SEATTLE, Washington — On January 21, the Sundance Institute announced that it has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its-first ever Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge.
This new project is a way to get the world talking about hunger and poverty, important issues that are not discussed nearly enough on a daily basis. By asking for submissions of independent films, the challenge allows filmmakers to be creative and to be inspired by anything that they see. The challenge “supports Sundance Institute’s mission to empower independent storytellers and connect their work to communities around the world.”
The Executive Director of Sundance Institute, Keri Putnam, said in regard to the challenge, “With the support of the Gates Foundation, we are proud to launch this short film challenge and support filmmakers around the work in telling stories that inform and engage audiences in ways that are as innovative and imaginative as the solutions people are putting into action every day.”
As part of the announcement, Sundance held a private screening of five new independent films in Park City, Utah. Each of the films illustrates how the world is changing and how because of those changes, people can survive even the most hospitable conditions.
The first film was “After My Garden Grows,” directed by Megan Mylan. This documentary takes place in India and tells the story of a young girl living in rural India, who decides to cultivate her own plot of land to feed her family. This act is a way for her to exert her own independence in a community that is largely male-dominated.
Directors Hank Willis Thomas and Christopher Myers’ experimental documentary, “Am I Going Too Fast?”, takes place in Nairobi, Kenya. The piece tells the stories of how people have been effected by a growing technological presence in the country, with such innovations including micro-finance and cell phone baking.
“Kombit,” a documentary directed by Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman, tells the story of people who have been displaced in Haiti. These individuals decide to start a micro-garden in a hope to alleviate extreme hunger and poor conditions after a major earthquake.
Director Ritesh Batra’s “The Masterchef” is a narrative of a young boy named Akhil who is living in India. Akhil is given the chance of a lifetime when he meets one of the country’s bset known chefs, which could make his dreams of becoming a gourmet chef a reality.
Tod Lending directed the last piece, “Vevo,” a documentary that takes place in Madagascar. It is the story of a young girl whose family and village were able to survive difficult times because they adopted sustainable fishing methods.
In showing these films, Sundance and the Gates Foundation hoped to inspire filmmakers to submit their own works that explore “an empowering person or an optimistic story about individuals and communities who are overcoming poverty and hunger, combatting disease, or improving health.”
The five winning short films will be shown at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, with each of the filmmakers receiving a $10,000 prize and an all-expenses paid trip to the festival. Additionally, these filmmakers will attend as special guests of both the Sundance Institute and the Gates Foundation.
– Julie Guacci