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Class of 2021


Noura Al Sabboury Al Khayat is from Lebanon, however, they grew up in Douala, Cameroon. As such, they are fluent in French, English, and Arabic. Noura left Cameroon to attend high school in Denver. After high school, Noura graduated with a B.A in Studio Arts from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan. While there, Noura focused on promoting social justice on campus working with queer students of color and students from religious minorities. This work, inside and outside academia, and their experience as a queer muslim student of color in the United States, has shaped Noura’s artistic vision. Meanwhile, their previous work at the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College as social media manager and event photographer helped them understand the power of art and media when it comes to spreading awareness and engaging people.

Mizani Ball is a New Orleans native who has grown to have a passion for storytelling and videography. She has recently earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication with a minor in Entrepreneurship from the illustrious Xavier University of Louisiana. She  has gained over three years of experience in videography and editing from working as a production intern at Court 13/Department Of Motion Pictures, a production/social media intern at the New Orleans Video Access Center and a student director of ‘Strangers’ (XU Media TVshow). In addition, to traveling to Trinidad and Tobago to conduct ethnographic research and to film a documentary centered around consent and sexuality during the Carnival season. Throughout her college career Mizani has been apart of organizations such as the Gold Star Dance team, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Association for Black Journalist, Peer Dean Association and Student Government Association.

Chris Churchill is a teacher, tour guide, and veteran of local, no-budget theatre and comedy. His absurd comedy, “Chair” (2007) was “highly recommended” in the Chicago Reader. In 2018, his play, “Dénouement” sold out all four Saturdays at Second City’s DeMaat Theatre. He holds an MA in communication, media, and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. His thesis project, a feature length documentary, “Tell Me About My Mother” about  his mother’s extreme bouts with mental illness, served as his thesis project, got into a few festivals and won some awards. He teaches at Harper College in Palatine, both a college level public speaking course and theatre/film/improv camps for kids.

 Resita Cox is a freelance journalist and filmmaker based in Chicago, IL. She graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. Resita launched her career in journalism at WTVD-TV in Raleigh, NC and WCTI-TV in New Bern, NC as a multimedia journalist and news reporter. Shortly after leaving the South, Resita joined Dose Media in Chicago as a producer, reporter and on-air talent for the nationally-syndicated morning news show, Morning Dose.  With a wide range of journalistic skill ranging from in-front to behind the camera, Resita transitioned her know-how and passion for storytelling into her current role as editor and producer at Local Legend Films. She is currently directing a film on the West Side of Chicago through a Restorative Narrative fellowship with IVOH, an organization focused on empowering filmmakers to tell stories of resilience and hope. Resita has also worked with Kartemquin Films, one of the leading documentary film houses in the Midwest.



Alessandra El Chanti is from Lebanon but was born and raised in Qatar. She speaks English and Arabic fluently and can understand just a tiny bit of French. She attended Northwestern University in Qatar for her undergraduate studies and majored in Media Industries and Technology, with a minor in media and politics. During her 4 years at NU-Q, she explored different types of fields within the media industry through various and internships.  Her internships include Al Jazeera Arabic, Vogue Arabic, Qatar Foundation, and different production houses in Qatar. Alessandra graduated from NU-Q as the recipient of the Dean’s Award, which is the highest form of recognition a graduating student can be granted from the university. She was also the student union president during her final year at NU-Q. She is currently working on a documentary about middle eastern tradition of coffee cup readings! 


John Haley (pronouns he/him/his) is an aspiring filmmaker originally from Mankato, Minnesota. John graduated from the University of Notre Dame in May of 2018 with a degree in Film, Television, and Theatre and Peace Studies. John has completed work with ART WORKS Projects, CBS News, and on the documentary film Free Solo. He has spent the past year serving as an Americorps volunteer at New Avenues for Youth in Portland, where he helps to connect youth experiencing homelessness to resources. John is interested in the intersection of documentary art and social advocacy as well as queer approaches to filmmaking, which he hopes to develop as a MFA candidate at Northwestern University. He has directed two short documentaries: Respectfully, Tony, telling the story of one man who spent 12 years on death row, and OUT on the Streets, which centers on the lives of homeless LGBTQ+ youth in Chicago.



 Anvar Hassanpour is a Kurdish filmmaker from Iran. Anvar started writing short stories and poetry from a very young age, and literature eventually led him to the cinema. Anvar believes in the power of story, and he sees cinema as a tool for economic, political, and social changes. He believes that cinema can always play a leadership role to create the right path for societies. Anvar has been working as an independent filmmaker in the last ten years and he’s directed several documentaries, commercials, and a few fiction projects. Anvar has received his Bachelors in Fine Arts, Cinema Art – Science with a concentration on film directing from Columbia College Chicago. Anvar hopes that Northwestern will create more opportunities for some new collaboration. 




