Meet the Documentary Artists and Scholars Selected as DocX Development Lab Fellows

Headshots of 11 participants in 2024 DocX Development Lab: Otherwise Histories, Otherwise Futures.
First row: Luis Gutiérrez Arias, Zaina Bseiso, Adrienne Keene, Jamie Robertson, Tamara Santibañez; second row: Tommy Franklin, Renata Cherlise, Dessane Lopez Cassell, Rodrigo Reyes, Nikoli Attai, Crystal Z Campbell

Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies announces the cohort chosen to participate in the 2024 DocX Development Lab–Otherwise Histories, Otherwise Futures, co-created by Stephanie Owens and Nyssa Chow. This lab supports artists and researchers whose archival practices, documentary art practices and scholarship explore the history and possibility of living, thinking, being and sensing “otherwise.”

Gathering at Duke from April 4-12 and coinciding with the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival (April 4-7), these 11 fellows will be guided by Chow, serving as lead artist facilitator, to engage in dialogue, share their practice and proposed work, explore interdisciplinary collaboration and receive feedback.

Fellows will hear from guest artists and meet Duke scholars and industry leaders to make connections toward opportunities to exhibit, publish, teach, develop, produce and distribute their work. They will also share meals, take nature walks and attend screenings and exhibitions together.

The cohort of 11 emerging, midcareer and established artists, filmmakers, scholars and caretakers of personal and community archives were selected for the sincerity, depth and breadth of the questions they wish to engage. In addition to travel and lodging support, each individual or pair will be awarded $10,000.

Otherwise Histories, Otherwise Futures received around 400 applications, a testament to both the desire and need for spaces where liberatory imagination can be possible. This lab is the second iteration of the initiative that began with the 2021-22 DocX Archive Lab How Are We Known? Reimagining, Repurposing and Rewriting the Archive.

Fellows of the DocX Development Lab–Otherwise Histories, Otherwise Futures

Luis Gutiérrez Arias and Zaina Bseiso

Luis Gutiérrez Arias makes films that explore notions of homeland and territory through human relationship to landscape, collective memory and mythmaking. His work has been shown at Sundance, DOK Leipzig, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and Morelia, among others. He is a 2019 DocsKingdom fellow, 2022 BAVC Mediamaker fellow, 2022 SFFILM Rainin Grantee and was part of the Berlinale Talents Guadalajara 2015. He is co-founder of Bahia Colectiva, a community of filmmakers that collaborate in process, practice and curation. Works he has collaborated on as a producer, cinematographer or editor have been selected by Viennale, Rotterdam, Venice Critics’ Week and FICUNAM.

Zaina Bseiso is a filmmaker and curator interested in diasporic relations to land, mysticism and hope. Her work has screened at DOK Leipzig, Curtas Vila do Conde, Images and RIDM, among others. Her film “A Desert Dreams in Red,” commissioned by the Academy Museum, is currently on view as part of the Academy’s Shifting Perspectives: Vertical Cinema exhibit. Her first feature, Todo Lo Sólido, currently in post-production, has been supported by Sundance and Sandbox films, among others. Bseiso is a programmer at the Points North Institute and cofounder of Bahia Colectiva, a community of filmmakers that collaborate in process, practice and curation. Additionally, she serves as programming board member at the LA Filmforum. She was born to Palestinian parents, raised in Cairo, and is currently based in Los Angeles.

  • Current project: “Todo Lo Sólido” (All That is Solid) merges documentary and fantasy to tell the story of an island sinking into the Caribbean Sea.

Nikoli Attai

Dr. Nikoli Attai is an assistant professor of ethnic studies, focusing on Black queer and feminist studies. Alongside his teaching, he also collaborates with LGBTIQ+ communities in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana, and with members of Toronto’s LGBTIQ+ diaspora communities. In Trinidad and Tobago, he is currently assisting community archivists and leaders to curate a digital archive of approximately 5,000 items collected within their communities over the past 30 years. He also continues to work with CAISO: Sex and Gender Justice, a feminist social justice advocacy organization working with LGBTIQ+ and other marginalized groups locally and across the Caribbean.

  • Current project: “Hidden Heroes: Queer Trinidad and Tobago’s Movers and Shakers” captures the life histories of key LGBTIQ+ leaders and elders in Trinidad and Tobago, and celebrates the country’s long history of queer community-making. This project complements existing scholarship and archival work about queer Trinidad and Tobago and will serve as a resource for existing discussions.

