Sundance Institute has chosen eight first-time filmmakers for its annual Directors Lab, which has launched the careers of filmmakers such as Cary Fukunaga, Dee Rees, Marielle Heller, Benh Zeitlin, Quentin Tarantino and more. The Directors Lab will take place May 30 – June 23 at the Sundance Resort in Utah, and will help develop the next wave of independent filmmakers as they explore new ideas that will shape the future of storytelling. Each filmmaker will have the opportunity to shoot and edit key scenes from their screenplays while working alongside creative advisers, professional actors and production crews.
Ghanian writer-director Frances Bodomo was one of the eight directors chosen to be a part of this highly competitive lab. Bodomo grew up in Ghana, Norway, and Hong Kong, before moving to New York City to study film at Columbia University (BA) and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (MFA). Her short films Boneshaker, starring Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, and Afronauts both premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and went on to premiere at various festivals including the Berlinale, Telluride, and New Directors/New Films.
Afronauts is based on a true story about a group of Zambians led by nationalist/activist Edward Makuka Nkoloso who sought out to join the space race in the late 1960s. Bodomo was named a 2015 Sundance Institute/Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, and received a $100,000 grant to turn Afronauts into a feature film. She aspires to make conceptually strong content that brings African images to the forefront.
“I wanted to find a way to tell new stories with new structures, to show new things, but still communicate through a narrative so that it could be seen by a lot of people. I feel like every young African artist of my generation still wants to fight the deception of Africa, still wants to say: Africa is not the pot-bellied kids, or the famine, that are the direct response the Ethiopian hunger crisis in the ’80s…” – Frances Bodomo
Bodomo recently directed the short segment Everybody Dies! for the feature Collective:Unconscious, which premiered at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival.
A quick teaser for Afronauts is below:
Annie Silverstein, Cesar Cervantes, Boots Riley, Kibwe Tavares, Eva Vives, Sandhya Suri and Pippa Bianco will also join this year’s Directors Lab. Their bios are listed below:
Annie Silverstein, “Bull” (U.S.A.) • “In a near-abandoned subdivision west of Houston, a wayward teen runs headlong into her equally willful and unforgiving neighbor — an aging bullfighter who’s seen his best days in the arena. It’s a collision that will change them both.” Silverstein, based in Austin, Texas, most recently wrote and directed “Skunk,” which won the jury award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival–Cinéfondation.
César Cervantes, “Hot Clip” (U.S.A.) • “In the aftermath of their best friend’s fatal confrontation with a cop, three Southeast Los Angeles skaters spend 24 hours chasing dreams, making trouble and trying to survive in a community on the verge of exploding.” Cervantes is a first-generation Chicano filmmaker from Maywood, Calif., whose accomplishments include creating an after-school film program for inter-city youth and touring as lead videographer for the band La Santa Cecilia. He is the first recipient of the Feature Film Program Latino Fellowship.
Kibwe Tavares, “The Kitchen” (U.K.) • “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.” Tavares’ thesis film at Bartlett School of Architecture, the short “Robots of Brixton,” won the Special Jury Award for Animation at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
Eva Vives, “Nina” (U.S.A.) • “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.” Vives wrote and directed the short “Join the Club,” which premiered at Sundance this year.
Sandhya Suri, “Santosh” (India/U.K.) • “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.” Suri, based in London, premiered her documentary “I for India” at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. She also participated in the 2015 Drishyam | Sundance Screenwriters Lab.
Pippa Bianco, “Share” (U.S.A.) • “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.” Bianco’s script is an expansion of her short “Share,” which won a jury prize at SXSW 2015. She shares story credit on “Bleed for This,” a true-life boxing drama starring Miles Teller slated to open later this year.
Boots Riley, “Sorry to Bother You” (U.S.A.) • “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.” Riley is a poet, rapper, songwriter, and leader of the hip-hop band The Coup. He claims to be the only known musical artist whose surveillance by intelligence agents was exposed by Wikileaks.