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Sundance Filmmakers Awards

What do these films have in common?



They were past recipients of the award handed out by the Sundance Institute. This year’s crop sees filmmakers from all over the world (a couple of worthy candidates that I’ve had the chance to see). The twelve finalists for the 2006 Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Awards are:


Veit Helmer / AZERBAIJAN DREAM (Germany)— When a remote village loses its water supply, two young lovers find themselves caught in a battle of the sexes. Their hope to consummate their love is thwarted as the women of the town declare a “no sex strike” until their water supply returns.

Born in Hanover in 1968, Veit Helmer began making award-winning short films as a teenager. After attending the Academy of Television & Film in Munich, he set up his production company in Berlin and made his first feature TUVALU in 1998, which received the FIPRESCI prize as well as numerous honors and awards internationally.

Nanouk Leopold / WOLFSBERGEN (The Netherlands) — Unable to recover from his wife’s death, a man informs his children and grandchildren of his plans to commit suicide but finds they are too preoccupied with their own lives to stop him.

Nanouk Leopold graduated from the Dutch Film and Television Academy in Amsterdam in 1998. Her first feature, ÎLES FLOTTANTES, played at film festivals internationally, and her follow-up, GUERNSEY, was in the Quinzaine des Realisateurs at Cannes 2005.

Patrice Toye / THE SPRING RITUAL (Belgium) —THE SPRING RITUAL, written by Bjorn Olaf Johanneseen, is Patrice Toye’s second feature film and tells the story of Tomas, who after staging his death and escaping to a new life, realizes the extent of his loss. He returns home, hoping to reunite with his wife, but finds that the life he left behind has irrevocably changed.

Patrice studied film at St. Lukas in Bruselles. She produced and directed news reports and documentaries for numerous Belgian broadcasters. After screening at Toronto, Berlin, and Montreal, Patrice Toye’s feature film debut, ROSIE was released internationally, where it was met with critical acclaim.


Alejandro Fernandez Almendras / HUACHO (Chile) —Set in the Chilean countryside, HUACHO presents a day in the life of a small rural family struggling to keep up with a modern world that continues to move on without them.

Alejandro Fernández Almendras was born in Chillán, Chile. He has lived in New York City since 1988, working as a correspondent for the news agency EFE and film critic for the Chilean magazine Mabuse. In 2003, he completed his first narrative short film, LA OFRENDA, which screened at La Habana, Toulouse, Quebec and São Paulo, among other festivals.

Josué Mendez / DIOSES (Peru) —Members of a privileged Peruvian family grapple with issues of class, family relationships, and personal ambitions.

Born in Peru, Josué Mendez studied cinema at Yale. After completing his award-winning short, PARELISA, he was a resident at the Cinéfondation of Cannes. His first feature, DAYS OF SANTIAGO, played at Rotterdam and won the FIPRESCI prize.

Fernando Eimbcke / LAKE TAHOE (Mexico) —Thirteen-year-old Juan is obsessed with repairing the car he has just crashed, his late father’s final gift to him. As he wanders the city searching for parts, Juan is forced to make the transition from childhood to adulthood in the course of a day.

After directing numerous music videos, Fernando Eimbcke wrote and directed his first Feature Film TEMPORADA DE PATOS (DUCK SEASON), which won the FIPRESCI Award, participated at the 43rd Semaine International de la Critique at Cannes (2004), is nominated for an Independent Spirit Award (Best Foreign Film) and is slated for 2006 US release by Warner Independent.


Cruz Angeles / DON’T LET ME DROWN —Co-written by Maria Topete, DON”T LET ME DOWN portrays a post-September 11th world overflowing with fear and hate, where two Latino teens discover that the only thing that can keep them from drowning is each other.

A graduate of the NYU masters program in film, Cruz Angeles won a Director’s Guild of America Award for Best Latino Student Filmmaker for his film, ABUELA’S REVOLT, which screened at SXSW and was broadcast on PBS as part of WNET’s REEL-NY. DON’T LET ME DROWN, developed at Sundance Institute Screenwriters and Filmmakers Labs, will be his first feature.

Dante Harper / DREAMLAND —An unflinching portrayal of the origins of domestic terrorism, DREAMLAND is the tragic story of Timothy McVeigh, from his boyhood dreams of being a soldier to his life as a man at war with his own country.

Dante W. Harper is an independent filmmaker and co-founder of CLC Films. His first feature, THE DELICATE ART OF THE RIFLE won numerous international awards and strong critical praise. Since moving to Los Angeles, he has worked as an editor, screenwriter and producer, and has been pursuing his MFA at the UCSD School of Visual Arts. Harper has participated in Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters and Filmmakers Labs.

Andrew Dosunmu / MOTHER OF GEORGE —MOTHER OF GEORGE, written by Darci Picoult, tells the story of a woman’s struggle to please her husband and live within a community that defines a woman by the children she will have one day.

Born in Nigeria, Andrew Dosunmu began his career as a design assistant at Yves St Laurent before becoming a creative director and photographer for magazines, such as ID, Vogue, Vibe, and Face. Dosunmu directed his first music video for Isaac Hayes, and has gone on to direct numerous music videos and commercials. His documentary, HOT IRONS, won best documentary at FESPACO and Reel Award at Toronto. Dosunmu developed MOTHER OF GEORGE at Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters and Filmmakers Labs.


Minehito Fujita / HURRICANE —A well-respected businessman has lived with the presence of a ghostly apparition for years. When he discovers that his employee can see the same ghost, a special bond forms between the two men.

After working in the commercial directorial department of the prestigious Tohokushinsa Film Cooperation, Minehito Fujita struck out on his own as a freelance commercial director. HURRICANE will be his first feature film.

Satoki Kenmochi / NEXT SUNDAY —In the shadow of the 2002 World Cup in Japan, a Korean foreign exchange student and an older Japanese man fall in love, transcending the typically strained relations between their countries.

Born in Tokyo, Satoki Kenmochi is the director of JUST ANOTHER DAY, which won Best New Director from the Japan Filmmakers Association and established Kenmochi as Japan’s best known independent filmmaker. Since then, he has worked in television drama, documentaries, and commercials.

Kanji Nakajima / THE CLONE RETURNS TO THE HOMELAND —Against the wishes of his wife, a recently deceased man is brought back as a clone. Although given a second chance, he is unable to connect to his family or escape the memories of his former self.

Writer, director, cinematographer, and musician, Kanji Nakajima developed his unique approach to filmmaking at the Tokyo Zokei University. His first feature, HAGANE, won first prize at the Portugal International Film Festival and his follow-up, THE BOX, won special mention at Toronto.

Sundance Institute and NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) today announced the twelve finalists for the 2006 Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Awards. Marking the 10th anniversary of the Award, the 2006 finalists represent the best in independent voices from around the globe. This annual award supports new artists in international cinema and is presented to emerging film directors from four global regions to support them in realizing their next projects. One winner from Europe, Latin America, the United States, and Japan is selected by members of an international jury. The four winners will be announced during the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and presented with the award at the Festival Awards Ceremony.

The winning director from each region will receive a $10,000 award and a guarantee from NHK to purchase the Japanese television broadcast rights upon completion of their project. NHK is Japan’s largest broadcaster with five 24-hour TV and three radio channels. In addition, Sundance Institute will work closely with the award recipients throughout the year, providing ongoing support and assistance in seeking out opportunities to finance and distribute their projects.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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