One of the smarter initiatives that began two years back with the ’16 edition, a lot of familiar faces/voices we’ve been actively cheerleading on our end are part of the ten Sundance Institute FilmTwo Fellows. Among the names we find Josh Mond (who broke out big with James White in 2016), 2018 SXSW winners Nijla Mu’min and Olivia Newman (read our piping hot First Match review) along with Ana Asensio (Grand Jury prize for Most Beautiful Island in 2017), and Celia Rowlson-Hall whose MA is still a topical film discussion point in my spheres. Here are the ten who’ll be traveling to the labs next week:
Ana Asensio is an international actress, writer and director from Spain, currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Her first feature film as writer/director, Most Beautiful Island won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival and was nominated for the 2018 John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards. Asensio’s film credits as actress include: The Afterlight, by Craig Macneill and Alexei Kaleina; The Archive, by Oscar-winning director Ethan Spiglan; Zenith, by Vladan Nikolic; and the HBO short film, Betty La Flaca, by Hugo Perez. Asensio has produced and performed in three contemporary one-woman shows and toured them around the world. She has worked on Spanish television drama series, directed contemporary plays and adapted a best-selling Spanish novel into a one-woman show.
Christina Choe’s debut feature, Nancy, premiered in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, winning the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. Choe’s docu-series Welcome to the DPRK, a personal portrait of North Korea, was recently acquired and released by First Look Media. Her short films, I Am John Wayne won the Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance Film Festival, with The Queen and Flow screening at Telluride, SXSW, and Aspen Film Festival, among many others. Additional honors include a year-long directing fellowship with HBO, participation in the Sundance Institute Editing Residency, and a Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation Fellowship awarded at the Independent Spirit Awards.
Deborah grew up in Toronto, Canada, shortly after her parents emigrated from Australia and China. She received her M.F.A from Columbia University, during which time she wrote and directed several short films which toured extensively on the festival circuit. She wrote and directed The High Cost of Living, which won the Best First Feature award during its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and was released theatrically by Tribeca Films. She has also worked extensively in television and has directed numerous shows including Mr. Robot, Jessica Jones and Better Call Saul.
Nia DaCosta is a writer and director based in New York City. Her first feature film, Little Woods, starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James, will premiere at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. She has been supported by the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program and Catalyst, New York Film Festival, the San Francisco Film Society and the Time Warner Foundation.
Andrew Okpeaha MacLean
Andrew Okpeaha MacLean is an Iñupiaq filmmaker born and raised in Alaska. His feature film debut On the Ice premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and won Best First Feature and the Crystal Bear at the 2011 Berlinale. In 2014-16 he served as a mentor in the Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Program Film Lab. He is currently an Assistant Arts Professor in the Graduate Film Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, of which he is also an alumnus.
Josh Mond’s directorial debut, James White, which he also wrote, premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the NEXT Audience Award. The film also won the Audience Award at AFI Fest, the Revelations Prize at Deauville Film Festival, and Don Quixote Award at the Locarno Film Festival. Mond was also nominated for the Breakthrough Director Gotham Award and Best First Feature Independent Spirit Award. His music video for Mayday Parade’s “Kids in Love,” was featured at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival and named by MTV as one of the top videos of the year. Mond’s producing credits include the critically acclaimed films Martha Marcy May Marlene, for which he was named one of Variety’s “Ten Producers to Watch;” Afterschool; Simon Killer; The Eyes of My Mother; Christine (EP); Two Gates of Sleep; and the forthcoming Piercing. Mond is a co-founder of Borderline Films.
Nijla Mu’min is a writer and filmmaker from the East Bay Area. Named one of “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker Magazine for 2017, she tells stories about black girls and women who find themselves between worlds and identities. Her work has been supported by the Sundance Institute, IFP, and Film Independent. Her first feature film, Jinn, premiered at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, where it won Special Jury Recognition for Writing. Her short film Dream was acquired by Issa Rae Productions (Insecure, HBO) for online streaming. She is a 2013 dual-degree graduate of CalArts’ MFA Film Directing and Writing Programs.
Olivia Newman, is an alum of the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs. Her debut feature film, First Match, premiered in competition at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, where it won the SXSW LUNA® Gamechanger Award, and will be released online and theatrically by Netflix on March 30. Written and directed by Newman, First Match stars newcomer, Elvire Emmanuelle, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Greatest Showman) and Colman Domingo (Fear the Walking Dead). Her work has received support from IFP, Film Independent, Tribeca Film Institute, San Francisco Film Society, the Durga Foundation, Adrienne Shelly Foundation, Maryland Filmmakers fellowship, and HBO. Her short films have screened at festivals internationally including the New York Film Festival, Aspen Shortsfest and Palm Springs International Shortsfest.
Celia Rowlson-Hall is a filmmaker, choreographer, and Bessie Award Winning performer. Her debut feature film, MA, which she wrote, directed, choreographed, and starred in, premiered at the 2015 Venice Film Festival. MA screened at over forty festivals worldwide, winning the Breakthrough Audience award at AFI Film Festival, Independent Visions Award at Sarasota Film Festival, among several others. In 2015, Rowlson-Hall was featured as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces,” and in 2016 was the recipient of a Cinereach Fellowship. She was the co-executive producer and sole guest director of season one of the new series Strangers, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and debuted on Facebook’s Watch this past fall. She is currently in pre-production for season two of the series, as well as developing her next feature.
Named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces to Watch,” Heidi Saman’s first feature film, Namour, won the Jury Award at the 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival and was developed with the Sundance Institute and funded by the Panavision New Filmmaker Grant and a Knight Foundation Grant. Namour was acquired by Ava DuVernay’s distribution collective, ARRAY, and is streaming on Netflix. In 2008, Saman’s short film The Maid (il Shaghala) premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. She is a 2016-2018 Pew Fellow in the Arts and is currently a producer for NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.