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Rishi Chandna named Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab Fellow

The Indian filmmaker is one of 15 creators selected for the prestigious programme, which is being held virtually this year.

Sonal Pandya

Independent filmmaker Rishi Chandna has been selected for the Sundance Institute 2021 Screenwriters Lab along with 14 others from around the world. The Screenwriters Lab Fellows will meet virtually for the January Screenwriters Lab, which is being held online on the Sundance Co//ab, a community platform for creators, from 11 to 15 January.

The fellows will get a chance to develop their original projects under a group of creative advisors, which includes Michelle Satter, founding director of Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Programme, and Ilyse McKimmie, deputy director. Filmmaker Ritesh Batra is part of the team of creative advisors, with Rodrigo Garcia and artistic director Scott Frank who will help mentor the fellows.

In a statement, Satter said, “At this time of unprecedented change, we’re so fortunate to virtually gather this inclusive group of bold and vibrant filmmakers and advisors for a week of story meetings, craft workshops, and life-long creative relationships that have long been a hallmark of our labs. We strongly believe that storytellers have the power to reimagine and rewrite the future, and we’re excited to launch this next generation of filmmakers with a year-round support system beginning with the January lab.”

Chandna, a Mumbai-based self-taught filmmaker, broke through with his debut short documentary Tungrus (2018) which was screened at several festivals including Hot Docs and the BFI London Film Festival. It also qualified for the Oscars after it won the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival.

Tungrus review: Takes us on a roller coaster of emotions

The filmmaker’s next is a short film, Party Poster, is described as “hybrid satire”. It features “a community of laundrymen wanting to celebrate a religious festival in the face of a pandemic”. For the screenwriting lab, Chandna will develop The Catch/Ghol in which a poor Muslim fisherman becomes rich overnight after netting a shoal of the rare and prized Ghol fish.

According to the film’s synopsis on the Sundance Institute website, “The newfound wealth offers him a chance to buy a bigger boat and rebuild his life, but a renewed wave of anti-Muslim sentiment threatens his plans and forces him to confront past traumas.”

Previous filmmakers who attended the lab over the past 35 years include Lulu Wang, Marielle Heller, Damien Chazelle, Ryan Coogler and Ritesh Batra.

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Sundance Film Festival