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IFP Announces Documentary Projects for Its Annual IFP Labs

by Erik Luers on May 9, 2016

Brooklyn, NY (May 9, 2016) – The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) announced today the ten documentaries selected for the 2016 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 May 11-15 in New York City.

The IFP 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. The Labs provide filmmakers with the technical, creative and strategic tools necessary to launch their films and careers. Comprised of both documentary and narrative strands, the Narrative Lab selections will be announced May 23rd.

“The feature Labs are about diversity, from the selection of a range of stories and stylistic approaches to the creative teams themselves and this year’s group exemplify this,” says Joana Vicente, Executive Director of IFP and the Made in NY Media Center. “The Labs provide a foundation for “success” while reinforcing that the goals, strategies, and options for each team are going to be as different from each other as their films.”

As of 2015, the 196 projects that have gone through the program include such critically acclaimed films as the recent documentaries (T)error by Lyric Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe (Independent Lens), Nanfu Wang’s Hooligan Sparrow (POV), Sharon Shattuck’s From This Day Forward (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: Her Fight for Gold (Independent Lens), David Thorpe’s Do I Sound Gay? (Sundance Selects), and Amanda Wilder’s Gotham, Independent Spirit, and Cinema Eye Honors nominated Approaching the Elephant.

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. This year, half of the ten projects are directed or co-directed by women, and of the 24 attending Fellows attached to these projects, 63% are women.

Under the artistic direction of IFP Senior Director of Programming Milton Tabbot and Program Manager Paola Mottura, the supervising 2016 Documentary Lab leaders include Jon Reiss, director/producer and author (Bomb It!Think Outside the Box Office), Jessica Wolfson, producer (Revenge of the Mekons, A Girl and a Gun) and director/producer (Radio Unnameable), Carol Dysinger, consultant, film editor, and producer/director (Camp Victory, Afghanistan). Individual workshop mentors include, amongst others: composer T. Griffin (Welcome to Leith; The Overnighters); Music Supervisor Barry Cole (Alive Inside, Trouble the Water);  film editors Erin Casper (The New Black; American Promise); Penelope Falk (Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work; Maidentrip); Mary Manhardt (Making of a Murderer, American Promise); Jonathan Oppenheim (The Oath, Paris Is Burning); and David Teague (Life, Animated; Cutie and the Boxer); Sound Designer Tom Paul (Weiner, Cartel Land); experts on audience building and outreach (Christie Marchese, Picture Motion); festival strategy (programming maven Basil Tsiokos [DOC NYC, Nantucket Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival]); and workshops on theatrical, digital and international sales; distribution case studies, and career sustainability.

Following the Spring Lab, the Lab Fellows will participate in IFP Film Week’s Spotlight on Documentaries, and return for another Lab week (the Marketing and Distribution Lab) in November.

In addition to lead support from the Time Warner Foundation, additional support for the IFP Filmmaker Labs includes grants from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Ford Foundation, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, and SAGIndie. Lab partners include The Adrienne Shelly Foundation, BMI, and Rooftop Films.

The selected projects for the 2016 IFP Documentary Lab and their attending Lab Fellows are:


306 Hollywood

Our grandmother’s death triggers a surreal excavation through 70 years of life at 306 Hollywood Avenue. This magical realist documentary charts a course from her house in New Jersey to ancient Rome and outer space in search of the mysterious connections between memory, history, and what truly remains after life ends. Elan Bogarin & Jonathan Bogarin (Directors, Writers, Producers, DPs), Nyneve Laura Minnear (Editor). New York, NY



93QUEEN follows Rachel “Ruchie” Freier, a diminutive, no­nonsense Hasidic lawyer and mother of six who is determined to provide dignified Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to the Hasidic women and girls of Borough Park, Brooklyn. Paula Eiselt (Director, Producer), Heidi Reinberg (Producer). Queens, NY


Canary in a Coal Mine

Jennifer, a Harvard PhD student, was signing a check at a restaurant when she found she
could not write her own name. Months before her wedding, she became progressively more ill,
losing the ability even to sit in a wheelchair. When doctors insisted that her condition was psychosomatic, she picked up her camera to document her own story and the stories of four other patients struggling with the world’s most prevalent orphan disease – Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, often referred to as
 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 80% of its sufferers are women. Jennifer Brea (Director, Producer), Patricia Gillespie (Producer), Laura Vigilante (Impact Producer). Princeton, NJ.



