Melina Matsoukas Honored With AFI’s Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal

This year’s recipient of the Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal is Melina Matsoukas, an alumna of the AFI class of 2005 who has directed such seminal works as Beyonce’s “Formation” video on the “Lemonade” visual album and the “Thanksgiving” episode of “Master of None.” Later this year, her feature film debut “Queen & Slim” will be released by Universal Pictures.

“It’s a complete honor,” Matsoukas says. “The award means that we want new voices, new stories, and that people are valuing those stories. I hope it will inspire and show black boys and girls that they can achieve greatness.”

As for being the first woman of color to receive the honor, she says: “It feels great. And I do hope that we’re starting to see change. With ‘Queen & Slim,’ for example, here are two black women with creative control telling this story. We’re giving voice to people who have been unseen and unheard, and to those who have been silenced.”

Matsoukas is looking forward to the world seeing “Queen & Slim,” written by “Master of None” writer and star Lena Waithe, who won an Emmy (with Aziz Ansari) for writing the “Thanksgiving” episode. The film stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith as a black couple who go on the run after killing a police officer in self-defense.

“It’s a story that I’m excited to tell because it challenges the idea of black love as well as the status quo. Lena and I hope that it sparks a dialogue and challenges people’s views. I couldn’t have made it through this process without Lena. On ‘Master of None,’ she trusted me with her personal story. Now I get to do this film with her — my soul sister.”

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