Roger Ross Williams

Career Achievement Award

An older Black man with short black hair wearing a gray button down shirt.

Roger Ross Williams is an Oscar® and Emmy® award-winning director, producer and writer and the first African American director to win an Academy Award®, with his film Music By Prudence.

In 2021 Williams was named an Indiewire Influencer for “changing the face of documentary film.” “Beautiful,” “Uplifting,” “Extraordinary,” “Triumphant,” “Rich with insight,” “Searing,” “Remarkable,” and “Inspirational” are accolades Williams’ films have received from the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Forbes and Entertainment Weekly

Williams has directed a number of acclaimed films including Life, Animated, which won the Sundance Film Festival Directing Award, dozens of film festival awards and was nominated for an Academy Award ® and won three Emmys® in 2018, including the award for Best Documentary. He also directed God Loves Uganda, which was shortlisted for an Academy Award ® and American Jail, which examined the U.S. prison system and premiered on CNN.  Williams’ Traveling While Black, a VR documentary made for Facebook’s Oculus, premiered at Sundance Film Festival, was nominated for a Primetime Emmy® and won a Webby Award.  His film The Apollo, a documentary about Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater, was the opening night film of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and won the Primetime Emmy® for Outstanding Documentary. He recently directed three hours of The Innocence Files, which premiered on Netflix in their top ten. Williams is currently set to direct and produce (under his One Story Up banner), Ibram X. Kendis Stamped From The Beginning as well as it’s counterpart Stamped: Racism, Anti Racism, and You, which will be aimed at the YA audience.

His production company, One Story Up, creates documentary films, series, specials, animation and VR. It specializes in providing opportunities for filmmakers from underrepresented communities. One Story Up has produced a variety of projects including the highly acclaimed High On The Hog: How African American Cuisine Changed America, a limited documentary series for Netflix which won the African American Film Critics Award, a screen adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ bestseller, Between the World and Me for HBO. They are currently producing numerous projects and series including an untitled Netflix feature documentary about civil rights lawyer Ben Crump; The Empire of Ebony (Roger to EP), The 1619 Project for ABC TV and Hulu in collaboration with the New York Times, Lionsgate, Disney, and Harpo Productions, as well as a short film series with Topic and First Look Media; and a feature documentary for A&E titled Master of Light.

Williams is currently in pre-production on his first narrative feature, Cassandro, based on the real life story of an openly gay, cross-dressing, Lucha Libre wrestler. The film will star Gael Garcia Bernal, and is produced by Bernal and Diego Luna’s production company La Corriente Del Golfo.

Since 2016, Williams has been on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences representing the Documentary Branch and is also Chair of the Documentary Diversity Committee. Williams serves on the advisory board of the Full Frame Film Festival, and the boards of Docubox Kenya, None On Record, and the Zeitz Museum Of Contemporary Art Africa.  He resides in New York and Amsterdam, The Netherlands.