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Preview Sundance Screenwriters Lab Selection "A Chjàna" + Watch Explosive Trailer For The Short Film Version Of It

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by Tambay A. Obenson
December 16, 2011 4:58 PM
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Announced earlier today... the Sundance Institute's selection of the next 12 feature projects that will begin the journey through the Sundance Labs program (not that all of them will go through the entire program), beginning with its annual January Screenwriters Lab - an immersive, 5-day writers’ workshop at the Sundance Resort in Utah, that takes places just before the 2012 installment of the Sundance Film Festival begins.

The Fellows will be advised by the likes of industry veterans like Scott Frank, Lisa Cholodenko, Geoffrey Fletcher, John Lee Hancock, Nicole Holofcener, Walter Mosley, and others.

A film you may be familiar with that begun its journey at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab is Pariah; and look where the film is now :) 

And there are others; granted, not all of them are guaranteed similar successes, but some of these will likely be projects we'll be talking about over the next 2 years.

Of note on the 2012 list of 12 films is a script called A Chjàna, penned by Jonas Carpignano (also a director).

Its synopsis reads:

After leaving his native Burkina Faso in search of a better life, Ayiva makes the perilous journey to Italy; though he finds compatriots along the way, they are unprepared for the intolerance facing immigrants in their newly-claimed home.

So, we can throw it into the box of, broadly-labeled *Africans in Europe* tales that have been at the center of several films we've covered this year (I wrote about one a couple of hours ago, 2 posts below). 

I should note that writer/director Jonas Carpignano is a self-identified bi-racial Italian American (I believe his father is Italian and mother African American), based in New York City and Rome (which helps explain the Italy connection in his synopsis). Also worth noting is that A Chjàna currently exists as a short film, and has won some awards on the film festival circuit, including the Controcampo Award for Best Short Film at the 68th Venice Film Festival

I hoped that maybe the short films was on the web, but it's not; what I did find is a trailer for it, which I embedded below for you all to check out. It looks solidly-made, and I hope I get the opportunity to see it soon.

I also found this statement from director Jonas, which explains his motivations and the journey he took in making the short film, which is now becoming a feature. I recommend you read it:

Global migrations have changed the face of present-day Italy. Crossing the Mediterranean Sea in makeshift boats, under the most dangerous conditions, thousands of Northern and Central Africans leave behind their homes and families every year and arrive in an inhospitable Italy. In the past few years, roughly 1,500 North African immigrants have found their way to Rosarno, a small town in the southern Italian region of Calabria. Here, the citrus industry is always in search of cheap labor to employ for low wages, long hours and poor working conditions. The local mafia, a branch of the ‘ndrangheta’, controls the labor market, and enforces brutal standards of 12 straight hours of work for a maximum of $30 per day. A grave consequence of these migrations and the social change that they engendered is that for the first time Italy has a “race problem” on a significant scale. As a biracial Italian-American I have always been very sensitive to the problem of race in Italy and in the US and to the difference between the two countries. Over time, I noticed that most of the black people that I encountered in Italy were either street vendors or migrant workers. There were no signs of the black middle class life that I was used to, growing up in the Bronx. The black experience in Italy is quite unique to the particular social and historical circumstances that brought blacks to Italy in the last two decades. When I came across the headline “The Revolt of Rosarno” on January 8th 2010, I knew that I had to make a film about the contemporary immigrant experience in Italy. I decided to spend the summer of 2010 between Rosarno and Foggia. I lived in cardboard villages and abandoned houses, meeting the participants in the riot, hearing their stories and collecting information about their lives. The people I met in the month and a half I spent traveling to different ghettos and camps helped me formulate the story for the film, and the situations I encountered provided me with the details for the production. As a result, I gained unprecedented access to stories and places that have never before been told or seen on film. As a student of cinema, I have always loved Italian Neorealism, and I wanted to make this film in that tradition. Instead of professional actors, the cast is made up entirely of the people that I met while living in the area, and the film is shot in the locations where these events took place. The resulting short film, A Chjàna, brings to light for the first time in a narrative form a social and political phenomenon that is novel to Italy and yet dramatically reflects the changes brought about by economic globalization and massive migrations around the world. The film’s protagonists experience these global transformations and their consequences in their everyday life: a life of racism, exploitation and oppression but also of rebellion, solidarity and friendship.

I'm certainly intrigued and, again, hope to see the short eventually; I'll also see if I can reach out to Jonas for a little more about himself, and what we can expect in the feature.

Congrats to him! This is the beginning of a new journey.

I'll be back to highlight any other projects that made the 2012 Sundance Screenwriters Labs short list of 12.

In the meantime, check out the trailer for the short version of A Chjàna below:

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