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IFP Announces Documentary Line-up for its Annual Independent Filmmaker Labs

by Website Update on May 14, 2012

Filmmakers from Los Angeles, Berlin, Brooklyn, Kentuckyand Washington Selected for Year-long Mentorship

New York, NY  (May 14, 2012) – The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) announced today the ten documentaries selected for the 2012 Independent Filmmaker Labs, IFP’s  annual year-long fellowship for first-time feature directors.  The creative teams of the selected films, chosen from a national pool of 200 submissions, join the 8th edition of the Labs taking place May 14-19 in New York City.

“The Labs are unique in our focus on guiding filmmakers to concretely and constructively plan for their films’ lives beyond post-production, and are tailored to maximizing their opportunities given the particular assets of each film,” says IFP Executive Director Joana Vicente. “With almost 80% of previous Lab projects debuted in festivals and released worldwide, the impact of this has been significant.”

Three former Lab documentaries will premiere on the upcoming season of  PBS’ P.O.V. (The Light in Her EyesSun Kissed, and Give Up Tomorrow ), with other 2011 alums having recently premiered at top festivals – High Tech, Low Life (Tribeca, Hot Docs 2012), Herman’s House (Full Frame, Hot Docs 2012) and Welcome to the Machine (SXSW 2012).

“We had been in production for six years and were deep in the middle of a monster edit,” say Give Up Tomorrow’s producer Marty Syjuco and director Michael Collins. “IFP’s Lab facilitated our film through the postproduction phase – preparing us to give birth at Tribeca – and armed us with the confidence and skills to tackle the complicated world of documentary distribution.  The lab provided us with a solid network of mentors and advisers, and the friendships we made with other filmmakers continue to this very day.  Little did we know that we had formed our very own support group!”

Additional lab alumni include War Don Don (HBO Documentary Films 2010, Emmy nominee 2011), Between the Folds (Independent Lens; Peabody Award 2010), Tibet in Song (Sundance 2009, Special Jury Mention);Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell (Berlin Film Festival, Panorama 2008; Sundance Channel; Plexifilm release), and The Patron Saints (Toronto Film Festival 2011, Rotterdam 2012, BAMcinemaFest 2012).

The Independent Filmmaker Labs are a highly immersive, free mentorship program supporting first-time feature directors with projects in post-production as they complete, market and distribute their films. Focusing exclusively on low-budget features (<$1million), the Labs provide filmmakers with the technical, creative and strategic tools necessary to launch their films. Twenty projects (10 documentaries and 10 narratives) are selected for the Lab fellowship. Narrative Lab selections will be announced in June.

The labs provide multiple levels of mentorship throughout the process. The supervising 2012 Documentary Lab leaders are producer and author Maureen Ryan (The Gates ; co-producer Man on Wire and Project Nim;Producer to Producer), producer Susan Motamed (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room; series coordinating producer, The Blues), and Jon Reiss, director and author (Bomb It!; Think Outside the Box Office).  Individual workshop leaders include, amongst others: composer T. Griffin (Dragonslayer; Utopia in Four Movements ), editors Penelope Falk (Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work), Cindy Lee (No End in SightHot Coffee), Jonathan Oppenheim (The OathParis Is Burning), Fiona Otway (Hell and Back AgainIraq in Fragments); and Adam Zucker (Carol Channing: Larger Than Life),  and experts on web presence, audience building, outreach, and distribution: Gary Hustwit (director, ObjectifiedHelvetica), Sara Kiener and Merrill Sterritt of Film Presence, Caitlin Boyle of Film Sprout, and Erin Owens of Long Shot Factory. A dozen additional individual mentors include producers Lori Cheatle (51 Birch Street), Julie Goldman (Buck), and Sam Cullman (The House I Live InIf a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Movement).

Since 2005, 128 documentaries and narrative features have participated in the Labs, with 78% of the projects completed and premiered at major US and international festivals, with 61% having distribution on a variety of platforms beyond festivals. As part of IFP’s ongoing commitment to diversity, the Independent Filmmaker Labs also seek to ensure that at least 50% of the participating projects have an inclusive range of races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and physical abilities in key creative positions.

The Independent Filmmaker Lab program is supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Artists Public Domain, Ford Foundation, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, SAGIndie/Screen Actors Guild and Time Warner Foundation. Lab partners include The Adrienne Shelly Foundation, BMI, Eastman Kodak Company, Rooftop Films, 92YTribeca and the Sundance Documentary Film Program.

The selected projects for the 2012 Documentary Lab and Lab Fellows are:

Alias Ruby Blade

Alias Ruby Blade is the story of Kirsty Sword Gusmão, former First Lady of Timor-Leste. An aspiring documentary filmmaker, Kirsty instead became a courier for the Timorese resistance movement in Jakarta code named Ruby Blade. Through correspondence, she fell in love with the imprisoned resistance leader Xanana Gusmão. Together they nurtured the tumultuous birth of the world’s newest nation. Fellows: Alex Meiller (Director), Tanya Ager Meillier (Producer). Brooklyn, NY

Big Joy Project: The Adventures of James Broughton 

Told by his angel at age 3 that he’ll be a poet of Big Joy, James Broughton pioneers experimental filmmaking and poetry readings in San Francisco, leading to the Beat Movement.  Jungian analysis forces him to marriage with children, but his heart hurts until he meets a male student 35 years his junior – his soulmate for 25 productive years.

