UnionDocs announces the recipients of the Undo Fellowship

Supporting collaborative research for radical practices in documentary filmmaking

For this, the second round of the UNDO FELLOWSHIP, a select group of nominated writers and documentary artists participated in a match-making process guided by UnionDocs. Once matched, they worked together to develop a shared research question to motivate their regular intellectual and creative exchange over the fellowship year. This collaboration was meant to root in the artist’s film practice and offer resources for the further development of their projects, aesthetics, and methodologies. The funding for the four artists is unrestricted, while the writers are commissioned to author and organize a reader— a compendium of writing, interviews, excerpts and ephemera— that approaches the proposed research question from multiple angles. 

UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art is honored to announce the selection of four pairs of artists and writers for the UNDO FELLOWSHIP, an initiative to expand radical filmmaking practices and research new languages of documentary cinema. The fellowship recipients include writer Ashon Crawley with artist Crystal Z. Campbell, author Sukhdev Sandhu with filmmaker Deborah Stratman, scholar Lakshmi Padmanabhan with filmmaker Miryam Charles, and writer/editor Jas Morgan with artist Thirza Cuthand. Each of the fellows will receive $20,000 for their participation in the yearlong program, which includes a seminar at DocLisboa 2021 followed by a retreat at Casa Do Xisto in Portugal, and a final retreat and public symposium in the Fall of 2022 at EMPAC at Rensselaer in Troy, New York. 

The selection of these pairs gave equal consideration to the excellence of previous work and to the proposed research focus, ambitious questions relevant to contemporary documentary representation (see the list of research threads below). UnionDocs is cultivating feedback structures and a spirit of community to support these sustained explorations, allowing for the cohort to contribute in their strength and diversity. Each pair’s proposed focus of research will be workshopped through a series of in-person gatherings and remote discussions over the fellowship year and will ultimately be addressed in a final publication and in a public session at the culminating symposium, which hopes to make a significant contribution to documentary discourse. The avenues of support for formally adventurous, artful documentary like the work of the filmmakers and artists recognized by the UNDO FELLOWSHIP are few.

UnionDocs Co-Artistic Director Jenny Miller says

“This program offers a rare opportunity for a unique and perhaps unexpected form of collaboration. We’ve been excited to develop it as an experiment in grant-making and to evolve the format in this new iteration, seeking ways to include more voices and angles on the research, and provide the right amount of space and structure for the pair’s ideas to morph and gestate. We can’t wait to see and also share how bringing these folks together grows their practice and research. Next stop, Portugal!”


Deborah Stratman makes films and artworks that question power, control and belief, considering how places, ideas, and society are intertwined.  She regards sound as the ultimate multi-tool, and time to be supernatural.  Recent projects have addressed freedom, surveillance, broadcast, sinkholes, comets, raptors, orthoptera, levitation, exodus, evolution, sisterhood and faith.  Stratman has exhibited internationally at venues including MoMA (NY), Centre Pompidou (Paris), Hammer Museum (LA), Austrian Film Museum (Vienna), MCA (Chicago), Whitney Biennial (NY), Flaherty Seminar and festivals including Sundance, Viennale, Berlinale, CPH:DOX, True/False, Locarno and Rotterdam. She is the recipient of Fulbright, Guggenheim and USA Fellowships, an Alpert Award and grants from Creative Capital, Graham Foundation, Harpo Foundation and Wexner Center for the Arts. She lives in Chicago where she teaches at the University of Illinois.

Based in Brooklyn, NY, UnionDocs is a Center for Documentary Art that presents, produces, publishes, and educates. Since 2005, they’ve brought together a diverse community on a search for urgent expressions of the human experience, practical perspectives on the world today, and compelling visions for the future. Our programs are run with the belief that documentary art, when paired with thoughtful context and open debate, is an invaluable tool for understanding the complexities of contemporary life and creating a more compassionate, engaged, and integrated society. More info:

Thirza Jean Cuthand was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1978, and grew up in Saskatoon. Since 1995 she has been making short experimental narrative videos and films about sexuality, madness, Queer identity and love, and Indigeneity, which have screened in festivals internationally, including the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, Mix Brasil Festival of Sexual Diversity in Sao Paolo, ImagineNATIVE in Toronto, Ann Arbour Film Festival, Images in Toronto, Berlinale in Berlin, and Oberhausen International Short Film Festival. Her work has also exhibited at galleries including the Remai in Saskatoon, The National Gallery in Ottawa, and The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. They completed their Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in Film and Video at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 2005, and her Masters of Arts in Media Production at X University in 2015. She currently resides in Toronto, Canada.



Writer Ashon Crawley and Artist Crystal Z Campbell will examine the various ways that ideas, stories, and narratives are collected and ask what happens when the things collected are ephemeral? They will imagine ways that knowledge about Black geographic translation—in its variance and shade, in its color and texture, in its weight and lightness, in its vibration and sound—moves, how it spreads. The sound of glances and glimpses, the sight of whispers and hushed words, is where their research resides. They ask if the sonic component in film is the augmentation of the relationship between remembering and forgetting, or is the sonic a way to get at the archive and what exceeds its capture? Campbell’s sonic-centered documentary work honors the untranslatable, strategies of opacity, and rumor. They will posit together if fragments and gaps in archives can act as historical conductors, offering new translations or urgent questions, around Black geography, land and body, and the public secrets embedded in landscapes.


How can the form of experimental documentary address the legacies of colonization as they are lived today? Scholar Lakshmi Padmanabhan and Filmmaker Miryam Charles will be following the routes opened up by this question, traveling and filming in India and Haiti (places of origin and belonging for them), to hear from women both dead and alive about their histories of survival and aesthetics of errantry. They will seek answers in the fissures between image and sound, personal narrative and political history, and in the juxtapositions between the dream of an anticolonial future, and the nightmare of our globalized present. 


Writer and critic Jas Morgan and filmmaker / artist Thirza Cuthand propose to advance Two-Spirit Indigiqueer life cycles through forms of mutual recognition, contemporary kinship, and world-building. Reflecting on the ways Indigenous queer, trans, Two-Spirit, and gender non-conforming peoples have lost knowledge about their social and cultural roles, and of homophobic shame imposed on Indigenous Peoples through punishment and policing of non-normative sexualities, they will expand on the impact of feminist material aesthetics, private documentary style filmmaking, and experimental realms for consciousness raising. Cuthand and Morgan will engage in a “call and response” dialogue working through archival material, photos and journal entries, from Cuthand’s personal archive with autotheoric responses by Morgan reflecting on what they have learned about Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer life cycles.


Author Sukhdev Sandhu and filmmaker Deborah Stratman will probe critical debates around the Anthropocene, monumentality, and the politics of audibility through an inquiry that looks to geology as an experimental pedagogy, an archive from which to ponder the ways in which our society dwells between past and future catastrophes. Drawing on speculative fiction as well as forensic non-fiction, their research will extend Stratman’s longstanding engagement with the politics of landscape. Fundamentally, they ask: how can we begin to formulate a progressive politics – or even a vision of the future – that does not pedestalize the human species?