Fourteen projects have been selected for the Sundance Institute‘s June Director’s and Screenwriters Labs, taking place at the Sundance Resort in Utah from May 29 – June 29, 2006. Nine directing fellows have been chosen to work with advisors on their work, while the six writers will join the directors and advisors for a week of work on their projects. Gyula Gazdag is serving as artistic director for the Directors Lab, while Todd Graff is serving as artistic director for the Screenwriters Lab.
Advisors this year will include: Allison Anders, Henry Bean, Affonso Beato, Walter Bernstein, Antonia Bird, Robert Caswell, Joan Darling, Caleb Deschanel, D.V. DeVincentis, Ziad Douieri, Stuart Dryburgh, Anthony Drazan, Atom Egoyan, Suzy Elmiger, Rodrigo Garcia, John Gatins, Carlin Glynn, Keith Gordon, Stephen Gyllenhaal, Elizabeth Kling, Ellen Kuras, Malia Scotch Marmo, Peter Medak, Harold Ramis, Robert Redford, Howard Rodman, Susan Shilliday, Stewart Stern, Joan Tewkesbury, Stanley Tucci, Tyger Williams, Erin Cressida Wilson, Gary Winick, and Doug Wright.
“The Creative Advisors are the key to the success of the Labs,” explained Michelle Satter, director of the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program, in a prepared statement. “It is their passion for storytelling and their generosity with the filmmakers that creates the truly valuable exchange at the labs. The time that they dedicate to mentoring and providing guidance is an invaluable contribution to the artistic development of the Lab participants.”
The participants and projects selected for the 2006 June Directors Lab are (information provided by Sundance Institute):
“A Breath Away“/Kit Hui (writer/director), U.S.A./China
As a typhoon approaches Hong Kong, the residents of a high-rise apartment explore their need for human connection, family, and cultural identity in their increasingly isolated worlds.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Kit Hui immigrated to the United States at age 16. She received her MFA from Columbia University’s Graduate Film Program. Her short film “Missing” screened at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival and the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, and she was recently selected to participate in the 2006 Hong Kong Asian Financing Film Forum (HAF) and the Cannes Residence du Festival de Cannes with “A Breath Away”.
“Free In Deed“/Jake Mahaffy (writer/director), U.S.A.
In order to tend for his own ill son, an intensely religious man secretly returns to his hometown where, years ago, his attempted miracle became a criminal act. With complexity and emotional power, “Free in Deed” explores faith and redemption in rural America. Born in Ohio and currently residing in southwest Virginia, Jake Mahaffy has made a handful of short films and the feature-length “War”, which screened in the Frontier section of the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Mahaffy studied filmmaking in Russia and co-founded the Handcranked Film collaborative in Boston in 2001. Mahaffy has received a grant from Creative Capital and is the recipient of Sundance Institute’s inaugural Lynn Auerbach Screenwriting Fellowship for “Free In Deed”.
“My Habibi“/Kirsten Johnson (writer/director), U.S.A.
In post-9/11 New York, a Moroccan immigrant finds his reckless past catching up with him just as he is falling in love with an American photographer, forcing each of them to choose whom they must betray. Kirsten Johnson’s most recent film, “Deadline”, (co-directed with Katy Chevigny), premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, was broadcast on NBC, and is the winner of a Thurgood Marshall Award. Her cinematography is featured in “Fahrenheit 9/11”, the Academy Award-nominated “Asylum”, and the Sundance Film Festival documentaries “American Standoff”, “Two Towns of Jasper”, and “Derrida”.
“Sin Nombre“/Cary Fukunaga (writer/director), U.S.A.
During a brutal attempt to cross into the United States from Central America, two adolescents learn to survive by discovering their inner strength and the power of redemption. Cary Fukunaga received his MFA from NYU’s Graduate Film Program. His most recent short film, “Victoria Para Chino” has won more than 19 international awards, including a Student Academy Award and Honorable Mentions from BAFTA and the Sundance Film Festival. “Sin Nombre” will mark his feature debut as a writer/director.
“The Strength of Water“/Armagan Ballantyne (director) and Briar Grace-Smith (writer), New Zealand
Set in a Maori village in rural New Zealand, “The Strength of Water” tells the magical story of Kimi Kaneha, a fat, fist-throwing, bed-wetting little boy who can’t accept the death of his twin sister and will do anything to keep her spirit alive. New Zealander Armagan Ballantyne studied film at FAMU, the film school in Prague, and received her Masters in directing at the Australian Film School in Sydney. Her award-winning short films have screened at festivals world wide, including Venice, London and Telluride. In 2004, Ballantyne spent six months at the Binger Institute in Amsterdam developing “The Strength of Water”. Briar Grace-Smith, a Maori writer of Ngapuhi descent, was recognized with the Inaugural Laureate Award of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand in 2000. Her 1997 play “Purapurawhetu” won the Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for Best New Zealand Play. She has also received the Premiere Literature Award and the Bruce Mason Playwrights Award. “The Strength of Water” is her first feature film.
