Program’s 50th Anniversary Honorary Committee Celebrated at Event

Keynote Address by Award-Winning Director and AFI Alum Melina Matsoukas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Los Angeles, CA, April 11, 2024 – The American Film Institute (AFI) celebrated the AFI DWW+ Class of 2024 directors – Vanessa Beletic, Chloë de Carvalho, Desdemona Chiang, Naomi Iwamoto, Huriyyah Muhammad, Joanne Mony Park, Kerry O’Neill and Roxy Toporowych – to a sold-out house at its annual AFI DWW+ showcase on Wednesday, April 10 at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) in Los Angeles. Launched in 1974, AFI DWW+ is one of the first gender impact programs in the cinematic arts and one of the longest-running and preeminent film and television workshops, and has since trained over 350 filmmakers.

The 2024 showcase began with remarks from Susan Ruskin, Dean of the AFI Conservatory and Executive Vice President of the American Film Institute, reflecting on the 50-year history of the storied program. Among the Directing Workshop for Women’s earliest participants were such imperative creative voices as Maya Angelou, Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, Lee Grant, Jessie Maple, Cicely Tyson and many more. The decades since have only continued to prove the program’s importance – with notable industry leaders and luminaries including current DGA President Lesli Linka Glatter, Peabody Award winner Neema Barnette, Emmy Award®-nominated director Dime Davis, Academy Award®-winning CODA director Siân Heder and many other graduates whose directorial work has entertained global audiences and defined our collective cultural landscape.

“These single artists are now a community 50 years later, and they have made a difference. But we have a lot further to go. We need to cement the ground and the strides that we have made,” said Ruskin. “And to that end, a remarkable group of women have come together [to form the AFI DWW 50th Anniversary Honorary Committee] to ensure that those voices will inspire empathy and drive culture forward for the next 50 years.”

Ruskin shared that the AFI DWW 50th Anniversary Honorary Committee includes the following filmmakers, artists and industry leaders:

  • Peabody and Emmy® Award winner Neema Barnette (AFI DWW Class of 1982)
  • Award-winning filmmaker and television director Tessa Blake (AFI DWW Class of 2014)
  • Academy Award®, Emmy® and Tony® winner Ellen Burstyn (AFI DWW Class of 1974)
  • Emmy® nominee Dime Davis (AFI DWW Class of 2015)
  • Academy Award® nominee and Emmy® winner Ava DuVernay
  • AFI President Emerita Jean Picker Firstenberg
  • Emmy® nominee Lesli Linka Glatter (AFI DWW Class of 1982)
  • Academy Award® and Emmy® winner Lee Grant (AFI DWW Class of 1974)
  • Academy Award® winner Siân Heder (AFI DWW Class of 2005)
  • Emmy® winner Linda Hope
  • Acclaimed producer Gale Anne Hurd
  • Academy Award® nominee and former Chair and CEO of Paramount Pictures Sherry Lansing
  • Emmy® nominee Eva Longoria
  • Academy Award® winner Chloé Zhao

Continuing the celebration, distinguished keynote speaker AFI Alum and award-winning director Melina Matsoukas (AFI Class of 2005, QUEEN & SLIM, MASTER OF NONE, INSECURE, THE CHANGELING) addressed the graduating cohort, sharing insights and advice.

“You have a responsibility to lend your voice to the stories of today, to bring a different perspective to the art of filmmaking, to bring balance to the community and our future cinematic history,” said Matsoukas. “You have a responsibility to be loud and opinionated, to widen the path carved for you by women filmmakers of the past and to lead for women filmmakers of the future.”

Following the remarks, the audience at the DGA Theater screened the films created by the AFI DWW+ Class of 2024 participants. Learn more at:

Watch AFI DWW 50th Anniversary Video.

Additional events and activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the prestigious directing program will be announced in the coming months.

This year’s AFI DWW+ program is generously supported by Paramount Pictures, The Golden Globe Foundation, NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Studios, The Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation, Participant and Valhalla Motion Pictures. Additional support comes from the Rosalind Wyman Living Trust and Robert and Betty Wyman, Jean Picker Firstenberg, Linda Hope, Gale Anne Hurd, The Nancy Malone Living Trust and other individual supporters committed to providing opportunities for historically underrepresented voices in the media arts.

AFI DWW+ is part of the AFI Conservatory’s Department of Innovative Programs, which also includes the Cinematography Intensive for Women. Through a range of learning opportunities, Innovative Programs serves a diverse community of aspiring visual storytellers to cultivate cutting-edge technological and media-making skills, bridge access to professional networks and place participants on an upward career trajectory. Read more about Innovative Programs on


About the American Film Institute (AFI)

The American Film Institute (AFI) is a nonprofit organization with a mandate to champion the moving image as an art form. Established in 1967, AFI launched the first comprehensive history of American film and sparked the movement for film preservation in the United States. In 1969, AFI opened the doors of the AFI Conservatory, a graduate-level program to train narrative filmmakers. The Conservatory, which counts Deniese Davis, Affonso Gonçalves, Susannah Grant, Matthew Libatique, David Lynch, Melina Matsoukas and Rachel Morrison as Alumni, is ranked the #1 film school in America. AFI’s enduring traditions include the AFI Life Achievement Award, which honors the masters for work that has stood the test of time; AFI AWARDS, which celebrates the creative ensembles of the most outstanding screen stories of the year; and scholarly efforts such as the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and the AFI Archive that preserve film history for future generations. AFI exhibition programs include AFI FEST and year-round exhibition at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Maryland. AFI Movie Club is a destination for movie lovers from around the world to celebrate and engage with the art form every day. Other pioneering programs include workshops aimed at increasing diversity in the storytelling community, including AFI DWW+ and the AFI Cinematography Intensive for Women. Read about all of these programs and more at and follow us on social media at,,, and


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