Keith Davis, Katori Hall Selected For 2011 Sundance June Directors & Screenwriters Labs

by Tambay A. Obenson
May 3, 2011 4:23 AM
2 Comments
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News on the march...!

Of note, Keith Davis who is included in the Shadow And Act 2011/2012 Black Filmmakers To Watch list (HERE) made the cut, in the Directors Labs section, with his feature length project, The American People; its synopsis reads: "In the heart of Alabama wiregrass country, a mother haunted by prescient visions of the future struggles to find hope and the strength to live again after the sudden death of one of her children just days before 9/11."

And secondly, a name that I didn't at all expect to find on this list, playwright Katori Hall, who you should recognize as the writer/creator of the acclaimed stage play The Mountaintop, first staged in London's West End, and now heading to Broadway with Samuel L. Jackson attached to star (Halle Berry was also once connected to the project, but recently dropped out due to her ongoing custody battle; yet she has time to shoot Skank Robbers with Jamie Foxx and Martin Lawrence).

But anyway... Katori Hall will join the Screenwriters Lab participants, with her script titled Hurt Village, which is based on an Hall's own award-winning play of the same name, and "follows a soldier's homecoming from Iraq to a crumbling housing project in Memphis, Tennessee, that is being demolished by the city. When a haunting secret threatens to tear his life apart, the war abroad may be better than the war in the streets and the war inside his head."

So, Ms Hall is making the inevitable leap from playwrighting to screenwriting.

Both projects (Keith's and Katori's) are definitely now on my "watch" list, as the next logical step for each,. after the Sundance Labs, will be production, as has been the case for a myriad of other Sundance Labs projects over the years.

The press release, listing all the projects and participants for the 2011 Labs, follows below:

Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute today announced the 14 projects selected for its annual June Directors and Screenwriters Labs, taking place at the Sundance Resort in Utah May 30 – June 30, 2011. Under the leadership of Michelle Satter, Director of the Sundance Feature Film Program, and the artistic direction of Gyula Gazdag, the projects selected for this year's program include emerging filmmakers and projects from the United States, Israel, Romania, Mexico, the Philippines and Algeria. Sundance Institute is marking the 30th anniversary of its first Directors Lab, led by Robert Redford and Satter in 1981.

Over the course of the Directors Lab, Fellows work with an accomplished group of Creative Advisors, professional actors, and production crews, shooting and editing key scenes from their screenplays. Through this intense, hands-on process, the Fellows workshop text, collaborate with actors, and find a visual storytelling language for their films in an atmosphere where experimentation and risk-taking is encouraged. Fellows also join in the week-long Screenwriters Lab with six additional projects to participate in individualized story sessions under the guidance of established screenwriters.

The projects and participants selection for the 30th Anniversary of the Sundance Institute June Directors Lab from May 30 – June 23 are:

Adelaide/Liliana Greenfield-Sanders (writer/director), U.S.A.
Adelyne/Holden Abigail Osborne (writer/director), U.S.A.
The American People/Keith Davis (writer/director), U.S.A. Honda Power of Dreams Fellow
La Raya/Yolanda Cruz (writer/director), Mexico/U.S.A.
Little Accidents/Sara Colangelo (writer/director), U.S.A.
The Storm King/Carlo Mirabella-Davis (writer/director), U.S.A.
Wolf/Bodgan Mustata (writer/director), Romania
Zero Motivation/Talya Lavie (writer/director), Israel

They will be joined at the June Screenwriters Lab from June 25 – 30 by the following projects and participants:

Ajax/Carson Mell (writer/director), U.S.A.
Hurt Village/Katori Hall (writer), U.S.A.
Red Olive Tree/Karim Bensalah (writer/director), Algeria/France
Satra/Sheron Dayoc (writer/director), Philippines
What He Did/Kyle Burns (writer/director), U.S.A.
Ad Inexplorata/Mark Elijah Rosenberg (writer/director), U.S.A.

"On the 30th anniversary of the June Lab, it is thrilling and humbling to commemorate the body of work that's come from the visionary group of independent filmmakers who have been supported by the Feature Film Program. Over the years, these filmmakers have inspired us with their storytelling talent, and helped us to refine a creative process that is rigorous, adventurous, and transformative," said Michelle Satter, Founding Director of the Feature Film Program. "Our latest group of artists are telling stories about our current world with boldness, humor and grace; whether their characters are impacted by socio-political conflicts in the world at large, or the smaller, equally treacherous wars fought within ruptured families, they are engaging audiences on the highest level."

Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam added, “All of the Institute’s work to date was born out of the original idea of bringing artists to the mountains, away from commercial pressures, to be nurtured by nature and encouraged by creative leaders in the film world. It is our distinct pleasure to welcome this latest class of fellows who join our amazing, supportive group of alumni around the world.”

