We are thrilled to announce our sixth annual class of Women at Sundance Fellows, a diverse group of women poised to take big leaps in their burgeoning careers during the coming fellowship year.
Women at Sundance offers a robust year-long fellowship that includes mentorship; professional coaching made possible by The Harnisch Foundation in partnership with Renee Freedman & Co; travel grants to the Sundance Film Festival to participate in curated activities; entree into branded and episodic content; and bespoke year-round support. Women at Sundance Fellows are a cohort of six emerging and mid-career narrative and documentary directors and producers, selected from a pool of recent Sundance Institute alumnae. Past fellows include Marielle Heller, Jennifer Phang, Janicza Bravo, Lyric Cabral, Elyse Steinberg, Cristina Ibarra, and many others. Meet our new class below!
Ramona Diaz is an award-winning Asian-American filmmaker best known for her compelling character-driven documentaries that combine a profound appreciation for cinematic aesthetics and potent storytelling. Her films have demonstrated her ability to gain intimate access to the people she films—be they rock stars, first ladies, dissidents, teachers or mothers—resulting in keenly observed moments and nuanced narratives. While she has focused exclusively on stories of Filipinos and Filipino Americans, the themes of Ramona’s stories are universal. Her films have screened and won awards at Sundance, the Berlinale, Tribeca, Silverdocs, IDFA, and many other top-tier film festivals. She has received funding from ITVS, CAAM, Sundance Documentary Fund, MacArthur Foundation, Tribeca Institute, Catapult Film Fund, and Chicken & Egg, among others. All four of Ramona’s feature length films—Imelda, The Learning, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, and Motherland—have broadcast on either POV or Independent Lens on PBS. She has also served on numerous film festival juries and funding panels. For the past four years, Ramona has been a film envoy for the American Film Showcase, a joint program of the U.S. Department of State and the USC School of Cinematic Arts that brings American films to audiences worldwide. She has conducted master classes and production and post-production workshops all over the world, including in Iraq, Laos, Morocco, Qatar, Zimbabwe, the Congo and throughout the United States. Recently, she was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and was inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Critical Acclaim for Motherland
“[Motherland] is truly a remarkable work of documentary storytelling, raw, intimate and subsequently quite profound. We cannot help but marvel at Diaz’s apparently unlimited access to her subjects...we learn much about the resilience and perseverance of the human animal in these ordinary extraordinary circumstances. After all, what greater drama can there be than that of birth, life and death? Motherland has it all.”
—Christopher Llewellyn Reed, Hammer to Nail, 2017
“Setting out to explore reproductive justice in her native Philippines, documentarian Ramona S. Diaz discovered the vibrant chaos within a drab medical complex. The result is far richer than an issue doc. Motherland is an extraordinary vérité portrait of Manila’s Fabella Hospital, where an average of 60 babies are born daily, making it the busiest maternity ward in the predominantly Catholic country, and reportedly in the world. The assured film, immersive and astutely observed, recalls the work of master chronicler Frederick Wiseman...”
—Sheri Linden, Los Angeles Times, 2017
Sabrina Schmidt Gordon
Sabrina Schmidt Gordon is an award-winning documentary filmmaker from New York City. Her editing debut won an Emmy for WGBH’s Greater Boston Arts series, and she has continued to distinguish herself as a producer, editor, and director. Her latest film, Quest, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017. It has won Grand Jury prizes at several festivals, including the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, where it also won the Human Rights award. Her feature debut as a producer and editor, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, also premiered at Sundance, in 2006, and was named in the Chicago Tribune’s “Best Documentaries of 2007.” In 2015, Sabrina co-produced/directed, and edited BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez. It received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Culture and Arts documentary, and won the Best Film Directed by a Woman of Color award at the African Diaspora International Film Festival. Sabrina is also the co-producer and editor of DOCUMENTED, the story of Pulitzer Prize-winning undocumented journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas. The film had record viewership on CNN, with over a billion impressions on Twitter, generated Oscar buzz, and was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Best Documentary Film. Her television credits include The New Mad Men, which won the Imagen Award for Best National Informational Program for Maria Hinojosa’s acclaimed PBS series, America by the Numbers. Sabrina also creates content for organizations and video journalism platforms. Among these are The Ford Foundation, Frontline, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Witness, American Masters, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Agricultural Missions, the National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights, and more. Her commitment to social justice extends to consulting on and producing engagement and impact campaigns for media projects. Sabrina is on the faculty at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She is co-chair of the Black Documentary Collective and serves on many media panels and juries. She is an honors graduate from New York University.
