Following up on last month’s announcement of the Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue initiative, Sundance Institute announced today the ten films selected to participate in the inaugural year of this cultural exchange program. The first Film Forward slate includes five American and five international films which will be presented in collaboration with public and private partners. These films and their filmmakers will kick off the ambitious project in New York and Tunisia in December.

The five American films that will tour throughout the United States and abroad as part of the initiative are: A Small Act directed by Jennifer Arnold; Amreeka directed by Cherien Dabis; Freedom Riders directed by Stanley Nelson; La Mission directed by Peter Bratt, and the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Winner, Winter’s Bone, directed by Debra Granik. The five international films chosen to complete the line up of independent films are: Afghan Star directed by Havana Marking; Boy directed by Taika Waititi; Last Train Home directed by Luxin Fan; Son of Babylon by Mohamed Al-Daradji, and Udaan directed by Vikramaditya Motwane.

“This exciting and diverse slate of independent films presents the common humanity we share across all boundaries,” said Keri Putnam, Executive Director, Sundance Institute. “Film Forward deeply reflects Sundance Institute’s core mission by presenting films to new audiences around the world to inspire cross-cultural dialogue.”

“We could not be more excited about this program and these films,” said Rachel Goslins, Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. “Each one of them powerfully represents universal themes and stories that will foster exactly the kind of cross-cultural understanding and dialogue that the President’s Committee and the program’s federal partners, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services believe are so important in today’s interconnected world.

Film Forwardwill travel to six U.S. states and six countries reaching a number of underserved communities in each location. Among the U.S. locations will be: the Saginaw Chippewa Reservation in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Piney Woods Boarding School in Jackson, Mississippi; the Ghetto Film School in the Bronx, New York; the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee; the Jacobs Burns Film Center, in Pleasantville, New York and the Puerto Rico Film Society in Puerto Rico. American embassies abroad will play a key role in hosting the Film Forward program and presenting these films to new international audiences. Locations will include Tunisia, Kenya, Turkey and China.

The program concludes in September 2011 and the centerpiece of the program will be a gala showcase of all ten films screened simultaneously on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in May. The event will be presented in collaboration with the Smithsonian Associates.

Film Forward filmmakers will present their work and lead master classes, discussion panels, Q&As and participate in other engagements between filmmaker and audience. These activities will be programmed around the screenings in all locations, cultivating engaged dialogue, fostering appreciation of other viewpoints while developing new audiences for independent film.

The films in the initiative represent fresh explorations of universal themes, and the evolving nature of drama in our global community. Boy, La Mission, Udaan and Winter’s Bone navigate the transition to adulthood and re-define family in broadly different circumstances; Amreeka and Last Train Home depict contemporary challenges of immigration for those seeking work and a better life; Afghan Star explores the story of youthful dreams and the clash of global pop culture in a traditional Muslim society; Son of Babylon focuses on the enduring nature of family love in a society decimated by war. Finally, exploring the impact of individual and collective action are: A Small Act which shows the impact of one individual’s choice to give, within a global context, and Freedom Riders depicts the real-life drama of a small group of courageous youth who risked everything 50 years ago, and transformed American life.

The final calendar of locations, venues and dates for the initiative will be announced in the coming weeks.


A Small Act (Director: Jennifer Arnold)-A young Kenyan’s life changes dramatically when his education is sponsored by a Swedish stranger. Years later, he founded his own scholarship program to replicate the kindness he once received.

Afghan Star / Afghanistan/UK (Director: Havana Marking)-After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, Pop Idol has come to television in Afghanistan: millions are watching and voting for their favorite singer. This film follows the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk their lives to sing.

Amreeka (Director and Screenwriter: Cherien Dabis)-When a divorced Palestinian woman and her teenage son move to rural Illinois, they find their new lives replete with challenges. Cast: Nisreen Faour, Melkar Muallem, Hiam Abbass, Yussuf Abu-Warda, Alia Shawkat, Joseph Ziegler.

Boy / New Zealand (Director and screenwriter: Taika Waititi)-When his father returns home after many years away, 11-year-old Boy and his little brother Rocky must reconcile reality with the fantasy dad they created in their imagination. Cast: Taika Waititi, James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone.

Freedom Riders (Director: Stanley Nelson)-The story behind a courageous band of civil rights activists called the Freedom Riders who in 1961 creatively challenged segregation in the American South.

La Mission / USA (Director and Screenwriter: Peter Bratt)-A traditional, Latino father in San Francisco’s Mission District struggles to come to terms with his teenage son’s homosexuality. Credited by Latino media as being both authentic and genuine to various aspects of American Hispanic cultures. Cast: Benjamin Bratt, Erika Alexander, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Talisa Soto Bratt, Jesse Borrego.

Last Train Home / Canada (Director: Lixin Fan)-Getting a train ticket in China proves a towering ordeal as a migrant worker family embarks on a journey, along with 200 million other peasants to reunite with their distant family.

Son of Babylon / Iraq (Director: Mohamed Al Daradji; Screenwriters: Mohamed Al-Daradji, Jennifer Norridge, Mithal Ghazi) In the days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, a young Kurdish boy and his grandmother venture through Iraq on a quest to find their missing father/son. Cast: Yasser Talib, Shazda Hussein, Bashir Al-Majid.

Udaan / India (Director Vikramaditya Motwane; Screenwriter: Motwane)-Following his expulsion from boarding school, Rohan returns to the small industrial town of Jamshedpur. After 8 years away, he finds himself closeted with an authoritarian father and a younger half brother whom he didn’t even know existed. Udaan explores deep-rooted family dynamics and a triumph of the human spirit.

Cast: Rajat Barmecha, Ronit Roy, Aayan Boradia, Ram Kapoor.

Winter’s Bone (Director: Debra Granik; Screenwriters: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini)-An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her missing father while trying to keep her family intact. Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Kevin Breznahan..

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