Sundance Institute, the organization behind the annual film festival in Park City, has partnered with the Asian American Foundation to create a fellowship and fellowship, which will be awarded to 12 recipients per year. The goal, according to the groups, is to provide Asian American and Pacific Islander artists with creative and tactical support to develop their professional skills, as well as improve AAPI’s representation in the film and television industries. .
The scholarship will provide six AAPI artists per year with a 12-month learning experience to advance their professional development in the arts. Through the scholarship, each person will receive an unrestricted grant of $20,000 to support their individual projects, as well as personalized support from the Sundance Institute based on their goals.
Support from the Asian American Foundation will also fund Sundance Fellowships for six emerging AAPI creators each year. Fellows will be able to enroll in a live online course focused on their discipline of choice, receive a Creator + Sundance Collab Membership to access Master Classes in the Video Library, participate in exclusive networking and community-building events, and receive comments from Sundance. Collab Advisors on their projects
The fellowship and fellowship will be funded by a $400,000 grant from Panda Express, along with a $140,000 contribution from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Over two years, the funding will provide artists with year-round grants and resources to support artists and program activities.
“TAAF is helping to build the infrastructure needed to increase AAPI’s representation and storytelling so that our communities can feel a broader sense of belonging in this country,” said Norman Chen, CEO of TAAF. “Investing in and empowering AAPI artists is a powerful way to ensure our stories are seen as part of the fabric of American life and culture. That’s why we’re thrilled to work with the Sundance Institute and our philanthropic partners to support AAPI artists who deserve the resources and opportunities they need to be leading storytellers in their fields.
Carrie Lozano, Director of Documentary Film and Artist Programs at the Sundance Institute, adds, “The experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are diverse and multifaceted, and the creative industries have an important role to play in bringing properly value these stories by investing in AAPI artists. Our scholarship in collaboration with the TAAF was created for this purpose. The grants for Sundance Collab also allow us to further support AAPI artists. The Sundance Institute is grateful for TAAF’s support for helping to fuel the creative development of various artists in our network.
See the artists selected for this year’s fellowship cohort below:
About the artist: Vera was born in Michigan to Korean and Swiss parents. His films have screened at festivals and museums around the world, including Sundance, Rotterdam, the Whitney Museum and the Ann Arbor Film Festival.
Project: Bitterroot, a film about a Hmong man from Montana who hides the truth about his lost job and failed marriage from his mother. But when she suddenly falls ill, he must finally reckon with her painful past to save them both.
About the artist: Desdemona is a nationally acclaimed director working in new plays, Shakespeare and musicals. She is known for her visceral, pragmatic approach to storytelling, with her distinct perspective as an immigrant and Asian American woman, and a particular interest in international and multilingual stories.
Project: Made in USA, a TV series about a Chinese-American casino host who takes in the pregnant teenage daughter of her wealthiest client after she’s left behind for a promotion and unexpectedly fired, and turns her house into a birthing hotel to regain control of his life.
Shayok Micha Chowdhury
About the artist: Misha is a multi-tentacled writer and director. Misha received a Jonathan Larson Fellowship for Musical Theater and collaborated on the Grammy-winning album Calling All Dawns. Upcoming: Public Obscenities (Soho Rep & Naatco). Recently: Mukhagni (The Public Theatre); Brother, Brother (New York Theater Workshop); Englandbashi (Ann Arbor Film Festival).
Project: Rheology, a live concert-memoir-physics-symposium about an artist son studying his physicist mother. She studies the strange behavior of sand. Together they uncover the science – the history – of how things happen.
About the artist: Tadashi is an Emmy-winning director and was named one of CNN’s Young People Who Rock for being the youngest filmmaker at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and one of the best Asian American directors on IMDb. His films include Mele Murals, Jake Shimabukuro: Life On Four Strings, A Song For Ourselves and Pilgrimage.
Project: Third Act, on its surface, a biopic that explores Robert Nakamura’s life and role as the “godfather of Asian American film,” directed by his son, Tadashi Nakamura. But with Robert’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, the film asks a complex question: how can a father and son say goodbye?