“Treeless Mountain“/So Yong Kim (writer/director), U.S.A./Korea
Left by her mother in the care of their unsympathetic aunt, 5-year-old Ling must take care of her younger sister as they adjust to a harsher life in the rural countryside of South Korea. So Yong Kim was born and raised in Pusan, Korea, then immigrated to the United States when she was 12. She studied painting, performance, and video art at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she earned her MFA. Her directorial debut “In Between Days” premiered in the Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won a Special Jury
Prize for independent vision, and screened at the Berlin Film Festival’s International Forum in 2006, where the film won the FIPRESCI Prize.
“Uncloudy Day“/Milford Thomas (co-writer/director) and Kristin Gorell (co-writer), U.S.A.
Told in the style of an early “talkie”, “Uncloudy Day” is the story of a dangerous animal spirit who wreaks havoc on the life of a simple Alabama man before she finds final peace through his handicapped daughter’s magical vocal talent. Milford Thomas was raised in the North Alabama foothills of the Appalachians and worked as a production coordinator for Japanese television in Atlanta and Japan. His award-winning first film, “Claire”, is a silent featurette shot entirely on an antique 35 mm hand-crank camera which has opened several major international festivals. Kristin Gorell received her MFA from Georgia State University and her MA in Japanese Studies from Stanford University. She has studied or presented work at the University of Colorado, Boulder, the Center for Puppetry Arts, and Second City, among others. Recently she was nominated for a show at the Museum of Modern Art in Berlin.
“Yelling To The Sky“/Victoria Mahoney (writer/director), U.S.A.
In a depraved New York neighborhood, the youngest of three mixed-race sisters navigates an identity between the known: a violent life of crime, and the unknown: a life of purpose and meaning. Victoria Mahoney began her career working with Shelley Winters at Actors Studio New York. She produced “Jesse Borr”, a short film directed by Don Cheadle, and he returned the favor by starring in her short film “Graduation”. She is currently directing “Rare Birds”, a documentary about Amanda De Cadenet’s photography. “Yelling to the Sky” marks her feature debut as a writer/director.
“Zion and his Brother“/Eran Merav (writer/director), Israel
After his complicity in the tragic death of a classmate, 14-year-old Zion must choose between his domineering older brother and the possibility of a better life without him. Eran Merav was born in Haifa, Israel, and graduated from the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem. His graduate short film “Underdog” won First Prize at the 2002 Lodz International Film Festival, Best Short at the Jerusalem Film Festival, and a Special Mention at the Berlin Film Festival (Panorama).
The participants and projects joining them for the 2006 June Screenwriters Lab are (information provided by Sundance Institute)
“Farming“/Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (writer/director), England/Nigeria
Abandoned by his parents, a young boy desperately searches for love and belonging within a brutal racist skinhead subculture where violence becomes his only friend. Born in England, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje earned a masters degree in law from London’s prestigious King’s College before beginning his career as an actor in the film “Congo”. Since then his credits have included the films “The Mummy Returns” and “The Bourne Identity”, as well as regular roles on the television series OZ (for which he received two NAACP Award nominations) and LOST, on which he currently stars and which won a 2006 SAG Award for Best Ensemble Cast.
“Hay Fever“/Xiaolu Guo (writer/director), China/England
Searching for adventure away from her rural Chinese village, Mei embarks on a life-changing journey of self-discovery which takes her to modern Beijing and later to England. Intimate and authentic, “Hay Fever” chronicles the immense challenges and small victories of forging a new life in another culture, another world. Xiaolu Guo lives in London and Beijing. She has directed several award-winning documentaries including “The Concrete Revolution”, which won the Grand Prix at the 2005 International Human Rights Film Festival. In addition, she is also a recognized author with six books published in China and three novels in English and other languages.
“James Dean and Me“/Sameh Zoabi (writer/director), Palestinian/U.S.A.
In the days leading up to the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy discovers parallels between his own life and James Dean’s and tries to emulate that rebel spirit as a way of coping with the turmoil and uncertainty that surrounds him. Born in Iksal, a village near Nazareth, Israel, Palestinian filmmaker Sameh Zoabi holds degrees in Film Studies and English Literature from Tel Aviv University. He recently completed his MFA in Film Directing at Columbia’s School of the Arts. His short film “Be Quiet” screened at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, and has won several awards, most recently at the 2006 Aspen Shortsfest.
“The Left-Handed Path“/Blackhorse Lowe (writer/director), U.S.A.
In the late 1980’s on the Navajo Reservation, a 16-year-old girl struggles with her faith, family, culture and devil-worshipping. Blackhorse Lowe was born in New Mexico near the Navajo reservation. His short film “Shush” screened at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, and his feature debut “5th World” was an official selection at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. He currently works with the American Indian Film Institute teaching filmmaking to youth at various reservations across the country.
“Victoria Day“/David Bezmozgis (writer/director), Canada
After his classmate and rival suddenly goes missing, a teenage boy’s world is thrown into confusion as he must deal with familial pressure, a budding romance, and his secret belief that he is partly responsible for his friend’s disappearance. Born in Latvia, David Bezmozgis emigrated to Canada at a young age. He received his MFA in Production from USC’s School of Cinema-Television, and his documentary “The Genuine Article: The First Trial” aired nationally in Canada. His collection of short stories, Natasha and Other Stories, received numerous prizes and his written work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, and Zoetrope, and has been anthologized in the 2005 and 2006 editions of Best American Short Stories.