Crystal Z Campbell

Crystal Z Campbell is a multidisciplinary artist, experimental filmmaker and writer of Black, Filipinx and Chinese descents from Oklahoma, whose works center the underloved. Working through archives, omissions and rumor, Campbell finds complexity in public secrets — fragments of information known by many but undertold or unspoken. Campbell’s creative practice spans filmmaking, painting, sculpture, performance, writing and site-specific installations. Select honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, Creative Capital Award, Harvard Radcliffe Fellowship, Pollock-Krasner Award, MacDowell, Skowhegan, Rijksakademie and Whitney ISP. Campbell was a featured filmmaker at the 67th Flaherty Film Seminar, and other works have screened or exhibited at SFMOMA, Drawing Center, UVP LightWork, ICA-Philadelphia, Artists Space, REDCAT, MOMA and Block Museum among other venues. Their short film, REVOLVER, received the Silver Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival and was featured in the Berlinale Expanded Film Forum. Founder of, Campbell’s writing is featured in two artist books published by Visual Studies Workshop Press and in contributions to World Literature Today, Monday Journal, GARAGE, Hyperallergic and Beacon Press. Campbell is currently an associate professor of art and media study at the University at Buffalo.

  • Current project: “Post Masters” is an experimental film stamped by Campbell’s familial history — a Black American military father and Filipinx mother enveloped by the U.S. Postal Service, featuring traces of landscape, labor and plants as intimate carriers and witnesses of empire ripe for decolonizing through an unraveling of sound, image and cinematic time.

Dessane Lopez Cassell

Dessane Lopez Cassell is a New York-based editor, writer and curator. Her work focuses on moving image and visual art concerned with race, gender, labor and decoloniality, with a particular interest in voices from the African and Caribbean diasporas. Cassell’s writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Seen, Film Comment, Metrograph Journal and Hyperallergic, as well as in books and catalogues from Paper Monument, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum, among others. She is a member of the writers’ cooperative Flaming Hydra, and was named a DOC NYC Documentary New Leader in 2022. Additionally, Cassell has curated exhibitions and screenings at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Metrograph, MoMA, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Anthology Film Archives and the Black Women’s Film Conference, and served on the programming team for BlackStar Film Festival from 2018 to 2023. Cassell was also recently elected vice president of the board of The Flaherty.

  • Current project: Cassell is working on a series of writings focused on Caribbean filmmakers and artists whose works examine labor, tourism and notions of paradise.

Renata Cherlise

Renata Cherlise is a research-based visual artist and author of Black Archives: A Photographic Celebration of Black Life (2023). Cherlise uses various mediums to explore themes of identity, family and culture. Her work seamlessly bridges her southern upbringing with contemporary methodologies in digital and physical spaces while reimagining notions of the Black experience. Her archival project, Black Archives, has evolved from a photo-based website of visual narratives into a collaborative platform featuring archival histories and modern-day stories from across the African diaspora.

  • Current project: In the summer of 1977, the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress established the South-Central Georgia Folklife Project. Cherlise’s work will examine the fieldwork practice of Dr. Beverly J. Robinson, educator and folklorist, who documented the communities and traditions of rural southern Georgia.

Tommy Franklin

Tommy Franklin is a filmmaker, writer, producer and creator of Weapon of Choice Podcast and Special Menu Productions. He was a founding board member of All Square, is a founding board member of Ostara Initiative and is a communications consultant at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). His documentary You Don’t Know My Name, currently in production, has received support from Sundance Documentary Fund, Catapult Film Fund, Perspective Fund, The Just Trust, Jerome Foundation, Jonathan Logan Family Foundation and Vital Projects Fund. Tommy earned fellowships with Kartemquin Films, Film Independent and CNN, and was an inaugural True/False Film Fest Confluence Fellow in 2023. He was a 2023 Big Sky Pitch participant and is a 2023/24 BAVC Mediamaker Fellow. Tommy’s one-hour drama pilot Intrepid was a finalist for 2021’s Sundance Episodic Lab, and he was a 2022 Sundance BIPOC Mentorship Program mentee. He made three off-the-wall narrative short films, and he collaborates in grassroots organizing communities to create nonfiction content he believes in. A survivor of incarceration (born in prison and having served time in adulthood), Franklin works along creative culture lines to radically reimagine power structures, focusing on Black liberation. He is sure he wants to do this.

