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"Shot in silvery black-and-white by writer-directors S. Cagney Gentry and Thom Southerland, Fort Maria is what the filmmakers call "an unscripted filmic experiment" — a description that might suggest something arch or humorless. But it's neither, avoiding heavy-handed artifice and narrative cliche and finding the tenderness, fire and everyday absurdity beneath its contained-verging-on-deadpan surface." -- The Hollywood Reporter
"[P]owerful and surprising...full of essential human moments and authentic considerations of race, culture, love, and what truly makes up a family." -- Ashland Independent Film Festival


Maria is a woman with no country. A Bulgarian immigrant and adoptive mother of a black daughter, she finds herself suddenly stricken with agoraphobia following a break-in at her home in Kentucky. When her daughter’s aging dog dies, Maria’s confinement puts her into equally painful and funny situations that soon entangle her neighbors.

As Maria copes with the issues that have led her - a world traveler - into her self-inflicted prison, her daughter Meredith discovers her own identity through a search for her biological family. 


A collection of stills from the film and behind-the-scenes moments

Maria reflecting
Maria conquering
Meredith watching
Violet smiling
Behind the scenes
Fort Maria co-directors


Fort Maria is an unscripted filmic experiment. As co-directors, we worked together to tell a story about the interconnectedness of four very different women in the American South.


The genesis of the film came from our desire to work together after meeting on the film festival circuit. Collaborating with Katerina Stoykova again (lead actress from Proud Citizen) was also integral to the filmmaking process. 

In order to depict characters who defy typical Southern movie stereotypes, and to capture the spontaneous, organic messiness (and tangential humor) of real life, we considered it essential to give our four female collaborators free reign to work unscripted.


We hope this fidelity to the complexity of women’s voices helps tell a compelling narrative, and gives Fort Maria an authenticity as it touches on its themes of mental illness, identity and race. 

–Thomas Southerland & S. Cagney Gentry


Katerina Stoykova


Katerina Stoykova grew up in Bourgas, Bulgaria. In 1995, she immigrated to the United States and for over a decade, worked as a software engineer in high-tech companies. In November, 2009, she graduated from the brief-residency MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University. Katerina writes poetry and prose in both Bulgarian and English. She enjoys translating between the two languages, as well. Her poems and stories have appeared in numerous literary publications in the United States and in Europe. Proud Citizen marked her film debut for which she won acting awards from the Florida Film Festival and River's Edge International Film Festival.

Jamie Hickman


Jamie Hickman is a Knoxville, Tennessee based actor, producer, and writer/director. She lived a few years in New York and Los Angeles performing in films and plays. Her own short play was produced off-off Broadway, and she wrote and directed her first short film while in Los Angeles.

Joan Brannon


Joan Brannon leads a Spirit-Guided life. Her passions are revealed through percussion, writing, performance and media arts. She has appeared on-stage in the plays, The Man who Died at Twelve O’clock and Spunk. She is a featured poet in the documentary, Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Joan is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, whose work has been screened at festivals throughout the US and in France, England, Japan and South Africa.

Meredith Frankie Crutcher


Meredith Frankie Crutcher was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. Meredith's love for acting stemmed from her mother, a theatrical stage manager, who let her tag along to many rehearsals for much of her childhood. Growing up she attended theater camps and classes and went on to study theater and film at Bluegrass Community and Technical College and the University of Kentucky. Of all the roles she's played and hopes to play in the future, her most cherished is her role as a mother to her vivacious seven year old daughter, Tristan.

S. Cagney Gentry and Thomas Southerland


S. Cagney Gentry is a filmmaker from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He is a faithful Demon Deacon and a child of Appalachia. His debut feature, Harvest (2015), was an exploration of aging and solitude deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The film played several festivals across the country and was awarded one of the top prizes at the Athens International Film + Video Festival.

Thomas Southerland's first narrative feature, Proud Citizen won the Jury Prize at the New Orleans Film Festival in 2014 and eight other Jury and Audience awards at festivals around the country and is streaming on Fandor. His two short documentaries, Lamp and Lonely Kingdom have screened at numerous festivals in 2016 and 2017. Lonely Kingdom won the Best Documentary Short Jury Prize at the Charlotte Film Festival. 

Paul Harrill


Paul Harrill is the writer/director of Something, Anything, named  by IndieWire as one of the “Top 25 First Features” of 2015. His short films have screened on five continents, and include a Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival. He lives in Knoxville where he teaches at the University of Tennessee. 

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