Liberty Ingraham-Gonzales graduated from California State University of Monterey Bay with a degree in Cinematic Arts and Technology focused in producing and film marketing. In 2017, Liberty was an associate post-production producer and assistant editor on the independent feature film Saltwater. In March of 2017 Liberty worked with CSUMB and the Library of Congress, collecting veteran’s stories for archival purposes. She created a short documentary from her archival work called Conflicted, which screened at the 21st Annual Social Justice Colloquium. Liberty received the honor of being inducted into the Library of Congress in March of 2017 and was awarded a certificate of recognition by the United States Congress. Liberty is working on the documentary feature film Addicts Among Us by KEET PBS North Coast, Humboldt Area Foundation and First 5 of California in Humboldt County where she also was a TEDx Humboldt Bay guest speaker.



Marilyn Oliva is an emerging independent filmmaker, artist, activist, and daughter of Salvadorian Civil War refugees. She was born and raised in San Francisco, CA where she received her B.A in Anthropology and minor in Latino/a Studies at San Francisco State University. Throughout her years in college, she developed her passion for documentary filmmaking and created documentary projects on gentrification, oral histories, the arts, and community-driven stories. After college, Marilyn continued her freelance career in the Bay Area. One of her favorite gigs was documenting a revolutionary moment in Silicon Valley for the Immigrants in Tech Hackathon hosted at Netflix HQ. As a Northwestern documentary media candidate, Marilyn will further expand her knowledge on documentary filmmaking and use it as activism to better serve the stories of misrepresented communities. Her current interests are animation and experimental documentaries.


Sean Moore graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in Film, Television, and Media and Anthropology. This summer he worked on a documentary about a Buddhist commune/organic farm in Ann Arbor, MI.  Because of his experience working on that doc, the commune hired Sean  to work at their stall at the local farmer’s market. For Sean, filming helps him to see the world more lucidly. He wants to share that insight with others and hopes to sharpen his craft as a filmmaker while at Northwestern and to meet inspiring and hard-working individuals that will push the form of documentary to new directions. He is interested in ethnographic film within the tradition of Anthropology. The idea of collaboration between subject and filmmaker, like what happens in Jean Rouch’s Chronicle of a Summer, is a personal inspiration.



Shannon Riley is a Delaware native who has come to call Philadelphia home. She has a B.S. in Video & Motion Graphics from Wilmington University. After college, Shannon spent several years working as a Producer and Assistant Director of commercial videos. Some of her favorite projects include developing a 360 immersive documentary experience, creating a musical commercial, and producing a biweekly news videocast. She is excited to channel her “make it happen” attitude developed as a Producer and AD into directing her own stories. . As a commercial video Producer, she witnessed first-hand the influential power of video media as well as the potential filmmakers have to manipulate narratives. Because of this, she is motivated to explore the concepts of truth and authenticity in documentary media and strives to present honest stories in all of her work.



Class of 2020

Emmely Aldave was born in Peru and came to the United States when she was 9 years old. She lived in a very small town in New York. Spanish is her first language but when she came to the States, she fell in love with the English language. Aldave got her BA in English Literature and Spanish. She currently is a teacher assistant in an elementary school where she teaches both English and Spanish. During her senior year of college, Aldave decided to make a small film about immigrants. Aldave is currently working on a documentary for the school that she works with and is also teaching students on how to create their own content. She aspires to make films that have an impact on the viewer’s mind, even so, to create a ripple effect in this society. Through Northwestern’s MFA in Documentary Media, she wants to learn how to expand her voice, her storytelling and increase her knowledge in film production. 

Ian Bertorelli was born and raised in Chicago. He speaks English, some Italian, and a little Japanese and Gaelic. Bertorelli studied writing for the screen and stage in New York City at NYU Tisch and finished his undergraduate degree in 2009. Since then he has been a self-employed artist and craftsperson. Bertorelli is interested in documentary as a tool for social change and is fascinated by Chicago’s rich history of documentarians and journalists. Bertorelli hopes to meet some new collaborators and encounter new viewpoints and perspectives in the program with the goal of enriching and complicating his own work and practice. In this past year, Bertorelli has been building bespoke maple furniture. He is a violinist/fiddler going on 30 years playing the instrument.

