A Sundance Day

A cold, rainy Saturday in Istanbul was warmed up by the variated Sundance events. This year Sundance Institute and !f Istanbul (10th AFM International Independent Film Festival 2011) collaborated on a new very impressive project.

Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford Sundance Institute is a global, nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to nurturing artistic expression in film and theater, and to supporting intercultural dialogue between artists and audiences. Sundance Film Festival is  one of the most prestigious and top rated independent film festivals in the world.

The Film Forward Program initiated under the incentive of U.S. President Barack Obama to develop worldwide intercultural dialogue. The institute this year selected Istanbul as one of its 14 locations worldwide for the program. !f screened nine films from Film Forward, as well as host some of the directors of these films for its workshops and discussions.

I attended the Sundance events at Festival Center-Main Hall in Istanbul on the 26th of February.

“Film Forward & Spotlight on Sundance: Script Writing Panel”

The Sundance advisors and scriptwriters Bill Wheeler and Wesley Strick, along with Israeli author, scriptwriter, director and Sundance advisor Etgar Keret and  filmmaker Cherien Dabis shared their valuable experiences. The panelists gave some great tips & tricks from their scripts, writing methods and inspirations. We had pretty enjoyable and humorous moments too during the panel.

“Sundance Institute: Introduction to the Sundance Labs”

Alesia Weston, (Associate Director, Sundance Institute Feature Film Program, International) and Michelle Satter (Founding Director, Sundance Institute Feature Film Program) informed us about Sundance Institute’s Programmes; the opportunites for filmmakers, script writers and film composers accompanied with the Sundance Lab videos. They informed us about their working and collaboration methods, as well as the criterias and expectations from the international applicants. Seeing their excite and passion for emerging filmmakers and new projects were very encouraging indeed.

“Sundance Case Study: Amreeka, From Script to Screen”

Cherien Dabis (Palestian American filmmaker) shared her first hand experience as a filmmaker in the Sundance Lab process. She explained in detail about how her idea developed into a screenplay, followed by the film Amreeka.  It is about the story of a Jordanian single mom who immigrates to the United States to escape her unhappy domestic circumstances, only to discover that the American Dream isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The story was inspired by the real-life journey of Dabis’s aunt, who came to the U.S. in 1997. Along with compelling script writing journey with 25 drafts, she answered our questions about casting, filmmaking and distribution process as well as some scenes from Amreeka. To sum up, I found her story and personal experiences very interesting, inspiring and impressive.

Thanks a lot to Sundance Instititute and !f  Istanbul for this wonderful experience.


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