riverrun announces our first bipoc filmmaker fellow - fatima wardy

Under a new initiative, RiverRun International Film Festival has named Sudanese filmmaker Fatima Wardy as its first BIPOC Fellow. RiverRun established the BIPOC Filmmaker Fellowship to uplift the work of Black, Indigenous, and other filmmakers of color.

RiverRun received 27 applications from talented filmmakers across the county for the fellowship, which were reviewed by a committee of industry professionals. As the RiverRun BIPOC Fellow, Wardy will curate a program of four to six films by Black, Indigenous, and other filmmakers of color to screen for free during RiverRun’s 2024 festival (April 18–27, 2024).

“RiverRun believes in the power of diverse voices to build community through film. Through our festival and year-round programs, we are responsible for our audiences and the stories we tell,” RiverRun Executive Director Rob Davis said. “Representation matters, and our aim is to ensure it’s reflected in all our programming–across genders,

ethnicities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and ideological perspectives.” 

Wardy’s narrative short film “Hair Care” is on its festival run and will world premiere at the New Orleans Film Festival next month. She is currently in development on a narrative short titled “White Musk,” about a young Sudanese Muslim woman coming to terms with the death of her terminally ill mother. In 2023, the Arab Fund For Arts and Culture awarded Wardy a development grant for her feature documentary titled “The Love Marriage.”

Wardy is pursuing a master’s degree in fine arts in film and media production at the University of Texas at Austin. Her studies have been supported by scholarships such as the BAFTA/Fulbright Award and the Pigott/BAFTA scholarship. Prior to moving to Texas, Wardy was a news journalist and documentary maker for the BBC in London.

“I am absolutely delighted to be working with RiverRun International Film Festival to create this program of films and bring these storytellers in conversation together for the first time. I feel incredibly grateful to the RiverRun team, for recognizing the merit of this proposal and how valuable this kind of international exposure can be for film practitioners in Sudan who face immense challenges in getting their productions off the ground,” Wardy said. “I hope that other filmmakers from other regions with developing film industries can find something to learn from their stories and find inspiration to make work that might otherwise seem impossible to produce.

“This BIPOC Fellowship is further proof that to be based in the Southern United States is to be part of a unique network of film festivals and arts organizations that are passionately and diligently putting their resources behind underrepresented talent,” she added. “I am so thankful that I get to benefit from the generosity of this initiative, and I can’t wait to get to work!”

The RiverRun International Film Festival BIPOC Filmmaker Fellowship project is a sponsored project of Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and funded through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) supported by the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. 

“Projects such as RiverRun’s BIPOC Filmmaker Fellowship are in line with Arts Council’s core values as we acknowledge it takes ‘every voice, every talent, and every story to make our community a great place to live, work, and play,’” said Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County President and CEO Chase Law. “Arts Council is proud to support this work and we look forward to welcoming Filmmaker Fatima Wardy to our community to share powerful stories that strive to connect us all.”