lab will be facilitated by Bernardo Ruiz with Julie Goldman joining as the guest for the final crit.

Projects + Participants

First Vote

A soon-to-be first-time voter, the filmmaker's two-year journey into the South and Midwest captures ardent first-time voters' participation in American democracy against the backdrop of demographic changes and intensifying polarization.

Yi Chen, Director/Editor

Yi Chen is an independent documentary filmmaker based in Washington, DC. Her most recent film Chinatown, about three long-time residents’ activism for historic preservation and affordable housing in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., aired on PBS station WHUT and won the IndieCapitol Awards Best Documentary Short. Yi is a 2019 Soros Equality Fellow and DC Arts and Humanities Fellow. In 2018, she participated in the Documentary Filmmaking Workshop at the U.C. Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program. Yi holds an MFA in Film and Media Arts from American University and has taught at George Mason University as an adjunct faculty. She is currently working on her first feature film, First Vote, supported by the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Center for Asian American Media, ITVS, and Southern Documentary Fund.

Little Sallie Walker

Four black women across the generations recall the power, refuge, and pleasure they once discovered through childhood play. As they continue to navigate a less than idyllic American landscape, each contemplates if play is magical enough to save them now.

Princess Hairston, Editor

Princess A. Hairston is an Emmy-nominated film editor and a recipient of the 2018 Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship. She is a New York City based filmmaker. Princess was an editor on Fresh Dressed directed by Sacha Jenkins, which premiered at Sundance in 2015 and she edited the first two episodes of the Emmy-nominated series Capture With Mark Seliger. Her work spans various platforms with credits including lead editor on Prudential Financial’s Masterpiece Of Love, a five-part online documentary series. Princess is completing her directing venture Tracing The Hairstons, a documentary that reveals the struggles and triumphs of a family that is bound by a name through the worst atrocity in American history. She is a devoted mentor to young artists and is a proud graduate of the HBCU, Virginia State University. Princess is currently editing Marta Effinger-Crichlow's feature documentary Little Sallie Walker.

American Tears

American Tears documents the transformation of a Texas border community rocked by the Trump Administration’s war on immigrants. This feature-length film follows four residents of the Rio Grande Valley as they confront an unprecedented crackdown on immigrants. It chronicles their response to living in a militarized zone, where the threat of deportation looms over their families.

George Lerner, Director

Director George Lerner is an Emmy-nominated journalist who has produced for CNN, Al Jazeera America, and various PBS programs, and has spent his career documenting the stories of under-represented communities. For PBS Need to Know, he traveled to South Sudan to profile a former refugee trying to rebuild his homeland as the country voted for independence, and for PBS Frontline World, he covered landmark democratic elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a producer for CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, he worked on an interview with Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe that received an Emmy nomination. A fluent Spanish speaker, he began this documentary in early 2018 with a focus on voting rights in the Rio Grande Valley, and won the trust of border communities through repeated filming trips as the Trump Administration’s ramped up its pressure on immigrants. This is his first feature documentary.

This is National Wake

This is National Wake is a kaleidoscopic trip into the world of a multiracial rock band that risked everything in apartheid-era South Africa, to wake up a nation.

Mirissa Neff, Director

Mirissa Neff is a journalist, photographer and filmmaker with over a decade of experience telling human stories through the lens of arts and culture.

She has worked as a producer and correspondent for PBS’s Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders, PBS’s Quick Hits, and National Geographic’s Music Voyager, and has reported for public radio programs including WNYC’s Studio 360 and BBC/PRI’s The World. She was recently commissioned by PBS’s Black Culture Connection to complete a major survey of civil rights era photography. Her debut feature documentary This is National Wake has received support from ITVS and the American Documentary Film Fund, and is set to premiere in 2020.

Everything You Have is Yours

Choreographer Hadar Ahuvia explores the roots of Zionism through its early folk dances. As she tackles themes of cultural appropriation and theft, Hadar must also confront the embodiment of the Israel/Palestine conflict within her own family in order to unwind it. Everything You Have is Yours is an intimate portrait of an artist grappling with accountability to historical violence.

Tatyana Tenenbaum, Director

Tatyana Tenenbaum is a choreographer, vocalist and documentarian. Her work, onstage and through the camera, explores the relationship of our lineages to our bodies and voices. She has created over 50 intimate artist portraits for the Baryshnikov Arts Center, where she has been the resident videographer since 2014. She has also created video portraits and documentation for Composers Now, The Cunningham Trust, Art Matters Foundation, Franklin Street Works, and countless independent choreographers and visual artists in New York City. Everything You Have is Yours is her first film.

Curtain Up!

Asian-American kids break stereotypes as they break a leg putting on a national debut production of Frozen Kids. Behind the scenes, they face families’ expectations and uncertainties post-graduation. Will they have to let something go?

Hui Tong, Co-Director/Editor

Hui Tong is a documentary filmmaker and freelance writer from Beijing, China. Having made short films and documentaries since high school, Hui has developed a passion for theater, education and kids, which led to his current feature documentary, Curtain Up!. He graduated from the documentary specialization at Columbia Journalism School in 2019.



Bernardo Ruiz


Bernardo Ruiz is a two-time Emmy® nominated documentary filmmaker based in New York. He was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and grew up in Brooklyn. His directorial feature debut, Reportero, (POV, 2013) about a group of dogged reporters at a Tijuana weekly, premiered at Full Frame (U.S.), IDFA (Europe) and Ambulante (Mexico). New York Magazine called it “a powerful reminder of how journalism often requires immense amounts of physical and psychological bravery.” His other films, including Harvest Season (Independent Lens, 2019) and the Participant Media financed Kingdom of Shadows (POV, 2016) have premiered at festivals around the world, from SXSW to IDFA.


Julie Goldman

Guest for Final Crit

Julie Goldman founded Motto Pictures in 2009. She is an Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award-winning producer and executive producer of documentary feature films and series. She recently produced Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner One Child Nation directed by Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang which was acquired by Amazon Studios, and Ringside directed by André Hörmann which had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. Julie executive produced The Apollo directed by Roger Ross Williams which was the opening night film at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, and is in production on Untitled Velvet Underground Documentary directed by Todd Haynes, and films by Maite Alberdi, Ramona Diaz and Ivy Meeropol. She produced Steve James’ Emmy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated Abacus: Small Enough To Jail, and The Final Year, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, was released by Magnolia Pictures and broadcast on HBO.