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Exclusive: Islamic Scholarship Fund Expands Film Industry Partnerships with Major Gift from the Doris Duke Foundation

By IDA Editorial Staff

Logos of Doris Duke Foundation and Islamic Scholarship Fund

The Islamic Scholarship Fund (ISF) has received $500,000 from the Doris Duke Foundation’s Building Bridges Program to provide multi-year support through a collaborative fellowship with the Sundance Institute, attendance at industry events (including April’s Getting Real conference), and unrestricted funding to filmmaker grantees. It’s the largest single grant the ISF has ever received.

The ISF Building Bridges Program prize activities started earlier this year. The Sundance collaboration supported six U.S.-based filmmakers focused on telling Muslim-related stories and will continue for the next two years, totaling 18 awardees receiving a yearlong structured mentorship program that starts with a “bespoke experience” of attending Sundance. Pipeline development continued with ISF filmmakers additionally attending SXSW, CAAMfest, IDA’s Getting Real, and more industry events to come, with screenings, meetups, and convenings sponsored by ISF during each festival or conference. Additionally, an unspecified number of ISF grantees received $10,000 each in unrestricted funding.

In a prepared statement, ISF Film Director Iman Zawahry contextualized this grant in the program’s history: “Over the past 16 years, ISF has proven the value of advancing the careers of filmmakers through academic scholarships, mentorship, and opening up doors to an entertainment industry that for so long has excluded Muslim stories while gatekeeping portrayals of the Muslim experience. We’re so proud of the over hundred filmmakers and projects we’ve helped establish so far. And now, thanks to Doris Duke Foundation’s generous grant doubling our capacity, we will continue to uplift Muslim stories and help elevate Muslim perspectives both on screen and behind the camera.” ISF has supported over 101 filmmakers through 116 scholarships, grants, and mentorships.

“Investing in storytelling about Muslims is essential to building bridges between communities to foster greater understanding and empathy towards diverse communities,” said Zeyba Rahman, Director of the Building Bridges Program at the Doris Duke Foundation. “The Foundation is thrilled to support the continued growth of ISF’s film program, to help take their filmmakers’ careers to new heights.”

ISF increases U.S. Muslim representation in media and government to improve public policy and public opinion. To date, ISF has given away over $3 million dollars to programs that support filmmakers, and aspiring journalists, public interest attorneys, and policymakers. The mission of the Doris Duke Foundation (DDF) is to build a more creative, equitable and sustainable future by investing in artists and the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research, child well-being and greater mutual understanding among diverse communities. Through the Building Bridges Program, the DDF works to elevate U.S. Muslim stories with the goal of increasing mutual understanding and well-being among diverse populations for the benefit of building stronger, inclusive communities.