For four decades, Sundance has been convening promising new artists during the summer as part of the Sundance Institute Labs, where they collaborate with accomplished artists and work together rigorously and creatively on the new artists’ projects.
Lab alums include Gina Prince Bythewood, Benh Zeitlin, Nia DaCosta, Ryan Coogler, Dee Rees, Marielle Heller, Paul Thomas Anderson, Miranda July, and Quentin Tarantino, among many others.
This spring and summer, 19 emerging creators are participating in Native, Directors, and Screenwriters Labs, where they will work with seasoned advisors who will mentor them as they develop their projects.
The Native Lab began online May 2–6 and continues May 9–14 in person for the first time in two years in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “My team and I are beyond thrilled to be supporting this latest cohort of artists for our lab,” said Adam Piron, director of the Institute’s Indigenous Program. “We come from storytelling cultures millennia older than film and television themselves, and this year’s selection is a vibrant testament to our artists celebrating and expanding those traditions across genre, artistic approaches, and formats.”
The Directors Lab, part of a yearlong program, runs May 31–June 14 in person at Utah’s Sundance Resort, where filmmakers will rehearse, shoot, and edit scenes from their work-in-progress screenplays under the guidance of the creative advisors. “We are excited to hold the June Directors Lab back in person at the Sundance Resort, providing the space for imaginative possibility and risk-taking, with our full community of fellows, advisors, actors, crew and staff,” said Michelle Satter, founding senior director of the Institute’s Artist Programs. The companion Screenwriters Lab takes place online June 21–24.
Meet the fellows and their projects.
PROJECTS & FELLOWS FOR THE NATIVE LAB
Justin Ducharme (director/writer) with Positions (Canada): Positions follows a young queer indigenous man after moving to an urban centre from the rural town he grew up in and his unapologetic exploration through sexual desire, his quest for financial stability, and the pursuit of agency over his own body.
Justin Ducharme is a filmmaker, writer, and curator born and raised in the Métis community of St. Ambroise on Treaty 1. His writing has been featured in Room Magazine, Canadian Art and Prism International. He currently lives and works on the Unceded Territory of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh Nations.
Taietsarón:sere ‘Tai’ Leclaire (writer) with How to Deal with Systemic Racism in the Afterlife (U.S.A): Lyle Westman is dead and over it. When he discovers he has to spend 1400 years haunting in redface, he decides to strike back at the systemic problems plaguing the afterlife.
Taietsarón:sere ‘Tai’ Leclaire is a Kanien’kehá:ka and Mi’kmaq actor, comedian, and writer from the Mohawk reservation of Kahnawà:ke. He’s an actor and writer on Rutherford Falls, the Peacock comedy by Sierra Teller Ornelas, Mike Schur, and Ed Helms. He’s a former house performer at Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre, New York.
Daniel Pewewardy (writer) with Residential (U.S.A.): A young professional Native man is plagued by a paranormal threat in his new apartment. To stop the threat he must uncover the mysteries of the apartment building — a former Native American Boarding School.
Daniel Pewewardy is a Comanche filmmaker and comedian from Lawton, Oklahoma. They also act, perform stand-up, and are the creator of the internet meme persona @pendletonmane. Pewewardy resides in Wichita Kansas, where he works as a public programming librarian and serves as Board Vice Chair for the Mid-America All-Indian Museum.
Tiare Ribeaux (director/writer) with Huaka’i (U.S.A): A diasporic Hawaiian woman leaves an unhealthy environment to return to her home on O’ahu and reconnect with her family. While facing new trials on the island, a kinship forms with a Hawaiian marine biologist, connecting her to a deeper source of her ancestry within the realm of the ocean.
Tiare Ribeaux is a kānaka maoli filmmaker, writer, and artistic director based between Honolulu and Oakland, California. Her filmmaking style involves a magical realist exploration of labor, spirituality, and the natural environment, drawing upon the structure of dreamworlds and Hawaiian cosmology to critique both social and ecological imbalances.
