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Jun 18, 2022 at 7:30 pm

Collaborative Studio: Preview + Party!

This is a first-come, first serve community event free and open to the public taking place at UnionDocs and streaming online. Doors for IRL attendance open at 7PM. RSVP below to stream online!

Stream goes live at 7:30PM est – 6/18

We are delighted to give a sneak peek of 8 fresh new shorts made by the artists from the 2021 Collaborative Studio! You’re invited to celebrate this new collection of work and join us for a festive PREVIEW AND PARTY.

The short documentaries in this program were developed by thirteen film and audio makers over nine months. They began with a shared starting point, an inspiring text that “details a watershed moment in NYC history when designers, government administrators, and residents sought to remake New York City in the image of a diverse, free, and democratic society”, Mariana Mogilevich’s The Invention of Public Space: Designing for Inclusion in Lindsay’s New York. The CoLAB was prompted to then expansively spring forward into an open concept: how might a film similarly combine psychology, politics and design to envision a present or future public?

Follow along with these stories that meet this charge with care, resilience, reflection and personal reckoning; they grapple with the looming threats on the horizon and seek ways to listen to history and repair any lingering fault lines. They orbit around an anxious projection: what do we want our story to be? And ask what are the changes required to design a pathway forward that won’t just remain an aspiration but move towards a story of an inclusive and radical future.

Join this collection that traverses NYC: from a vertiginous inventory that examines the wellbeing of our waterways, to an imaginative exploration of the dissonant experiences of sanitation workers caught between necessity and invisibility, to witnessing the careful choreographies underlying the operations of a beloved gas station, through essayistic dives that explore identity, mental health and rebirth, or personal quest to connect with the nomadic Coney Island polar bears, plus, an invitation to listen carefully to earth-mother Gaia who has a message and mission to share!

Swing by UnionDocs to be a part of this inquiry and imaginative process at a celebratory community screening and after party with festive music, and a toast to these never-before-seen films. DJ Sets from Akeema-Zane, DJ Brian Becker, and DJ Logan Takahashi will keep the energy and moves flowing from midnight – late.


7:30PM: Screening Program 1 – films by the Collaborative Studio

10:00PM: Screening Program 2 – films by the Collaborative Studio

11:30PM onwards: Party, celebratory toast, continued drinks, and DJ set with late-night dancing!

Please Note: Doors open at 7PM and seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis! We encourage folks to arrive by 7:15PM to be seated on time for the screening. We will not be able to admit folks after 7:20PM.

9 Entities

Co-Creators: Akeema-Zane & Sophie Spencer Zavos
Creative Consultant: Dea Gjinovci

From the Bronx to Trinidad, Maryland to New York, Tehran to Chicago, 9 Entities emerges to illuminate three artists’ documented pasts and interpretations of discovering their private as a public history. Through mining what emerges as a map of publics, the artists discover a question of conception and draw on a shared obsession – mothers. How do we imagine the arrangement of things coming together to give notion to our sense of selves and our current realities?


Co-directors: Sylvie Douglis & John Marty
Co-producer: Sylvie Douglis, John Marty & Stephanie King
Director of Photography: John Marty
Additional Camera: Sylvie Douglis & Stephanie King
Co-editors: Sylvie Douglis & Stephanie King

In different corners of the city, New Yorkers contend with the effects of rising sea levels and increasingly extreme storms. In the Bronx, high school students build green roofs to absorb record rainfalls. Throngs of activists take to the streets of Midtown Manhattan to demand immediate climate action. In low-lying parts of Queens, scientists invent new ways to capture and disseminate vital flood data. And in Brooklyn, toxic sludge is extracted from the depths of one of the filthiest waterways in the country for scientific analysis. Filmed during spring of 2022,  Altitudes documents a city’s piecemeal response to the rapidly rising waters that surround it.

Casting Call

Directors: Mafe Simonsen, Carley Townsend
Cinematographers: Em Brennan, John Marty, Carley Townsend, Mafe Simonsen
Editors: Carley Townsend, Mafe Simonsen
Consultant: Stephanie King
Talent Scouts: Sualeha Qureshi, Mafe Simonsen, Carley Townsend
Special Thanks: Mia Murray

In Brooklyn, New York, two filmmakers set out to find characters for their movie. They invited anyone who would like to become the camera’s muse, or those who already believe themselves to be one.

Dust Away

Directors: Tanita Rahmani, Dea Gjinovci
Producer: Tanita Rahmani
Editors: Dea Gjinovci, Mafe Simonsen
Set Designer and Animator: Carley Townsend
Visual Consultant: Mafe Simonsen
Cinematography: Dea Gjinovci
Sound:Tanita Rahmani
Editorial / Story consultant: Sara Redeghieri
Interpreter: Sara Redeghieri, Ginou Choueiri

Dust Away is a short documentary about the other-wordly experiences of workers who toiled on some of the major city-wide cleaning projects in New York City. Through the shared memories of former asbestos and Ground Zero cleaners who are part of a support group in Queens, Dust Away roams between a dreamscape of miniatures and 16mm footage, exploring the dissonant nature of cleaning labor between necessity and invisibility.

