Helped by NYC Women’s Fund, female creators debut at theaters and festivals around world

By Faye Penn

Filmmaker Isabel Sandoval had no idea how much she was about to accomplish at the start of 2019. By February, Sandoval had been awarded a grant from the City to finish a film called Lingua Franca. In August, she was hobnobbing with some of the world’s top directors in Venice, Italy.

“The grant from the Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment [MOME] and the New York Foundation for the Arts [NYFA] made a substantial difference in post-production and getting over the finish line.  A few months after that, we got word that we were invited to premier at the Venice Film Festival,” Sandoval said. “Since then, we’ve been invited to many important film festivals in Europe.” 

Lingua Franca, also chosen as one of 10 films to compete at this year’s London Film Festival, was one of 63 projects that received funding totaling $1.5 million through MOME’s Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theatre. Now, several of those projects are generating buzz at film festivals around the world

She’s not the only one — director Tania Cypriano’s documentary just premiered at the New York Film Festival to huge acclaim. Variety called it “moving and fascinatingly forward-looking.”

“Besides the money, knowing that NYC was supporting us is a very, very big deal. We feel like we’re not alone. The moral support that everyone gets is huge,” she said. “Other people believe in what we’re doing and it’s a great thing.”

Nationally, just four of the top 100 grossing films were directed by a woman last year; what’s more, women comprised fewer than 30% of writers, creators, directors or other leading roles.

“Besides the money, knowing that NYC was supporting us is a very, very big deal. We feel like we’re not alone.” 

That’s where MOME and NYFA step in. “We are awarding a total of $5.5 million over 3 years to help NYC women and those who identify as women finish projects in film, television, theater and music,” said MOME Commissioner Anne del Castillo.

For more info and updates on the next application deadline, visit

Here are some other MOME-supported works and where they’re debuting.  

Tania Cypriano

Tania Cypriano

Where she’s from: Manhattan
Her project: Born to Be
What it’s about: This feature-length documentary follows the work of Dr. Jess Ting at the groundbreaking Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City, where for the first time ever, all transgender and gender non-conforming people have access to quality transition-related health and surgical care. With extraordinary access, the film takes an intimate look at how one doctor’s work impacts the lives of his patients.
Where it’s showing: Hamptons Film Festival (Oct. 11). For additional times visit


Charlotte Mangin
Where she’s from: Brooklyn
Her project: Unladylike2020
What it’s about: This series of 26 animated documentary shorts celebrates unsung American woman from the early 20th century who blazed trails in fields from aviation to politics, medicine, the arts, science and more.
Where it’s showing: Unladylike2020 mini-docs will be released online, on WNET/American Masters, and throughout NYC starting March to Aug. 26, 2020, the Centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment. For more information, go to

Andrea Cordoba
Where she’s from: Brooklyn
Her project: Sanctuary
What it’s about: Cordoba’s documentary follows a year in the life of Guatemalan immigrant Amanda Morales as she resists deportation by seeking sanctuary in a Washington Heights church. Morales’s personal fight to stay with her U.S.-born children is set against the backdrop of New York City’s larger anti-deportation movement and the grassroots organizers who work to protect her and other undocumented immigrants in the City.
Where it’s showing: New York University on Oct. 21. For more, click here.

Isabel Sandoval
Where she’s from: Brooklyn
Her project:  Lingua Franca
What it’s about: This dramatic feature film follows an undocumented Filipina transwoman who works as a caregiver in Brighton Beach, her pursuit of legal immigration status and her emotional involvement with a Russian-Jewish man.
Where it’s showing: Lingua Franca will make its U.S. debut in New York City next spring. For more, go to

Nia Witherspoon
Where she’s from: Brooklyn
Her project:  Messiah
What it’s about: In her theater production Messiah, a transmasculine teenager struggles through the tangled legacy of their Panther parents to find a home in their body and world, both of which seem to turn in on themselves.
Where it’s showing: Messiah debuted earlier in 2019 and is being turned into a pilot TV series.  Witherspoon’s new work, The Dark Girl Chronicles, will premiere at The Shed. Stay updated at 

Taylor Lee Nagel
Where she’s from: Brooklyn
Her project: Lady Liberty
What it’s about: an aspiring comedian learning to accept and embrace her queerness as she finds her voice, and more importantly, her community. Inspired by the real-life experiences of writer/creator/lead actor Julia Lindon, Lady Liberty explores identity, queerness, vulnerability, ambition, fear and belonging with humor, heart and a healthy dose of humiliation.
Where it’s showing: The Oaxaca Film Fest on Oct. 4-10. For updates, go to