The Sundance Institute has named the summer fellows for the Directors, Screenwriters and Native Labs.
The Labs give writers and directors a space to develop their craft and selected projects with input from a roster of industry mentors and advisers. Some parts of this year’s labs, normally held in person in Utah, will take place virtually on the Sundance Collab platform.
At the Directors Lab, which runs June 1 to July 2, filmmakers will participated in roundtable discussions, presentatons and one-on-one meetings, as well as rehearsing, shooting and editing a scene from their work-in-progress screenplays at home. The Screenwriters lab, from July 6-9, will support one-on-one story sessions to develop original and timely screenplays.
The Native lab, running from Monday to May 21, focuses on storytellers from Native and Indigenous backgrounds, including feature film, episodic work and cultivating artists-in-residence.
The labs are organized under feature film program founding director Michelle Satter, deputy director Ilyse McKimmie and Indigenous program director N. Bird Runningwater.
“We’re thrilled to be launching such a visionary group of filmmakers who have met this year’s challenges with an unstoppable resilience and spirit of collaboration and creativity,” said Satter. “Their stories bear witness to the world we’re living in, and give voice to characters and worlds that are both deeply personal and universal. We’re excited to provide meaningful and holistic mentorship and connections to these artists, and be part of their burgeoning creative and career development as writers and directors.”
“Support for Indigenous storytellers has been part of the Institute’s mission since its founding,” said Runningwater. “We’re excited to nurture this cohort of filmmakers and their stories, strengthening the Indigenous lens through which their stories are being told and supporting them along their creative journey to the screen and audiences.”
These are the fellows and projects for this year:
Fellows and projects selected for the 2021 Native Lab:
Miciana Alise (Tlingit)
In this life, a woman’s biggest challenges are the love she chooses to accept, the tough love of a well-meaning mother, and the absence of love that heartbreak leaves behind. Mia will have to face them all in order to find a way to finally love herself.
Doane Tulugaq Avery (Iñupiaq)
As a 40-year-old queer ex-Mormon begins to navigate the world as a recent divorcee, she is surprised to find support in raising her nonbinary child from an advocacy group called Mama Dragons, a Mormon led organization that breathes fire for their LGBTQ family members.
Bryson Chun (Kanaka Maoli)
When a small-town, high-end Hawai’i dog groomer learns that a hit was put on her on the Dark Web, she has to race to find the culprit among her friends and family before it’s too late.
Alexandra Lazarowich (Cree)
Sweet Home Reservation
After the death of her aunt, a successful fashion business woman returns to her childhood home on the Cree reservation in Northern Alberta, Canada for the funeral. However unbeknownst to her large, loud Native family, she brings home her new fiancé — a musician from Malibu.
2021 Native Lab – Artist In Residence:
Charine Pilar Gonzales (San Ildefonso Pueblo)
Rosa (at booth #515)
An aspiring Pueblo photographer drops out of college and decides to sell her photos at Native art shows full-time to support her family. She struggles with self-doubt, competitive attitudes and understanding the market – in order to establish herself as an artist.
Tommy Pico (Kumeyaay) – writer
Tommy is a “sometimes” person: sometimes Brooklyn, sometimes rez, but never both. When his best friend becomes a punk singer, a dream Tommy wanted for himself, his identities begin to blur against a backdrop of punk music, ceremony, and the ghost of an ex he killed on the rez.
The 2021 Native Lab Fellows will be joined at Lab by the 2021 Full Circle Fellows:
Jamie John (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians)
Jamie John is a two-spirit Anishinaabe and Korean multidisciplinary artist living in their historic homeland of so-called Michigan. They’re an enrolled tribal citizen of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, a graduate in interdisciplinary arts at Interlochen Arts Academy, and currently reconnecting to their Anishinaabe ceremonial way of life. Art has been used as a tool to carve out a space for Jamie despite the impact of colonialism, intergenerational suffering, and gender violence. With works tackling topics of colonialism and historical loss, Jamie attempts to pull the thread of resistance to these atrocities through cultural connection and emphasizing collective survival.