Following the death of her 20 year old son, Yolanda confronts the legacies of oppression in her family. Guided by healing spirits and indigenous practices that make use of medicinal plants, she works to transform her family’s legacy of addiction and violence into newfound wisdom and strength. In this process, she herself transforms into a Curandera (healer). Ethan Goldwater (Director, Producer), Alessandra Lacorazza (Editor), Max Basch (DP). San Francisco, CA & Manhattan, NY


For the Birds

Kathy’s love for her pet ducks and chickens—all 200 of them—is beginning to cause problems in her marriage. When a local animal rescue group gets involved, accusations fly and Kathy must defend her way of life—or lose everything. The quiet town of Ellenville, New York becomes the stage of a fateful custody battle over the birds in this exhilarating verité tale. Richard Miron (Director, Producer, Editor), Holly Meehl (Producer), Jeffrey Star (Producer). Brooklyn, NY


Gautam Buddha

Gajon is a form of traveling theater from rural eastern India in which men play female roles. Many of them are gay. The film explores the lives two gay actors have built around Gajon. Gautam is married with a kid – the theater lets him get away from home; Buddha is building a one-room house for himself and his boyfriend. Shayok Mukhopadhyay (Director, Producer, DP, Editor). White Plains, NY.


Idiom (Hale County, This Morning, This Evening)

A constellation of imagery presents the life of two men living in the historic South.

RaMell Ross (Director, Writer, Producer, DP, Editor), Maya Krinsky (Creative Producer, Story Consultant). Providence, RI



Is it possible to make a home somewhere you feel out of place? A visit to her mother’s home in Texas leads the filmmaker to explore the poetics of belonging, dislocation and hybrid identity across three generations of her Iraqi family. Nadia Shihab (Director, DP), Talal Al-Muhanna (Executive Producer). Berkeley, CA


Sage Country

This film documents a transformational chapter in the life of Albert Villard and family, third-generation sheep ranchers outside Craig, Colorado.  Love of land, traditions of hard work and deep family bonds keep Albert rooted through the rigors of ranching.  Sudden tragedy leads Albert to a fundamental change in his perspective and a new approach to keeping his ranching legacy alive. Yuri Chicovsky (Director, Writer, DP, Editor, Composer), Lauren Blair (Producer). Paonia, CO.


Swim Team

What would you do if your community gave up on your child? In New Jersey, the parents of one autistic boy take matters into their own hands. They form a competitive swim team, recruiting diverse autistic teens and training them with high expectations and zero pity. What happens next alters the course of the boys’ lives. Swim Team chronicles the extraordinary rise of the Jersey Hammerheads, capturing a moving quest for inclusion, independence and a life that feels winning. Lara Stolman (Director, Producer), Ann Collins (Co-producer, Editor), Shanna Belott (Producer). Short Hills, NJ.



About IFP

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 Independent Film Week, Filmmaker Magazine, the Gotham Independent Film 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.


IFP represents a growing network of storytellers around the world, and plays a key role in developing 350 new feature and documentary works each year. During its 37-year history, IFP has supported over 10,000 projects and offered resources to more than 20,000 filmmakers, including Debra Granik, Miranda July, Michael Moore, Dee Rees, and Benh Zeitlin. More info at


For more information on IFP, please contact:

Amy Dotson, Deputy Director & Head of Programming, IFP (212) 465-8200 x203