Fellows: Stephen Silha (Director/Producer), Eric Slade (Director/Producer), Dawn Logsdon (Editor). Vashon, WA

For Thousands of Miles

For Thousands of Miles is a story about Larry, a young man split between two lives; tethered to a stranger who still spent their days alone on an open road, a stranger who spoke like he spoke; who looked like he looked; a stranger who still missed the things Larry now found to be without residence. Fellows: Mike Ambs (Director, Writer); Erica Hampton (Production Manager). North Hollywood, CA

The Last Wild Mountain

The Last Wild Mountain follows the inception of rock climbing in 1950s America through stories of the unusual characters who started it. Their world is based on risk-taking and antidisestablishmentarianism, but as their Utopia grows up and so do they, their existence is challenged by growth, reality, and a diminishing landscape.  How long can this world last? Fellows: Oakley Anderson-Moore (Director/Writer), Alexander Reinhard (Producer). Los Angeles, CA


Lucky Torres is heir to a South Bronx boulevard of broken promises – untouched by the hope of urban renewal – teetering on a tightrope between dreams and despair. One of millions of Americans living on the brink of invisibility, Lucky’s desperate search for a way out ultimately leads to a search within in this candid portrait of fame, survival and family.

Fellows: Laura Checkoway (Director/Producer), Neyda Martinez (Producer). Brooklyn, NY

Our Nixon

Throughout Nixon’s presidency, three White House aides obsessively filmed their experiences with Super 8 home movie cameras. This unique archive, created by H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin, was seized by the FBI during the Watergate investigation, then filed and forgotten. Our Nixon uses this footage to create an intimate, complex portrait of the Nixon presidency. Fellows: Penny Lane (Director/Producer), Brian Frye (Director). Claryville, NY; Kentucky.

Purgatorio: A Journey into the Heart of the Border

Purgatorio is a travelogue made up of episodes from the border. Murder victims, to children, drug-addicts, grieving mothers, Samaritans, journalists, pastors, police officers, a whole universe of characters and landscapes is skillfully woven together to show us how the US-Mexico border, and in fact all borders, are born from the deepest flaws of human nature. Fellows: Rodrigo Reyes (Director/Producer), Justin Chin (Director of Photography), Manuel Tsingaris (Editor). Merced, CA

Survival Prayer

Survival Prayer is a lyrical journey that celebrates the lifeways of a remote indigenous community against the backdrop of cultural loss and natural calamity. Following individual food harvesters as they gather and prepare for the winter, the film bears witness to a sacred relationship between individuals and the land that sustains them. Fellows: Benjamin Greené (Director/Producer), P. Corwin Lamm (Editor); Michael Beharie (Composer). Bellingham, WA

These Birds Walk

These Birds Walk is about common people who soar in a time of crisis while navigating the gritty reality of their daily lives in Pakistan. Omar, a poor runaway boy, plans his escape from a foundation in hopes to finally return home. A reluctant ambulance driver, Asad, navigates the difficult streets of Karachi, transporting the sick and dead to their fated destinations. Their two lives come together through a dying humanitarian upon whom so much of their daily lives depend. Fellows: Bassam Tariq (Director/Producer), Omar Mullick (Director/Producer), Valentina Canavesio (Producer). Brooklyn, NY.

Where God Likes to Be

The film follows three young American Indians from the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana through the course of one summer as they are faced with the choice to either leave the reservation for the first time in their lives or stay and struggle with life there.

Fellows: Nicolas Hudak (Director/Writer), Anna Hudak (Producer/Writer). Berlin, Germany

About IFP

After debuting with a program in the 1979 New York Film Festival, the nonprofit IFP has evolved into the nation’s oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers, and also the premier advocate for them. Since its start, IFP has supported the production of 7,000 films and provided resources to more than 20,000 filmmakers – voices that otherwise might not have been heard. IFP fosters the development of 350 new feature and documentary films each year through its Project Forum of Independent Film Week, Independent Filmmaker Labs and projects in its fiscal sponsorship program. IFP believes that independent films enrich the universal language of cinema, seeding the global culture with new ideas, kindling awareness, and fostering activism. The organization has fostered early work by leading filmmakers including Charles Burnett, Edward Burns, Jim Jarmusch, Barbara Kopple, Michael Moore, Mira Nair and Kevin Smith.


For more information on IFP, please contact:

Amy Dotson, Deputy Director, IFP (212) 465-8200 x203

Milton Tabbot, Senior Director, Programming, IFP 465-8200 x207