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Sundance Institute Announces 2023 Momentum Fellows

Headshots of the eight Sundance Momentum Fellows.

The Sundance Institute announces eight filmmakers selected for the fifth annual Momentum Fellowship, a program created to provide financial support and coaching for mid-career artists from underrepresented communities. The year-long fellowship is tailored for artists who have recently achieved a major accomplishment—such as a successful feature film or episodic work—and offers customized guidance for the fellows as they aim to level up in their careers.

“Over the years, the fellows selected for Momentum have all experienced success with their recently completed projects. This has often been a critical moment for artists  to receive creative and tactical support as they focus on a meaningful path forward.” said Michelle Satter, Founding Senior Director, Artist Programs in a press release. “This is where Momentum is both aptly named and unique in the industry–the fellowship is customized to the needs of individual filmmakers as they move forward with their next steps, making choices that’ll ensure they can sustain a career that gives them exciting and timely creative opportunities.”

Launched in 2018, the Momentum Fellowship is a Women at Sundance program with support from Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. Per the press release, the fellowship entails: 

…An unrestricted artist grant; professional coaching offered by Renee Freedman & Company, supported by The Harnisch Foundation; connection to ELEVATE, Sundance’s professional development initiative, and bespoke year-round support from Sundance Institute staff. Additionally, as part of an ongoing partnership with Universal’s Global Talent Development & Inclusion team (GTDI), the Studio will provide additional support for up to four (4) Momentum fellows working on fiction projects.  GTDI is providing select participants access to the Studio’s creative executives and producers to build career momentum and exposure to potential directing opportunities across the Company’s portfolio.

Find the bios of the 2023 Momentum Fellows below, including 25 New Faces of Independent Film alums Nikyatu Jusu and Charlotte Wells.

Francisca Alegria is an award-winning filmmaker whose short film And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye received the award for Best International Fiction Short at Sundance Film Festival. Her debut feature The Cow Who Sang A Song Into the Future premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2022 and was supported by the 2017 Sundance Institute Screenwriters and Directors Lab along with the Catalyst Forum.

Rita Baghdadi is an Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker known for the intimacy of her bold, character-driven films. Her latest feature, Sirens, premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize at Outfest. Rita’s work has been supported by Sundance, Tribeca, Netflix, HBO, IDA and Film Independent.

Michelle Garza is a director and screenwriter who graduated from CCC in Mexico City and Goldsmiths in London. Her debut feature Huesera premiered at Tribeca 2022 where it won the Best New Narrative Director and the Nora Ephron awards. Michelle also won the Citizen Kane award for the best new director at Sitges 2022.

Nikyatu Jusu is a writer and director and her first feature film, Nanny, was developed at the Sundance Institute’s 2020 Directors and Screenwriters Labs and debuted at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. Her follow up original feature film screenplay was acquired by Universal Studios and Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions. She works as an Assistant Professor of Directing and Screenwriting, Film and Video Studies, at the College of Visual & Performing Arts at George Mason University.

Bing Liu is a China-born, Midwest-raised filmmaker. His directorial credits include Minding the Gap, America To Me and All these Sons. Bing was supported by the Sundance Institute’s 2020 Directors and Screenwriters Lab on his first fiction feature which is currently in development.

Kate Tsang is an artist/filmmaker creating imaginative, offbeat stories with heart. Her debut feature Marvelous and the Black Hole premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. She wrote on the Emmy-nominated shows Adventure Time: Distant Lands (HBO MAX) and Steven Universe Future (Cartoon Network). 

Charlotte Wells is a BAFTA winning Scottish filmmaker whose debut feature, the award-winning Aftersun premiered in Critics’ Week at Cannes. Prior to Aftersun, Wells wrote and directed three short films, Tuesday, Laps, and Blue Christmas. She is a graduate of the MBA/MFA program at NYU where she was supported by BAFTA NY and LA. Charlotte, with her project Aftersun, was supported by the Sundance Institute’s 2020 Directors and Screenwriters Labs.

Violet du Feng is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. She has directed, produced or executive produced 13 films including the most recent Tribeca-premiered and Sundance Documentary Film Program supported  Hidden Letters. Her main producing credits include Dear Mother, I Meant to Write about Death, Singing in the Wilderness, Confucian Dream, Maineland and Please Remember Me.

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