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What’s in Store: Look + Listen

Movies, TV and podcasts by alumni and faculty of the School of Visual Arts

May 5, 2021
A collage of film and TV stills and podcast logos.

Clockwise from top left: Design Matters logo courtesy Debbie Millman; Desde el Avión logo courtesy Michelle Poler; Cidade Invisível production photo courtesy Netflix; The Mic logo courtesy Debbie Millman; Soul still courtesy Disney/Pixar; First Gen Burden logo courtesy Rich Tu; Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: The New Chief still courtesy Amitabh Joshi; Magical Girl Friendship Squad still courtesy SyFy; Give Them Lala ... With Randall logo courtesy Randall Emmett; Brand Box logo courtesy Mark Kingsley; Raya and the Last Dragon still courtesy Disney; MLK/FBI still courtesy HBO; Murder in House Two logo courtesy Michael Epstein; The Lady and the Dale promotional image courtesy HBO.

As entertainment and media options proliferate, so too do the films, series, and podcasts bearing the work of School of Visual Arts community members.

We’ve rounded up just some of the many notable recent animations, movies and series that have been created by or feature the work of SVA alumni and faculty. Read or click below for more, and send news of your upcoming project to . ❊

Watch List

Screen Time with SVA Alumni and Faculty

What We Left Unfinished

Director Mariam Ghani (MFA 2002 Photography and Related Media) uncovers the stories behind five unfinished films made in Afghanistan during the country’s communist era, interviewing the filmmakers and presenting never-before-seen footage. The documentary was recently picked up for U.S. distribution by Dekanalog, with a scheduled August theatrical release; it is also available for bookings by educators and museums through Good Docs.


The credits of Disney/Pixar’s late-2020 release, which tells the story of a teacher and aspiring jazz musician (voiced by Jaime Foxx) whose soul has left his body, include BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects alumni Daniela Dwek (2020), who contributed character work; Jessica Monteiro (2010), rendering technical director; and MontaQue Ruffin (2013), animator and cultural-trust committee member.


The latest animated film by writer and director Dash Shaw (BFA 2005 Illustration)—featuring the voices of Lake Bell, Michael Cera, Grace Zabriskie and others—follows a group of “cryptozookeepers” who try to capture a mythical dream-eating creature and consider whether to exhibit it or let it remain hidden and unknown. Cryptozoo won a NEXT Innovator Award at the Sundance Film Festival in February and was subsequently acquired by Magnolia Pictures.

Cidade Invisível

Carlos Saldanha (MFA 1993 Computer Art), best known for directing animated features like Ferdinand (2017), Ice Age (2002) and Rio (2011), created and executive produced this live-action Brazilian Netflix series, in which a widowed police officer discovers the existence of legendary beings and the role they played in his wife’s death.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: The New Chief

This “American Masters” documentary on celebrated jazz musician and composer Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah features the work of four MFA 2013 Social Documentary Film graduates: Erik Spink and Amitabh Joshi (both also MFA Social Documentary Film faculty) co-directed; Andrès Arias did additional camera work; and Dana Kalmey was the associate producer.

Black Art: In the Absence of Light

Emmy Award–winning filmmaker Sam Pollard (faculty, MFA Social Documentary Film) released two major documentaries this year: MLK/FBI, a look at the federal agency’s campaign against the civil-rights leader, and Black Art, an HBO film celebrating prominent contemporary Black artists and collectors.

The First Line of China

This 46-minute, essayistic documentary by Hanwen Zhang (MFA 2019 Photography, Video and Related Media) examines the brief history and current status of an isolated industrial town in Northeast China through Zhang’s first-person perspective. The First Line of China is screening for free through the end of May as part of The LongShots, the BBC’s online documentary film festival.

The Lady and the Dale

Co-directed by Zackary Drucker (BFA 2005 Photography), this HBO documentary miniseries tells the story of Elizabeth Carmichael, a trans woman and entrepreneur who promoted a radical new fuel-efficient car, known as the Dale, during the 1970s oil crisis. (Drucker also recently appeared in and consulted on Sam Feder’s documentary Disclosure, about Hollywood’s depiction of transgender people and culture, which is currently streaming on Netflix.)

Magical Girl Friendship Squad

K Downs (BFA 2012 Animation) serves as animation director on this late-night adult SyFy series in which two twentysomethings receive magical powers from a little red panda and use them to protect the universe. Additional SVA contributors to the series—all of whom work with production company Cartuna—include BFA Animation alumni Maria Baidakova (2010), Adam Bohorquez (2020), Demi Bozas (2017), Benny Candie (2019), Nina Coffaro (2013), Emily Curran (2020), Hannah De Nichilo (2019), Angela DeVito (2014), Amaru Irwin (2019), Tina Maria Kouridakis (2019), Xinhui Ma (2019), Abrham Montes (2019), Olivia Petshaft (2019), Courtney Vonada (2014) and Kim Yuan Xu (2019); BFA Cartooning alumni Joseph Canlas (2017) and Peter Schmidt (2014); and BFA Illustration alumni Samantha Ferrer (2020), Nina Gania (2019) and Madeleine (Matt) White (2014).

Raya and the Last Dragon

This animated Disney fantasy film tells the story of a young warrior’s search for her world’s last dragon, and was made with the help of BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation and Visual Effects graduates Jonathan Lin (2012), who served as environment modeler, and Nicholas Manfredi (2015), who served as layout finaling artist.


Craig Gillespie (BFA 1989 Media Arts) directed this live-action prequel to the Disney animated classic 101 Dalmatians, chronicling the life of a young Cruella de Vil, played by Emma Stone. Cruella debuts later this month.

Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma

In 1970, Black educators in Chicago created alphabet flashcards to provide Black-centered teaching materials to a predominantly white education system. Fifty years later, this short film directed by hip-hop musician Topaz Jones and co-produced by Luigi Rossi (BFA 2016 Film), updates the meanings of these “Black ABCs.” Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma won the Nonfiction Short Film Jury Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie

Bobby Carnevale (BFA 2007 Film and Video) co-directed this documentary about two friends with Down syndrome who enlist the residents of their hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, to help them realize their dream of making a horror film. (That film, Spring Break Zombie Massacre, was also directed by Carnevale.)

Flowstate /North Brooklyn Artists

Minos Papas (BFA 2004 Film and Video) created, co-produced and co-directed this eight-part documentary series about 16 artists living and working in North Brooklyn through the pandemic last summer. Featured artists include Derrick Adams, Dave Choi, Buket Savci and Carlos Vela-Prado.

Black Monday

This Showtime comedy series about 1980s-era Wall Street, co-created and written by David Caspe (MFA 2005 Fine Arts)and starring Don Cheadle, Regina Hall and Andrew Rannells—begins its third season on Sunday, May 23.

Good Listening

Podcasts by SVA Faculty and Alumni
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