Mumbai Mantra-Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab Launched


MUMBAI - The inaugural Mumbai Mantra-Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab 2012 has selected eight feature film projects of Indian screenwriters who will be mentored by a host of international and Indian industry figures.

The lab is a result of an agreement announced earlier this year between Robert Redford's Sundance Institute and leading Indian business group Mahindra & Mahindra in addition to the establishment of the annual Sundance Institute Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award which was launched at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

M&M is a $7.1 billion conglomerate which has interests ranging from automobiles to financial services. The group's media interests include lifestyle magazines like the Indian edition of Rolling Stone while its entertainment foray is spearheaded via its film banner Mumbai Mantra.

Mumbai Mantra presented last year’s Indian National Award winning best feature film Antaheen and recently co-produced The Tempest directed by Julie Taymor and starring Helen Mirren.
The eight screenwriting fellows selected for the inaugural screenwriters lab – currently attending a five day workshop near Mumbai which ends 16th March – include Charudutt Acharya (Sonali Cable Centre), Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar (Margarita, With a Straw), Vikas Chandra (Toothache), Rajnesh Domalpalli (Avani), Prashant Nair (Umrica), Anusha Rizvi and Mahmood Farooqui (Opium), Ajitpal Singh (Manjhi) and Kartik Singh (Public School).

The participants are being mentored by a host of creative advisors including screenwriters Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros), Marcos Bernstein (Central Station), Michael Goldenberg (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix),  Kasi Lemmons (Talk to Me), Anjum Rajabali (Rajneeti), José Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries), Howard A. Rodman (Savage Grace), Malia Scotch-Marmo (Hook), Audrey Wells (Under the Tuscan Sun) and directors Asif Kapadia (Senna) and Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth).
 
“We are at an exciting storytelling stage in the history of independent cinema in India. With the help of our exceptional partners, Sundance Institute, we are keen to recognize, nurture and hone talent in India and across the world,” said Mumbai Mantra chairman Rohit Khattar.

“This programme reflects the Sundance Institute’s ongoing commitment to supporting a world community of independent artistes through labs, festival programming, and year-round resources. We are extremely grateful to the accomplished screenwriters who are bringing their expertise and generosity to the lab as creative advisors and the very talented group of Indian screenwriters who have been selected for the lLab,” Sundance Institute, founding director, Feature Film Program, Michelle Satter and associate director, Feature Film Program International, Alesia Weston, said in a joint statement.  At this year's Sundance festival, the inaugural Mahindra Global Film-making Awards were given to Etienne Kallos (Vrystaat/Free State) from South Africa; Ariel Kleiman (Partisan) from Australia; Dominga Sotomayor (Tarde Para Morir Joven/Late to Die Young) from Chile; and Shonali Bose (Margarita, With a Straw) from India. Each winner received a cash award of $10,000 as well as support from and access to year-round Sundance labs and events.

Meanwhile, the Sundance Institute and Mumbai Mantra also announced another initiative in India, Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue, which promotes cultural dialogue through independent documentary and narrative film. The program is traveling to five locations in India from March 15 to 22, with the event's partners including the Whistling Woods International film school in Mumbai.

Film Forward is also supported by the U.S. government via the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“It is exciting to expand our relationships with the vibrant community in India as we mount this multi-faceted cinematic program,” said Sundance Institute executive director Keri Putnam. “Together with our Film Forward collaborators at Mumbai Mantra and the American Center in New Delhi, we hope to continue building cultural bridges which encourage discourse, the creation of new ideas and a meaningful cross-cultural dialogue.”

The 10 films in the program include Asif Kapadia's BAFTA-winning documentary Senna and Linda Goldstein Knowlton's Somewhere Between, which follows the story of four Chinese-American girls struggling with their identity. Both film directors will be in attendance to participate in Q&As, discussions, workshops and meet-and-greet events alongwith Sundance Institute, associate director, Film Forward, Meredith Lavitt; Film Forward manager, Jacqueline Carlson and Sundance director of digital initiatives Joseph Beyer.

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