UK filmmaker among 15 chosen for Sundance Labs

Dionne Edwards takes Pretty Red Dress to Utah

by Amber Wilkinson

We Love Moses screened at festivals across the globe
We Love Moses screened at festivals across the globe Photo: Teng Teng Films
British first-time feature director Dionne Edwards is among the 15 people selected for Sundance's Screenwriters Lab this January.

Dionne Edwards - whose award-winning short film We Love Moses screened at more than 50 festivals - will bring her project Pretty Red Dress to the mentorship scheme in Utah. Her film is set in present-day London, where Travis, a black man newly released from prison, returns to a turbulent home life with his longtime girlfriend Candice and their androgynous daughter Kenisha. The family’s precarious balance is sent spinning when they discover him cross-dressing, calling all of their relationships into question.

Edwards, who founded Teng Teng Films in 2011 with Georgia Goggin, has previously taken part in the BFI Flare mentorship programme, where she was mentored by Desiree Akhavan (The Miseducation Of Cameron Post). She also directed 30-minute Channel 4 drama That Girl and, this year, shadowed director Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters And Men) on the third season of Netflix's Top Boy.

On Twitter, she wrote: "Eeeecstatic to be taking my feature script Pretty Red Dress to the @sundanceorg Labs where so many of my heroes have been."

The labs see fellows participate in one-on-one story sessions with creative advisers and mark the first step in a year-round project of support. The team of creative Advisers includes artistic director Dana Stevens, Michael Arndt, Thomas Bidegain, Todd Graff, Phil Hay, Erik Jendresen, Richard LaGravenese, Jenny Lumet, Malia Scotch Marmo, Walter Mosley, Nicole Perlman, Susan Shilliday, Zach Sklar, Elena Soarez, Veena Sud, Robin Swicord, Joan Tewkesbury and Tyger Williams.

Sundance Institute's feature film programme founding director Michelle Satter - who leads the labs alongside labs director Ilyse McKimmie - said: “We're inspired by this new group of filmmakers, each of whom brings their singular vision to stories that illuminate the human condition by deploying humour, genre conventions, and unforgettable characters,” said Satter. “We're committed to building bridges for stories from all parts of the world, and are thrilled to provide a safe gathering space for creativity, learning, and community. Our support will extend beyond the boundaries of this Lab to sustain these artists creatively and strategically throughout their journeys.”

Ten films supported by the Feature Film Programme will premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival

The other projects and fellows selected for the 2019 January Screenwriters Lab are:

The American Society of Magical Negroes US, Dir/wr: Kobi Libii: Omar, a young black man, is recruited into an undercover society of Magical Negroes who secretly conjure literal magic to make white people’s lives easier. Once he realises they are using supernatural means to do the very thing he’s felt obligated to do his whole life, he attempts to buck the system and put his own dreams first.

Kobi Libii is an actor/writer/comedian, currently writing and performing on Comedy Central’s upcoming Klepper.

Costa Brava Lebanon, Lebanon, Co-wr/Dir Mounia Akl and Clara Roquet (co-writer): The Badri family lives an idyllic life of isolation in the Lebanese mountains, far away from a country drowning in garbage and pollution. When the government decides to build a landfill right outside their house, tensions amongst the family members explode, revealing the rot was not only outside their home.

Mounia Akl is a Lebanese director and screenwriter whose short film, Submarine, was in the Official Selection of the 69th Cannes Film Festival (Cinéfondation) and at the Toronto International Film Festival. In 2017, Akl was chosen to represent Lebanon at the Cannes Film Festival as part of the Directors’ Fortnight Factory with her short film, El Gran Libano, co-directed with Neto Villalobos.

Clara Roquet is a Spanish writer and director. She is the co-writer of the films 10.000 Km, directed by Carlos Marques-Marcet, and Petra, directed by Jaime Rosales.

Dandelion Seed US, Wr/Dir: Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter: In 1993, Kayo, a Japanese foreign exchange student, finds magic and wonder in everyday things, including those found at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, which happens to be right next door to her boarding school. When disturbing allegations against Jackson come to light, Kayo’s innocence and desire to belong are tested, as she tries to find her place in this unfamiliar social structure.

Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter are an Oscar-nominated animation directing duo living in Providence, Rhode Island. Their most recent short, Negative Space, was nominated for the 90th Academy Awards and has garnered 125 prizes.