Church of Cold Water

Director and Producer: Sualeha Qureshi
Director of Photography: John Marty
Additional Camera: Sualeha Qureshi, Sylvie Douglas, Rapphaelle Cittanova
Editor: Ginou Choueiri
Audio Engineer: Tanita Rahmani

Winter has arrived at Brooklyn’s Coney Island; residents retreat to the shelter of their homes in search of comfort from the sleet and snow, and as the icy winds roar through the streets, the Polar Bears emerge. Church of Cold Water is an observational and eventual, performative documentary with allegorical undertones about the universal and intrinsic search for community in a cold world.

Weapons of the Weak

Directed by: Em Brennan
Production Manager: Sualeha Qureshi
Creative Consultant: Akeema-Zane

An experimental film reflecting on interconnected systems of power and queerness.

Welcome to Salerno

Directed & Produced by: iari Varriale & Stephanie King
Creative Producer: Sylvie Douglis
Director of Photography & Sound: iari Varriale
Additional Camera & Sound: Stephanie King
Editor: iari Varriale
Co-Editor: Stephanie King

In the backstreets of East Williamsburg, on the corner of Lorimer and Maujer, is one of the busiest town squares for miles; handshakes are exchanged, old friends embrace, and dogs wreak havoc, pursued comically by their owners. “You need oil? We got every flavour!” The sounds of society bleed into the hammers and hisses of a mechanic, as Mario Snr sees that an older lady is looked after at the pump—the first of many components he conducts in the complex gas station ballet.

Welcome to Salerno’s, a family-owned gas station run by three generations of Italian-Americans, and home to a revolving cast of diverse characters brought together only by the sheer allure of this unique place. As gas prices rise with Russia’s escalating war in Ukraine, we follow the Team Salerno workers as they navigate pressures on commerce, cost-of-living and community in the face of global supply-chain issues and geo-political uncertainty.

Searching for Gaia

Director: Ginou Choueiri
Cinematographers: Ginou Choueiri & Pegah Pasalar
Editors: Ginou Choueiri & Pegah Pasalar
Sound: Sophie Spencer-Zavos

How would 5 year old children translate abstract environmental concepts? Do they consider their environment inviting or hostile? This film invites us into the magical world of a group of 5-7 year olds who are on a mission to find Gaia, the earth mother. We see them share their impressions and understanding of the world that they’ve inherited.


The UnionDocs Collaborative Studio is a fellowship program for non-fiction media research and group production. It seeks to bring together individual talents, voices, and stories to create multi-dimensional documentaries. For the past 10 months, fellows have been immersed in research, idea generation, planning, recording, edits, critiques, and re-edits. Teams were formed around a set of select proposals, which all moved through the stages of production in tandem. In addition to this production work, fellows engage in masterclasses, seminars, and workshops on the history, theory and practice of documentary arts.

Em Brennan (they/them) is a queer, nonbinary person who is deeply passionate about helping other queer people tell their stories. They grew up hungry for representation in the media and want to ensure that future generations of queer youth feel like they see themselves and their stories on screen. They are grateful for their queer community for teaching them that an intersectional approach to telling our stories is the only approach. Committed to a lifetime of unlearning and learning.

Dea Gjinovci is a Swiss-Albanian director-producer. She is currently a resident at UnionDocs in NYC and participated in EsoDoc 2021, the 2019 Sundance Talent Forum and is a 2019 Film Independent Fellow. Her award-winning documentary short ‘Sans le Kosovo’ won Best National Film at Dokufest in 2017. Her debut feature-length documentary ‘Wake Up on Mars’ received support from the Sundance Film Institute, the Ford Foundation, the Doha Film Institute, XTR and was awarded the RTS pitch prize at Visions du Réel 2018. It premiered at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival and Visions du Réel in Switzerland, and was selected in more than forty international festivals. She was awarded “Best New Talent” mentions at Biografilm Festival 2020 and at ZagrebDox 2021. “Wake Up on Mars” was also nominated for the prestigious “Prix de Soleure” and “Opera Prima” awards at Solothurner Tage 2021. In 2022, it was nominated for Best Documentary at the Swiss Film Awards. Dea holds a BA (Hons) in Economics and Politics from SOAS (University of London) and a Master in Ethnographic and Documentary Film from UCL (University of London).

Ginou Choueiri (she/her) is a Lebanese American interdisciplinary artist working across mediums of painting, performance, installation and moving image. Her work draws from personal and collective experience, exploring notions of identity, displacement, longing and belonging. She recently completed an MA in Artist Film and Moving Image at Goldsmiths University in London. Her master’s film Rhythm of Forgetting won the warden’s prize and premiered at DocLisboa (2020).

Sylvie Douglis is a journalist and documentary maker in New York City. She works for National Public Radio producing podcasts. She loves narrative, long-form stories across all mediums. As a radio producer, she gets to wear many hats: researcher, writer, reporter, editor, and sound designer. She is interested in stories about places, funny stories, stories about complicated people, and stories about political movements. Sylvie studied at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and at The New School.

