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Today the nonprofit Sundance Institute shared the names of the six transgender storytellers of color selected for the second edition of the Trans Possibilities Intensive, a three-part event taking place from March 27-29 under the leadership of Moi Santos, Founder of the Trans Possibilities Intensive, guidance from experienced creative advisors and Sundance Institute’s Equity, Impact, and Belonging Program. The Fellows selected for 2023 are: Seyi Adebanjo, Rajvi Desai, Malik Ever, Nick Janaye, Jamie John and Tee Park Jaehyung. This year’s Creative Advisors include Sydney Freeland (Drunktown’s Finest), Aitch Alberto (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe), Félix Endara (UNSEEN) and Chase Joynt (Framing Agnes).
While Sundance has a proud history of supporting trans artists across artist programs and Festival programming, the Intensive is an ancillary environment for participating artists to enhance their voice and craft, foster relationships with each other, and challenge the obstacles that continue to exclude transgender artists. Founded in 2021, the one-of-a-kind program directly supports transgender artists of color through project-based granting, supporting the advancement of trans-led projects at all stages of their life-cycles; nurturing and identifying emerging trans talent; and year-round custom creative and professional development opportunities. The 2023 Intensive Fellows were selected through a nominations-based application–this year’s Intensive received more than double the nominations than the inaugural cycle of the program.
“Meaningfully supporting and advancing trans people, voices, and stories remains a priority for Sundance. The recent, incessant, and baseless scrutiny is nothing new to trans people, and further reflects the need for opportunities for trans people to have the autonomy to explore their transness on their own terms.” said Moi Santos, Manager of Equity, Impact, and Belonging at Sundance Institute. “This year’s cohort uplifts an extensive and essential range of artistic approaches, stories, and experiences and we’re looking forward to developing a relationship that will birth creative possibilities, risk-taking, and necessary change in this industry.”
As part of the Intensive, Santos will moderate a live conversation on Sundance Collab, Sundance Institute’s digital learning space for artists from around the world. This conversation, taking place March 29, called “Trapped In Transit: Transgender Storytelling with Visionary Filmmakers Aitch Alberto and Sydney Freeland,” interrogates the limits, liberties, comforts, and confines of trans cultural representation, and is open to the general public. More information on how to attend is available here.
Previous Fellows of the Intensive include River Gallo (who has since completed the feature Ponyboi with Intensive support in addition to starring in a short that’ll premiere at the BFI Flare London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival and performing in King Lear at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts), Savannah Ward (now repped by WME), StormMiguel Florez (2022 SFFILM Rainin Grant Winner who recently made proof of concept short for Welcome to Roswell), MiSha Owens (selected as 2022 Sundance Institute Native Lab Artist in Residence) and Ava Davis (now a member of Film Independent, Women in Film, and Film Fatales). Former advisors of the Intensive include Sam Feder, Yance Ford, Tourmaline, and Ro Haber.
The 2023 Sundance Film Festival was a landmark year for trans-led projects, with several films winning awards: Kokomo City (Directed by D. Smith, winner of the NEXT Innovator Award and NEXT Audience Award), The Stroll (Directed by Kristen Lovell and Zackary Drucker, winner of the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Clarity of Vision), Mutt (Directed by Vuk Lungulov-Klotz, winner of the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Acting, presented to lead performer Lio Mehiel), and Rest Stop (Produced by Brit Fryer, winner of the U.S. Fiction Short Film Jury Award).
The Fellows selected for the 2023 Trans Possibilities Intensive are:
Seyi Adebanjo (director) with Afromystic (U.S.A.): Afromystic is a lyrical documentary guided by four LGBTQ Yorùbá practitioners across the waters of Nigeria, the US, and Brazil reclaiming lost mythologies such as deities who change gender and are born from the love of two womxn. Afromystic weaves animated Queer & Trans Òrìṣà mythology, poetry, theater, and ritual.
Seyi Adebanjo is a Queer Gender-Non-Conforming Nigerian artist who raises awareness around social issues through video. Seyi’s work exists at the intersection of art, imagination, ritual and politics. Seyi is on Creatives Rebuild New York Think Tank. Seyi was awarded a residency with The Laundromat Project, Fatales Forward: Trans Stories Fellowship.
Rajvi Desai (director, co-producer, co-cinematographer, editor) with Mother Wit (U.S.A.): An ailing Black trans matriarch struggles to inculcate the values of education and survival in her community before she runs out of time.
Rajvi Desai is a non-binary South Asian filmmaker and editor based in New York City. Rajvi’s work focuses on gender issues as they intersect with race, class and caste, both in the United States and in South Asia. Rajvi’s work has been published in amNY.com, The Swaddle, and Eastern-Standard Times, as well as screened in film festivals in the U.S. and internationally.
Malik Ever (director/writer) with GutBucket (U.S.A.): After his estranged mother’s sudden death, West, a 54 year old trans man, returns home for the first time in twenty years to clean out his childhood home, where he starts to uncover his mother’s secrets.
Malik Ever (they/them) is a trans/nonbinary, queer first generation Algerian American filmmaker. Originating in the theatre as “a heart-wrenching and hilarious physical theater performer and writer” (Phindie). They recently graduated from the AFI Conservatory with an MFA in Directing. Their short film, Gorditx, premiered at GLAFF in LA.
Nick Janaye (writer) with Dead Ringer (U.S.A.): After volunteering to prepare his father’s destination wedding, a trans man desperate for approval is tasked with killing a shapeshifting entity that ultimately threatens the lives of attendees.
Nick Janaye is an award winning screenwriter and graduate of the Sidney Poitier New American Film School. Known for his bold supernatural stories that combat marginalization, Nick is proudly genderfluid and dead set on amplifying LGBTQIA+, neurodivergent, and POC representation in film.
Jamie John (director/writer) with 2Spirit Water Carrier (U.S.A.): 2Spirit Water Carrier is an experimental work reflecting the Anishinaabe responsibility of carrying water and queer and trans Indigenous bodies. Ideas of gender sovereignty, land and queer body autonomy, and gender variance found throughout nature and history will be communicated through moving images of bodies, gender presentation, landscapes, and text.
Jamie John is a two-spirit trans and queer Anishinaabe and Korean-American multi-disciplinary artist (he/him and they/themme) They are a tribal citizen of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.
Tee Park Jaehyung (writer) with Destiny in Sedona (U.S.A.): The lives of various lovelorn transgenders intertwine as they travel through the Arizona desert.
Tee Park Jaehyung is a filmmaker originally from Seoul, Korea. Her filmography includes the Pupal Stage, Winter Insect Summer Flower, and Tofu. A trans woman of immigrant experience, Park’s work explores alienation, unconventional bonds, and flawed female protagonists. She’s also a USC Screenwriting graduate and a proud SoCal girl.
The Sundance Institute Equity, Impact and Belonging program is made possible by support from The Walt Disney Company, The Harnisch Foundation, NBCUniversal, Zions Bank, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, SAGindie, United Airlines, Critical Minded, Endeavor, Netflix, 3M, Rotten Tomatoes, Easterseals Disability Services, Philip Fung—A3 Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and one anonymous donor.