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Sundance/NHK Filmmakers Awards Finalists Announced

By Gregg Schwenk

Sundance Institute and NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) today announced the twelve finalists for the 2006 Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Awards.  Marking the 10th anniversary of the Award, the 2006 finalists represent the best in independent voices from around the globe.  This annual award supports new artists in international cinema and is presented to emerging film directors from four global regions to support them in realizing their next projects.  One winner from Europe, Latin America, the United States, and Japan is selected by members of an international jury.  The four winners will be announced during the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and presented with the award at the Festival Awards Ceremony.  

The winning director from each region will receive a $10,000 award and a guarantee from NHK to purchase the Japanese television broadcast rights upon completion of their project.  NHK is Japans largest broadcaster with five 24-hour TV and three radio channels.  In addition, Sundance Institute will work closely with the award recipients throughout the year, providing ongoing support and assistance in seeking out opportunities to finance and distribute their projects.
?This award, an integral part of Sundance Institutes Feature Film Program, provides significant support for international artists with original stories to tell. Were thrilled by the quality and authentic voices of this years finalists, said Michelle Satter, Director, Sundance Institute Feature Film Program.  Alesia Weston, Senior Manager of the Feature Film Program, International, added: ?These projects and stories represent a wide range of artistic vision that transcends geographic and political boundaries.
Past recipients of the award include: Miranda July, ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW (USA); Andrucha Waddington, THE HOUSE OF SAND (Brazil); Lucrecia Martel, LA CIENAGA (Argentina); Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll, WHISKY (Uruguay); Walter Salles, CENTRAL STATION (Brazil); and Chris Eyre, SMOKE SIGNALS (USA).  Sundance/NHK films in post-production include György Pálfi, TAXIDERMIA (Hungary) and Catalin Mitulescu, THE WAY I SPENT THE END OF THE WORLD (Romania).

The twelve finalists for the 2006 Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Awards are:
Veit Helmer / AZERBAIJAN DREAM (Germany)? When a remote village loses its water supply, two young lovers find themselves caught in a battle of the sexes.  Their hope to consummate their love is thwarted as the women of the town declare a ?no sex strike until their water supply returns.  
Born in Hanover in 1968, Veit Helmer began making award-winning short films as a teenager. After attending the Academy of Television & Film in Munich, he set up his production company in Berlin and made his first feature TUVALU in 1998, which received the FIPRESCI prize as well as numerous honors and awards internationally.
Nanouk Leopold / WOLFSBERGEN (The Netherlands)? Unable to recover from his wifes death, a man informs his children and grandchildren of his plans to commit suicide but finds they are too preoccupied with their own lives to stop him.
Nanouk Leopold graduated from the Dutch Film and Television Academy in Amsterdam in 1998.  Her first feature, ÎLES FLOTTANTES, played at film festivals internationally, and her follow-up, GUERNSEY, was in the Quinzaine des Realisateurs at Cannes 2005.
Patrice Toye / THE SPRING RITUAL (Belgium)?THE SPRING RITUAL, written by Bjorn Olaf Johanneseen, is Patrice Toyes second feature film and tells the story of Tomas, who after staging his death and escaping to a new life, realizes the extent of his loss.  He returns home, hoping to reunite with his wife, but finds that the life he left behind has irrevocably changed.
Patrice studied film at St. Lukas in Bruselles. She produced and directed news reports and documentaries for numerous Belgian broadcasters. After screening at Toronto, Berlin, and Montreal, Patrice Toyes feature film debut, ROSIE was released internationally, where it was met with critical acclaim.
Alejandro Fernandez Almendras / HUACHO (Chile)?Set in the Chilean countryside, HUACHO presents a day in the life of a small rural family struggling to keep up with a modern world that continues to move on without them.
Alejandro Fernández Almendras was born in Chillán, Chile. He has lived in New York City since 1988, working as a correspondent for the news agency EFE and film critic for the Chilean magazine Mabuse. In 2003, he completed his first narrative short film, LA OFRENDA, which screened at La Habana, Toulouse, Quebec and São Paulo, among other festivals.
Josué Mendez / DIOSES (Peru)?Members of a privileged Peruvian family grapple with issues of class, family relationships, and personal ambitions.
Born in Peru, Josué Mendez studied cinema at Yale.  After completing his award-winning short, PARELISA, he was a resident at the Cinéfondation of Cannes.  His first feature, DAYS OF SANTIAGO, played at Rotterdam and won the FIPRESCI prize.
Fernando Eimbcke / LAKE TAHOE (Mexico)?Thirteen-year-old Juan is obsessed with repairing the car he has just crashed, his late fathers final gift to him.  As he wanders the city searching for parts, Juan is forced to make the transition from childhood to adulthood in the course of a day.
After directing numerous music videos, Fernando Eimbcke wrote and directed his first Feature Film TEMPORADA DE PATOS (DUCK SEASON), which won the FIPRESCI Award, participated at the 43rd Semaine International de la Critique at Cannes (2004), is nominated for an Independent Spirit Award (Best Foreign Film) and is slated for 2006 US release by Warner Independent.
Cruz Angeles / DONT LET ME DROWN?Co-written by Maria Topete, DONT LET ME DOWN  portrays a post-September 11th world overflowing with fear and hate, where two Latino teens discover that the only thing that can keep them from drowning is each other.
A graduate of the NYU masters program in film, Cruz Angeles won a Directors Guild of America Award for Best Latino Student Filmmaker for his film, ABUELAS REVOLT, which screened at SXSW and was broadcast on PBS as part of WNETs REEL-NY.  DONT LET ME DROWN, developed at Sundance Institute Screenwriters and Filmmakers Labs, will be his first feature.
Dante Harper / DREAMLAND?An unflinching portrayal of the origins of domestic terrorism, DREAMLAND is the tragic story of Timothy McVeigh, from his boyhood dreams of being a soldier to his life as a man at war with his own country.
Dante W. Harper is an independent filmmaker and co-founder of CLC Films.  His first feature, THE DELICATE ART OF THE RIFLE won numerous international awards and strong critical praise.  Since moving to Los Angeles, he has worked as an editor, screenwriter and producer, and has been pursuing his MFA at the UCSD School of Visual Arts. Harper has participated in Sundance Institutes Screenwriters and Filmmakers Labs.
Andrew Dosunmu / MOTHER OF GEORGE?MOTHER OF GEORGE, written by Darci Picoult, tells the story of a womans struggle to please her husband and live within a community that defines a woman by the children she will have one day.
Born in Nigeria, Andrew Dosunmu began his career as a design assistant at Yves St Laurent before becoming a creative director and photographer for magazines, such as ID, Vogue, Vibe, and Face. Dosunmu directed his first music video for Isaac Hayes, and has gone on to direct numerous music videos and commercials.  His documentary, HOT IRONS, won best documentary at FESPACO and Reel Award at Toronto. Dosunmu developed MOTHER OF GEORGE at Sundance Institutes Screenwriters and Filmmakers Labs.


