A woman with long black braids sits, leaning towards the camera. She's wearing gold hoops, a gold nose ring and a black camisole. She is sitting in a room with blue grey walls.

Crystal Kayiza

Brooklyn, NY

Crystal Kayiza was raised in Oklahoma and is now a Brooklyn-based filmmaker. As a director, her work reimagines the aesthetics used to tell stories about Black folks across generations and landscapes. Named one of Filmmaker Magazine‘s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” she is a recipient of a 2021 Creative Capital Award,  the Sundance Ignite Fellowship, Jacob Burns Film Center Woman Filmmaker Fellowship, and Points North Institute North Star Fellowship. Her film, Edgecombe, which received the 2018 Gold Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival, was an official selection of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival where it was acquired for distribution by PBS. Her most recent film, See You Next Time, which aired on Starz, was an official selection of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was released by the New Yorker. Her short narrative film, Rest Stop, was the winner of the 2020 Tribeca CHANEL Through Her Lens Program Grant. Kayiza received a Heartland Emmy Award in 2012 for her film All That Remains, which profiles Boley, Oklahoma, one of the nation’s last all-Black towns. The Gardeners is her first nonfiction feature film.

The Gardeners

Crystal Kayiza is a filmmaker whose work reimagines the aesthetics used to tell stories about Black folks across generations and landscapes.

Artist Bio

The Gardeners follows the Worthy Women of Watkins Street, keepers of one of the oldest Black cemeteries in Mississippi. The feature-length film will live between this life and the next, utilizing the land as a portal into intangible dimensions, including the spirits that keep this group of elder women drawn to their work. As The Gardeners honors the labor of the Worthy Women, it also physically, emotionally, and spiritually invokes the souls laid to rest at Watkins Street Cemetery. Positioning Watkins as a dynamic and emotive central character within the narrative, the space becomes a conduit for an immersive exploration of collective history, aging, memory, and the burden of caring for the forgotten.

Award Year

In Progress