Sundance Institute and Time Warner Foundation Welcome 2013 Fellows
The Sundance Institute, a global, nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to nurturing artistic expression in film and theater, and the Time Warner Foundation recently revealed the 11 artists selected for the 2013 Sundance Institute | Time Warner Foundation Fellowship Program. The program promotes cultural, socio-economic and gender diversity as well as artistic collaboration and innovation among emerging film and theatre storytellers, documentary filmmakers and film composers.
As a Sundance Institute Fellow, participants attend an annual Lab, receive mentoring and strategic granting, attend the Sundance Film Festival, and participate in screenplay readings, work-in-progress screenings and related programs and events.
Each Sundance Fellow partakes in one of the five core programs offered by the Institute, including the Documentary Film Program, Feature Film Program, Film Music Program, the Theatre Program, and the Native American & Indigenous Film Program. The newly created Native Producing Fellowship focuses on the need to increase the number of Native American and Indigenous producers in the film industry while supporting independent artists in their development processes.
This year's Time Warner Foundation Fellow in the Native American & Indigenous Film Program is Brooke Swaney (pictured below), whose film, Circle, centers on Auralee, a girl trapped in a dead-end job and a dead-end relationship, as she searches for her Native roots while coping with a sudden onset of baby-mania. Meanwhile Frankie, a teenage Haida girl in Montana, acquaints herself with a new foster family while combating the aftereffects of abuse. Auralee wants a kid, Frankie wants love, and only one knows it can be found together.
"I was inspired to make this film a few years ago when I made my short film, Ok Breathe Auralee, which is about a Native American woman adopted out of the Native American community and finding a role for herself," says Swaney, speaking from her home state of Montana. "I wanted to know what motherhood would be like for her and for her birth mother."
"(The Native community) has always known that the Sundance Institute has been there supporting Native artists ... When I started making films ten years ago or so, my goal was to get into this festival."
Ok Breathe Auralee, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011.
Swaney says during the 1970s, one in three children from Native communities was in an institution of some kind, such as foster homes or government-run boarding schools, or were adopted out of the Native community. This prompted the U.S. Congress to pass the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978, intended to keep American Indian children with American Indian families. Through the eyes of her characters in Circle, Swaney wants to raise awareness about the fact that this happened to the Native community as recently as the 1970s, and that it continues to be an issue today.
Believing that most treatments of the native experience focus too strongly on a historical perspective, Swaney wanted to create a contemporary story.
"I think in part in the native community, it's important to try and maintain a relationship with where you've come from," she says. "It's a way of preserving your culture. Culture is a changing and malleable thing, but being able to show there are ways for people to try to reconnect is really important."
On her experience working with the Sundance Institute during her filmmaking journey, Swaney says, "(The Sundance Institute) has been supportive of my project and I don't think without them encouraging me and pushing me to keep writing I wouldn't be in the place I am...they opened the door to a group of people I wouldn't have access to normally. This lends a certain amount of clout and confidence in my ability to bring this story to screen. That's the main thing I'm excited about; it's moved me into a respected circle of filmmakers."
Swaney grew up on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. She studied at Stanford University for her undergraduate degree, and worked at a nonprofit organization in Montana after graduation. She eventually found her way to New York, where she received her MFA in Film and Television from NYU's Tisch School of Arts and embarked on her filmmaking career.
By TW Staff
Photo Credit: Lindsey Shakespeare