Milton Guillén is a Nicaraguan independent filmmaker that explores the borders between fiction and documentaries. His main interests gravitate around the cinematic intersections of ethnographic research and sensorial experiences. Milton’s first feature, The Maribor Uprisings, is a live participatory documentary about social unrests and has screened in major film festivals and universities around the world, earning it the Society for Visual Anthropology Best Feature Film award in 2017. Milton studied anthropology at Colby College and film direction at the Film and Television Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague. He’s directed several commercials, documentaries, and fiction projects in several countries and hopes to dwell in the formalistic possibilities of documentary while at Northwestern.

Mireya Guzmán-Ortiz is a queer, racialized, child of immigrants. They grew up in Oregon and received their BA from Kalamazoo College in Michigan. There, they majored in Critical Ethnic Studies, minored in German, and completed a concentration in Media Studies. Their undergraduate thesis was a short experimental documentary about gender and coloniality. After working at a youth driven arts collaborative for a year, they decided it was time to  expand and grow​ their storytelling and technical documentary skills. At NU, they will further develop the trans and interdisciplinary work of combining the quotidian, the academic, and the aesthetic. Mireya is excited to continue working toward liberation, using media and art to whittle away at—and thrive within and without—systems that oppress so many of us.

Elana Meyers was born and raised in New York City. She went to Oberlin College in Ohio where she first got a taste of the great midwest. After graduating, she worked at a few production companies as a freelancer and did camera work on feature docs. Her most exciting job was operating camera for Careforce, a web series about a mom, her son, and their 1960 Mercury Station Wagon as they traveled from New York to Miami talking to domestic workers about their rights. She also was recently given a grant to film a short doc in Shanghai about a precocious seamstress. Besides making, watching, or talking about films, Elana enjoys traveling, cooking, and dog sitting. 

Ruidi Ni is from China and graduated from East China Normal University with a degree in Environmental Science.  While Ni majored in science during high school, it was on campus at East China Normal University that he discovered his real passion for filmmaking.  Ni is interested in exploring sub-cultures and wishes to excavate stories of lesser known cultures and people.  Ni has recently been traveling the world from Shangahai to South Africa creating a series of short documentaries examining the cultures and stories of each country he visits.  While at Northwestern, Ni hopes to strengthen his foundation of storytelling and improve his ability to explore diverse cultures via documentary.

Isabella Ostos was born in Cali, Colombia, where she lived until the age of twelve. Isabella attended Florida State University and graduated with a bachelors degree in anthropology and international affairs. She has worked under the supervision of Professor Cheryl Furjanic of NYU, where she conducted archival research on queer activists in the United States, furthering her understanding of documentary making. She wants to utilize documentary media as a medium to investigate and cover social justice issues that affect minorities on a domestic and international level. More specifically issues related to race and immigration in the United States and Latino America.

Abbigail Vandersnick is a multi-media artist working within frames of film, photography, sound art, installations, and writing. She graduated in 2015 from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor in Fine Arts, and moved to Houston, Texas, later in the same year. She has worked as an editor, director, screenwriter, cinematographer, and post-supervisor on various short and feature films. She has recently finished post-production on the feature film, Seeds of All Things, about HOPE Clinic, a community healthcare center, and the families that seek its services. At Northwestern, Abbigail hopes to find fellow collaborators, makers, and artists who wish to challenge the process of documentary making in all of its iterations and imbue these questions into the work that’s created within and beyond the program. She also hopes to improve upon her skills in cinematography, sound, and remain open to the insights and wisdom of her fellow creative classmates.

Xinyan Wang was born and raised in Tianjin, a city in northern China. She earned her BA in French at Bryn Mawr College with a minor in Film Studies. Her interest in documentaries started with an intro class during her sophomore year. Her internship experiences with an independent documentary filmmaker and at Philadelphia Community Access Media offer her a more comprehensive understanding of the life as a documentary filmmaker and an opportunity to practice her editing skills. During this past semester, her senior thesis examined the philosophy of cinéma vérité brought up by Jean Rouch and its development in France. At the same time, she also made a short film experimenting with the form of docu-fiction. She is interested in creating documentaries about lives of ordinary people in Chinese society. Xinyan hopes to get a systematic training on technical skills as well as film theories and to create documentaries under the help of professionals at Northwestern.

Zixin Zhang is an artist, filmmaker and screenwriter from Beijing, China, who received her BFA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her exhibitions about film, painting and sculpture installations have been seen across the world, including the United States, Spain, China, India, and Russian etc. As one of the founders of Vofo Studio, she aims to use the broad applicability of photography and film to ignite changes. Zhang has directed and shot her own feature-length documentary in the Antarctic with the scientific group that focuses on issues of children’s education while exploring the environment of Antarctica in the world of nature, science, and art. While feeding her lifelong curiosity about film and media, she believes she can make films and documentaries while challenging the boundary and provoking changes through the MFA in Documentary Media program at Northwestern.