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IFP Announces Documentary Projects For Its Annual IFP Labs

by Erik Luers on May 23, 2017

Brooklyn, NY(May 23, 2017) – The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) announced today the ten documentaries selected for the 2017 IFP Filmmaker Labs, IFP’s annual yearlong fellowship for first-time feature directors. The creative teams of the selected films are currently attending the first week’s sessions – The Time Warner Foundation Completion Labs – taking place through May 26 at the Made in New York Media Center by IFP in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

The IFP Filmmaker Labs support first-time feature directors with projects in post-production as they complete, market and distribute their films, providing filmmakers with the technical, creative and strategic tools necessary to launch their films and careers. The Documentary Lab is part of the suite of IFP Labs, including the Screen Forward Lab (for serialized content) and Narrative Feature Lab, which took place earlier in April and May.

“The wide and continuing success of documentaries on multiple platforms demonstrate they are no longer for niche audiences nor uniform in style or format,” says Joana Vicente, Executive Director of IFP and the Made in NY Media Center. “Emerging non-fiction filmmakers need to be more prepared than ever to understand and compete in this expanding marketplace, and the Labs exist to help them build that foundation.”

Recent alumni of the IFP Documentary Labs upcoming or currently in festival, broadcast, or theatrical release include Jonathan Olshefski’s Quest (POV), Jennifer Brea’s Unrest, Nanfu Wang’s Hooligan Sparrow (POV), Margaret Byrne’s Raising Bertie (POV), Lara Stolman’s Swim Team (POV), Leah Wolchok’s Very Semi-Serious (HBO), Cecilia Aldarondo’s Memories of a Penitent Heart (POV), Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari’s T-Rex (Independent Lens), and Lyric Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe’s (T)error (Independent Lens).



Now in its thirteenth year, the IFP Filmmaker Labs support first-time feature filmmakers when they need it most: through the completion, marketing, and distribution of their debut narrative and documentary features. Each year, IFP selects ten narrative feature films and documentary feature films currently in post-production for the Labs. Through their participation, Filmmaker Labs Fellows receive support from IFP Staff and mentorship from leading industry members and filmmakers. Selected Fellows take part in three modules of the Lab: the Time Warner Completion Lab in May, IFP Film Week in September, and a Marketing & Distribution Lab in November.



Under the artistic direction of IFP Senior Director of Programming Milton Tabbot and Program Manager Paola Mottura, the Lab provides multiple levels of mentorship throughout the process, and will be overseen by the 2017 Lab Leaders:

Jennifer MacArthur, Producer (Whose Streets?) and Media Strategist (Borderline Media)

Jon Reiss, Director/Producer, Author, Strategist (Bomb It!; Think Outside the Box Office, Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul)

Jessica Wolfson, Producer (Revenge of the Mekons, A Girl and a Gun) and director/producer (Radio Unnameable)


The selected projects and their attending Lab Fellows for the 2017 IFP Documentary Lab are:


The Area

On the South Side of Chicago, an activist and a former gang member negotiate the meaning of community as a rail yard engulfs their neighborhood. David Schalliol (Director, Producer, DP), Brian Ashby (Producer, Editor), Peter Galassi (Editor)



Deep in the Himalayan mountains the first road is coming, and this new highway to China will forever change daily life for these Nepalis who live along its path. Lucas Millard (Director, Writer, Producer, DP), Kate Stryker (Director, Writer, 2nd Camera)


¡Las Sandinistas!

This feature documentary tells the disappearing story of the women who fought on the front lines in Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution and traces their continuing struggle for justice. Jenny Murray (Director, Writer), Sarah Winshall (Producer)


Leave the Bus Through the Broken Window

You went to Hong Kong to make a film about art — instead you made one about heartbreak, politics and getting lost in a shopping mall. Andrew Hevia (Director, Writer, Producer, DP), Carlos Rivera (Editor)


Personal Statement

Karoline, Christine and Enoch are high school seniors who want to go to college, and they are determined to bring their friends with them. They work as college counselors in their schools because many of their peers don’t have anyone else to turn to for help. Karoline, Christine and Enoch are fighting for the right to a better future, for themselves and for every single one of their classmates. Juliane Dressner (Director, Producer, DP), Edwin Martinez (Co-Director, DP, Editor), Beth Levison (Co-Producer)


A Photographic Memory

A daughter attempts to piece together a portrait of her mother, an avant-garde journalist and a woman she never knew. Uncovering the vast audio-visual archive Sheila Turner-Seed produced, including lost interviews with iconic photographers, the film explores memory, legacy and stories left untold. Rachel Elizabeth Seed (Director, Producer, DP), Danielle Varga (Producer)


Shadow of His Wings

Shadow of His Wings is a personal documentary about filmmaker Lucas’ love story with a young Ethiopian man in Addis Ababa before and after he must flee homophobic threats to become France’s first LGBT refugee from Ethiopia. Meanwhile, in the hopes of reconciling with his son, Lucas’ estranged Ethiopian father returns to Addis after nearly 45 years of exile. Against a backdrop of the global refugee crisis, the film intersects a departure and a return home through a distinctly intimate lens. Lucas Habte (Director, Producer, DP), Isidore Bethel (Producer, Editor), Tigist Schmidt (Producer)



In 1992, a mysterious American named Georges Cardona shot Singapore’s first indie road movie with a clique of teenage female film geeks, including Sandi Tan, then absconded with all the footage! 20 years later, the 16mm cans are discovered in New Orleans, sending Sandi, now a novelist in Los Angeles, on an odyssey in search of Georges’ vanishing footprints…and her own. Sandi Tan (Director, Writer, Producer, Co-Editor)



Four transgender troops fight to change discriminatory policies banning their service while navigating societal stigma both before and after the ban is lifted. Gabe Silverman (Director, DP, Editor), Fiona Dawson (Director, Executive Producer), Jamie Coughlin (Writer, Producer)


We Are Not Princesses

In Beirut’s refugee camps, Syrian mothers, sisters, and wives process and express their circumstance by standing up to patriarchal authority and performing an adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone. Bridgette Auger (Director, DP), Itab Azzam (Director, Producer, DP), Sara Maamouri (Editor)




The IFP Labs are made possible by the generous support of our lead sponsor, the Time Warner Foundation, as well as the Ford Foundation, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts, and SAGindie. Together, we are partnering to discover, nurture and celebrate the next generation of storytellers.




The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) champions the future of storytelling by connecting artists with essential resources at all stages of development and distribution. The organization fosters a vibrant and sustainable independent storytelling community through its year-round programs, which include IFP Film Week, Filmmaker Magazine, the IFP Gotham Awards and the Made in NY Media Center by IFP, a tech and media incubator space developed with the New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.


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