Daresha Kyi is an Emmy Award–winning director who also writes and produces film and television in Spanish and English. A graduate of NYU Film School, Mama Bears is her second feature documentary. In 2018 she was commissioned by the ACLU to direct Trans In America: Texas Strong, which garnered over 3.5 million views online, screened at SXSW, and won two Webby Awards and an Emmy for “Outstanding Short Documentary.” Texas Strong is a stand-alone short that also serves as a proof of concept for Mama Bears.
In 2017 she co-directed and co-produced Chavela, a multiple award-winning documentary about iconic singer Chavela Vargas that was distributed domestically by Music Box Pictures, screened in over 40 countries, and was recently ranked the Number One Latin American Documentary of the Decade by CineArte magazine. She has also produced Dispatches From Cleveland, Kristina Wong’s How Not to Pick Up Asian Women, and Emmy-winning writer Kevin Avery’s comedies The Whizz and Thugs, The Musical.
Daresha’s films have been funded by ITVS, NEA, NYSCA, the Jerome Foundation, and numerous others. A former fellow in the Firelight Media Documentary, Chicken & Egg Eggcelerator, Creative Capital, and A Blade of Grass programs, Daresha has an extensive background producing content for FX, WE, AMC, Telemundo, and FUSE, among other networks.
Laura is currently producing Mama Bears, having previously served as the associate producer for the documentaries Chavela (world premiere @ 2017 Berlinale) and Dispatches from Cleveland (part of Color of Change’s 2016 #VotingWhileBlack viral campaign). Laura acted as the NYC production office manager for America, a series of silent, narrative shorts (world premiere @ 2019 Sundance Film Festival). She is a 2020 Film Independent Documentary Lab Fellow.
Originally hailing from the world of book publishing, Laura has spent over a decade in both the corporate (Simon & Schuster) and nonprofit (Feminist Press) publishing sectors, working on countless New York Times bestsellers, as well as Lambda Literary and Pulitzer Prize–winning works.
Scotch is a multitalented actor, writer, producer, director, and singer/songwriter whose career has included everything from musical theater to numerous roles on television and in feature films. He wrote, produced, and directed the web series Faux Show starring Tiffany Haddish and Kim Coles and the short film WIG featuring Tim Bagley and Judy Greer.
His first album Standard Scotch has been hailed as an instant jazz favorite, with songs including “The Look Of Love,” “Pure Imagination,” and “Witchcraft.” Featured on his second release, Original Scotch, is the beautiful ballad “Lost Til I Found You,” as heard in the feature film Firehouse Dog.
Hajer S. I. Salem is an editor and writer from Starkville, Mississippi. She attended both Louisiana State University and the University of Houston. She graduated with a double major in Biology and Sociology with a concentration in race relations and ultimately forwent graduate studies in medicine to pursue a career in filmmaking. Mama Bears marks Hajer’s debut as a feature editor.
Director of Photography
Amy Bench is a filmmaker and visual artist who is drawn to the immediacy of film and photography to tell stories of community and resilience. Trained as a cinematographer, her observational style highlights small details of the human experience that transcend formal explanation. Amy is currently a member of the art collective ICOSA, an artist-run nonprofit cooperative gallery that showcases a diverse range of contemporary art and programming.
She was the cinematographer on the Emmy Award–winning Trans In America: Texas Strong, which premiered at SXSW in 2019 and won two Webby Awards: Documentary Winner and People’s Voice. Her documentary A Line Birds Cannot See won a Special Jury Recognition Award at SXSW in 2019.
In 2016 she was named a “DP on the Rise” by Paste magazine. Additional DP credits include: Loves Her Gun (SXSW 2013 Lewis Black Award), The Golden Rut (Austin Film Festival 2016), and Bad At Dancing (which won the Golden Bear at Berlinale in 2015), and she was an additional cinematographer on Holy Hell (Sundance 2016).
Lois Saint-Jacques is a graduate of the City University of New York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Video. She has five years of post-production experience in short-form/promo production, where she has produced, and at times edited, episodic promos for the History Channel. Mama Bears is her first documentary project.
In her free time, Lois freelances as a photographer, and produces videos for (as well as sings in!) a community choir, Here to Sing—a new and inclusive contemporary/rock choir.
Set Hernandez Rongkilyo is an undocumented immigrant filmmaker and community organizer whose roots come from Bicol, Philippines. Since 2010, Set has been organizing around migrant justice issues such as education equity for undocumented students, deportation defense, and community building with Pilipino migrants in Los Angeles. Set’s short films have been televised, featured, and awarded in film festivals across the U.S. Currently, Set is working on projects that explore the criminalization of immigrant communities as well as the connection between immigrant rights and disability rights. Set is the impact videos producer at the California Immigrant Policy Center, and recently served as assistant editor and impact producer for PJ Raval’s documentary, Call Her Ganda, which premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. They are a 2018 Firelight Impact Producer Fellow, 2017 Soros Justice Fellow, 2017 IDA Emerging Filmmaker Mentorship Recipient, and 2016 at land’s edge Fellow. Above all, Set is the fruit of their parents’ sacrifices, their siblings’ resilience, and their community’s nurturing.