Contessa Gayles

Contessa Gayles is a documentary film director, DP, editor, and an Emmy-nominated producer. She tells stories about identity, socio-political movement, healing, liberation and radical imagination, with a focus on race and gender. As an independent filmmaker, her work has been supported by Impact Partners, Field of Vision, Artemis Rising Foundation, the International Documentary Association, the California Arts Council and Queen Latifah’s Queen Collective. She was a 2020 SFFILM filmmaker in residence and has been awarded fellowships with the Film Independent/Netflix Amplifier fellowship, the Bay Area Video Coalition MediaMaker fellowship, the Firelight Documentary Lab, the Chicken & Egg (Egg)celerator Lab and the Open Society Foundations Soros Justice fellowship. Her documentary short, Founder Girls (Exec. Producer Queen Latifah), premiered at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival and broadcast on BET. From 2014 - 2018, she was a producer at CNN, where she created, produced, directed, shot and edited award-winning original series and documentaries, including the feature documentary, The Feminist on Cellblock Y.


An incarcerated musician struggles for healing and peace as he comes of age in this documentary-musical odyssey composed behind bars.


Songs from the Hole


Documentary Lab
Impact Campaign Fund


2021-2023 (Documentary Lab)
2023 (Impact Campaign Fund)




Documentary Lab
Impact Campaign Fund

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