Tim Worrall (Ngāi Tūhoe) (writer) with Ka Whawhai Tonu – Struggle Without End (New Zealand): A half-caste boy-soldier and a Māori girl-prophet strike up an unlikely friendship in the midst of the climactic battle of the New Zealand Land Wars then struggle to rescue each other and lead a group of children to safety.
Tim Worrall is a Māori screenwriter, director and artist based in Rotorua with his wife, Taria Tahana and their two sons. He was the co-lead writer and lead director of the New Zealand drama series Head High and is a founding member of the Steambox Films Collective.
The 2022 Native Lab Fellows will be joined at the Lab by the 2022 Full Circle Fellows:
Kymon Greyhorse is a Navajo + Tongan + 2Spirit film director, screenwriter, cinematographer, and editor. Greyhorse’s work explores the human experience, shining light on the underrepresented and normalizing Indigenous stories and existence. He wants his films to inspire and empower yearning voices that have been silenced for too long.
Anpa’o Locke is an Afro-Indigenous filmmaker, who is Húŋkpapȟa Lakota & Ahtna Dené from the Standing Rock Nation. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor of arts in film studies. Anpa’o has created films on the Native diaspora experience and Indigenous activism with a focus on sovereignty and self-determination as a mode for empowered storytelling.
Zoë Neugebohr is a writer/director currently finishing her education at the University of Southern California, studying film production. She is Odawa-Ojibwe, originally from metro Detroit. Zoë seeks to dedicate space in film for the beauty of indigeneity, in all its forms, to thrive and speak for itself.
PROJECTS & FELLOWS FOR THE DIRECTORS AND SCREENWRITERS LABS
Dina Amer (director/writer) with Cain and Abel (U.S.A., France, Egypt): The fates of two men born in the same neighborhood collide as they find themselves on opposite sides of a violent confrontation. Who are these men beneath their uniforms? How many degrees of separation really exist between them? And who were they as boys?
Dina Amer is an award-winning filmmaker. In her directorial debut, You Resemble Me, cultural and intergenerational trauma erupt in a story about two sisters on the outskirts of Paris. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and was executive produced by Spike Lee, Spike Jonze, Riz Ahmed, and Alma Har’el.
Zandashé Brown (director/writer) with The Matriarch (U.S.A.): When the death of an estranged matriarch summons a fractured family back to their rural Louisiana hometown, a forlorn teen attempts to forge a relationship with her late grandmother through ancestral veneration and unlocks instead a deceptive world of spirits, secrecy, and hysteria. Recipient of the Sundance Institute Horror Fellowship, supported by the K Period Media Foundation Fund.
Based in New Orleans, Zandashé Brown is a writer/director born-and-bred in and inspired by southern Louisiana. Her work raises a Black femme lens to the tradition of southern gothic horror by exploring the axis of catharsis, spirituality, and Black southern experience.
Caledonia Curry (director) and Meagan Brothers (writer) with Sibylant Sisters (U.S.A.): Growing up with a stuporous witch instead of a mother, the young Sibylant Sisters must fend for themselves in a sometimes delightful, sometimes terrifying world of ogres, gnomes, maleficent toads, and enchanted paper dolls. If they want to survive, they’ll need to learn how to make their own magic.
Caledonia Curry, aka Swoon, is an artist and filmmaker recognized for her pioneering vision of public artwork. Through intimate portraits, animated films, immersive installations, and multi-year community based projects, she explores the potential inherent within the creative process to act as a catalyst for social change and interpersonal healing.
Meagan Brothers is the author of Debbie Harry Sings in French, a 2009 ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and its prequel, Supergirl Mixtapes. Her third novel, Weird Girl and What’s His Name, was named one of Kirkus Review’s Best Teen Books of 2015. A native Carolinian, she currently lives and works in New York City.
Hasan Hadi (director/writer) with The President’s Cake (U.S.A., Iraq): In 1991,while people struggle daily to survive under sanctions in Saddam’s Iraq, nine-year-old Saeed must use his wits to gather the ingredients for the required cake to celebrate President Saddam Hussein’s birthday or face the consequences:prison or death.
