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NHK at 90: Pubcaster’s Sundance Award Bolsters Independent Films

A decade after its inception, NHK’s indie film award is paying off with acclaimed pictures, including awards contenders

One important aspect of the mandate of the Sundance Film Festival has been the Sundance/NHK Intl. Filmmakers Award, which since its establishment in 1995 has recognized and supported a visionary filmmaker’s next film.

“Sundance Institute has long seen international cinema as vital to our work,” said Paul Federbush, international director of the Feature Film Program at Sundance Institute. “By integrating voices from around the world into our work with U.S.-based artists, we hope to create a creative and cultural dialogue through the widest range of stories and methods of storytelling.”

Through NHK’s support, the award includes $10,000 in cash and strategic meetings at the festival with established filmmakers and guidance throughout the life of the upcoming project.

“The current economic landscape isn’t conducive to independent Japanese film, and so we believe these are crucial programs.”
Paul Federbush

One recent success story is Benh Zeitlin’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (pictured),  which was a winner in 2010.After being picked up by Fox Searchlight two years later, the film opened to overwhelming critical praise and enjoyed an extended theatrical run. It ended up with four Oscar nominations, including for best pic and director.

Sundance’s work with NHK, which also includes a screenwriters workshop, has always been of particular importance, Federbush says. “Japanese films have had an obvious and profound influence on generations of filmmakers from around the world, and serve as a tremendous testament to a rich and enduring history of cinema,” he says.

“However, the current economic landscape isn’t conducive to independent Japanese film, and so we believe these are crucial programs to support the most vital emerging filmmakers in Japan today.”

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