Disney and Sundance Institute Reveal First Muslim Artist Fellowship Cohort

The Walt Disney Company and Sundance Institute, the nonprofit organization behind Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Labs, announced the first cohort of the “Sundance Institute | The Walt Disney Company Muslim Artist Fellowship.” This fellowship program aims to provide four Muslim artists with year-round comprehensive creative and tactical support, enabling them to cultivate their skills and advance within the industry. 

Disney’s support of the Muslim Artist Fellowship is part of Disney Future Storytellers, an initiative to deliver on the company’s commitment to empower the next generation of storytellers and innovators. Through social investments and programs that provide inspiration and hands-on experience, Disney is helping today’s up-and-coming storytellers dream about their future, build their talents and skills, and become who they imagine they can be.  

“We are honored to join forces with the Sundance Institute to launch the Muslim Artist Fellowship – an initiative that reflects our shared dedication to fostering the next generation of filmmakers,” expressed Mahin Ibrahim, Director of Creative Talent Pathways, Representation & Inclusion Strategies at Disney. “Through this collaborative effort, we aim to amplify the diverse perspectives of these artists while empowering them to propel their careers and craft compelling narratives that resonate with audiences worldwide.” 

As part of this initiative, each artist is provided with an unrestricted grant of $15,000 and individualized support to facilitate the advancement of their projects. As a Sundance Institute grantee, the fellowship also extends exclusive opportunities for networking and community-building events, allowing artists to connect with fellow creatives and industry professionals.  

“Our collaboration with The Walt Disney Company will help further opportunities to uplift Muslim artists and their narratives. Supporting these artists through a bespoke fellowship will not only elevate Muslim representation but also bring more visibility to their stories,” said Hajnal Molnar-Szakacs, Sundance Institute’s Director of Artist Accelerator and Women at Sundance Programs. “We’re thrilled to launch this new initiative to provide support to these four talented artists—Kamau Bilal, Razi Jafri, Sarah Mokh, and Jumai Yusuf—through this fellowship.” 

Meet the fellows selected for the Sundance Institute | The Walt Disney Company Muslim Artist Fellowship: 

 Kamau Bilal  

  • About the Artist: Kamau Bilal is a Black American filmmaker based in the Midwest. His short film Baby Brother premiered at Sundance in 2018 and lives on the website of The New York Times. In 2018 he was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Film. Brick Thieves is his first feature. 
  • Project: Brick Thieves is a feature film. When William’s only son and business partner decide to leave their antiquated demolition business, William finds himself knee-deep in the black-market brick theft world to keep his family together. 

Razi Jafri  

  • About the Artist: Razi Jafri is a documentary filmmaker. His film, Hamtramck, USA, premiered at SXSW and aired on PBS. Recently, Razi produced Three Chaplains, which aired on PBS in Fall 2023. He is an alumnus of the Sundance Producing Fellowship and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan. 
  • Project: Sanctuary, Purgatory is a documentary feature film that follows a refugee living in South Korea after fleeing the Yemeni civil war as he struggles to reunite with his family in the US, who are living in Michigan. 

Sarah Mokh  

  • About the Artist: Sarah Mokh is a writer and director interested in what our stories reveal about our deepest beliefs. She is a graduate of Harvard College and currently a graduate student at NYU. Her screenplays have been supported or recognized by the Sundance Institute, Film Independent, the Academy Nicholl Fellowship, and others. 
  • Project: Diary of a Muslim Cynic tells the story of a woman desperate to escape her Midwest small-town life after a tragedy; a depressed teen’s pursuits of love and big-city dreams are upended by the ghosts of her past and mystical encounters. 

Jumai Yusuf  

  • About the Artist: Jumai Yusuf is a director, writer, producer, and a Muslim, Nigerian immigrant who is passionate about telling BIPOC genre stories. Her screenwriting has been supported by MPAC Hollywood and the Black List. She has a B.A. in Neurobiology from Harvard and an MFA from USC. 
  • Project: Layla and the Starship Afrotopia, follows Layla, a shy Black Muslim girl who discovers the power to create wormholes; she’s whisked away from her small town to Afrotopia, a spaceship searching for a home planet. This is an afrofuturist coming-of-age animated series. The target audience is Family & Older Children (like “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power”).