Critical Acclaim for Quest
“[Quest] recalls Steve James’ Hoop Dreams in both the way it captures people over a long period of a time and in how it finds the profound in the everyday, the universal in the specific.”
—Brian Tallerico, Rogerebert.com, 2017
“Inhabiting the loving, creative, occasionally conflicted household of Christopher and Christine’a Rainey with close-quarters warmth that never crosses the line from intimate to invasive, Olshefski’s film doesn’t set out with a thesis to prove. Rather, it finds its resonance as it goes along, stumbling into crisis as spontaneously as its human subjects do, and finally emerging as an essential reflection of social transitions — for better and worse — in Barack Obama’s America.”
—Guy Lodge, Variety, 2017
Eliza Hittman is an award-winning filmmaker, born and based in Brooklyn, New York. Her debut feature film It Felt Like Love premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in NEXT and the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Tiger Competition in 2013. It was a New York Times, The Village Voice, and Los Angeles Times Critics' Pick. She was named one of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces of Indie Film. She was nominated for a Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Gotham Award and two Independent Spirit Awards for It Felt Like Love, Best Cinematography and the John Cassavetes Award. Her second feature, Beach Rats was selected for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab and premiered in U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, where she was given the Directing Award. The film was the Centerpiece film at New Director's New Films and premiered internationally at Locarno. She is an Assistant Professor of Film/Video at Pratt Institute.
Critical Acclaim for Beach Rats
“Hittman films the crowded, work-worn neighborhoods of South Brooklyn with as much of an eye for sedimented attitudes as for urban textures. The rugged flow and quiet struggles of daily life—whether among the children of recent immigrants or those who grew up there and never left—also come with unchallenged traditional ideas about sex and gender, and they seem as deeply woven into the film’s visual texture as into its dramatic framework.”
—Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 2017
“The film is so skilled at telling its story through visual detail and atmosphere that you can sense the gears shifting in the second half, when Frankie tries to open up to his friends — a tentative attempt to reconcile the two sides of his double life that spirals recklessly out of control. It’s a shocking yet curiously inevitable turn of events, and Hittman neither soft-pedals nor exaggerates the consequences. To the end she simply keeps on looking, with a gaze as compassionate as it is unsparing, at a young man who turns out to be far more than meets the eye.”
—Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 2017
Angela C. Lee
Angela C. Lee is a Spirit Award nominated producer dedicated to creating bold and captivating stories that promote empathy and exploration. Her first feature film Songs My Brothers Taught Me, premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival and Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes. The film was distributed by Kino Lorber and nominated for multiple Spirit Awards including Best First Feature and Best Cinematography. Angela is currently in post-production on the fiction short The Row, commissioned by Indigenous Media through their Project Her Incubator and in development on fiction feature projects The Space Between, about a woman obsessed with becoming a professional bodybuilder, and Sparkle Panthers, a comedy set in the arena of eSports and multi-player online gaming. She is a 2015 Sundance Institute Creative Producing Lab Fellow and has also been supported by the Berlinale Talents and Co-Production Market, Film Independent, IFP, PGA Diversity Workshop and the Center for Asian American Media. Angela is also the Senior Manager of Artist Development at Film Independent where she oversees the filmmaker labs program including Screenwriting, Directing, Producing, Episodic, Documentary Labs and the Fast Track Finance Market. Previously, Angela served as Director of Creative Affairs at Vox3 Films in New York. Prior to her career in entertainment, she was an Associate at Goldman Sachs. Angela currently serves as Co-President of DragonSprouts, a 501(c)3 organization that supports Mandarin Immersion language programs in the LA Unified School District. A native Chicagoan now based in Los Angeles, Angela graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in Economics.
