Eight South Florida Documentary Filmmakers Receive Development Grants

Miami, FL (Feb. 28, 2022) – The 39th edition of Miami Dade College’s acclaimed Miami Film Festival today announced that executives from Hulu and Topic will join filmmaker Shal Ngo for the Festival’s annual Knight Heroes program, to take place as an in-person event on March 5th as part of its upcoming hybrid edition, running March 4 – 13, 2022.

Knight Heroes, supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is an annual panel wherein bright and bold filmmakers share their insights, observations, and advice about their creative paths and future outlooks. The 2022 edition is themed “From Short Form to the Stratosphere!” and is free and open to all.

The panel is programmed and will be co-moderated by Field of Vision’s IF/Then Shorts initiative co-directors, Caitlin Mae Burke and Merrill Sterritt. The panel brings together experts from the industry to provide a behind-the-curtain peek at how many filmmakers have parlayed their stellar short films into spectacular streaming careers. The experts are:

  • Nick Borenstein is Head of Scripted for Topic where he oversees the development and production of scripted content for its streaming service. During his time at Topic, he shepherd the Webby Award-winning podcast “Missing Richard Simmons”, the Emmy-nominated digital series “AKA Wyatt Cenac” and other critically acclaimed series from Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe), 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 VP of Development for Hudsun Media and also held roles 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”, short films that screened at Tribeca, the BFI, Outfest, Palm Springs ShortFest and several others.
  • Kate Bustamante is Senior Manager of Original Documentaries at Hulu where she supports efforts around the development, production and acquisition of Hulu’s award-winning Original Documentaries and Original Documentary Series, including Minding the Gap, Fyre Fraud, The Curse of Von Dutch and recent GLAAD Award-nominee Changing the Game. In addition, 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 filimmaker originally from Minneapolis. He graduated from NYU in 2008, where his thesis film took first place at the SyFy Channel Film Contest. Shal loves to mix genres; he’s had two films premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival – one was a sci-fi drama set in Vietnam (The Last Fisherman), the other an experimental documentary about solitary confinement in American prisons (The Box). In 2021 he partnered with Topic Studios to write and direct his original post-apocalyptic series – The Park – about a world ravaged by a pandemic virus that kills off the adult population (which he wrote before the coronavirus, thank you very much.) His short horror film Control is now streaming on Hulu. Shal now splits his time between New York, Los Angeles, and Ho Chi Minh City. He’s represented by UTA and Echo Lake Entertainment.

An additional component 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 project “Fudge It”
  • Cathleen Dean, for project “Water is Our Medicine”
  • Jayme Kaye Gershen, for project “The Melting Pot”
  • Akiel Griffith, for project “Dembow: The Birth of Reggaeton”
  • Isaac Mead-Long, for untitled Exchange for Change project
  • Quincy Perkins, for project “We Eat the Land and the Land Eats Us”
  • Florencia Portieri, for project “You Were Never Really Here”
  • Jose Zaragoza, for project “Black Snow”

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

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


About Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival
Celebrating cinema in two annual events, Miami Film Festival (March 4-13, 2022) and Miami Film Festival GEMS (November 3-9, 2022), Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival is considered the preeminent film festival for showcasing Ibero-American cinema in the U.S., and a major launch pad for all international and documentary cinema. The annual Festival welcomes more than 45,000 audience members and more than 400 filmmakers, producers, talent and industry professionals. It is the only major festival housed within a college or university. In the last five years, the Festival has screened films from more than 60 countries, including 300 World, International, North American, U.S. and East Coast Premieres. Major sponsors of Miami Film Festival GEMS include Knight Foundation, Telemundo, American Airlines, Estrella Damm, and Miami-Dade County. The Festival also offers unparalleled educational opportunities to film students and the community at large. For more information, visit or call 305-237-FILM (3456).

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MDC’s Miami Film Festival Media Relations Contacts


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