Gyula Gazdag returns as Artistic Director of the Directors Lab. This year's Creative Advisors for the Directors and Screenwriters Labs include Robert Redford, Michael Almereyda, John August, Scott Burns, Scott Cooper, Sebastian Cordero, Joan Darling, Suzy Elmiger, Robert Elswit, Sally Field, John Gatins, Michael Goldenberg, William Goldenberg, Deena Goldstone, Keith Gordon, Randa Haines, Catherine Hardwicke, Azazel Jacobs, Jeremy Kagan, Kasi Lemmons, Denis Lenoir, Peter Medak, Walter Mosley, Jessie Nelson, Tim Blake Nelson, Billy Ray, Howard Rodman, Susan Shilliday, Brad Silberling, Dana Stevens, Joan Tewkesbury, Barbara Tulliver, Audrey Wells, Bill Wheeler, and Doug Wright.

The participants and projects selected for the 2011 June Directors Lab are:

Adelaide/Liliana Greenfield-Sanders (writer/director), U.S.A.: In this dark comedy, an eccentric teenage girl with Munchausen syndrome pushes her medical theatrics to extremes in order to win the heart of a handsome paramedic.

Born and raised in the East Village of New York City, Liliana Greenfield-Sanders' first film Ghosts of Grey Gardens premiered at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival, screened at the Museum of Modern Art and made its television debut on PBS. Her short films have since won the Lifetime Student Filmmaker Prize, Best Short & Audience Awards at 10 major festivals including Woodstock, Austin and Gen Art, and screened at over 50 more. Greenfield-Sanders is a Masters Candidate at NYU's Tisch Graduate Film program and is the Director of the Wassaic Project’s film program. Adelaide will mark her feature directorial debut.

Adelyne/Holden Abigail Osborne (writer/director), U.S.A.: A woman finds her path living a solitary, monastic life in a forgotten corner of rural America, but a warrior of the woods and a family illness force her to reconcile spiritual living with primal purpose.

Holden Abigail Osborne’s doc-narrative hybrid Solitary/Release, featuring James Franco and Holmes Osborne, premiered at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. A seventh-generation rural Missourian, former editor, producer for W+K China, and founder of the non profit LiveFree Films, Osborne studied narrative film with NYU’s graduate film community. She is currently in production on a series of DIY shorts (including Up, Up, and Away, which screened at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival) and may be seen in the title role of the forthcoming short Betty.

The American People/Keith Davis (writer/director), U.S.A.: In the heart of Alabama wiregrass country, a mother haunted by prescient visions of the future struggles to find hope and the strength to live again after the sudden death of one of her children just days before 9/11.

Keith Davis is an actor and filmmaker from Ozark, Alabama. His award-winning short films have screened at several festivals including Chicago International and Palm Springs International ShortFest. As an actor he has appeared on Broadway in Julius Caesar and Festen, as well as in feature films and television. Also an accomplished editor, Davis has edited short documentary and narrative projects for Spike Lee. He holds MFA degrees from the Yale School of Drama and NYU’s Graduate Film Division, having studied acting and directing, respectively. Davis is the recipient of the inaugural Honda Power of Dreams Fellowship, which was formed by Sundance Institute and Honda in celebration and support of diversity in independent filmmaking.

La Raya/Yolanda Cruz (writer/director), Mexico/U.S.A.: Destined to follow in the footsteps of the other men in his village, enterprising 11-year-old Papio has his heart set on emigrating north to the U.S.; after an abandoned refrigerator fortuitously appears, he tries to exploit its value to finance his journey, only to find that it may not ultimately be his destiny to leave.

Yolanda Cruz is a filmmaker from Oaxaca, Mexico. She has produced seven documentaries on Native people in the U.S. and Mexico. Her work has screened at film festivals and museums around the world including the Sundance Film Festival, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Park la Villette in Paris, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, among others. Her work received the Audience and Best Feature Documentary Award from the National Geographic All Roads Film Project in 2005 and the Expresión en Corto International Film Festival in 2009. Cruz is a Sundance Institute Native Lab Fellow.

Little Accidents/Sara Colangelo (writer/director), U.S.A.: A small American coal-mining town, rocked by the devastating effects of a mining accident a year ago, must now deal with the mysterious disappearance of a 14-year-old boy.

Sara Colangelo is a Student Academy Award-nominated director and recent graduate of NYU's Graduate Film Division. Her first film, the short documentary Halal Vivero, was a National Finalist at the 2006 Student Academy Awards; her second short film, Un Attimo di Respiro, has screened at over 15 film festivals, including Tribeca and SXSW, and received a Wasserman Prize for Best Direction at NYU. Colangelo’s most recent short film, Little Accidents, premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It has garnered numerous awards, including Grand Jury prizes at the Seattle International Film Festival, Arizona Film Festival, and San Francisco ShortsFest. She resides in New York City.