Hasan Hadi is an Iraqi writer/director based in New York. His short, SWIMSUIT won an Oscar-qualified award and received distribution from HBO Max. Hasan’s recognitions include the Tisch Dean’s Fellowship, The Gotham-Marcie Bloom Fellowship, the Black Family Short Production Prize, the Sloan Foundation Production Award and the BAFTA Newcomers Program. Hadi is recipient of the 2022 Sundance Institute/NHK Award with, The President’s Cake. He is currently an adjunct professor at NYU’s Graduate Film Program.
Michael León (director/co-writer) and Ashley Alvarez (co-writer) with Crabs in a Barrel (U.S.A.): When her talentless frenemy is anointed as the “future of Latinx voices,” a struggling Latina writer sets out to sabotage this unearned opportunity. After failing to recruit her friends to join her crusade, she catches a lucky break when she learns her rival isn’t exactly who she says she is. Recipient of the Sundance Institute Comedy Fellowship.
Michael León is a Cuban American writer and director. His short, Crabs in a Barrel, is an HBO Latinx Short Film Competition winner and is currently streaming on HBO Max. In 2020, his play, The Cubans, had its world premiere at Miami New Drama. He is also the co-creator of the immersive virtual play Carla’s Quince, which was nominated by the Drama League. He is currently working on a new Broadway musical.
Ashley Alvarez is a Cuban American actress, writer, and producer, whose acting credits include Search Party, Law & Order, and What the Sparrow Said. She co-wrote the short film Crabs in a Barrel, which won the HBO Latinx Short Film Competition. She is the co-founder of 3 Percent Films and co-creator of Carla’s Quince, which was nominated by the Drama League. She’s performed at the Williamstown Theater Festival, Women’s Project, INTAR, and Miami New Drama.
Eliza McNitt (director/writer) with BLACK HOLE (U.S.A.): At a pivotal moment in both her career and her complicated relationship with her mother, an astrophysicist’s universe unravels when she encounters a black hole of her own creation.
Eliza McNitt is a writer and director. An Emmy Awards Finalist and recipient of the VR Grand Prize for SPHERES at The Venice Film Festival, her work has appeared at Sundance, SXSW, AFI Fest, Cannes NEXT, Tribeca, Telluride, and Venice. She’s currently writing and directing MARS 2080 with Imagine Entertainment.
Olive Nwosu (director/writer) with Lady (Nigeria, U.K.): A mercurial taxi driver agrees to enter the underground Lagos prostitution scene when she’s propositioned by an old friend. In her search for freedom she must find herself first, as she navigates this new world. (Screenwriters Lab only)
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Olive Nwosu is a BAFTA-Pigott Scholar, Alex Sichel Fellow at Columbia University, an ‘African Promises’ director selected by the Institut Français, and a 2022 Sundance Screenwriting Fellow. Nwosu’s work is informed by the intersectional nature of her life across multiple continents and identities. Her mission is to tell urgent, cinematic, African stories.
Neo Sora (director/writer) with Earthquake (U.S.A., Japan): A rabble-rousing teenager living in near-future Tokyo, where earthquakes are part of the fabric of life, must decide between continuing a life of youthful abandon or losing one of his best friends, whose blossoming political consciousness has made him increasingly distant.
Neo Sora is a filmmaker, translator, and artist working in New York and Tokyo. His short film The Chicken (2020) premiered at Locarno International Film Festival 2020. After being written up in Variety and Cahiers Du Cinema, Filmmaker Magazine named Sora one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film.
Yuan Yuan (director/writer) with Late Spring (U.S.A., China): A Chinese factory worker travels to New York for her daughter’s eagerly anticipated college graduation, only to be thrust into a desperate search in unfamiliar territory when she learns the girl is missing.
Yuan Yuan is a Chinese writer-director and an MFA thesis candidate at NYU, where she is an Ang Lee Scholar and Spike Lee Film Production Fellow. Her short film Heading South has won awards at the DGA Student Film Awards, Palm Springs, Aspen, Hamptons and Hong Kong International Film Festival.
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