Sundance Institute Announces $60,000 in Sloan Science in Cinema Awards

Park City, UT — Sundance Institute announced today awards for the most promising new independent films about science and technology, including Embrace of the Serpent directed by Ciro Guerraas the recipient of the Sloan Science-in Film-Prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Mark Levinson (The Gold Bug Variations) has been awarded the Sundance Institute / Sloan Fellowship, and Darcy Brislin and Dyana Winkler (Bell) will receive Sundance Institute / Sloan Commissioning Grants.

These activities, as well as a panel at the Festival, are part of the Sundance Institute Science-in-Film Initiative, which is made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The initiative supports the development and exhibition of independent films about science or technology, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character. Both the Commissioning Grant and Fellowship, presented through the Institute’s Feature Film Program, provide a cash award to support further development of a screenplay and to retain science advisors, along with overall creative and strategic feedback throughout development.

Films previously supported by the initiative include The Stanford Prison Experiment, I Origins, Computer Chess, Robot & Frank, Valley of Saints, Another Earth, Obselidia, Adam, Sleep Dealer, Dark Matter, House of Sand, Grizzly Man, Primer and Dopamine.

New this year, the Institute will add a Fellowship for a writer with an early-stage episodic project to support its development for television.

Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said, “Our Science-in-Film Initiative with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation shines a spotlight on the scientists and technologists who move our culture forward. Building on our work in independent film, our new Fellowship for a science-based episodic project will help bring an early-stage TV or online series to the small screen.”

Doron Weber, Vice President, Programs at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation said, “We are delighted to recognize Ciro Guerra’s poetic work Embrace the Serpent as the winner of the 2016 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. This beautiful film depicts the scientist as unconventional explorer and an encounter between two cultures that leads to a deeper understanding of nature and new scientific knowledge, research which continues to this day. In a year with such fine Oscar-nominated films as The Martian, Steve Jobs and Joy, Embrace of the Serpent shows how the boldest and most gifted filmmakers continue to find innovative ways of telling stories with scientific themes and characters.”

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize
Embrace of the Serpent, directed by Ciro Guerra, has been awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and will receive a $20,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. This blistering, poetic story is inspired by the original journals of scientists Theodor Koch-Grünberg and Richard Evans Schultes, who meet lone survivor Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman. Over 40 years, they develop a friendship while traveling through the Colombian Amazon in search of the sacred, psychedelic yakruna plant. Cast: Jan Bijvoet, Brionne Davis, Antonio Bolivar, Nilbio Torres, Miguel Dionisio Ramos.

The Prize is selected by a jury of film and science professionals: theatre, film, and television actor Kerry Bishé; writer, director and producer, Mike Cahill; filmmaker, Shane Carruth; professor at University of Southern California, Clifford Johnson; and professor of genetics at Harvard, director of space genetics, and director of the Personal Genetics Education Project, Ting Wu.

The jury presented the award to the film for “its original and provocative portrait of a scientist and a scientific journey into the unknown, and for its unconventional depiction of how different cultures seek to understand nature.”

Sundance Institute / Sloan Fellowship
Mark Levinson will receive a $15,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

The Gold Bug Variations (U.S.A.) / Mark Levinson (Writer/Director)
The Gold Bug Variations is a double helix of two love stories spiraling across 25 years and the mysterious disappearance of a scientist on the verge of understanding the code for life, but derailed by the search for the code for love. Script based on the novel by Richard Powers.

After first getting a doctoral degree in theoretical particle physics, Mark Levinson began his film career as an assistant editor on the feature film Smooth Talk. He developed his writing and directing skills as an ADR Supervisor on films such as The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain and The Rainmaker. Levinson wrote, produced and directed the narrative feature Prisoner of Time, which had an acclaimed premiere at the Moscow International Film Festival. Most recently, he directed the award-winning documentary feature Particle Fever about the discovery of the Higgs boson, the so-called “God Particle.”

