27 Feb 2023
Pew Fellow Sabaah Folayan answers audience questions at the premiere of Look at Me: XXXTentacion, South by Southwest. Photo courtesy of Hulu.
“I make work in which viewers occupying different social positions can eavesdrop on one another’s subjectivity and notice where their own viewpoint is located relative to others’.”
In fictional and documentary films and writing, Folayan (she/they) engages with her collaborators and subjects through a holistic and trauma-informed approach, guided by principles of behavioral science and social justice. Examining Black, American, and female identities, her work presents multiple subjectivities within the same narrative, “rejecting the belief that difference is insurmountable,” she says. Folayan draws from her science laboratory and social work experience, as well as Buddhist philosophy, when interviewing documentary subjects and developing fictional characters with empathy and understanding. Her feature films include Whose Streets? (2014), a documentary on the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, that won best documentary at BlackStar Film Festival, among others; and Look at Me (2022), a documentary about rapper XXXTentacion, which premiered at SXSW and is currently streaming on Hulu. Her writing credits include the series finale of HBO’s critically acclaimed comedy series Betty. Her work has received support from organizations including the Sundance Institute, Ford Foundation, and MacArthur Foundation. Folayan earned a BA in biology from Columbia University.