Edwin Martinez is a Bronx-born filmmaker who recently completed his first feature documentary To Be Heard, winner of both the Metropolis Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the DOC NYC film festival. As a cinematographer he has worked on several feature-length fiction and documentary films including Rachel Is, Leave No Soldier, Las Marthas (in production) and What Alice Found (winner, Special Jury Prize, Sundance). After graduating from the SUNY Purchase Film Conservatory as a Gates Millennium Scholar, he earned a Master's in Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has worked as an instructor in various youth media programs in Boston and New York City. Edwin is currently developing a new feature-length project while producing shorts for educational, government and non-profit organizations. He also likes to bake.
Deborah Shaffer began making social issue documentaries as a member of the Newsreel Collective in the 70’s. She co-founded Pandora Films, a woman’s production company, which produced How About You? and Chris and Bernie. In 1979 she made the labor history documentary The Wobblies (New York Film Festival). During the 80's, Shaffer focused on war and human rights in Latin America, directing Nicaragua: Report from the Front; Witness to War (Academy Award® winner, Best Documentary – Short Subjects); Fire from the Mountain (New York and Sundance Film Festivals; POV); and Dance of Hope (Prix d'Or, FIPA, Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals). Shaffer was one of the first filmmakers to work in post-Sept. 11 New York City. From the Ashes – 10 Artists (Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals; Cinemax) captures the impact the attacks had on 10 downtown New York artists, followed a year later by From the Ashes - Epilogue (Tribeca Film Festival). She is the Executive Producer of the short documentary, Asylum, which played at the Sundance Film Festival, Human Rights Watch, won Best Documentary at Aspen Shortsfest and was nominated for an Academy Award®.
In addition to her work as a director of independent documentaries, Shaffer has directed numerous programs for public television, including Secrets Underground (Christopher Award, Emma Award), Art:21 – Art for the 21st Century (Emmy Nomination) and Ladies First: The Women of Rwanda (Emmy Award, Sigma Delta Chi Award, Cine Golden Eagle). She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and grants from the NEH, NEA and NYSCA. She was recently awarded the Irene Diamond Lifetime Achievement Award by the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.
Sound Recordist/Camera Operator
Adrian Martinez grew up in the Bronx and graduated from University Heights HS in 2001. He joined Power Writing after graduation and became a stellar poet and performer. Adrian continues to work with the program as a co-teacher and mentor to the younger poets. He is an inveterate and intrepid skateboarder.
Roland Legiardi-Laura’s first documentary Azul won 9 international awards. He has received a host of fellowships and grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, The New York Foundation for the Arts, The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, The Rockefeller Fund, and The Andy Warhol Foundation. Besides directing and producing films, Legiardi-Laura is a published poet and has taught in public schools, prisons and senior citizens homes for years.
He created from scratch the first traveling troupe of performance poets, Words To Go. He is one of the directors of a world-renowned arts institution, The Nuyorican Poet’s Café, where he created a unique film development program called The Fifth Night, in which he produced 213 weekly screenplay readings. Forty of those scripts were produced as feature films.
Amy Sultan is the Director of the Power Writers Program at Nuyorican Poet’s Café. Amy co-founded the Power Writers Program in 2001 with Roland Legiardi-Laura and Joe Ubiles. From 1997 through 2008 Amy was a Co-Executive Director of the Early Stages Program, an arts education organization. In 1997, as Executive Producer of the Nantucket Film Festival, Amy steered the fledging festival through its crucial second year. From 1990-1994, she was Director for Film in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting. Amy is a former business agent for theatrical unions in New York City, where she represented designers and performers in the entertainment industry. In 1987, as a collaboration with Trident Technical College in Charleston, SC, she created a technical training program in film and theater arts for minority young adults. Over the past twenty-five years, Amy has served as a community advocate for children’s arts programs and as a lobbyist for the performing arts for various organizations.
Dr. Maisha T. Winn is a former public elementary and high school teacher from Sacramento, California. She has worked extensively with youth in urban schools and in out-of-school contexts. After completing her graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, Maisha moved to New York City where she met and fell in love with the Power Writers. Her ethnography, Writing in Rhythm: Spoken Word Poetry in Urban Classrooms (published under Maisha T. Fisher by Teachers College Press), follows the lives of student poets and their teachers from the Power Writers collective. Under the guidance of Joseph Ubiles, affectionately known as “Poppa Joe,” Amy Sultan, Roland Legardi-Lara, and last but not least the young men and women from the Power Writers, Maisha embarked on a journey of written and spoken words that urged student poets to define themselves on their own terms. Maisha is also the author of an ethno-history of Black readers, writers, and speakers of the Black Arts Movement entitled Black Literate Lives: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (published under Maisha T. Fisher by Routledge), Her forthcoming ethnography, Girl Time: Literacy, social justice, and the school-to-prison pipeline (Teachers College Press), examines the lives of formerly incarcerated girls who participate in a playwriting and performance program. Maisha’s research has been published in numerous journals including: Harvard Educational Review; Race, Ethnicity, and Education; Anthropology and Education Quarterly; Research in the Teaching of English, Written Communication, and English Education. She is currently an associate professor of Language, Literacy, and Culture in the Division of Educational Studies at Emory University. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and their son.