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Congrats to our winners!

2023 Program Book


Thank you for joining us for the inaugural year of The Deaf Film Festival. The Zankza Project, of which The Deaf Film Festival is its first major hosted event, is a newly established 501(c)(3) organization that aims to support Deaf artists and creatives across all disciplines by creating opportunities to showcase their work, engage with the community and collaborate with other artists and creatives. We are excited about the personal and professional growth, networking opportunities, and collective creativity that will without a doubt invigorate the Austin community.

We look forward to welcoming you all to the beautiful R.L. Davis Auditorium on October 7th, 2023 at the Texas School for the Deaf for this year’s festival. We will be presenting over a dozen phenomenal films across 5 different film categories for your viewing pleasure. Additionally, we will be hosting an afterparty for attendees and Deaf creatives to mingle and network.

Whether you’re a film industry professional, a cinephile, or an occasional movie lover who wants to support your community, you’re bound to have a blast at The Deaf Film Festival—all while supporting talented Deaf filmmakers and creatives.

Portrait of MJ Kiego

Sincerely yours, 

MJ Kiego
Founder & President of Zankza Project

Chair of the Deaf Film Festival

   2023 SCHEDULE   

  9:30 am  

Doors open at Texas School for the Deaf

  10:00 am  

Opening remarks

  10:15 am  

Animation Category

  • The Ears Robber   4:16 min

  • Quarantine   3:01 min     

  • Ants Don't Speak But They Work Together   7:02 min

  10:30 am  


  10:35 am  

Student Film Category

  •  The Legacy: One Heart. One Team. One Goal.   1:04:08

  11:45 am  

Lunch Break  -  LOTZ of BBQ

  1:30 pm  

Short Film Category

  • Say Cheese   1:00 min

  • By Hand   10:59 min     

  • Klarissa   6:52 min

  • Fable Deaf   13:50 min

  • The Witnesses   5:21 min     

  • Scott  8:15 min

  • Pop  5:19 min

  • Tharcisse A.K.A. Drogba: The Deaf Shoemaker   6:03 min     

  • The Participant   9:35 min

  • Imaginings   13:00 min

  3:15 pm  


  3:30 pm  

Feature Film Category

  •  LaCrimosa   1:20:00

  5:00 pm  

Dinner Break  -  Crepe Crazy

  6:15 pm  

Mature Film Category

  • The Device That Turned Me Into a Cyborg Was Born the Same Year I Was   3:19 min

  • The Hunted   4:26 min     

  • The Multi   18:16 min

  • They   5:00 min

  • Inspired   28:00 min     

  • Reverie  5:00 min

  • 19:24  10:55 min

  • Ladylike   11:29 min     

  • You Are Noted   20:15 min

  • Tarneit   20:00 min

  8:30 pm  

Doors open at VUKA

  9:00 pm  

Awards Announcement

  10:00 pm  

21+ Only

  11:30 pm  

Last Call for Alcohol

  12:00 am  

Festival Afterparty Ends

Deaf Film Festival location on the map


Texas School for the Deaf - Main Auditorium
1102 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

Texas School for the Deaf Map


VUKA logo


Ms. Deaf Queen and Sin Nombre photos

411 W Monroe St, Austin, TX 78704   |   8:30 PM to Midnight
Park anywhere on the TSD campus and walk to VUKA.

Entertainment by Sheena Lyles with Mistress of Ceremonies Sin Nombre.
There will be appetizers, desserts, and a cash bar.
Come try our themed cocktail: The Paparazzie!

  8:30 pm  

Social & Hors d'Oeuvres

  9:00 pm  

Film Awards

  10:00 pm  

21+ Only

  10:30 pm  


  11:00 pm  

Socialize/Wrap Up

  11:30 pm  

Last call for the cash bar

  12:00 am  


  What to expect  


MJ Kiego committee photo

  MJ Kiego  

Founder & Festival Director

Nick Kiego committee photo

  Nick Kiego  

Assistant Director

Finn Thurber committee photo

  Finnegan Thurber  

Marketing Director

Kerry Cooler committee photo

   Kerry Cooler  

Volunteer Director

Deidra Pelletier committee photo

  Deidra Pelletier  

Afterparty Chairperson

Toj Mora committee photo

  Toj Mora  

Programming Director


Nyle Dimarco photo

   Nyle DiMarco  

Nyle DiMarco, a New York Times best-selling author and oscar-nomimated, has conquered obstacles and won admirers since he made his entrance in 2014. In addition to his prosperous TV appearances, he is presently crafting and creating both scripted and unscripted shows, while also consulting on disability integration and genuine depiction. DiMarco is now embarking on his first directing project, a documentary.

DiMarco is currently producing and developing scripted and non-scripted programming; including sales and development with Spectrum, NBC, Universal, Netflix, Peacock and more.

