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The Sundance Institute has announced the participants in their famed screenwriters, directors and Native labs.
The directors and screenwriters labs will support 12 fellows, with five fellows selected for the Native lab. Lab participants will develop their original works under the mentorship of notable advisors. Paul Thomas Anderson, Ryan Coogler, David Gordon Green, Sterlin Harjo, Taika Waititi, Lulu Wang and Chloé Zhao are among previous Sundance lab participants.
The directors lab advisor cohort includes Miguel Arteta, Joan Darling, Rick Famuyiwa, Stephen Goldblatt, Keith Gordon, Randa Haines, Ed Harris, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Polly Morgan, Ira Sachs, Michelle Tesoro and Joan Tewkesbury. The screenwriters lab advisor cohort, led by artistic director Howard Rodman, includes Justin Chon, Sebastian Cordero, Cherien Dabis, D.V. Devincentis, Scott Frank, John Gatins, Nicole Kassell, Kasi Lemmons, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Elena Soarez and Robin Swicord. The Native Lab creative advisors include Andrew Ahn, Alex Lazarowich (Cree), Dana Ladoux Miller (Sāmoan) and Jennifer Reeder.
The directors and screenwriters labs are overseen by Michelle Satter, founding senior director of the Institute’s artist programs, and Ilyse McKimmie, deputy director of the feature film program. The Native Lab is overseen by Adam Piron, director of the Institute’s Indigenous Program, and Ianeta Le’i, the program’s senior manager.
See the lab participants and their projects below, with descriptions provided by the Sundance Institute.
Projects and Fellows for the 2023 Sundance Institute Native Lab
Eva Grant (writer-director) with Degrees of Separation (Canada): In this smart and stylish ensemble comedy, Indigenous PhD student Delphine plans a daring heist to return Ancestral remains to her tribe. But first she and her team must outsmart the White Saviours and Collectors who have arrived in the community like vultures, ready to pick the bones clean.
Quinne Larsen (writer) with Trouble (U.S.A.): Five people living in an abandoned desert motel try to put their world (and their giant robot) together from scraps.
Anpa’o Locke (writer) with Growing Pains (U.S.A.): Kawá, an urban Native teen, and her mother, Elizabeth, a relocated rezzer, return to their hometown in South Dakota after Elizabeth is hired as the new Lakota teacher at the reservation high school; Kawá navigates friendship, queerness, and belonging on the reservation.
Jana Schmieding (writer-producer-actor) with Auntie Chuck (U.S.A.): A rezzy spinster must find her inner auntie when she’s tasked with taking care of her siblings for two weeks.
Cian Elyse White (writer-director) with Te Puhi’ (New Zealand, United Kingdom): Aotearoa, 1962. 19-year-old Te Puhi claims international fame overnight when she is crowned Miss New Zealand — the first Māori to win the title. Torn between duty and her dreams, Te Puhi navigates the disconnect from home when she moves to London against her family’s wishes.
Projects and Fellows for the 2023 Sundance Institute Directors and Screenwriters Labs
Hadas Ayalon (writer-director) with In a Minute You’ll Be Gone (Israel): A middle-aged lesbian couple are struggling with the death of their son when an unexpected letter from a sperm bank puts their relationship to the test, forcing them to confront their loss and their identity as mothers.
Dania Bdeir (writer-director) and Bane Fakih (co-writer) with Pigeon Wars (Lebanon, Canada, France): In the gritty world of Beirut’s pigeon wars, a relentless young woman and a dutiful young man form an unlikely alliance, challenging societal norms and political tensions while seeking redemption and self-discovery.
Rashad Frett (co-writer-director) and Lin Que Ayoung (co-writer) with Ricky (U.S.A.): Newly released after being locked up in his teens, 30-year-old Ricky navigates the challenging realities of life post-incarceration, and the complexity of gaining independence for the first time as an adult.
Masami Kawai (director-writer-producer) with Valley of the Tall Grass (U.S.A.): A TV/VCR combo set is thrown out, but it survives and circulates through the lives of various working class Indigenous characters of color in an Oregon town. They find forgotten memories, love, and connection through this seemingly obsolete object.
Gabriela Ortega (writer-director) with Huella (U.S.A., Dominican Republic): Following the death of her family’s matriarch in the Dominican Republic, a disenchanted flamenco dancer living in New York City must rid herself from her ancestor’s curses to pave her own future. (Screenwriters Lab only)
Audrey Rosenberg (writer-director) with Wild Animals (U.S.A.): After a fatal mistake makes her a pariah of her insular and devout 19th century farming community, Frances becomes consumed with hunting down a mythic beast, at the cost of her family’s reputation and safety.
Abinash Bikram Shah (writer-director) with Elephants in the Fog (Nepal, France): In a small Nepalese village nestled in the heart of a forest populated by wild elephants, Pirati is the matriarch of a community of transgender women. She aspires to a “normal” life with the man she loves, but when one of her “daughters” disappears, she must choose between love and responsibility to her community. (Screenwriters Lab only)
Walter Thompson-Hernández (writer-director) with If I Go Will They Miss Me (U.S.A.): Twelve-year-old Lil Ant begins to see mysterious figures — eerie men with their arms spread like wings — around his home. When his father, Big Ant, realizes his son sees these “airplane people” too, their family history emerges and reveals deeper meaning and connection between them.
Sean Wang (writer-director) with DìDi (弟弟) (U.S.A.): Fremont, CA. 2008. In the last month of summer before high school begins, an impressionable 13-year-old Taiwanese American boy learns what his family can’t teach him: how to skate, how to flirt, and how to love your mom.
Farida Zahran (writer-director) with The Leftover Ladies (Egypt, U.S.A.): A 60-something woman has her life turned upside down when her polygamous husband, who had been happily ensconced with his second wife, unexpectedly expresses a renewed interest in their stale relationship.
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