Two British filmmakers join Sundance Directors Lab

Sandhya Suri and Kibwe Tavares selected by prestitigious programme.

by Amber Wilkinson

Clockwise from top left: Frances Bodomo, Annie Silverstein, César Cervantes, Kibwe Tavares, Boots Riley, Pippa Bianco, Sandhya Suri and Eva Vives.
Clockwise from top left: Frances Bodomo, Annie Silverstein, César Cervantes, Kibwe Tavares, Boots Riley, Pippa Bianco, Sandhya Suri and Eva Vives. Photo: Courtesy of the Sundance institute

British directors Sandhya Suri and Kibwe Tavares have been selected alongside another six first-time fiction feature-makers to join the Sundance Institute's Directors Lab from May 30 to June 23.

Both Suri, who will take her film Santosh to the lab, and Tavares, who will work on The Kitchen, have enjoyed success previously. Suri's documentary I For India, constructed from her father's home movies, being selected to compete at Sundance in 2005, while Tavares' animated short Robots Of Brixton won a short film special jury prize at the festival in 2012 and his 2013 film Jonah was named best British short at the BIFAs.

The Directors Lab operates under the leadership of Sundance Institute Feature Film Programme founding drector Michelle Satter, Labs director Ilyse McKimmie and with artistic direction from Gyula Gazdag.

The fellows will work with an accomplished group of creative advisors, professional actors and production crews to shoot and edit key scenes from their screenplays.

Previous alumnni of the lab include Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre), Dee Rees (Pariah), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts Of The Southern Wild) and Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs).

Satter said, “Our Directors Lab and other programs play a critical role in discovering diverse artists and launching their careers, and this year's filmmakers are our most diverse group ever in terms of their backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. We are thrilled to work with each of them to further develop the most distinctive, singular and timely stories that might otherwise go untold.”

Michelle Satter, Founding Director of the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program, said, “Our Directors Lab and other programs play a critical role in discovering diverse artists and launching their careers, and this year's filmmakers are our most diverse group ever in terms of their backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. We are thrilled to work with each of them to further develop the most distinctive, singular and timely stories that might otherwise go untold.”

Creative advisors include Sundance Institute president and founder Robert Redford, Joan Darling, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gyula Gazdag, Stephen Goldblatt, Keith Gordon, David Gordon Green, Randa Haines, Catherine Hardwicke, Azazel Jacobs, Richard Jenkins, So Yong Kim, Kasi Lemmons, Joshua Marston, Lee Percy, Rodrigo Prieto, Nancy Richardson, Ira Sachs, Peter Sollett, Joan Tewkesbury, Dylan Tichenor, Barbara Tulliver, and Bradford Young.

The 2016 directors and projects are below:

Sandhya Suri/Santosh (India/UK) - In the corrupt hinterlands of Northern India, a young widow, Santosh, inherits her husband’s job as police constable. When a girl’s body is found in a well, she is forced to confront the brutality around her and the violence within.

Kibwe Tavares/The Kitchen (UK) - Raised in London’s first favela housed in an abandoned Council high-rise, known as the Kitchen, Es commits smash-and-grab thefts as a way of redistributing the wealth to the community who took him in. When the inhabitants are threatened with eviction by the police, Es is tasked with a high-stakes heist that pits him against the Kitchen’s leader and irrevocably alters his definition of family.

Frances Bodomo/Afronauts (Zambia/US) - Just after Zambian Independence in 1964, an ingenious group of villagers build a homemade rocket in a wild bid to join the Space Race. Seventeen-year-old astronaut Matha Mwambwa must decide if blasting off in the precarious rocket vindicates her past or just makes her a glorified human sacrifice. Inspired by true events.

Annie Silverstein/Bull (US) - In a near-abandoned subdivision west of Houston, a wayward teen runs headlong into her equally willful and unforgiving neighbor - an ageing bullfighter who’s seen his best days in the arena. It’s a collision that will change them both.

César Cervantes/Hot Clip (US) - In the aftermath of their best friend’s fatal confrontation with a cop, three south-east Los Angeles skaters spend 24 hours chasing dreams, making trouble and trying to survive in a community on the verge of exploding.

Eva Vives/Nina (US) - Just as Nina Geld’s brilliant and angry stand up kicks her career into high gear, her romantic life gets complicated, forcing her to reckon with what it means to be creative, authentic and a woman in today’s culture.

Pippa Bianco/Share (US) - In this cyber thriller, a disturbing video—leaked from a local high school—throws a Long Island community into chaos and the national spotlight as they try to unravel the story behind it.

Boots Riley/Sorry to Bother You (US) - A black telemarketer with self-esteem issues discovers a magical key to business success, propelling him to the upper echelons of the hierarchy just as his activist comrades are rising up against unjust labor practices. When he uncovers the macabre secret of his corporate overlords, he must decide whether to stand up or sell out.

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