Vantage Grant Class of 2023

Meet Our Winner & Finalists

The Vantage Grant Live Pitch took place on March 26, 2023. All finalists presented their pitch in front of an industry panel featuring:


Melissa Bisagni, Film Curator, Consultant and Festival Programmer

Dana Flor, Documentary Director and Producer

Bridget Hunnicut, Executive Producer and Director

Dawne Langford, Documentary Filmmaker, Editor, Producer, and Curator

Maggie Lemere, Documentary Filmmaker, Oral Historian, and National Geographic Explorer

Andy Myers, Director of Campaigns and Strategy at Working Films


Learn more about the DCEFF Vantage Grant here.


From Kudzu


Team: Hope Davison, Nash Consing, Melanie Ho, co-directors

BIPOC identity (self-described): Nash is a Filipino American from western North Carolina; Hope is a mixed Japanese American from central North Carolina; and Melanie is a Vietnamese American from northeast Florida.

Stage: Research and development

Logline: A poetic and personal documentary, From Kudzu explores the identities of three Asian American filmmakers from the U.S. South. Through a road trip tracing a plant’s rise and fall mitigated by the hand of the U.S. Government, the filmmakers illustrate their placement, movement and history of their racial identities in proximity to Kudzu.


Back to Now


Team: Sara Elbanna, director, and Hayat Aljowaily, producer

BIPOC identity (self-described): Egyptian (both director and producer)

Stage: Research and development

Logline: 25 years ago, unable to secure water for his land, my father left Egypt to pursue the “American dream.” Now, disenchanted with his life in diaspora, he plans to return for the first time with the purpose of reconnecting with his native land and village.

Ali's Return

Birder By The Lake


Team: Erika Valenciana, Mitchell Wenkus

BIPOC identity (self-described): Chicana/Latina (director and producer)

Stage: Post-production

Logline: Birder By The Lake is an often humorous, sometimes heartbreaking 15 minute documentary illustrating the quirky yet dedicated people who process bird collisions in Chicago and the city’s vast biodiversity that makes it a significant stopover for migratory birds.

Birder by the lake

Our Forever Home, Brown Grove


Team: Ashley Luke

BIPOC identity (self-described): Black

Stage: Post-production

Logline: Brown Grove follows the journey of an African American community fighting to preserve their sacred land, community, and historical memory in rural Hanover County, Virginia. In recent years, a warehouse distribution center was permitted, clearing more than 200 acres of wetlands and residential homes to construct the site. The environmental impact on the community has altered historic burial grounds, marshes, and quality of life- all within miles of residents’ homes.

Brown Grove Like

Dear You


Team: Aurora Brachman

BIPOC identity (self-described): mixed-race Black and South Asian

Stage: Pre-production

Logline: Grace James, a dancer and steadfast optimist from the island nation of Kiribati, flees domestic abuse and the imminent threat of climate change to seek asylum in the US. Dear You follows Grace as she fights for stability and a sense of purpose in the face of an uncertain future.

Dear You2

Drowned Land


Team: Colleen Thurston

BIPOC identity (self-described): Indigenous – a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

Stage: Post-Production

Logline: Deep in the Choctaw Nation of rural Oklahoma rages a fight to preserve the Kiamichi River, reckoning with a cycle of land loss for the Indigenous diaspora and the community at large.