Harold Foxx photo

   Harold Foxx  

Harold Eugene Catron Jr, better known by his stage name Harold Foxx, is a writer, filmmaker, comedian, and actor who happens to be Deaf. Originally from Memphis, Tennessee. Harold attended Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. He resides in Los Angeles, California, and created “The Harold Foxx Show,” an online series of comedic video sketches currently available on various social media platforms.

Best known for his stand-up comedy, Harold has performed at iconic venues such as the Crow Comedy, the Laugh Factory and Flappers Comedy Club, as well as in major cities across the nation. Harold also recently performed in the Palm Springs International Virtual Comedy Festival 2020.

Harold was involved in numerous film, television, and stage productions including “The Actor Whisperer,” “For My Woman,” “Audism Unveiled,” Deaf West Theatre and Pasadena Playhouse “Our Town,” Playwrights Horizons’ “I Was Alive With You” (NYC Off-Broadway Production), National Theatre of the Deaf 2020 Online Playwrights Convening. He also wrote, produced, directed, and acted in “Smell the Nature” for 2021 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.

Harold was selected for a competitive fellowship for the 2021 RespectAbility Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities. Currently, Harold is training with The Groundlings, an improvisation and sketch comedy theatre & school based in Los Angeles. Harold serves as Associate Producer on Orange Kite Productions’ feature documentary Being Michelle. Harold also serves as an Art Education Teaching Artist for Deaf West Theatre and was Post Production intern for a comedy and romantic feature film Something from Tiffany’s by Amazon Studios.

Sandra Mae Frank photo

   Sandra Mae Frank  

Sandra Mae Frank (she/her) is an actor, director, and producer. She is known for her work in theatre productions, television, and film. She recently appeared in NBC's "New Amsterdam" as Dr. Elizabeth Wilder for the final two seasons. Her theatre credits include Deaf West's "Spring Awakening" on Broadway, Deaf Austin Theatre's "Next to Normal" (partnered with Ground Floor Theatre) and "Cinderella" (partnered with Zach Theatre), and Lyric Theatre's "Fun Home" and "Fiddler on the Roof." Her TV credits include NBC's "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" and Netflix's "Daybreak." Her film credits include Tello Films' "Season of Love" and "Entangled." On top of her acting career, she is also the Production Manager of Deaf Austin Theatre and embarking on a directing career, including Halen Hayes Award 2023's Outstanding Director for Olney Theatre's Music Man, co-directing with Michael Baron.


Also, catch her upcoming feature film with Joel Kinnaman, coming soon, called "The Silent Hour."


Follow her on Instagram (@sandramaefrank)

Toj Mora photo

   Toj Mora  

Toj is a filmmaker, producer, and editor with over a decade of experience. His recent post-production and editing work includes Netflix’s DEAF U (2020), and an upcoming Marvel series, ECHO (Disney+). He is currently working on a new Starz series starring and executive produced by Lauren Ridloff.

As a producer and filmmaker Toj’s work includes commercial productions like BEYOND INCLUSION (2016) and indie films such as HAMBURGER AIRPLANE (2020). Recently, Toj was the Director of Photography for a docu-series on deaf music artists, where he led a crew of five deaf cinematographers through two full days of filming. He is also slated to edit the series.

Toj enjoys films with dark comedy and great villains. 

Lauren Ridloff photo

   Lauren Ridloff  

Lauren began her meteoric rise as an actor just five years ago. Prior to that, she won the title of Miss Deaf America and was a kindergarten teacher in Manhattan for a decade. After leaving that job to take care of her two young children, she was hired in 2016 to tutor director Kenny Leon in American Sign Language as he readied the Broadway revival of Children of A Lesser God. After working together for months, Kenny and the producers concluded that Lauren was the ideal and only choice for the lead. She pulled it off with resounding success, including multiple rave reviews from the New York Times and a Tony nomination. She soon became a series regular on the longrunning AMC series, The Walking Dead. She then became the first Deaf superhero opposite Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjani in Marvel's worldwide hit, Eternals. Next, she’s set to executive produce and star opposite Joshua Jackson in an untitled series for Starz. Lauren received a 2020 BAFTA Breakthrough award recognizing the most promising stars of film and television.

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Thank you to the City of Austin for awarding the Elevate grant to the Deaf Film Festival!


Without our sponsors, the Deaf Film Festival would not have been possible.


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Dovetail Interpreting logo

Dovetail Communication Group

Dozanu Innovations logo

Dozanu Innovations

Inka's Printing logo

Inka's Screen Printing

LensRental logo


Texas School for the Deaf logo

Texas School for the Deaf

What's the Sign? logo

What's the Sign?

   Associate Producer  

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Thank you for being part of the first annual Deaf Film Festival! We are so grateful to our sponsors, the creatives who submitted their incredible films, our judges, and everyone who helped us work toward the success of this event.

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