Sundance Institute / Sloan Commissioning Grant
The grantees will each receive a $12,500 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Bell (U.S.A.) / Darcy Brislin and Dyana Winkler (Co-Writers)
From the controversy surrounding his invention of the telephone, to his lesser known work with eugenics and the deaf, this is the true story of famed inventor Alexander Graham Bell, whose quest for love changed the course of history, for better and for much worse.

For nearly a decade, Dyana Winkler worked full time supporting filmmakers at Sundance Institute and the Tribeca Film Institute before she dove headfirst into life as a freelance filmmaker in Brooklyn, NY. Currently, Winkler is co-directing/producing the feature length documentary, United Skates, which follows an underground subculture growing inside our country’s last standing roller rinks and examines recurring patterns of racial struggle in the US today. United Skates is in late production and has received awards from Chicken & Egg Pictures, New York State Council on the Arts, California Humanities, Southern Documentary Fund, Left Tilt Fund and American Documentary Film Fund.

At age eighteen, Darcy Brislin left her native Boston behind to study Art History and French at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and spent the following decade extending her student visa, immersed in the contemporary art and film worlds of Paris, Berlin, and London. Now based in Los Angeles, Brislin has developed screenplays with Sundance award-winning director Ondi Timoner, actor Maria Bello, and screenwriter Roger Wolfson. She was a selected participant for filmmaker programs at the Cannes, Berlinale and Telluride Festivals, and the recipient of a number of fellowships, including the 20/20/20 Killer Films Bootcamp lead by Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler.

The Sundance Film Festival®
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Boyhood, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Life Itself, The Cove, The End of the Tour, Blackfish, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Super Size Me, Dope, Little Miss Sunshine, sex, lies, and videotape, Reservoir Dogs, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, An Inconvenient Truth, Precious and Napoleon Dynamite. The New Frontier initiative, celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2016, has showcased groundbreaking media works by artists and creative technologists including Chris Milk, Doug Aitken, Palmer Luckey, Klip Collective and Nonny de la Peña. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2016 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire Preferred®, and Canada Goose; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Airbnb, DIRECTV, Tequila Don Julio™, Samsung, and YouTube; Sustaining Sponsors – BROOKSIDE Chocolate, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dropbox, GEICO, The Hollywood Reporter, Kickstarter, LUNA Bar/Clif Bar & Company, Omnicom, Stella Artois®, and Uber. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists.

Sundance Institute
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and new media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Sin Nombre, The Invisible War, The Square, Dirty Wars, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute onFacebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
The New York based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, makes grants in science, technology, and economic performance. Sloan’s program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, directed by Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, theater and new media to reach a wide, non-specialized audience.
Sloan’s Film Program encourages filmmakers to create more realistic and compelling stories about science and technology and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. Over the past 15 years, Sloan has partnered with some of the top film schools in the country – including AFI, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, NYU, UCLA and USC – and established annual awards in screenwriting and film production, along with an annual best-of-the best Student Grand Jury Prize administered by the Tribeca Film Institute. The Foundation also supports screenplay development programs with the Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, the San Francisco Film Society, the Black List, and Film Independent’s Producing Lab and Fast Track program and has helped develop such film projects as Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, Mathew Brown ‘s The Man Who Knew Infinity, Michael Almereyda’s Experimenter, Rob Meyer’s A Birder’s Guide to Everything, Musa Syeed’s Valley of Saints, and Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess.

The Foundation also has an active theater program and commissions about twenty science plays each year from the Ensemble Studio Theater and Manhattan Theatre Club as well as supporting select productions across the country. Recent grants have supported Nick Payne’s Constellations, a Broadway hit staring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson, Deborah Zoe Laufer’s Informed Consent, co-produced with Primary Stages at the Duke, Lucas Hnath’s Isaac’s Eye, and Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51 recently ended a successful run in the West End with Nicole Kidman.
For more information about the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, please visit

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