Reel Works has unveiled the full lineup for its 2023 film festival, celebrating the work of young, emerging filmmakers.

This year’s festival will take place November 18-19 at New York’s SVA Theater and will feature 42 narrative and documentary projects, with over 85 percent of films presented by BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ filmmakers.

The second annual edition of the festival will once again feature projects from filmmakers aged 14 to 24 from the Reel Works community. These include original projects produced through the nonprofit’s Documentary and Narrative Lab program, as well as the premiere of films from the first Supported Summer Lab, a workshop that supports neurodivergent youth in developing their own original films.

The event also marks the first time that the Reel Works Film Festival will showcase the work of outside creatives with screenings of select titles.

The festival is part of Reel Works’ larger mission to inspire, mentor and educate diverse generations of filmmakers through unparalleled arts education and workforce development, including free filmmaker programs, one-on-one mentoring and annual professional training for students.

“Reel Works is at the forefront of ensuring the film industry is represented by a diverse range of talent,” said Stephanie Walter, co-founder and chief program officer of Reel Works, the Brooklyn-based nonprofit organization Youth media focuses on personnel development. “The opportunity to curate a film festival that amplify the voices of underrepresented communities is something we are particularly passionate about. We’re excited to celebrate their work and bring it to new audiences.”

The 2023 jury includes Emmy and Peabody Award-winning film producer and founding director of Sandbox Films, Greg Boustead; Hollywood casting director and producer Patricia DiCerto; freelance film critic David Edelstein; Global Head of Connected TV & Streaming at YouTube at Google Matt McDonald; filmmaker, founder and creative director of Fair Oaks Entertainment Roger Mancusi; Film Stage founder and editor-in-chief Jordan Raup; and Christopher Rosen, Digital Director of GoldDerby.

Read the full Reel Works Film Festival 2023 program below.


540 Dir. Haochen Huang
An experimental film that captures the silence of everyday life and combines elements from nature, offices and public space.

About the film referencesDir. Phoenix Purnell
An aquatic exploration of key characters from acclaimed films, drawing similarities between recurring characters and tropes from films about the deep blue sea.

Animating Life: A History of Stop Motion Dir. Calliope Daoundakis
An animated short film that shows the value of stop motion animation.

Defective technology Dir. Eva Tichomirova
A documentary about the mental health of students at a technical school in Brooklyn.

Chomchom Dir. Sanjona Arzan
A short documentary about a delicious dessert that originated in Tangail, a small town in Bangladesh.

Dopeamine Dir. Michael Rezza-Castellanos
An original short film by Micheal Rezza-Castellanos reflecting special memories of Reel Works’ 2023 Supported Summer Lab. The piece is based on a day at the aquarium and the friendships formed during the trip.

Savings sweets Dir. Tasnuva Shehrin
Tasnuva chronicles Sherhrin’s experience of watching the development of her neighborhood, LES. This documentary short explains what it means to call your neighborhood home – and highlights the importance of familiarity in building community.

Environmental Changes in the BronxFannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School – Summer Youth Employment Program
In this short documentary, students explore their home community of the Bronx and the environmental changes there.

For eternity Dir. Helsen Sanabia
A documentary about underground tattoo artists in New York.

Kirkpatrick and the Civil Rights Movement Dir. Ella Caroleo
Explores organizations such as the Black Panthers and the Deacons for Defense and Justice. It also addresses protests against peaceful protests and the violence that protesters endured.

Living in NYC Dir. Abdul-Jabbar Adulai
An original short film showcasing the excitement of Reel Works’ 2023 Supported Summer Lab. This immersive film highlights the afternoon trip to the Bronx Aquarium.

The optimal route for The Subway BanditGotham Scholars
This short documentary looks at the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority and examines its history, safety and future.

Saheed’s film Dir. Saheed Morrison
An interactive compilation of beautiful images that showcase New York City in all its glory.

I’m still climbing Collaborative Studies in Brooklyn
A PSA for Black History Month created by the students of Brooklyn Collaborative Studies.

The stop motion animation project Millennium High School
Students channel their creativity and storytelling to express themselves in this stop-motion animated film.

A conversation in the park Dir. Raven Santos
This document shows Raven Santos’ efforts to talk to people in Central Park.

Tfaddalu Dir. Saara Al-Sawah
A documentary about Brooklyn’s historic Middle Eastern community.

