Filmmaker Jerry Rothwell Receives First Annual Sundance Institute | TED Prize Filmmaker Award

LOS ANGELES — Sundance Institute and TED, the nonprofit known for “ideas worth spreading,” announced that filmmaker Jerry Rothwell has been selected to receive the first-ever Sundance Institute | TED Prize Filmmaker Award — the centerpiece of which is a grant of $125,000 to make a documentary film about the 2013 TED Prize winner Sugata Mitra and his wish, A School in the Cloud. The prize was awarded during the TEDGlobal 2013 Conference, taking place June 10 to 14, 2013, in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Selected from a highly competitive pool of outstanding global submissions, the UK-based Rothwell and his producers — Al Morrow and Dan Demissie — proposed a film, Like Whirlwinds, that will look at the development of Mitra’s latest and most ambitious project, ”A School in the Cloud.” The school is a learning lab in India that taps into children’s innate curiosity and instinct to teach each other. Told from the perspectives of impoverished Indian children who speak no English and have little-to-no access to education, a retired school teacher in the UK who teaches and mentors these young people via the internet, and low-income students in Gateshead, England, who represent a new front in Mitra’s visionary educational experiment, Rothwell’s film asks the questions: is our current model for educating children an obsolete remnant of a bygone era?

Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said, “We congratulate Jerry Rothwell and his team as they begin an exciting journey to bring to life the extraordinary vision of Sugata Mitra’s large-scale collaborative project, providing a record of his work and an inspiring way for audiences to engage with the ideas behind it.”

The Sundance Institute | TED Prize Filmmaker Award will be offered each year to one filmmaker to document the winner of the annual TED Prize, awarded each year to an individual with a world-changing wish.

Mitra, the recipient of the 2013 TED Prize, wished to create the School in the Cloud as an extension of his famous 1999 “hole in the wall” experiment. The experiment showed him that children, when left alone, can effectively teach themselves. From this and further research, Mitra developed the concept of SOLEs (Self Organized Learning Environments), which embraces a process where educators ask the kids big questions, leading them on intellectual journeys rather than asking them to just memorize facts.

With the TED Prize, Mitra has developed a SOLE toolkit for others to tap into this method – and is creating the School in the Cloud: a learning environment that is overseen entirely by a global network of mediators. These mediators are retired teachers who Skype in through the Cloud. The school, and a series of labs to be built across India and the UK, will serve as both education and research centers to further explore self-directed learning globally.

“We are thrilled to award Jerry Rothwell the first ever Sundance Institute | TED Prize Filmmaker Award, and are eager to see the vision he brings to document Sugata Mitra’s TED Prize wish,” said Lara Stein, Director of the TED Prize. “Like the TED Prize itself, the Sundance Institute | TED Prize award unites artists, innovators, and thought leaders with a vision for spurring global change. Sugata’s wish to build a School in the Cloud will have an important impact, and Jerry Rothwell’s work will ensure his story is told beautifully, originally and authentically.”

Rothwell is a seasoned documentary filmmaker, working globally, whose work includes the award-winning feature docs, Donor Unknown, Heavy Load, and Deep Water. His most recent film is Town of Runners, which was supported by the Sundance Documentary Film Program and Fund (DFP), is currently featured as part of FILM FORWARD: Advancing Cultural Dialogue, an initiative of Sundance Institute and the federal cultural agencies.

Envisioned by Cara Mertes, outgoing Director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, and managed with Richard Ray Perez, Producer, Creative Partnerships, Sundance Institute Documentary Film, the initiative seeks to increase resources for innovative non-fiction storytelling. Applications submitted from around the world were reviewed by Sundance Institute staff, TED and advisory committee members Jacklyn “Jackie” Bezos, president and co-founder of the Bezos Family Foundation; Jesse Dylan, Creative Director & CEO of Wondros; and filmmaker Mira Nair.

For more information about Sugata Mitra, winner of the annual TED Prize, and filmmaker Jerry Rothwell visit

Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund
The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund provides year-round support to nonfiction filmmakers worldwide. The program advances innovative nonfiction storytelling about a broad range of contemporary social issues, and promotes the exhibition of documentary films to audiences. Through the Sundance Documentary Fund, the Documentary Edit and Story Labs, Composers + Documentary Lab, Creative Producing Lab, as well as the Sundance Film Festival, the Sundance Creative Producing Summit and a variety of international partnerships and initiatives, the program provides a unique, global resource for contemporary independent documentary film.

Sundance Institute
Founded by Robert Redford in 1981, Sundance Institute is a global, nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to nurturing artistic expression in film and theater, and to supporting intercultural dialogue between artists and audiences. The Institute promotes independent storytelling to unite, inform and inspire, regardless of geo-political, social, religious or cultural differences. Internationally recognized for its annual Sundance Film Festival and its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, film composers, playwrights and theatre artists, Sundance Institute has nurtured such projects as Born into Brothels, Trouble the Water, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Amreeka, An Inconvenient Truth, Spring Awakening, Light in the Piazza and Angels in America. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

About TED
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California almost 30 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The two annual TED Conferences invite the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes on a diverse mix of topics. Many of these talks are then made available, free, at TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Isabel Allende. The TED2014 Conference will take place next spring in Vancouver, British Columbia, along with the TEDActive simulcast in neighboring Whistler.

TED’s media initiatives include, where new TED Talks are posted daily; the Open Translation Project, which provides subtitles and interactive transcripts as well as translations from volunteers worldwide; the educational initiative TED-Ed; and TEDBooks, short e-books on powerful ideas. TED has established the annual TED Prize, where exceptional individuals with a wish to change the world get help translating their wishes into action; TEDx, which supports individuals or groups in hosting local, self-organized TED-style events around the world; and the TED Fellows program, helping world-changing innovators from around the globe to amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities.

TED Prize
The first TED Prize was awarded in 2005, born out of the TED Conference and a vision by the world’s leading entrepreneurs, innovators, and entertainers to change the world – one wish at a time.

The original prize: $100,000 and the TED community’s range of talent and expertise. What began as an unparalleled experiment to leverage the resources of the TED community has evolved into an ambitious effort to spur global-scale change. From Bono’s the ONE Campaign (’05 recipient) to Jamie Oliver ‘s Food Revolution (’10 recipient) and JR’s Inside Out Project (’11 recipient), the TED Prize has helped to combat poverty, take on religious intolerance, improve global health, tackle child obesity, advance education, and inspire art around the world.

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