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NAI Direct Access Fund Grantees

By Ranell Shubert

Black IDA International Documentary Association logo on the left of blue bold letters of nonfiction access initiative logo

IDA and Nonfiction Access Initiative are thrilled to announce the first cohort of 14 selected projects for the Direct Access Fund. The 14 selected projects were chosen from 111 applicants from 25 different countries. Additional grantees will be selected and announced from the current applicants in early March.

The Direct Access Fund (DAF) awards small, targeted quick-response funds of up to $5,000 to media makers with disabilities. This fund and application approach was intentionally designed from data collected through the NAI Nonfiction Media Makers with Disabilities Surveya community-based research project designed in collaboration with the 1IN4 Coalition, AXS, DisArt, Documentary Association of Pakistan, FWD-DOC, Judy Heumann and The Heumann Perspective Podcast, Helm Consulting, Leonardo/ISAST, MIT Open Documentary Lab / Co-Creation Studio, Morpheyes Studio, and United States Artists as well as independent disabled makers Tameka Citchen-Spruce, Olivia Dreisinger, Dr. Shweta Ghosh, and Reveca Torres. A report of the full outcomes of the survey results will be launched at Getting Real 24’ in April.

The survey directly asked over 200 disabled creators in the field to name what would be the most beneficial support for their practice. What came forth was an urgent call to support the daily lives of disabled makers through a streamlined process. With support from the Ford Foundation, the Direct Access Fund was created for the purpose of expanding access-driven accommodations and services that would otherwise be left unfunded for the director and/or producer of a nonfiction project. 

This fund underwrites disabled media makers who practice fact-based storytelling at all career levels and are currently working on a project at any stage, including but not limited to: documentary, nonfiction podcasting, new media, immersive, and other types of nonfiction practice. The funding from this round’s cohort will go towards covering expenses such as insurance premiums, wheelchair-accessible vans, mental health support, medications, creative captioning and audio description, holistic therapies, festival travel, sign language interpreters for networking and screening opportunities, adaptive technologies and equipment, rent, crip time, etc. 

This round of awarded projects are currently in production or were produced in 7 countries, including the U.S., Ecuador, Mexico, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Cuba, and include formats such as Shorts, Features, Series, and Immersive work. Amongst the media makers at the helm of selected projects, 57% are media makers of color, 71% are women or gender-non-conforming media makers, 50% identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and 21% identify as Indigenous.

Impact Statements From Grantees

“The NAI Direct Access Fund plays a pivotal role in supporting my role as the director and producer of “PRODIGAL DAUGHTER.” This innovative film grant is unparalleled and timely, providing access to crucial services and health insurance that directly benefit my well-being. Beyond this, it opens doors to indispensable resources essential for completing this feature documentary. With this support, I can focus my efforts on crafting a compelling narrative with impactful visuals, ensuring the film’s depth and impact” - Mabel Valdiviezo 

“The acquisition of essential equipment for the post-production of this project provides me with security, as well as personal rest equipment that will allow me to live with a better quality of life. These resources have a very significant impact on my life, as it would take me a long time to save up for them. I feel grateful” - Erika Lopez

“As well as the emotional and creative challenges for the film, I have the additional challenge of my recently diagnosed disability. I am further understanding the boundaries - and opportunities - of my diagnosis to my filmmaking. The support of this fund allows me to maintain the intimacy that my films are known for without overwhelming physical toll - making films with care costs more because you did it slower.” - Anonymous

2023-2024 Grantees

Portrait of an older man in a field, he has a golf club in his hand and next to him is the rest of the kit. He looks at the camera concentrated. The landscape is like a desert.

4 Holes

Director/Producer: Daniela Muñoz Barroso | Producer: Boris Prieto | Country: Cuba, France

Pepe, an old Spaniard, has improvised his own golf course on the outskirts of Madrid. Daniela, a young Cuban filmmaker, discovers his routine as she tries to portray him. Both have hearing disabilities. Two very different generations and cultures meet through film.

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 Landscape photo with tall green grass in the foreground with a sand path that leads to a river. Off in the distant background is a processing factory. The cloud filled sky with bits of sun poking through fills the rest of the landscape.

All Rivers Spill Their Secrets to the Sea

Director: Jeanie Finlay | Producer: Charlie Phillips | Country: United Kingdom

An urgent, funny, and tender feature documentary made in the North East of England, by Jeanie Finlay, in the place where she grew up. 

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White woman with short red hair and glasses holds in front of her body a painted self-portrait of herself as a young girl while a police car drives behind her on a rural highway. Sun is glimmering in through trees in the background. In the painting she is wearing a pink shirt and is in front of a light blue background.

Being Michelle

Director: Atin Mehra | Producer: Mae Thornton Mehra, Atin Mehra | Country: United States

Being Michelle is an award-winning feature-length documentary film about a deaf woman with autism who survived incarceration and abuse and now uses her artwork to depict the trauma she survived and heal from her past.

Learn more here.

Artist Horazio Sanchez wearing a white shirt and shorts, with a blue hat on his head stands in front of a painting of two teenagers from the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve holding a paintbrush in one hand and applying it to the canvas.

Calakmul At The Edge Of The Sun

Director: Erika Vianey Lopez Gomez | Producer: Jessica Yuset Pérez Nolasco | Country:  Mexico

Spanning 1 million hectares of tropical forest, with approximately 90 communities inhabiting it, the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, the second-largest tropical forest in the American continent, is in the midst of a transformation, facing the arrival of mega-projects and gentrification processes.