Sarah Liese (Diné and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians)
Sarah Liese is a master’s student at Ohio University, where she studies journalism and photography. She is a research assistant to Dr. Victoria LaPoe, which has allowed her to learn more about Indigenous reporting – a topic Liese is passionate about, as she is Diné and a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. In her free time, Sarah works as a poetry reader for the New Ohio Review. She plans to earn her master’s degree from Ohio University in April 2022 and begin her career as a documentary filmmaker, highlighting Indigenous stories. She is a graduate of Mississippi University in the state where she grew up and maintains strong family connections.
Christina Zuni (Isleta Pueblo)
Christina Zuni is a Native filmmaker and cinematographer from Isleta Pueblo, N.M. She is a soon-to-be graduate at New Mexico State University in the Digital Filmmaking program. Growing up in a culture-driven community, she developed an interest in pueblo art at a young age. The combination of Native art and visual media heavily influences the themes present in her work. By giving a voice to the unheard and unspoken, she advocates and empowers communities in ways that uplift them. Her goal in filmmaking is to enrich humanity’s interest in Native American traditions and encourage pueblo youth to find their creativity.
Fellows and projects selected for the 2021 Directors Lab are:
Fancy Dance (U.S.A.)
Erica Tremblay, co-writer/director
Miciana Alise, co-writer
Following the disappearance of her sister, a Native American hustler kidnaps her niece from her white grandparents and sets out for the state powwow in the hopes of keeping what’s left of their family intact.
Cris Gris, director
Mary Ann Anane, writer
After moving to a working-class part of the Hamptons, a Latinx teen employed as a housecleaner for the elite explores identity and love in the shadow of gentrification and inevitable loss.
The Macrobiotic Toker (U.S.A.)
Tracy Droz Tragos, writer/director
Living in a mommune, balancing her alternative lifestyle and a bitter separation, Sula’s life is plunged into potential chaos by an unplanned pregnancy. After discovering how to procure abortion pills online, she travels an unexpected path to become an underground supplier, an accidental pro-choice activist, and ultimately, a convicted felon. Inspired by true events.
The Mysterious Gaze of the Flamingo (Chile)
Diego Céspedes, writer/director
Chile, 1984. A remote mining town is stricken with a mysterious disease, said to be transmitted between men through eye contact. Twelve-year-old Lidia must protect her older brother Alexo, who raised her, when he comes under threat from the fearful townspeople.
Neon Tilapia (Kenya, U.S.A.)
Tony Koros, writer/director
When a dangerous water-weed threatens to take over his lake and livelihood, a fisherman in rural Kenya forms an unexpected alliance with his estranged granddaughter to fight back using glowing, genetically modified fish. As strange lights appear in the lake, chaos erupts in the village, and the two are challenged to reach a new understanding of each other.
Parts & Labor (U.S.A.)
Cristina Costantini, co-writer/director
Jacob Albert, co-writer
Working single mom Maria Burgos signs on as a gestational surrogate for a wealthy, controlling New York couple to pay for her son’s college tuition. She tolerates their degrading demands until the relationship explodes, and Maria seizes the moment to blackmail her way to the American Dream.
Jacob Albert lives in Oakland. He ghostwrites popular science books for research scientists and is at work on a novel. Formerly a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, he has received fellowships from the Blue Mountain Center, the Michener Center, and the Elizabeth George Foundation.
A Real One (U.S.A.)
McKenzie Chinn, writer/director
A bright teenager in a working class neighborhood on Chicago’s south side discovers the power and beauty of true friendship when her illicit relationship with a teacher is discovered amid the final weeks of her senior year in high school.
Sontenish Myers, writer/director
On a southern plantation in the 1800s, Lena is an 11-year-old slave with telekinetic abilities she cannot yet control. When she is separated from her mother and moved into close quarters with the volatile Master’s wife, Lena must grapple with the danger of her gift as well as its potential power.
The 2021 Directors Lab Fellows will be joined at the Screenwriters Lab by:
White Knuckle (U.S.A.)
Xavier Coleman, writer/director
When a serial killer begins targeting the gentrifiers of a dwindling, historically Black neighborhood, a young newcomer must determine the murderer’s identity—before she’s next.