Sundance Institute Announces Year Three Of Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue

“Through the act of watching a film about Cuba, in Chinese or in English, we are one audience. We are finding a space for one dialogue. I left China with a renewed belief in art as a way to find common ground for constructive discussion.”
Benjamin Murray, Co-Director for Unfinished Spaces (FILM FORWARD China 2012)

Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities announced today the program details for the third year of FILM FORWARD: Advancing Cultural Dialogue, an international touring program that offers film screenings, workshops and discussions with filmmakers. In eight locations across the U.S. and internationally, and in collaboration with local organizations, a program of eight independent films will be accompanied by workshops, filmmaker appearances and discussions.

FILM FORWARD uses the power of cinema to inspire curiosity, foster dialogue, promote broader cultural understanding and enhance awareness of shared stories and values across generations, language, education and borders. The program is an initiative of Sundance Institute and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, in concert with U.S. Embassies and domestic presenting institutions.

The films selected for the third year of FILM FORWARD are: Beasts of the Southern Wild, by Benh Zeitlin; BONES BRIGADE: An Autobiography, by Stacy Peralta; Chasing Ice, by Jeff Orlowski; La Misma Luna (Under The Same Moon),by Patricia Riggen; The Light in her Eyes, by Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix; The Loving Story, by Nancy Buirski; Town of Runners, by Jerry Rothwell; and Valley of Saints,by Musa Syeed. Common themes explored in the films include issues surrounding family, friendship and community, as well as the intersection of tradition and modern culture. Film synopses and links to trailers are listed below.

Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said, “FILM FORWARD highlights film as a powerful medium for storytelling that brings people of different cultures, viewpoints, and backgrounds together in a shared dialogue. The first two years of FILM FORWARD connected films and filmmakers with audiences they might have never reached resulting in some remarkable and rich events; we look forward to building on these shared experiences in the third year of the program.”

Rachel Goslins, Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, said, “This program just gets better and better every year. The President’s Committee and the program’s federal partners, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, are thrilled to once again bring the FILM FORWARD initiative to communities, both in the U.S. and around the world, who might not be otherwise exposed to these kinds of compelling stories and universal themes.”

FILM FORWARD will travel to eight locations this year: Imperial Valley, California and Mexicali, Mexico; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Maine; Washington State; Bosnia and Herzegovina; China and Taiwan; Colombia; Jordan. This is the third year FILM FORWARD will host events in China and Puerto Rico and the second year returning to Imperial Valley, California; Mexicali, Mexico and Bogota, Colombia. FILM FORWARD’s primary audience is communities without ready access to independent films, students, and the local filmmaking community in each region.

Dates, venues, partners and program schedules for the third year of the initiative will be announced at at a later date.

FILM FORWARD Year Three Films:

Beasts of the Southern Wild image

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Director: Benh Zeitlin) — In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural order is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. Desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions.

Bones Brigade image

Bones Brigade: An Autobiography (Director: Stacy Peralta) — A gang of disenfranchised kids reject mainstream culture, channel their controlled desperation into a loser activity and redefine winning in the process. Mentored by a former world champion skateboarder, the “Bones Brigade” became history’s most influential skateboarding team. Their countercultural impact continues to affect change with best selling video games and books and millions of kids who embrace skateboarding around the world.

Chasing Ice image

Chasing Ice (Director: Jeff Orlowski) — Acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog was once a skeptic about climate change. But through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Chasing Ice reveals Balog’s hauntingly beautiful, multi-year time-lapse videos of vanishing glaciers across the Arctic, all while delivering fragile hope to our carbon-powered planet.

La Misma Luna image

La Misma Luna (Under The Same Moon) (Director: Patricia Riggen) — Even across thousands of miles, the special bond between a mother and son can never be broken. It gives hope to Carlitos, a scrappy nine-year-old boy whose mother, Rosario, has gone to America to build a better life for both of them. While Rosario struggles for a brighter future, fate forces Carlitos’ hand and he embarks on an extraordinary journey to find her.

The Light in Her Eyes image

The Light in Her Eyes (Directors: Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix) — Houda al-Habash, a conservative woman preacher in Damascus, Syria, calls girls to the practice of Islam, teaching them that pursuing their ambitions is a way of worshipping God. Shot right before the uprising in Syria erupted, The Light in Her Eyes offers an extraordinary portrait of a leader who challenges the women of her community to live according to Islam, without giving up their dreams.

The Loving Story image

The Loving Story (Director: Nancy Buirski) — A racially-charged criminal trial and a heart-rending love story converge in this documentary about Mildred and Richard Loving, a part-black, part-Indian woman married to a white man in Jim Crow-era Virginia. Thrown into rat-infested jails and exiled from their hometown for 25 years, the Lovings fought back and changed history.

Town of Runners image

Town of Runners (Director: Jerry Rothwell) — Town of Runners is a feature documentary about young people from the Ethiopian rural town of Bekoji, whose runners have won 10 Olympic Gold medals in the last 20 years. The film tells the story of three teenagers who want to follow in their heroes’ footsteps, as they move from school track to national competition and from childhood to adulthood, trying to run their way to a different life.

Valley of Saints image

Valley of Saints (Director and screenwriter: Musa Syeed) — Using Kashmir’s picturesque Dal Lake as its backdrop and underpinned by the political unrest in the region, this moving drama explores the relationship between two best friends and the female researcher studying environmental degradation who threatens to distract them from their dreams of escape.

Federal Partners
The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) bridges the interests of American federal agencies and the private sector, supports special projects that increase participation and excellence in the arts and humanities, and helps incorporate these disciplines into White House objectives. First Lady Michelle Obama is the Honorary Chairman of the PCAH.

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an independent federal agency, provides support for documentary films, digital media and other educational programs in the humanities through competitive grant programs. The NEH is the nation’s leading supporter of research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is an independent federal grant making agency dedicated to creating strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The IMLS works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development.

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, Son of Babylon, Amreeka, An Inconvenient Truth, Spring Awakening, Light in the Piazza and Angels in America. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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Media Contacts:

Sarah Eaton
Sundance Institute

Elizabeth Latenser
Sundance Institute

Film stills and director headshots available upon request. Email

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