Critical Acclaim for Songs My Brother Taught Me
“As an ethnographic work, [Songs My Brother Taught Me] is extraordinary, facing stereotypes about life on the reservation head-on, exploring the crippling effects of alcoholism and a non-existent economy with a delicate hand.”
—Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian, 2016
"It is an earnest, smartly mounted film about life on a present-day reservation."
-Godfrey Cheshire, Rogerebert.com, 2016
Lana Wilson is an Emmy Award-winning director, writer, and producer based in New York. Her new film, The Departure, premiered in competition at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival to critical acclaim. The Departure was called “A genuinely spiritual experience” by The Washington Post, “Stunning” by Filmmaker Magazine, and “Tender and quietly moving…like a haiku” by The New York Times. The film had a held-over New York theatrical run at Metrograph, and is now playing in additional select US cities. Wilson’s first film, After Tiller, premiered at Sundance in 2013 and went on to win an Emmy Award for Best Documentary. It was also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, four Cinema Eye Honors, and the Ridenhour Prize. After Tiller was theatrically released in 50 US cities by Oscilloscope and nationally broadcast on POV. It was named one of the five best documentaries of the year by the National Board of Review and featured in “Best of 2013” lists in the LA Times, the Village Voice, Indiewire, Artforum, and more. Wilson has also worked in television, including writing and producing the premiere episode of the documentary miniseries I Am Rebel for National Geographic Studios. Previously, Wilson was the Film and Dance Curator for Performa. Wilson is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt and has also taught at UnionDocs and DCTV. Her work has been supported by the Sundance Documentary Fund, ITVS, Candescent Films, Artemis Rising Foundation, Chicken & Egg Pictures, the Tribeca Film Institute, the IDA, NYSCA, and the MacDowell Colony. She holds a B.A. in Film Studies and Dance from Wesleyan University.
Critical Acclaim for The Departure
"It’s not often one can have a genuinely spiritual experience watching a movie. But that’s precisely what’s on offer with The Departure, Lana Wilson’s quietly galvanizing portrait of life, death and the thin places in between in modern-day Japan."
-Anne Hornaday, The Washington Post, 2017
"Wilson's film, a quiet wonder, emphasizes the courage it takes to choose the hard work of living."
—Alan Scherstuhl, The Village Voice, 2017
Lauren Wolkstein is a New York City-based filmmaker originally from Baltimore, Maryland. Her award-winning short films include Social Butterfly (2013 Sundance Film Festival), Cigarette Candy (2010 SXSW Grand Jury Prize) and The Strange Ones co-directed with Christopher Radcliff (2011 Sundance Film Festival). Lauren and Christopher adapted The Strange Ones into their first feature film of the same name, starring James Freedson-Jackson and Alex Pettyfer, which world premiered to critical acclaim at the SXSW Film Festival in 2017, receiving the Jury Award for Best Breakthrough Performance. It had its international premiere at the Champs-Élysées Film Festival where it took home the Grand Jury Prize for Best American Independent Feature Film. Vertical Entertainment and DirecTV picked it up for distribution and it will be released theatrically in January 2018. Lauren also recently completed collective:unconscious, a collaborative feature spearheaded by Dan Schoenbrun, which was the first omnibus to premiere in the Narrative Feature Competition at SXSW in 2016. Filmmaker Magazine listed her as one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film" in 2013. Lauren received her MFA in film directing from Columbia University and is an assistant professor of Film and Media Arts at Temple University. Wolkstein is currently developing a project about a female player in the male-dominated world of high stakes poker.
Critical Acclaim for The Strange Ones
“Here is a film with ever-expanding mental boundaries, one which concludes as it opens: inconsequentially, unpredictably, and provocatively. By firing on all cylinders, The Strange Ones becomes the quite rare short-to-feature film adaptation that completely warrants six years of anticipation.”
—Sean L Malin, Austin Chronicle, 2017
“The Strange Ones is a mysterious puzzle box of a film, anchored by a quietly mesmerizing performance by James Freedson-Jackson as a young boy on the road with an older companion...it’s an artful, boundary-pushing debut from Radcliff and Wolkstein.”
—Katie Walsh, The Los Angeles Times, 2017