The Storm King/Carlo Mirabella-Davis (writer/director), U.S.A.: A rural family is plunged into chaos and violence by the return of their unstable daughter 15 years after her mysterious disappearance.

Carlo Mirabella-Davis was raised in the mountains of East Meredith, in upstate New York. He co-founded Elkcreek Cinema, a collective dedicated to films involving the upstate area. He recently completed his Masters Degree at Tisch NYU Graduate Film School. Mirabella-Davis wrote and directed the short film Knife Point, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, aired on ARTE-TV, and for which he won Best New Director at the Brooklyn International Film Festival. He also co-directed and produced the feature documentary The Swell Season, premiered at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

Wolf/Bogdan Mustata (writer/director), Romania: In this surreal tale, a young boy's dearest wish is realized when his absent father is quite literally reborn and joins the family once again.

A graduate of the Romanian National Film School, Bogdan Mustata directed the short film A Good Day For a Swim, which won the Golden Bear for the best short film at the 2008 Berlinale. The film screened at dozens of festivals and won multiple awards at the 2008 Palm Springs International Short Film Festival. Mustata has lived in Vietnam and Dubai, where he wrote and directed for television. Wolf will mark his feature directorial debut.

Zero Motivation/Talya Lavie (writer/director), Israel: A tragicomic look at the power struggles of three female clerks over one year in an administrative office at a remote army base in the Israeli desert.

Talya Lavie writes and directs for various television dramas in Israel. After studying animation at the Bezalel Art Academy, she graduated from the Sam Spiegel Film School in Jerusalem. Her short film, Sliding Flora, screened at MoMA, as well as at over 40 film festivals worldwide, among them the Berlinale. Lavie’s thesis film, The Substitute, received numerous international awards, including the Audience Award in the Berlinale, and first prize at the Munich International Short Film Festival and the Melbourne International Film Festival.

The participants and projects joining the directors at the 2011 June Screenwriters Lab are:
Ajax/Carson Mell (writer/director), U.S.A.: A band of alcoholic men adrift in outer space become at odds with one another after taking aboard a young woman refugee and discovering the purpose of their mysterious mission.

An Arizona native, Carson Mell moved to Los Angeles in 2002 to write and make films. Since then, several of his short films, including Chonto and Field Notes from Dimension X, have screened at the Sundance Film Festival. His short fiction has been published in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern and Electric Literature, and his first novel, Saguaro, is available through his website carsonmell.com.

Hurt Village/Katori Hall (writer), U.S.A.: Based on the award-winning play, Hurt Village follows a soldier's homecoming from Iraq to a crumbling housing project in Memphis, Tennessee, that is being demolished by the city. When a haunting secret threatens to tear his life apart, the war abroad may be better than the war in the streets and the war inside his head.

Katori Hall is an award-winning playwright-performer hailing from Memphis, Tennessee. Her plays include The Mountaintop, which was produced to great acclaim in the UK and earned her an Olivier Award for Best New Play. The play will bow on Broadway fall 2011. Other plays include Hoodoo Love, Remembrance, Hurt Village, Saturday Night/Sunday Morning, WHADDABLOODCLOT!?!?, and Pussy Valley.

Red Olive Tree/Karim Bensalah (writer/director), Algeria/France: Plagued by divided loyalties following the French-Algerian war, the recently deceased Ahmed miraculously arises to lead his bickering French family to his homeland, where they grapple with the consequences of the choices he made in life and allow him to find peace in death.

Karim Bensalah was born in Algeria. After spending his childhood in Algeria, Brazil, Haiti and Senegal, he went to study social sciences and philosophy in France. Bensalah next attended the London Film School, where he directed the short films Constant Flow and Fatima’s Secret. In 2005, he directed a segment of the feature film Paris La Métisse along with 15 other young directors. He has also directed short films with the group Collectif Tribudom, and created his own installation work. Bensalah recently completed Chibanis, a documentary about Arab workers in France.

Satra/Sheron Dayoc (writer/director), Philippines: Swept up in the ethnic conflict of war-torn Mindanao, Satra, a tribal fabric weaver, hovers between the spiritual and real worlds, wrestling with the uncertain fate of her village and loved ones.

Sheron Dayoc hails from Zamboanga City, located in the southern region of the Philippines. His award-winning short films and documentaries tackle issues from Mindanao. Halaw, his first feature film, received a NETPAC Special Mention award at the Berlin International Film Festival as well as the award for Best Picture at the 2010 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival (known as the “Sundance of the Philippines.”)

