The Sundance Institute has announced the projects that have been invited to the 2019 Directors and Screenwriters Labs. At the Directors Lab (May 27-June 18), filmmakers will rehearse, shoot, and edit key scenes from their scripts. The Screenwriters Lab (June 20-24) immediately follows and provides the opportunity for one-on-one story sessions with screenwriter advisors. The labs are overseen by Sundance’s Feature Film Program director Michelle Satter and Labs director Ilyse McKimmie.
Founded in 1981, the Sundance labs have been a launching pad for directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Miranda July, Dee Rees, Boots Riley, Ryan Coogler, and Marielle Heller, among other names. At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, breakout titles such as Joe Talbot’s “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” and Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” were supported by the labs.
The 2019 Sundance Institute Directors Lab Projects and Fellows are:
“The American Society of Magical Negroes” (U.S.A.) / Kobi Libii (director and screenwriter): Omar, a young black man, is recruited into an undercover society of Magical Negroes who secretly conjure literal magic to make white people’s lives easier. Once he realizes they are using supernatural means to do the very thing he’s felt obligated to do his whole life, he attempts to buck the system and put his own dreams first.
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“Costa Brava Lebanon” (Lebanon) / Mounia Akl (director and co-writer) and Clara Roquet (co-writer): The Badri family lives an idyllic life of isolation in the Lebanese mountains, far away from a country drowning in garbage and pollution. When the government decides to build a landfill right outside their house, tensions amongst the family members explode, revealing the rot was not only outside their home.
“The Doubt” (Palestine) / Ihab Jadallah (director and screenwriter): After 12 years in prison, Ibrahim finally returns home to his wife and a son he has never met. Although he desperately wants to rebuild his life and his bond with his family, he is plagued by doubt about the true nature of their relationships, throwing into question whether this family can survive.
“El Otro Lado” (The Other Side) (U.S.A.) / Barbara Cigarroa (director and screenwriter): Set in Brownsville, Texas, during the child migration crisis, Lucy, a low-income Mexican American teen, is confronted with her own need for escape when her father decides to sponsor two undocumented minors for money.
“The Hater” (U.S.A.) / Joey Ally (director and screenwriter): Dorothy Gale Rexford is fired for taking her liberal extremist views too far, and must retreat to her conservative Texas hometown where she learns that her Republican childhood bully is running for state congress. In this town, only Republicans can win, so obviously the only thing to do is go undercover and run against him as a Republican herself!
“Pretty Red Dress” (United Kingdom) / Dionne Edwards (director and screenwriter): South London, present day. Travis, a black man newly released from prison, returns to a turbulent home life with his longtime girlfriend Candice and their androgynous daughter Kenisha. The family’s precarious balance is sent spinning when they discover him cross-dressing, calling all of their relationships into question.
“Story Ave.” (U.S.A.) / Aristotle Torres (director and co-writer) and Bonsu Thompson (co-writer): After running away from his rough home life, a teenage graffiti artist holds up an unsuspecting old man in a robbery gone right that changes both of their lives forever.
“A Thousand and One Nights” (U.S.A.) / A.V. Rockwell (director and screenwriter): An orphan with a mysterious past and the free-spirited hairdresser who takes him in embark on a search for identity and stability in a rapidly changing New York City.