Mitra Ghaffari
October 25, 2023

Mitra Ghaffari Selected as 2023 Mountainfilm Emerging Filmmaker Fellowship Winner

Mountainfilm is proud to announce Mitra Ghaffari as its 2023 Emerging Filmmaker with her film Bicycle Island (A donde nos lleva). Ghaffari is a filmmaker, community arts facilitator, and bike guide based out of Havana, Cuba. She received an MFA in Social Documentation at UC Santa Cruz in June 2023. Her career trajectory grounds documentary production in community engagement and empowerment, innovative collaboration methods, and social reform advocacy. As the recipient of the Emerging Filmmaker Fellowship Ghaffari has access to a yearlong mentorship, festival networking, and development assistance. The purpose of the fellowship is to give rising filmmakers a boost to their careers. In addition to yearlong support, Ghaffari will have the opportunity to travel to Telluride for the 2024 festival over Memorial Day weekend.

“The Emerging Filmmaker Fellowship is Mountainfilm’s way of supporting filmmakers at the beginning of their careers,” said Mountainfilm Senior Programmer and Festival Manager Lucy Lerner. “The fellowship committee was drawn to Mitra’s vision for her story which focuses on promote bicycling as one solution to address environmental and social justice issues all of which resonate with the ethos of Mountainfilm.”

Bicycle Island (A donde nos lleva) tells the story of the response to the transportation standstill during Cuba’s economic crisis of the 1990s when the government distributed 1.2 million bicycles in public workplaces and schools throughout the island. Havana’s city planning was temporarily organized to accommodate bike infrastructure; however, once foreign oil supply was restored, bicycles faded from view as their parts rusted, broke, and were abandoned. Bicycles became a symbol of the economic crisis and were associated with hardship and scarcity. Through the allegory of the bicycle, the film poetically explores sentiments of agency, empowerment, resourcefulness, accessibility, and cultural identity. The musical soundscape echoes the cyclical rhythms of the bike, breathing, and the evolving noises of the occupied spaces at the beat of the wheel cycle and the hum of the chain. Bicycle Island guides an orientation for urban mobility on the island, archiving a collective effort to reclaim the bicycle as a central and celebrated tool for Havana’s future. 

“I am deeply honored and grateful to be the recipient of the Mountainfilm Emerging Filmmaker Fellowship”, Ghaffari says. “Not only will the support of Mountainfilm allow for elevated collaborative, technical, and artistic components of my short film, it will also offer invaluable mentorship, professional development, and a meaningful network at such a formative time as a beginning filmmaker. The production of my first short documentary, Bicycle Island (A donde nos lleva), was the most amazing experience of generative, creative collaboration. I am forever grateful for all involved and look forward to Mountainfilm’s informative role in the film’s final stages of post-production and distribution. I greatly appreciate Mountainfilm for curating such an inspiring, social justice-focused space of filmmakers, organizers, and advocates. As I start my career in documentary production, it means the world to me to enter into the vibrant community that Mountainfilm uplifts and share my film alongside the important works featured in the 2024 festival.”
Mountainfilm is thrilled to be working with Ghaffari this year. She plans to have Bicycle Island completed for Mountainfilm 2024.

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