What He Did/Kyle Burns (writer/director), U.S.A.: After her estranged son commits a shocking crime, a mother searches for a way forward when the state forces her to care for a child she never wanted.

Kyle Burns received an MFA in Film Production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. His most recent short film, Adam, was awarded the Silver Medal from the jury of USC's annual First Look film festival in 2010 and was screened at the Anthology Film Archives in New York on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. His films have screened at festivals worldwide and he's currently at work on his latest short film, a preamble to his feature screenplay What He Did.

Ad Inexplorata/Mark Elijah Rosenberg (writer/director), U.S.A.: Ad Inexplorata is a multi-media fictional story about Captain William D. Stanaforth, a NASA pilot alone on a one-way mission toward the unknown.

Mark Elijah Rosenberg is the Founder and Artistic Director of Rooftop Films, a New York-based non-profit organization whose mission is to engage diverse communities through the medium of film. As a curator and filmmaker, he has programmed for festivals around the world and produced and directed numerous short films.

Rosenberg recently co-produced and co-directed Orbit(Film), an omnibus movie about our solar system. He is also developing a screenplay about a man who suddenly realizes he has the power of telekinesis.

Sundance Institute gratefully acknowledges the following donors for their generous support of the 2011 Feature Film Program: 34th Street Films; American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; Creative Artists Agency; Director’s Guild of America; Indian Paintbrush Productions; Mumbai Mantra Media, Ltd.; NHK Enterprises 21, Inc.; SAGIndie/Screen Actors Guild; Sundial Pictures, LLC; Writer’s Guild of America, West; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; The Annenberg Foundation; Cinereach Ltd.; Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art; George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation; Hollywood Foreign Press Association; The James Irvine Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; Time Warner Inc.; the Zygmunt & Audrey Wilf Foundation; John August; Linda Taylor and Lawrence Bender; Stephen Denkers Willard Eccles Foundation; Eve Ensler; Sheila C. Johnson; Christopher McQuarrie; and Rosalie Swedlin and Robert Cort.

Since 1981, the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program (FFP) has supported more than 450 independent filmmakers whose distinctive, singular work has engaged audiences worldwide. The program’s approach to the discovery and development of independent artists has become a model for creative development programs internationally. Program staff fully embrace the unique vision of each filmmaker, encouraging a rigorous creative process with a focus on original and deeply personal storytelling. Each year, up to 25 emerging filmmakers from the U.S. and around the world participate in a year-round continuum of support which can include the Screenwriters and Directors Labs, Creative Producing Fellowship and Lab, Composers Lab, Creative Producing Summit, ongoing creative and strategic advice, significant production and postproduction resources, a Rough-Cut Screening Initiative, a Screenplay Reading Series, and direct financial support through project-specific grants and artist fellowships. In many cases, the Institute has helped the Program’s fellows attach producers and talent, secure financing, and assemble other significant resources to move their projects toward production and presentation. In addition, the FFP is providing strategic resources to completed Lab films in distribution and marketing across all platforms to support and expand their connection to audiences worldwide.

Over its 30 year history, the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program has supported an extensive list of award-winning and groundbreaking independent films. Four FFP films—Liza Johnson’s Return, Alejandro Landes’ Porfirio, Hagar Ben-Asher’s The Slut, and Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene—will premiere at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.her notable films supported over the program’s history include Dee Rees’ Pariah, Maryam Keshavarz’s Circumstance, Eric Mendelsohn's 3 Backyards, Shirin Neshat's Women Without Men, Cherien Dabis' Amreeka, Cary Fukunaga's Sin Nombre, Alex Rivera's Sleep Dealer, Fernando Eimbcke's Lake Tahoe, Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s Half Nelson, Andrea Arnold's Red Road, Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know, Hany Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now, Debra Granik’s Down to the Bone, Ira Sachs’ Forty Shades of Blue, Josh Marston’s Maria Full of Grace, Lisa Cholodenko’s Laurel Canyon, Peter Sollett’s Raising Victor Vargas, John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, Kimberly Peirce’s Boys Don't Cry, Tony Bui’s Three Seasons, Walter Salles’ Central Station, Chris Eyre and Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals, Allison Anders' Mi Vida Loca, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Hard Eight, Tamara Jenkins’ Slums of Beverly Hills, and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.

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2 Comments

  • トヴィタ | May 3, 2011 11:44 AMReply

    Omoshiroi. I just mailed in my application for the 2012 screenwriters lab.

    And I couldn't help but notice that 34th street films contributed this year. Who says Madea movies are for naught? Tip of the hat to you, Mr. Perry.

  • Keith Davis | May 3, 2011 6:29 AMReply

    Thanks for posting this Tambay.

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