El Otro Lado (The Other Side) (US), Wr/Dir: Barbara Cigarroa: Set in Brownsville, Texas, during the child migration crisis, Lucy, a low-income Mexican American teen, is confronted with her own need for escape when her father decides to sponsor two undocumented minors for money. This project is the recipient of the Sundance Institute Delta Air Lines & Aeromexico Latinx Fellowship.

Barbara Cigarroa is a Mexican-American filmmaker from South Texas. The Other Side was a featured project at IFP's 2018 No Borders Co-Production Market. She has made short films including Dios Nunca Muere (God Never Dies) and Marta Rosa.

Farewell Amor , US, Wr/Dir: Ekwa Msangi: After 17 years in exile, Walter’s wife and daughter are reunited with him in the US, now absolute strangers. Crammed together in a tiny Brooklyn apartment, struggling to overcome the personal and political hurdles between them, they rely on the muscle memory of Angolan dance to rediscover what has been lost.

Ekwa Msangi has written and directed several shorts, including the award-winning comedy Soko Sonko (The Market King), recipient of the Ousmane Sembene Short Film Development Award. Her feature screenplay Farewell Amor has been supported by the 2018 Jerome Foundation Grant, Tribeca All Access Fellowship, IFP/No Borders Fellowship, 2018 Cine Qua Non Lab Fellowship, and Joan Darling's Directors Workshop with mentorship from Keith Gordon.

Goliath, US, Wr/Dir: Anthony Onah: After a brilliant African-American scientist discovers a leading pesticide may be harmful, paranoia and rage threaten to consume him as he battles its manufacturer, the most powerful chemical company in the world. Based on a true story. This project is the recipient of the Alfred P Sloan Fellowship.

Anthony Onah is a Nigerian-American filmmaker who grew up in the Philippines, England, Nigeria, Togo, and the US His debut feature, The Price, premiered at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival.

Story Ave, US, Co-wr/Dir: Aristotle Torres and Bonsu Thompson (co-writer): After running away from his rough home life, a teenage graffiti artist holds up an unsuspecting old man in a robbery gone right that changes both of their lives forever.

Aristotle Torres is a writer, director, and producer from the Bronx, NY. Torres founded By Any Means, a multi-media artist collective, and directed content for NaS, KanYe West, The Roots, and Ludacris, among others. Torres’ short films include Story Ave and The Chair.

Bonsu Thompson is a writer, producer, and Brooklynite. He co-wrote the short film Story Ave and has created digital documentaries (BET.com’s Prelude).

This Land Is Your Land, US, Writer: Adrienne Rush: A young aspiring artist tracks down her favourite painter, now a recluse living in rural Michigan, in hopes of becoming his assistant and finding her voice. While slowly gaining his trust and helping to care for his two young daughters, she clashes with a local militia, sparking a violent rupture that threatens her new world and everyone in it.

Hailing from Virginia, Adrienne Rush has an MFA in Screenwriting from FSU's College of Motion Picture Arts. Rush has been the recipient of a Humanitas Prize and recently contributed to a forthcoming series for Amazon Studios created by Barry Jenkins.

A Thousand And One Nights US, Wr/Dir: AV Rockwell: An orphan with a mysterious past and the free-spirited hairdresser who takes him in embark on a search for identity and stability in a rapidly changing New York City.

AV Rockwell is an award-winning filmmaker from Queens, NY. Her previous short films include The Gospel, B.L.B., and KIDS. Her latest short film Feathers will screen at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Wit Gesigte (Pale Faces), South Africa, Wr/dir Chantel Clark: In the late 18th century, in the Dutch Cape Colony, the brilliant and rebellious daughter of an exiled Imam hopes to escape her father’s shadow when she is enlisted by a freed slave to teach a mysterious Dutch officer’s children. At his remote estate, the dark secrets underlying the power of the colonial occupation begin to unravel.

Chantel Clark is a South African director and screenwriter based in New York City. Her thesis film Our Albertinia was awarded a 2018 National Board of Review Student Grant, as well as the first Columbia University/Big Sky Edit Visionary Award. Wit Gesigte (Pale Faces) will be her feature directorial debut.

Yurt (Dormitory), Turkey, Wr/Dir: Nehir Tuna: Forced to leave the comfort of his middle class lifestyle at his father’s behest, eleven-year-old Ahmet is sent to an all-boys religious dormitory where he must navigate familial expectations, his religious obligations, and the childhood to which he so desperately clings.

Nehir Tuna, from Turkey, has written and directed seven short films, including The Shoes, a prequel to his forthcoming feature Yurt (Dormitory). Yurt has been supported by Nipkow Programm in Berlin and !f Sundance Screenwriters Lab.

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