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May 6, 2009 7:34 AM
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A Dozen Filmmakers To Receive Sundance Attention in Annual Labs

The Sundance Resort where the annual Directors and Screenwriters take place in Utah. Image courtesy of the Sundance Institute.

Twelve projects including a project about a Halloween prank, prejudice, a plane hijacking and a taboo romance are among the 12 projects selected for the annual June Directors and Screenwriters Labs, taking place at the Sundance Resort in Utah. This year's roster includes projects from the United States, China, India, Morocco, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands and will be supervised by Michelle Satter, director of the Sundance Feature Film Program, and the artistic direction of Gyula Gazdag. The goal of the program is to "provide an opportunity for filmmakers to develop distinctive new work under the guidance of accomplished Creative Advisors in an environment that encourages innovation, collaboration, and risk-taking."

Over the course of the Directors Lab, the fellows work with a group of creative advisors and professional production crews, shooting and editing key scenes from their scripts. Through what is described as an "intense, hands-on process," participants "workshop text, collaborate with actors, and find a visual language for their film in an atmosphere where experimentation is encouraged." Directors Lab Fellows also join in the week-long Screenwriters Lab with four additional projects to participate in individualized story sessions under the guidance of established screenwriters.

This is Gazdag's 13th year as the artistic director of the Directors Lab. Creative adivisors participating this year include: Robert Redford, Michael Almereyda, John August, Ronan Bennett, Walter Bernstein, Joan Darling, Caleb Deschanel, Lisa Fruchtman, John Gatins, Michael Goldenberg, Keith Gordon, Susannah Grant, Randa Haines, Catherine Hardwicke, Ed Harris, Etgar Keret, Michael Lehmann, Peter Medak, Walter Mosley, Jeremy Pikser, Howard Rodman, Susan Shilliday, Stewart Stern, Wesley Strick, Joan Tewkesbury, Tyger Williams, Alfre Woodard, and Doug Wright.

"We're thrilled to be supporting such an exciting and inspired group of emerging independent artists," commented Satter in a statement. "Their work explores the richness of the human condition in an increasingly global community, telling specific, personal stories with humor, audacity, and grace. We're confident they will each flourish in the creative and challenging atmosphere of the June Lab, where they will have the opportunity to push the boundaries of their craft and do the deep exploration needed to realize the full potential of their material."


The participants and project selected for the 2009 Directors Lab are (with descriptions provided by the Sundance Institute):

"All Fall Down," Jonathan Wysocki (writer/director), U.S.A.: When a nine-year-old suburban boy makes the ill-fated decision to dress up as Osama bin Laden on Halloween 2001, the fragile underpinnings of his dysfunctional family are exposed.

"Beasts of the Southern Wild," Benh Zeitlin (co-writer/director) and Lucy Alibar (co-writer), U.S.A.: In this epic comedy, a ferocious ten-year-old girl refuses to evacuate her home in the Louisiana Delta without her dying father as the Southern Apocalypse descends upon them.

"Goodnight Moon," Elgin James (writer/director), U.S.A.: Amidst the stark landscape of the Salton Sea, two 14-year-old girls test the limits of their friendship when one follows the other in an escape to Los Angeles, only to discover that the boredom of home may be better than learning to survive in the big city.

"My Brother the Devil," Sally El Hosaini (writer/director), United Kingdom/Egypt: Two teenage brothers must face their prejudices head on if they are to survive the perils of being young, Arab, British and Muslim on the streets of gangland London, post 9/11.

"Porfirio," Alejandro Landes (writer/director), Brazil/Ecuador: After years of waiting for his pension, a Colombian man confined to a wheelchair hijacks a plane with his unwitting teenage son in an effort to draw the attention of the President to his plight.

"The Narrow Frame of Midnight," Tala Hadid (writer/director), Morocco/U.S.A.: From North Africa to the bleak winter landscapes of Northern France and beyond, two refugees struggle to find their place in a world without borders.

"On the Ice," Andrew MacLean (writer/director), U.S.A.: On the snow-covered arctic tundra, at the top of the world in Barrow, Alaska, two Inuit teenagers try to get away with murder.

"The Story of Ram," Ritesh Batra (writer/director), U.S.A./India: A chance encounter over the radio waves leads to an extraordinary friendship between the Prime Minister of India and an ordinary tea vendor, which ends up transforming a nation.


The participants and projects joining the directors at the 2008 June Screenwriters Lab are (with descriptions provided by the Sundance Institute):

"The American People," Keith Davis (writer/director), U.S.A.: Deep in the heart of Alabama wiregrass country, a woman haunted by visions of the future struggles to find hope when a shattering loss fractures her family.

"Hello, I Must Be Going," Sarah Koskoff (writer) and Todd Louiso (director), U.S.A.: Divorced, childless, and demoralized, Amy Minsky's prospects look bleak when she is condemned to move back in with her parents at the age of 40--until the unexpected attention of a bold teenage boy changes everything.

"Land," Jan Williem van-Ewijk (co-writer/director) and Abdelhadi Samih (co-writer), Netherlands/Morocco: Lost between the contrasting worlds of visiting European tourists in the summer and the emptiness of his fishing village in the winter, a Moroccan windsurfer sets out on an ocean voyage towards Europe in an effort to make sense of his life.

"Little Wings," Emily Tang (co-writer/director) and Chow Keung (co-writer), China: The murder of a teenage prostitute, recently emigrated from China to Hong Kong, shakes the lives of her previously indifferent family members across the border.

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