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Sundance Institute announces Momentum Fellowship, partners with Warner Bros. in expansion of inclusive support of underrepresented filmmakers

Sundance Institute announces Momentum Fellowship, partners with Warner Bros. in expansion of inclusive support of underrepresented filmmakers
Eight filmmakers have been selected for the inaugural Sundance Institute Momentum Fellowship, announced Tuesday. (Sundance Institute)

Sundance Institute announced Tuesday the inaugural class of its Momentum Fellowship, a yearlong program for eight selected writers, directors and producers from underrepresented communities who will receive professional mentorship, grants and other support from Sundance and partners including Warner Bros.

Including filmmakers whose work spans documentary, feature, episodic and virtual reality genres, the Momentum Fellowship is an expansion of Sundance Institute’s Women at Sundance program. Along with the new name, the rebranded program has a more intersectional scope, and is now open to artists who identify as women, non-binary and/or transgender, artists of color and artists with disabilities.

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The 2019 Momentum Fellows are:

  • Alexandria Bombach, whose documentary “On Her Shoulders” won the best directing prize in U.S. Documentary Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival;

  • Amber Fares, who made her directing debut with the 2015 documentary “Speed Sisters”;

  • Josh Feldman, whose Sundance Now dramedy “This Close” premiered earlier this year;

  • Yance Ford, whose debut film “Strong Island” earned an Academy Award nomination for best documentary;

  • Ro Haber, whose digital docuseries “New Deep South” premiered at Tribeca and won awards from the L.A. Film Festival, Outfest and GLAAD;

  • Megha Kadakia, producer of “Miss India America,” “Raspberry Magic,” “The Tiger Hunter” and the upcoming “Hummingbird”;

  • Alysa Nahmias, director of the Spirit Award-winning documentary “Unfinished Spaces” and producer of Sundance award-winning documentary “Unrest”;

  • Eva Vives, whose credits include Sundance award-winning short “Five Feet High and Rising,” “Raising Victor Vargas” and her feature-directing debut, “All About Nina,” which opened theatrically in September.

The 2019 Momentum Fellowship recipients: (top row, from left) Alexandria Bombach, Ro Haber, Eva Vives, Yance Ford; (bottom row, from left) Amber Fares, Alysa Nahmias, Josh Feldman, Megha Kadakia
The 2019 Momentum Fellowship recipients: (top row, from left) Alexandria Bombach, Ro Haber, Eva Vives, Yance Ford; (bottom row, from left) Amber Fares, Alysa Nahmias, Josh Feldman, Megha Kadakia (Sundance)

“Our inaugural class of fellows bring such an array of unique talents and experiences to the creative table, and we are beyond excited for this year of collaboration and development,” said Karim Ahmad, Sundance’s director of outreach and inclusion. “We also hope that this intersectional approach will be a model for increasingly vital conversations about allyship across demographic silos in the artist and industry communities at large.”

“After supporting six classes of Women at Sundance fellows, we are thrilled to expand the fellowship to include voices from underrepresented communities. The Momentum Fellowship offers critical support so that artists can fulfill their potential, create sustainable careers and form a close-knit cohort that will develop into an invaluable alliance,” said Caroline Libresco, director of women at Sundance.

Support and strategic partnership come from the Harnisch Foundation, which offers the Harnisch Coaching Program, from Renee Freedman & Company, and from Warner Bros., which has partnered with Sundance to create the Sundance Institute / Warner Bros. Feature Film Directors Track. That program will provide mentorship and support for the directors selected in this year’s Momentum Fellowship via workshops and access to film executives at the Burbank studio.

“Partnering with the experts at Sundance Institute on the newly created Directors Track best serves our continued efforts to broaden opportunities and access for emerging talent,” said Courtenay Valenti, president of production and development for Warner Bros. Pictures. “Sundance’s proven track record in identifying up-and-coming talent and their existing infrastructure makes them the perfect partner in Warner Bros.’ efforts to nurture the next generation of filmmakers.”

The move comes in tandem with expanded efforts to increase inclusion and diversity among programming staff and accredited media at the upcoming 2019 Sundance Film Festival, set for Jan. 24-Feb. 3 in Park City, Utah.

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