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VHS still frame looking over the shoulder of someone in her early 20s with shoulder length dark hair into the mirror reflection where her hand is covering her mouth. A second person in her early 20s is visible in the mirror with a camcorder in front of her face.


Director: Liz Roberts, Bree Laursen | Producer: Sarah Strunin | Country: United States

Two friends from the midwest reunite after 25 years by using a VHS archive to connect the long thread of their past selves to who they are now. Midwaste is a vivid and personal exploration of drug use, healthcare, and the carceral system.

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The color portraits of two women, Mabel and her mother, their faces painted in yellow stand against a vibrant, painterly background showcasing blue, green, yellow, and orange hues.

Prodigal Daughter

Director/Producer: Mabel Valdiviezo | Country: United States, Peru

When artist and filmmaker Mabel Valdiviezo reunites with her family in Peru after sixteen years of silence, she confronts haunting childhood memories and her troubled past as an immigrant in the United States. Diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, Mabel embarks on a deeply emotional journey to heal her fractured family ties, using her art as a bridge between two worlds. Prodigal Daughter is a poignant exploration of family bonds and the power of art to weave a tapestry of healing and forgiveness.

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Archive photo of brown haired white woman Kitty O'Neil, race car driver, behind the wheel of red cigarette dragster car with painted words on it "space age racing worlds fastest dragster."


Creator/Producer: Day Al-Mohamed | Series Producer: Amanda Upson | Exec. Producer: Charlotte Mangin | Country: United States

A digital series of 10-minute documentary shorts showcasing the lives of diverse, little-known Americans with disabilities: renegades, rebels, and revolutionaries and their impact on and contributions to U.S. society.

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A black older man wearing a light blue long sleeved shirt and green pants pushes a walker in a field with two white goats grazing along a wire fence.

Somebody’s Gone

Director: Cyrus Moussavi, Hubert Taylor | Producer: Brittany Nugent and Zakiya Collier | Country: United States

Brother Theotis Taylor harvested turpentine, preached, and sang spirituals in a sublime falsetto that made him the pride of South Georgia. Driven by a divine vision, his son, Hubert, filmed it all. Forty years later, Somebody’s Gone completes the story of a great artist through the archive of his prodigal son.

A man on the right is wearing an elaborate white, red, yellow, black, and purple beaded headdress while drumming at a ceremony at the Trout Lake Pow Wow. A blurry image of another man dressed in traditional attire with his back turned to his left.

The Art of Dance

Director: Kevin Fitzgerald | Producer: Anand Ramayya | Country: Canada, Spain, Ireland, Brazil, Kenya 

The Art of Dance is an unprecedented cinematic experience that ignites inspiration and dares us to come alive by tracing the evolutionary healing power of Indigenous and African movement, music, culture, and community. Innovative and immersive, this documentary awakens our souls through the beauty and courage of some of the world’s most celebrated dancers on a journey of connection.

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Ricardo, a pale man with glasses, dark short hair and a beard, is in the middle of the frame reflected and obscured in the mirror of a vintage vanity. The scene is framed by a window and the whole image has the soft quality of film.

The Broken R

Director: José Ricardo Ruales Eguiguren | Producer: Soledad Santelices Crovari | Country: Ecuador

For 24 years, Ricardo struggled to pronounce the letter R, causing them to suppress their voice. The Broken R is a documentary essay about the intimate journey in search of their voice’s identity and the effort to liberate it, reflected by Ricardo’s personal journey going back to their parent’s home.

Total Running Time includes multiple works situated clockwise in a warmly lit alcove. Rescue, a plaster wall relief, and two geometric forms are positioned on the gallery floor. A niche on the rightmost wall contains two manipulated light sources, one of which creates a daylight effect.

Total Running Time

Director: Josephine Sales | Country: United States

Total Running Time explores temporalities of care, abstracting the halted rhythms of the day and strictly controlled telecommunications for incarcerated people. Scrambled text, interrupted messages, light without the sun: Sales uses these gestures of disrupted social and sensorial experience to interrogate the material entanglements between incarceration, disabled life, labor, and the extraction of time.

Learn more here.

A left hand, palm-side up, is rendered in a hand-drawn style with white lines on a black background. The fourth and fifth fingers are warped and stretching with a glitch aesthetic, as if beginning to float away.

Turbulence: Jamais Vu

Director/Producer: Ben Andrews, Emma Roberts | Country: Australia

A unique mixed reality project exploring movement and the fragility of perception, drawn from director Ben Joseph Andrews’ experience of a chronic vestibular disability.

A photo of a young white woman holding a newborn baby up to her breast. She’s in a hospital room and looks slightly out of it.

What Kind of Mother 

Director: Olivia Dreisinger | Country: Canada

Ten years after her mother’s suicide, the filmmaker takes a short road trip around British Columbia to visit people who had been in proximity to her late mother. What Kind of Mother follows the filmmaker’s attempt to come to terms with who her mother was, as she considers having children herself. A meditation on illness, memory, and motherhood.

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Photo of several UPS workers at an organizing event facing away in their brown uniforms.

Who Moves America

Director: Yael Bridge | Producer: Yael Bridge, Yoni Golijov, Mars Verrone, Jeremy Flood | Country: United States

Covering a staggering 350,000 workers, the contract between UPS and the Teamsters union expires mid-summer 2023, and the threat of one of the largest strikes in U.S. history looms large. This intimate, character-driven documentary depicts the ins and outs of this highly consequential labor battle, following Teamsters President Sean O’Brien and a diverse array of rank-and-file UPS workers in New York, California, and Kentucky as they put everything on the line to win better working conditions.

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