The veil Dir. Ahamed Diallo
It follows an African-American man who has visions of masked people that force him to stand up for himself while navigating a new job and the microaggressions he faces.

Unheard: The Missing Voices of Student JournalismDir. Stephen Czaja
Five student reporters investigate the lack of newspapers in New York City high schools and uncover the vast inequities that exist at every level of the city’s school system.

¡VLMPR! Dir. Leandra Ramos
This piece explores the culture, history and fashion of Puerto Rico.

Youth Justice Network Bronx International High School – Summer Youth Employment Program
A short film that captures the untold stories of the Summer Youth Employment Program and tells the unique story of the Youth Justice Network in Harlem and its impact.


Adults talk Dir. Eva Tichomirova
A little boy named Charlie decides to grow up to finally impress his older brother.

Affected Dir. Vinny Hunter
After one of them commits a crime, two friends get into a tense conversation.

GreaterDir. Melissa Morales
When the opportunity to share her passion for writing arises, Elena fights against the constraints of her traditional family and repressed thoughts of anxiety and depression to follow her dreams before hope fades.

Chronophobia Dir. Benjamin Baker Singh
Sydney, a young adult who spitefully moves out of his mother’s house, realizes that embracing adulthood is much harder than he expected.

Dinner with demons You. Joy of freedom
Tells the story of Elora, a young woman struggling with her own addiction and the guilt over her father’s addiction and its impact on her family.

Fluorescence – Dir. Kya A. Nelson
Desdemona is a young teenage girl who lacks self-confidence due to her difficult relationship with her mother. It’s only when Des meets a young photographer that she learns to stand up to her mother.

SparkleDir. Maya Velazquez
When a nerdy autistic teenager throws a Halloween party in hopes of reuniting with an old friend, he is unpleasantly surprised by a series of microaggressions and nasty comments and must make a difficult decision.

I’m going to Little IslandDir. Ashley Condé-Lopez
An original short film with the question: “Where do New Yorkers go when it rains?” The film deals with the difficulties of finding your way in public space and making new plans.

Home Dir. Elyjah Logan
A new discovery challenges a friendship at a crossroads of change.

How will we grow? Dir. Anise Atwell-Hudson
Alda and Inez strengthen their bond by facing the challenges of adulthood and rediscovering the magic of sisterhood.

If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make cents Dir. Amya Williams
As Generation Z enters the workplace, they are thinking about how their generation can revolutionize traditional work expectations.

A letter to the mayor (给市长的一封信)Dir. Zhihui Chen
A Chinese teenager who faced racism during the Covid-19 pandemic must decide whether to continue suffering in silence or speak out.

leftovers Dir. Pacqui Pascual
After the death of her struggling artist father, all Jane is left with are his ashes. When his art posthumously gains popularity, she comes away empty-handed until a wealthy art collector offers to purchase his remains.

Many worlds Dir. Cameron Rodriguez
Charlotte, a Princeton professor, needs to approve her new “Many Worlds” curriculum, but has difficulty communicating her ideas to the college board.

Not your average high school rom-com The leadership school for young women
This romantic comedy explores Sadie, a southern teenager, and her adventures as a new student at a New York City high school.

Our journey Dir. Chelsea Marius
A Lucian teenager explores her identity and the misunderstandings that come with living there.

Sherlock Holmes in the 21st century Dir. Isaiah Fraser
Follows the exciting journey of Holmes and Watson as they embark on a life-changing investigation. The film was partially shot by Reel Works’ 2023 Supported Summer Lab.

The Shidduch Crisis Dir. Chaya Gurkov
An Orthodox Jewish girl has concerns about an early arranged marriage.

Mountain hares never Dir. Louis Straker
An emotionally charged drama that explores the complexities of interracial relationships, black excellence and the pursuit of self-autonomy. The film follows Noah, a college student, as he introduces his white girlfriend Brittany to his black family during a tense Thanksgiving dinner.

Something with this Yaari Dir. Tori Evans
A whimsical short comedy that reflects on the students’ shared relationships and experiences as they raise critical questions such as how to deal with New York’s rat population and speculate whether their teacher Yarri is missing children.

Tender Dir. Wesley Chessa-Forman
A young man enters a butcher shop and finds there is more than he can bear.

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