Sundance Institute's commitment to supporting Native American artists is woven throughout the history of the Institute. Since its beginning, Native American filmmakers have been involved in the Institute, including Larry LittleBird (Taos Pueblo) and Chris SpottedEagle (Houmas Nation). Following President and Founder Robert Redford's original vision, the Institute has remained committed to supporting Native American artists. From Sundance Institute's first support of Greg Sarris' (Coast Miwok) Grand Avenue at the June Screenwriters Lab in 1992 to Andrew Okpeaha MacLean (Iñupiaq) winning the 2008 Sundance Film Festival's Short Filmmaking Jury Prize for his film Sikumi, the Institute has established a rich legacy of work.
The Native Program has built and sustained an Indigenous film circle. The circle of our work begins by scouting for and identifying Native American and Indigenous artists, bringing them through the mechanisms of support at Sundance Institute to get their work made and shown, then bringing the filmmakers and their work back to native lands. The Native Lab Fellowship is a vital part of supporting Native filmmakes full-circle. Four projects are selected annually for the Fellowship from a national competition and supported in two phases over the course of a year.
Overseen by N. Bird Runningwater, the Program also scouts worldwide for Indigenous artists with projects that can be supported through the Institute's Feature Film Program, Documentary Film Program, Theatre Program, the Creative Producing Fellowship and Summit, and the Sundance Film Festival. Past filmmakers and their projects supported include Sterlin Harjo, director of the Spirit Award-nominated Four Sheets to the Wind and the follow-up film Barking Water; Academy Award-nominee Taika Waititi, who gained support for his feature debut Eagle Vs. Shark and his follow-up film Boy; Billy Luther's award-winning film Miss Navajo; Andrew Okpeaha MacLean's Sikumi; and, Blackhorse Lowe's Shimasani. Forthcoming projects include Julianna Brannum's Ladonna Harris: Indian 101, Andrew Okpeaha MacLean's On the Ice, Aurora Guerrero's Mosquita Y Mari, and Billy Luther's Grab.
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