Stephanie King (she/her) is an Australian interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker
working on unceded lands. Her feature documentary Undermined premiered at Melbourne International Film Festival and was awarded Antenna Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary, ahead of a national cinema release in 2019. She has directed short docs for The Guardian, The Australian and The West, and field produced Gold Telly-winning Young, Black & Behind Bars for Al Jazeera. Her recent series Voices of the River won Best Documentary Series at five festivals, and led to a record number of public submissions opposing plans for industrial agriculture along the Heritage-listed Martuwarra Fitzroy River. A second season will premiere on NITV in 2022. She has guest lectured for University of California Riverside, University of Sydney, Documentary Australia and the Australian Film Television and Radio School, and is a 2022 recipient of Screen Australia’s Enterprise People fellowship fund.

John Marty (he/him) is an analog and digital filmmaker working in New York. His first film Tartufai used ethnographic methods to explore the world of truffle hunting in Italy. He is the director of photography on Holding Back The Tide, a hybrid documentary about New York City’s queer environmental heroes: Oysters! John graduated from Hampshire College with a BA in Film and Anthropology in 2016. John’s collaboration in music videos and short films have screened at film festivals across the United States. While working as a freelance cinematographer & editor, he is a mycophile and ferments seasonal fruits.

Pegah Pasalar (she/they)is an Iranian interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker. Herautoethnographic practice explores such motifs as identity convulsion, cultural memory,fragmentation, and displacement. She holds an MFA in Studio Art, with a concentrationin film and video, from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which she attended asa full-merit scholarship awardee. Recent fellowships include the Kala Media ResidencyAward, Bemis, Yaddo, and BANFF. She has shown her work internationally.

Sualeha Qureshi (she/her) is an independent filmmaker based in Karachi, Pakistan. She has directed and produced commercial, nonprofit, and broadcast production, with a strong focus on documentary. She began her career as research associate part of the 2016 Academy Award winning Short Documentary, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy) and is currently the Creative Director at Soch Videos, a digital media news organization specializing in explanatory journalism.


Tanita Rahmani is a radio producer and audio documentary maker from Indonesia with a unique interdisciplinary background of research and teaching. Her work revolves a lot around producing long-form narrative audio stories, producing and field producing episodes along major institutions such as Campside Media, The Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York City and Foreign Policy Magazine. Tanita and her team pioneer narrative audio storytelling in Indonesia and her pieces about Indonesia have been listed at Harvard’s Southeast Asian studies curriculum. She holds a Masters in International Law from the University of Cambridge as a Jardine scholar.

Mafe Simonsen (she/her) is a Brazilian artist based in Brooklyn, New York. She holds a BA in Visual Arts from Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado. Mafe’s practice is located in observing and investigating daily life and its devices of power, the contradictions of the contemporary form of living. She works in the intersection between collecting and editing images and sounds of the ordinary.

Sophie Spencer-Zavos (she/they)began their life with a hyphen and has continued multi-hyphenated. They are a Brooklyn based audio storyteller. They were originally drawn to audio as a young person growing up with a learning disability, and felt it was the most accessible way to follow their curiosity. She is interested in stories about bodies, vulnerability, family history, and transformation, both personal and societal.

Carley Townsend (she/her) is a digital storyteller from Buffalo, NY. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, she is curious about the politics of belonging, as well as the ways in which people see themselves and represent that perception to the world. Carley holds a B.A. in French and Mandarin Chinese from Kenyon College.

iari Varriale is an Italian editor and documentary cinematographer working with observational, documentary Art forms and film essays focused on vulnerability, family relationships, social causes, and sustainability. He is interested in Zen practice, consciousness, and relationship with the camera.
He holds an MSc in Chemistry from the University of Pisa, in Italy, and MA in Documentary Film from the Baltic Film School, in Estonia which he attended as a full-merit scholarship awardee. His works are shown internationally and used for case studies in seminars in Greece, Estonia, and Itay.
He also works as a freelance filmmaker producing branded content for multinationals, businesses, and non-profits.

Akeema-Zane is an artist working in the mediums of literature, sound, film and performance.
She has been artist-in-residence, student, fellow and performer at Groundation Grenada, Cave Canem, The Maysles Documentary Center, Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism, and The School of Making Thinking. At The School of Making Thinking, she was a part of the 2018 Immersion 2.0 cohort, and currently serves as Board Chair of The School of Making Thinking. a²z is the arm which houses the artists’ music/sound practice which includes deejaying, composition and scoring/sound design. The artists’ recent sound design work has been featured on a Shea Moisture campaign, an Art21 artist short doc featuring Doreen Garner and an experimental short doc In Place Of Monuments by Naima Ramos-Chapman. Akeema-Zane has been published in various musical and literary works in the digital and physical copy including There’s a Monopoly On Change (2015) and albums of artists Liv.e, PinkSiifu, L’Rainand loji. In 2021, her audiovisual work with collaborator Rena Anakwe was featured in the 59th Annual Ann Arbor Film Festivals’ In The Screen!


Jun 18, 2022
7:30 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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