Doris Duke Foundation Announces $1M Grant to Sundance Institute Expanding Commitment to Uplifting Muslim Storytelling

Sundance-Doris-Duke-FoundationThe Doris Duke Foundation is pleased to announce its  continued commitment to uplifting Muslim stories through a $1 million grant to Sundance Institute. Through a three-year commitment, the grant establishes the Building Bridges Fellowship and Completion Fund. The fellowship aims to provide financial and creative resources, mentorship, and support to filmmakers, producers, and other creators focused on telling Muslim-related stories while also offering community and network support with other creatives in the industry. The Completion Fund for features, shorts, and episodic content will offer non recoupable grants to support the launch of Muslim-focused films and episodic content. The fellowship and fund not only foster creativity but also equip fellows with the necessary skills and financial resources to navigate the entertainment landscape.

“Great stories change hearts and minds — but only those hearts and minds they can reach,” said Sam Gill, President and CEO of Doris Duke Foundation. “The Building Bridges Fellowship and Completion Fund will elevate the fresh voices and stories we so desperately need in our fractured society.”

“For nearly 20 years, the Doris Duke Foundation has worked to create inclusive spaces for artists and creators to tell authentic Muslim stories,” said Zeyba Rahman, Director of the Building Bridges Program at the Doris Duke Foundation. “We are thrilled to expand our partnership with the Sundance Institute and Islamic Scholarship Fund to create the Building Bridges Fellowship program, ensuring these emerging talents have access to the very best the industry has to offer and greater opportunities to bring their stories to life. The Building Bridges Completion Fund aims to reduce the barriers for filmmakers to connect with their audiences to ensure that their stories reach and resonate with them.”

“We are thrilled to embark on this transformative three-year partnership with the Doris Duke Foundation, dedicated to uplifting Muslim stories and voices through the Building Bridges Fellowship and Completion Fund. This visionary program not only offers support from project inception to audience engagement but also nurtures a vibrant pipeline of artists and the diverse narratives that enrich our world,” said Hajnal Molnar-Szakacs, Director of Artist Accelerator and Women at Sundance.

Conducted in collaboration with the Islamic Scholarship Fund, the Building Bridges Fellowship offers emerging voices the opportunity to develop their artistic skills and gain exposure in an industry that often overlooks their collective power and talent. In addition to an unrestricted artist grant of $10,000, fellows will benefit from a customized slate of services tailored to their creative, career, and project goals; a Sundance Collab Community Package; and access to Sundance Institute’s ELEVATE program for year-round professional and project development.

The Building Bridges Completion Fund will offer crucial funding to support post-production, marketing, public relations, or attendance costs associated with premiering at the Sundance Film Festival each January for the next three years. Eligible directors, writers, or producers with films or episodic content will have the opportunity to apply for up to $25,000 in support.

Selected by a panel including representatives from Sundance Institute, the Islamic Scholarship Fund, and the Doris Duke Foundation, this year’s distinguished Building Bridges fellows are filmmakers with a variety of backgrounds whose projects tell stories of complex family dynamics, ancestral exploration, redemption, healing, and much more. In addition to financial support, Building Bridges fellows are receiving a Sundance Collab Community Package, curated in-person Sundance Film Festival experiences including targeted panels, industry meetings, and screenings, and the opportunity to be in a greater community with their cohort peers and alumni mentors.

The 2024 fellows and their selected projects are:
* Fatimah Asghar, When We Were Sisters — Fatimah Asghar is a poet, filmmaker, educator, and performer whose work includes an Emmy-nominated web series, a National Book Award Longlisted book of fiction, and a critically acclaimed book of poetry, and they served as the co-producer and writer of Time and Again for the Emmy-nominated Ms. Marvel on Disney+. They are the author of When We Were Sisters and If They Come for Us. Asghar’s upcoming project When We Were Sisters, based on the award-winning novel, follows the intense bond of three orphaned U.S. Muslim siblings left to raise one another. It explores the fractures of sisterhood, love, and belonging and ultimately illustrates how those who have lost everything can still make their own way.

* Colette Ghunim, Traces of Home — As a documentary filmmaker and nonprofit co-founder, Colette Ghunim’s sole purpose is to use the power of film and storytelling for those oppressed around the world to be seen, to be heard, and to heal. She is the co-founder of Mezcla Media Collective, a nonprofit organization aimed to cultivate a thriving landscape for over 700 women and nonbinary filmmakers of color in Chicago. She is directing Traces of Home, her first feature-length film documenting her inner quest to find home through unearthing her parents’ forced migrations from Mexico and Palestine.

* Sherif Ibrahim, Wormholes in Cairo — Sherif Ibrahim is an Egyptian American writer-director, poet, and curator based in New York City. He completed his MA in African Studies at Stanford University and his MS in Education at St. John’s University. His work centers marginalized peoples and their historicities, diaspora, nativity, and social transformation. His upcoming project Wormholes in Cairo follows a 16-year-old ancestor from 2024, Nabeel, and his 29-year-old descendant from 2179, Samir, where they end up stuck together in a time traveling adventure to stop the apocalypse. In the process, however, they meet recent family members they lost, and from centuries past — and struggle to keep going.

* Samia Khan-Bambrah, The Banker’s Daughter — Samia Khan-Bambrah is a storyteller, filmmaker, and organizer who weaves together her experiences as a global citizen to tell stories that bring people together in the pursuit of justice. Her films have played at festivals and streamed on platforms around the world, including Amazon Prime Video, CNN, MSN, and Apple TV+. Her upcoming project The Banker’s Daughter is an intimate investigation and memoir of Khan-Bambrah’s journey growing up alongside the global success and subsequent scandal of the Bank of Credit and Commercial International (BCCI), the first international bank from the Muslim world.

* Samina Saifee, AmeriGirl — Samina Saifee is a filmmaker and New York University Tisch graduate based in Brooklyn. Her most recent short, AYAT, starring Laith Nakli (Ramy, Problemista), is currently in the festival circuit. Her work has been supported by Sundance Institute and Film Independent, and she is currently developing her first feature. In her upcoming project AmeriGirl, Aaliyah Khan, a home-schooled 12-year-old, joins Camp AmeriGirl for the first time with one goal: make a friend. When the cooler Brown girl arrives, she finally sees her chance.

* Akram Shibly, The Gift of Flight — Born to Syrian immigrants in Buffalo, New York, Akram Shibly developed a lifelong passion for storytelling, filmmaking, and songwriting. He founded True Intent Productions with a mission to serve humanity through enlightening entertainment. He directs documentaries globally, and his screenwriting centers stories of family, resilience, and the reluctant heroes that charm our world. In his upcoming project The Gift of Flight, a British Palestinian postal worker’s belief in his power to fly is tested on a globetrotting adventure to save his childhood home.
Funding for the Building Bridges Fellowship is one of several initiatives of the Doris Duke Foundation Building Bridges Program, which launched in 2007 to counter hate directed at U.S. Muslim communities in the United States in the aftermath of 9/11 and to promote mutual understanding. Through this program, which is the largest U.S. funding program of its kind, the foundation has allocated approximately $48 million in grants to date aimed at creating understanding about and forming connections with U.S. Muslim communities.

The Building Bridges Fellowship and Completion Fund is a part of Sundance Institute’s
Artist Accelerator Program, which works with artists and industry to create a more transparent, equitable, and sustainable independent film and television ecosystem. For more information about Sundance Institute and its artists programs, visit