Eight South Florida documentary filmmakers receive development grants

Miami, Florida (February 28, 2022) – The acclaimed 39th Miami Dade College Miami Film Festival announced today that the leaders of Hulu and Topic will join the filmmaker Shal Ngo for the annual Festival event Hero Knights program, which will take place as an in-person event on March 5and as part of its next hybrid edition, from March 4 to 13, 2022.

Knight Heroes, supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is an annual panel in which bright and daring filmmakers share their insights, observations and advice on their creative journeys and future prospects. The theme for the 2022 edition is “From the short form to the stratosphere!” and is free and open to everyone.

The panel is scheduled and will be co-moderated by Field of Vision IF/Then Shorts co-directors of the initiative, Caitlin Mae Burke and Merrill Sterritt. The panel brings together industry experts to provide a behind-the-scenes look at the number of filmmakers who have turned their stellar shorts into spectacular streaming careers. Experts are:

  • Nick Borenstein is responsible for Scripted for Topic where he oversees the development and production of scripted content for its streaming service. While at Topic, he hosted the Webby Award-winning podcast “Missing Richard Simmons”, the Emmy-nominated digital series “AKA Wyatt Cenac” and other critically acclaimed series by Sharon Horgan (Disaster), Coodie & Chike (Jeen Yuhs), Jim Cummings (thunder road), Kamau Bell (United Shades of America) and Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead). Prior to Topic, Nick was vice president of development for Hudsun Media and also held positions at Pivot, Comedy Central and HBO. Nick is also a filmmaker, having written, directed and starred in “Sweater”, “99” and “Pete Can’t Play Basketball”, shorts screened at Tribeca, BFI, Outfest, Palm Springs ShortFest and several others.
  • Kate Bustamante is Senior Director of Original Documentaries at Hulu, where she supports the development, production, and acquisition efforts of Hulu’s award-winning Original Documentaries and Original Documentary Series, including Minding the Gap, Fyre Fraud, Von Dutch’s Curse and recently nominated for the GLAAD Award Change the game. Additionally, Kate oversees Hulu’s emerging filmmaker programs with If/Then Shorts and Kartemquin Films. Prior to Hulu, Kate worked at Paradigm Talent Agency in their unscripted department.
  • Shal Ngo is a filmmaker from Minneapolis. He graduated from NYU in 2008, where his thesis film won first place in the SyFy Channel Film Contest. Shal likes to mix genres; it had the premiere of two films at the Tribeca Film Festival – one was a sci-fi drama set in Vietnam (The last fisherman), the other an experimental documentary on solitary confinement in American prisons (The box). In 2021, he teamed up with Topic Studios to write and direct his original post-apocalyptic series – The park – about a world ravaged by a pandemic virus that is killing the adult population (which he wrote before the coronavirus, thank you very much.) His horror short Control is now streaming on Hulu. Shal now divides her time between New York, Los Angeles and Ho Chi Minh City. He is represented by UTA and Echo Lake Entertainment.

An additional element of the Knight Heroes 2022 program is Development Grants of $500 each and direct mentorship from IF/Then to eight South Florida-based filmmakers. The eight winning projects are:

  • James Cotton, for the “Fudge It” project
  • Cathleen Dean, for the project “Water is our medicine”
  • Jayme Kaye Gershen, for the project “The Melting Pot”
  • Akiel Griffith, for the project “Dembow: The Birth of Reggaeton”
  • Isaac Mead-Long, for the untitled Exchange for Change project
  • Quincy Perkins, for the project “We eat the earth and the earth eats us”
  • Florencia Portieri, for the project “You Were Never Really Here”
  • Jose Zaragoza, for the “Black Snow” project

The Knight Heroes panel will take place at the Miami Film Festival’s host hotel, the JW Marriott Marquis in Downtown Miami. The Festival is supported by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

For more information, visit or call 305-237-FILM (3456).


About the Miami Dade College Miami Film Festival
Celebrating cinema at two annual events, the Miami Film Festival (March 4-13, 2022) and the Miami Film Festival GEMS (November 3-9, 2022), Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival is considered the premier film festival par excellence to present Ibero-American cinema. in the United States, and a major launching pad for all international and documentary cinema. The annual Festival welcomes over 45,000 spectators and more than 400 filmmakers, producers, talents and industry professionals. It is the only major festival hosted at a college or university. Over the past five years, the Festival has screened films from more than 60 countries, including 300 world, international, North American, American and East Coast premieres. Major sponsors of the Miami Film Festival GEMS include the Knight Foundation, Telemundo, American Airlines, Estrella Damm, and Miami-Dade County. The Festival also provides unparalleled educational opportunities for film students and the community at large. For more information, visit or call 305-237-FILM (3456).

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MDC Miami Film Festival Media Contacts


Steven Wilson, Screenplay PR | (310) 497-4951 |

Chelsea Brandon, PR Screenplay |


Rachel Pinzur, Pinzur Communications | (305) 725-2875 |

Jessica C. Bell