Minehito Fujita / HURRICANE?A well-respected businessman has lived with the presence of a ghostly apparition for years.  When he discovers that his employee can see the same ghost, a special bond forms between the two men.
After working in the commercial directorial department of the prestigious Tohokushinsa Film Cooperation, Minehito Fujita struck out on his own as a freelance commercial director.  HURRICANE will be his first feature film.
Satoki Kenmochi / NEXT SUNDAY?In the shadow of the 2002 World Cup in Japan, a Korean foreign exchange student and an older Japanese man fall in love, transcending the typically strained relations between their countries.
Born in Tokyo, Satoki Kenmochi is the director of JUST ANOTHER DAY, which won Best New Director from the Japan Filmmakers Association and established Kenmochi as Japans best known independent filmmaker.  Since then, he has worked in television drama, documentaries, and commercials.
Kanji Nakajima / THE CLONE RETURNS TO THE HOMELAND?Against the wishes of his wife, a recently deceased man is brought back as a clone. Although given a second chance, he is unable to connect to his family or escape the memories of his former self.
Writer, director, cinematographer, and musician, Kanji Nakajima developed his unique approach to filmmaking at the Tokyo Zokei University.  His first feature, HAGANE, won first prize at the Portugal International Film Festival and his follow-up, THE BOX, won special mention at Toronto.
NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) is Japans largest broadcaster. Since 1925, it has continued to offer fair impartial reporting and high quality programs, earning the viewers trust as the nations sole public broadcaster. Through its five 24-hour TV channels (two terrestrial/three satellite) and three radio channels, NHK provides programs of all genres from news and education to sports and entertainment and serves as the hub of Japanese visual culture. NHKS arts and entertainment satellite channel, which was introduced in 1989, broadcasts more than 600 high quality international films each year.  In order to contribute to the development of film culture and the promotion of cultural exchange, NHK is devoted to supporting burgeoning filmmakers who have the potential to guide the industrys future development. Along with the ?Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award, NHK also produces the ?Asian Film Festival which offers opportunities to emerging film directors in Asia.
The Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award is part of the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program.  The Feature Film Program was established in 1981 to identify and foster a new generation of leading film artists and support them throughout the creation of a specific film project. The program features lab residencies in writing, directing, and producing, year-round creative and  business support, and the Annenberg film fellowships, providing strategic financial support to filmmakers during the development and completion stages of a project. Over the years, the Feature Film Program has supported the early visionary work of Josh Marston (MARIA FULL OF GRACE),  Peter Sollett (RAISING VICTOR VARGAS), Tamara Jenkins (SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS),Walter Salles (CENTRAL STATION), Paul T. Anderson (HARD EIGHT), Quentin Tarantino (RESERVOIR DOGS), and Kimberly Peirce (BOYS DON'T CRY), among many others.
Sundance Institute
Dedicated year-round to the development of artists of independent vision and to the exhibition of their new work, Sundance Institute celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2006.  Since its inception, the Institute has grown into an internationally recognized resource for thousands of independent artists through its Sundance Film Festival and artistic development programs which provide a range of concentrated creative and financial support for screenwriters, directors, documentary filmmakers, composers, playwrights and theatre artists.  The original values of independence, creative risk-taking, and discovery continue to define and guide the work of Sundance Institute, both with US artists and, increasingly, with artists from other regions of the world. 

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Gregg Schwenk is a writer, educator, and entrepreneur. He reports on a number of various subjects including: film, art, technology and politics. Mr. Schwenk is an adjunct professor at CSUF's Center for Entertainment and Tourism located in Orange County, California. He is also a consultant and advisor to several entertainment and technology firms. In 2005, Mr. Schwenk was appointed by the US Secretary of Commerce, to the District Export Council. He has a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and completed the Advanced Management Program at USC.
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