About the artist: Neo is a Japanese-American filmmaker working in New York and Tokyo. His short film The Chicken (2020) premiered at the 2020 Locarno International Film Festival. Filmmaker Magazine named Neo one of the 25 new faces of independent cinema in 2020. In 2022 he participated in the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Lab.
Project: Earthquake, a feature film centered on a rambunctious teenager living in near-future Tokyo, where the locals await the next great earthquake, who must decide between continuing a life of youthful abandonment or losing one of his best friends whose burgeoning political awareness made him more distant.
About the artist: Sean is a filmmaker from Fremont, California, and a 2020 Sundance Ignite Fellow. Most recently, his film, HAGS (Have A Good Summer), was acquired and published by The New York Times. He is currently developing his first feature film, Dìdi (弟弟), which received the SFFILM Rainin grant.
Project: Dìdi (弟弟), a feature film set in Fremont, California in 2008. In the last summer month before the start of high school, an impressionable thirteen-year-old Taiwanese American boy learns what his family can’t. learn: how to skate, how to flirt and how to love your mother.
See below for this year’s scholarship recipients:
About the artist: Georgia is an American-Taiwanese filmmaker who is interested in themes around unusual points of connection. His short films have been recognized at festivals such as Slamdance, New Orleans Film Festival, Hollyshorts and LAAPFF. She is currently developing two feature films, one of which is an adaptation of a story by Edward Yang.
Project: Approximate Joy, a feature film about a young Taiwanese American teenager who decides to run away with her high school history teacher to escape the grief of her father’s sudden death. On the road, she discovers that no matter how far you run, you can’t escape on your own.
Leomax (Ziyuan) He
About the artist: Leomax earned his BFA in Digital Media Arts and is currently a candidate for an MFA in Filmmaking at CalArts. He is an alumnus of Nespresso Talents 2021 and the Artist-in-Residence program of Art Nova 100. He wants to tell stories that have a sober drunkenness.
Project: Gungnir, a thesis film set in 2020 Los Angeles, in which the COVID-19 outbreak accidentally coincides with the birthday wish of a 9-year-old boy, Leo, who wants to arrest a Chinese-American girl, Charly, whom he crushes after his return to China. He thinks the pandemic is due to his wish and panics everyday because he fears that others will find out his secret.
About the artist: Jenna is a Southeast Asian designer who loves business operations and identifying themes in community stories to convert into creative projects.
Project: Ambitious, a web series featuring an eager and daring young Vietnamese-Cambodian-American who navigates her new life as a college dropout despite her immigrant mother’s wishes and plans for her.
About the artist: Simi is currently an assistant to a showrunner on a fantastic new show for Disney+. Previously, she assisted a feature film literary agent at WME. Simi grew up in London, England, although her American accent implies otherwise. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Princeton University with degrees in psychology and creative writing.
Project: The Changing of the Guard, which deals with a mythical world inspired by medieval India. After the aunt of a devoted commoner is executed for failing to prevent the mysterious murder of the king she was sworn to defend, she takes her place as an elite guard to the new authoritarian queen to protect his family from reprisals.
About the artist: Norbert is a Taiwanese-American filmmaker and cinematographer whose films explore the intricacies of everyday life. His work thrives with support from Creative Capital, CAAM, BAVC, Logan Nonfiction Program, True/False and Visual Communications. In 2019, Filmmaker Magazine named him one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Cinema.
Project: Preserves, a feature-length documentary following the lives of those who carry on a dying agricultural tradition through intimate moments between work and their quiet domestic lives. Set in Taiwan, the film is a lyrical portrait that explores “the farm table” for the culinary ingredient, suan cai – a pickled green mustard.
About the artist: Nicole is a multiracial writer, producer and director. She is a founding member of the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective, an organization that tackles the inequalities faced by immigrants in the media field. She is working on a screenplay that explores rejection, acceptance, death and healing as a young refugee.
Project: Papeles, a coming-of-age film about two young asylum seekers searching for the ICE agent who saved them.