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Sean P. Means
Sean is the movie critic and columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket.

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Sundance picks 13 projects for June filmmaking labs

A lucky 13 film projects have been selected for this summer’s Directors and Screenwriters Labs at the Sundance Institute.

Eight of the projects and their creators will undergo immersive workshops — rehearsing, filming and editing scenes from their scripts — starting May 26 at the Sundance resort in Provo Canyon. Five more screenwriters will join those eight for the labs’ final week, for intensive screenwriting workshops.

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The June labs are the centerpiece of Sundance Institute’s year-round support of narrative feature filmmakers.

The labs are led by Michelle Satter, founding director of Sundance’s feature film program, and feature a wide array of film professionals acting as advisors. Among this year’s advisors: Directors Miguel Arteta, Katherine Bigelow, Keith Gordon, Catherine Hardwicke, Kasi Lemmons and Ira Sachs; screenwriters Michael Arndt, Scott Z. Burns, Walter Mosley and Wesley Strick, actors Ed Harris and Christine Lahti, and longtime acting coach Joan Darling. And, of course, Robert Redford, Sundance’s founder.

Here are synopses of the projects, provided by Sundance, and a little bit about the people behind them:

Directors Lab:

"The Father’s Shadow" (Brazil) • "A nine-year-old girl with strange powers and an obsession with horror films attempts to bring her mother back from the dead as a means of connecting with her sick father." Written and directed by Gabriela Amaral Almeida, whose short films have screened at over 80 film festivals.

"Night Comes On" (U.S.A.) • "Angel is released from juvenile hall on her 18th birthday with a single focus: shoot the man who killed her mother." Director/co-writer Jordana Spiro received the 2013 Sundance Film Festival’s Women in Film Grant; she’s also an actress, who starred on the TV series "The Mob Doctor" and "My Boys." Co-writer Angelica Nwandu, originally from Nigeria, is a spoken-word poet and global advocate for foster youth. (Nwandu is also a 2014 Sundance Institute | Time Warner Fellow.)

"Park" (Greece) • "Ten years have passed, and the Olympic Village in Athens, Greece is in decay. Among the abandoned athletic facilities and new-money tourist resorts nearby, 17-year-old Dimitris and his friends traverse Greece’s ‘glorious’ past with the decadence of today, creating a portrait of a society unprepared for the brutal fall." Writer-director Sofia Exarchou has directed the short films "Mesecina" and "Distance"; "Park is scheduled to begin production in Athens later this summer.

"Patti Cake$" (U.S.A.) • "Patricia Dombrowski, aka Patti Cake$, aka White Trish, is a big girl with big dreams of rap superstardom. Stuck in Lodi, New Jersey, Patti battles an army of haters as she strives to break the mold and take over the rap game." Writer/director Geremy Jasper is a music video and commercial director, whose credits include VMA-nominated videos for Florence + The Machine and Senea Gomez.

"Stranger With a Camera" (U.S.A./Northern Ireland) • "In this dramatic thriller, an American girl is stranded in a remote village in Northern Ireland after her father is arrested on a 20-year-old murder charge tied to the IRA. Compelled by her father’s secrecy, she sets out to uncover the mysterious family history that he has kept hidden from her." Writer-director Oorlagh George produced the 2012 Oscar-winning live-action short "The Shore," and is the daughter of director/screenwriter Terry George ("Hotel Rwanda").

"Swiss Army Man" (U.S.A.) • "In this absurdist comedy, a hopeless man stranded in the wilderness befriends a dead body and together they go on a journey to get home." Filmmaking partners Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, collectively known as Daniels, have been nominated for a Grammy and VMA award for their music-video work. They also have been chosen as the inaugural Sundance Institute | HP Fellows, "in recognition of their passion for technology and innovation in independent filmmaking."

"Ten Thousand Happiness" (U.S.A./China/Canada) • "The sudden divorce of their 80-year-old grandparents causes three generations of a Chinese family to each re-evaluate their relationships in love, life and happiness in modern Beijing." Writer-director Johnny Ma, born in Shanghai and raised in Toronto, screened his latest short film, "A Grand Canal," at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall.

"We the Animals" (U.S.A.) • "Based on the bestselling novel by Justin Torres, We the Animals is about the brutal love of a multi-racial working class family, seen through the eyes of the youngest son, as he discovers his heritage, his sexuality and his madness." Director/co-writer Jeremiah Zagar directed the documentary "Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart," which debuted at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and will air on HBO later this year. Co-writer Dan Kitrosser is a storyteller and playwright, whose plays include "The Mumblings," "Tar Baby" and "Dead Special Crabs."

Screenwriters Lab:

"The Bad Batch" (U.S.A.) • "In this post-apocalyptic cannibal love story set in a desert wasteland in Texas, a muscled cannibal breaks one important rule: don’t play with your food. In saturated hues and stylings of the 80’s & 90’s and with a wicked techno & western-laced soundtrack, ‘The Bad Batch’ is kind of like ‘Road Warrior’ meets ‘Pretty in Pink’ ... meets Gummo." Writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour premiered her first film, the "Iranian vampire Western" "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night," in the NEXT section of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

"Dust" (U.S.A.) • "Trapped by increasingly horrific dust storms, a young mother haunted by the past becomes convinced that a mysterious presence is threatening her family and takes extraordinary measures to protect them." Writer Karrie Crouse co-wrote "Pilgrim Song" (which played SXSW 2012) and the screenplay for "Papaw Easy" (which received Sundance’s Creative Producing Fellowship in 2013). Director Will Joines has directed music videos for such bands as The Soft Moons and Exit Music. Both are from North Carolina.

"I’m No Longer Here" (U.S.A./Mexico) • "Following the death of his older brother, a teenage Mexican boy is forced by his mother to migrate to New York City. When he arrives, he quickly realizes that the violence plaguing his home is nothing compared to the feelings of alienation and loneliness he experiences in America." Writer-director Fernando Frias, from Mexico City, directed "Rezeta," which won the jury award for best narrative feature at Slamdance this year.

"Monsoon" (Vietnam/U.K.) • "Two young men visiting present day Vietnam find solace in each other, and are confronted with the war’s ramifications nearly forty years after its end." Writer-director Hong Khaou’s first feature, "Lilting," won the cinematography award in the World Cinema competition at Sundance this year.

"Side Hero" (India) • "A teenager who lives by the codes of his beloved kung fu movies must find his own way when he discovers that he may never get to be the hero." Writer-director Vasan Bala, from Mumbai, made his debut feature "Peddlers" in 2012; it screened in Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival that year.



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