  • Current project: After being separated from his incarcerated mother at birth, Franklin searches for his mother’s identity while uncovering deep ancestral bloodlines. As he gets closer to this life-altering truth, he must navigate his way through systems designed to keep him in the dark.

Adrienne Keene

Adrienne Keene is a Cherokee Nation citizen originally from southern California who now lives on the East Coast. She is a writer, scholar, podcast host and visual artist. Her work uses themes of reclamation, reconnection, relationality, creation and un-drowning to examine the impacts of settler colonialism on her family and build toward an Indigenous future. Her scholarly research and writing focus on the experiences of Indigenous students in the college process, pre-college access programs and Native student activism, as well as cultural appropriation, Native representations in popular culture and the ways Native people are using social and new media to push back on misrepresentations. Her visual art explores themes of Cherokee futurisms using traditional Cherokee art forms like basketry, beadwork and twining with contemporary and found materials. She is the creator and author of the blog Native Appropriations, the co-creator and co-host of the All My Relations Podcast with Matika Wilbur and the author of “Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present.”

  • Current project: Keene is working on an archive of the Cherokee allotment land that birthed her grandmother and the lake that has consumed it.

Rodrigo Reyes

Filmmaker Rodrigo Reyes is deeply grounded in his immigrant identity, using striking imagery to portray the contradictory nature of our shared world while revealing the potential for transformative change. Rodrigo has received the support of the Mexican Film Institute, Sundance Institute and Tribeca Institute, and is a recipient of the Guggenheim and Creative Capital Awards as well as the Rainin Fellowship, the SF Indie Vanguard Award and the Eureka Fellowship from the Fleishhacker Foundation. Rodrigo has supported the health of the film community as a board member of the Video Consortium and the Roxie Theater, and as co-director of the BAVC Mediamaker Fellowship. Rodrigo has presented his work and taught masterclasses at Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, UCLA, Princeton, Boston University, MassArts, the New School, University of San Diego and DOCS MX Film Festival. In 2020, his film “499” won Best Cinematography at Tribeca and the Special Jury Award at Hot Docs. “Sansón and Me” won the Best Film Award at Sheffield DocFest, which opened the 2023 season of the prestigious documentary series Independent Lens. That same year, Rodrigo was named a visiting artist at Stanford University through the Mellon Fellowship with the Center for Critical Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

  • Current project: After losing her 12-year-old daughter Fátima to a horrible attack and fleeing her home in a small town in Mexico, Lorena leads her family on a quest for justice against a corrupt system that preys on thousands of women and girls each year, taking her fight all the way to the country’s Supreme Court.

Jamie Robertson

Jamie Robertson is a visual artist and educator working in photography and video. Born and raised in Houston, her Texas roots inform her practice as she investigates the landscape of the American South as a living archive of Black life. Her photobook, Charting the Afriscape of Leon County, TX, was published in December 2020 with Fifth Wheel Press. Work from this series are in the collection of McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Robertson has exhibited her work at Lawndale Art Center, Houston; SF Camerawork, San Francisco; Galveston Arts Center, Galveston; and 516 Arts, Albuquerque. She earned an MFA in studio art from the University of Houston and an M.S. in art therapy from Florida State University. Robertson lives in Hampton Roads, Virginia, where she is an assistant professor at Old Dominion University.

  • Current project: Robertson is researching how swamps, an environment that is neither land nor water, can be a space that educates us on resistance and liberation.

Tamara Santibañez

Tamara Santibañez is an interdisciplinary artist and oral historian living and working in Brooklyn. Their work is rooted in subcultural storytelling and the coded visual languages of identity construction, exploring the undulating exchange between power and vulnerability, otherness and assimilation, and access and complicity.  In 2019, they were awarded the Van Lier Fellowship at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City and were a recipient of the Ruth and Harold Chenven Foundation Grant. Their work has been exhibited at JTT Gallery, Selenas Mountain, the American Museum of Ceramic Art, the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago, and in performance at MoMA PS1, among others. They are author of Could This Be Magic? Tattooing as Liberation Work (Afterlife Press). They received their BFA from Pratt Institute in printmaking and M.A. in oral history from Columbia University, and were awarded OHMA’s Future Voices Fellowship for 2021.

  • Current project: Engaging the history of bricks in political and social movements as a point of departure, “The Brick” explores the ways the object functions as both a material and speculative tool of simultaneous rupture and generation.

Learn more about DocX and explore ticket packages for the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.