Sundance Institute Launches the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art's Doris Duke New Frontier Fellowships

Since 2011, the New Frontier Story Lab has been supporting independent artists and creative technologists pushing the boundaries of story, while building a community of collaborators across diverse disciplines to innovate new mediums. Three projects emerging from this process are deeply aligned with the mission of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art's Building Bridges Program, which supports grantees using the arts or media as a medium for increasing awareness and thereby understanding of the richness and diversity of Muslim cultures and the societies from which they emanate. 

With the generous support of the Foundation, Sundance Institute launched the Doris Duke New Frontier Fellowships, which will support these three projects for a span of two years and allow fellows to develop and refine audience engagement for their exploratory and interdisciplinary projects. Each project will receive $25,000 for production, outreach, and engagement activities. They will also receive the Sundance Institute suite of continuing alumni support, including creative advisement, connections to resources and collaborators/partners, and support in distribution.

The 2015 Doris Duke New Frontier Fellows are:

1979 Revolution

1979 Revolution (Navid Khonsari, Iranian-Canadian writer/director/producer whose work includes video games, films, and graphic novels) is a game for digital platforms that integrates documentary content, narrative, gameplay, and interactive moral decision-making. The game engages the player with an immersive experience of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and is crafted to deconstruct stereotypes and demystify the Iranian “other.” Through the generosity of the Fellowship, Khonsari plans to deepen audience outreach. In addition, Khonsari is exploring touring with the game to universities and community centers, with the objective of provoking discussions that close the critical gap in representations of Iranians; creating a presentation for gaming conferences on enhancing understanding of Islam through the discourse represented in 1979 REVOLUTION; and engaging a social impact producer to help strategize measurable ways to impact the representation of Islam. Sundance Institute presented the game prototype to a youth audience in New York City in the Spring of 2015. Khonsari has already spoken as a panelist on these topics, as a  first version of 1979 REVOLUTION  was featured as an installation at New Frontier at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2015 and at the Gaming Expo at SxSW in March 2015.

The Enemy

The Enemy (Karim Ben Khelifa, Tunisian photojournalist/transmedia artist) uses virtual reality experiences to humanize opposing sides of eight of the most contested conflicts in world history. The immersive and transformative component will take audiences beyond the act of looking into a dialogue and push them to consider perspectives other than their own. Virtual reality, which has thus far been used in gaming mainly for its transformative power, has potential to prompt identity shifts and catalyze new understanding in audiences. Ben Khelifa and his team are working with cognitive neuroscience specialists at MIT to design the most effective way in which to use the virtual reality approach to facilitate and trigger empathy creation. He hopes to conduct an exhibition tour to approximately five locations and create a feature documentary based on the project.


Sakoon (Hasan Minhaj, Indian-American comedian/writer/storyteller, who is most familiar to American audiences as a correspondent on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart) is a solo performance based on Minhaj’s experiences as a first-generation Muslim immigrant growing up in a small California town. The performance will tour to approximately five cities and be broadcast on television. Minhaj plans to develop a cohesive multiplatform/transmedia design for stage, film, and the web, with participatory, immersive, and interactive components.

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