Independent Filmmaker Project picks 10 docs for Labs

The IFP has named the 10 documentary projects that will take part in the Independent Filmmaker Labs, a year-long fellowship for first-time feature directors.
May 17, 2011

The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) has named the 10 documentary projects that will participate in the 2011 Independent Filmmaker Labs, a year-long fellowship for first-time directors with projects in post-production.

Focusing on low-budget features (USD $1 million or less), the Labs provide a three-part mentorship program that gives filmmakers technical, creative and strategic advice when it comes to launching their films. The three-part program includes the finishing lab, a marketing lab and a distribution lab.

This year, the selected docs include three former Hot Docs Forum projects: Sun Kissed and Herman’s House from HDF 2010, and The Light in Her Eyes from this year’s HDF.

The selected documentary projects, with descriptions from IFP, are as follows:

Herman’s House

What kind of house does a man who has been imprisoned in a 6-by-9-foot cell for over 30 years dream of? This film captures the remarkable creative journey and friendship of Herman Wallace, one of the Angola 3, and artist Jackie Sumell while examining the injustice of prolonged solitary confinement. Fellows: Angad Bhalla (Director, Producer); Lisa Valencia-Svensson (Producer); Loring McAlpin (Executive Producer)

High Tech, Low Life

Two of China’s first and most daring citizen reporters challenge the status quo by reporting on censored news stories and pushing the boundaries of free speech. Armed with laptops, cell phones, and digital cameras they travel the country as independent one-man news stations while learning to navigate China’s evolving censorship regulations and avoiding the risk of political persecution. Fellows: Stephen Maing (Director, Producer); Trina Rodriguez (Producer)

The Light In Her Eyes

At her mosque school for women and girls in Damascus, Syria, preacher Houda al-Habash gives women firsthand knowledge of the Qur’an. She encourages her students to take their secular education seriously and live public lives. Immersed in a conservative Muslim community, The Light in Her Eyes reveals the unique role women are playing in the contemporary Islamic revival. Fellows: Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix (Directors/Producers)

Northern Light

In the northwoods of Michigan, three compelling women struggle to achieve their dreams as they balance marriage, work, and motherhood. This is Northern Light – a cinematic, observational documentary that explores the American working class experience through rich, character-based storytelling. From a frozen corner of the country emerge three modern American families. Fellows: Nicholas Bentgen (Director); Lisa Kjerulff (Producer); Yoonha Park (Editor)

Oscar’s Comeback

Melodrama and culture collide behind-the-scenes at a unique, annual mom-and-pop film festival held in a struggling, all-white South Dakota small-town. From historical reenactments to heated debates to ‘corporate’ take-over, it’s an everything-goes event dedicated to their most famous ‘native son’ — controversial, early 1900s black film pioneer, Oscar Micheaux. Across 7 years, experience the tumultuous festival’s rise, fall and transformation. Fellows: Lisa Collins (Director, Producer); Mark Schwartzburt (Co-director; Producer)


An intimate portrait of a global crisis woven from indigenous scenery and vérité footage, capturing colors, sights and sounds while exploring dedicated health workers and those in their care through intense and beautiful moments. Sister tells the story of health workers from Ethiopia, Cambodia and Haiti revealing maternal and newborn mortality as a human rights issue. Fellows: Brenda Davis (Director, Producer); Alexandra Swati Guild (Director of Photography, Associate Producer) ; Alison Shurman (Editor)

Sun Kissed

When a Navajo couple’s children are born with a rare genetic disorder, they enter a tug of war struggle between tradition and Western medicine. As they discover alarmingly high numbers of the disease on the Reservation and trace its origin to a traumatic event in Navajo history, they grasp the genetic and cultural effects of American colonialism on their lives today. Fellows: Maya Stark and Adi Lavy (Directors/Producers); Jocelyn Glatzer (Producer)

The Twelve O’Clock Boyz

Deep inside Baltimore City, a generation of fatherless sons searches for release, mitigating the pressures of life in the inner city by embracing a community of illegal dirt bike riding. After “Pug,” a child growing up in a combative West Baltimore hood, suffers a loss in his family, he finds solace in the dirt bike group. Fellows: Lotfy Nathan (Director, Producer); Ross Finkel (Producer); Patrick Wright (Producer, Editor)

Us Naked: The Adventures of Trixie and Monkey

Weirdo meets high-glam in Us Naked, the story of Trixie Little and The Evil Hate Monkey, a thirty-something couple sharing a peculiar life as an acrobatic-burlesque super-duo. From overdrawn checkbooks to major theatrical productions, Trixie and Monkey endure life on the road to make big eyelashes and monkey ears a full-time reality. But how long can they keep this up? Fellows: Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander (Director, Producer); Scot Hollander (Producer); Kata Frederick (Editor)

Welcome to the Machine

As a ‘human film about technology,’ Welcome to the Machine moves between expert interviews, portraits of people who have intimate relationships with technology and the filmmaker’s experience of becoming the father to triplets. Fellow: Avi Zev Weider (Director, Producer); Ann Husaini (Editor)

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