FILM INDEPENDENT Selects 14 Filmmakers for Inaugural Documentary Lab (Sponsored by LPB)

Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, has launched a new Documentary Lab, sponsored by Latino Public Broadcasting, with 14 filmmakers and 9 projects participating. Taking place in Los Angeles, the Documentary Lab is an intensive seven-week program, with a main focus of assisting documentary filmmakers on their works-in-progress and providing creative feedback. All of the Film Independent Labs are designed to support strong, original voices develop their filmmaking careers in a nurturing, yet challenging creative environment.

The Documentary Lab Mentors include filmmakers Laura Gabbert (No Impact Man), Scott Hamilton Kennedy (The Garden), Doug Pray (Art & Copy), AJ Schnack (Convention), Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer Caroline Libresco, and producers Heather Rae (Frozen River) and Eddie Schmidt (Troubadours). Guest speakers include filmmakers Jen Arnold (A Small Act), Jeff Malmberg (Marwencol), Chicken & Egg’s Julie Benello, Paradigm Consulting’s Peter Broderick, Donaldson & Callif LLP’s Michael Donaldson, Latino Public Broadcasting’s Luis Ortiz, and ITVS’ Richard Saiz.

“We could not be more excited by the projects in our first Documentary Lab,” said Josh Welsh, Film Independent’s Director of Talent Development. “It’s an astonishing group of films and filmmakers, and we’re honored to be working with them. We are also deeply grateful to the filmmakers who are serving as mentors and guest speakers to the Lab.”

Deadlines coming up for some of Film Independent’s other Talent Development programs are: an extension for Fast Track, which includes a $15,000 Alfred P. Sloan Grant (April 4), Screenwriter’s Lab (March 28), Project:Involve (April 25), and Producers Lab (July 11). To apply for these programs, please visit

The 2011 Documentary Lab filmmakers and their projects are:

Above the Fold (funded by LPB) – A one-hour documentary about a group of young Latino journalists who responded to negative portrayals of Latinos in the Los Angeles Times by writing their own stories. Working against the resistance of their editors, they were vindicated in 1984 when they became the first Latino group to win the Pulitzer Prize. Above the Fold is funded by LPB.

Roberto Gudiño is a Los Angeles based documentarian and has won numerous awards. His documentary about a coffee cooperative that helps alleviate illegal immigration, Just Coffee, was awarded the UA Centennial Achievement Award and has gone onto to screen in numerous national and international festivals. Below the Fold garnered him an Imagen Award nomination and the prestigious Directors Guild of America Jury Prize. Roberto was selected by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to shoot Burning the Midnight Oil, a documentary commissioned as part of their ongoing “Storyteller Initiative.” He is currently developing, directing and co-producing Above the Fold for television, and is also in Film Independent’s Project:Involve.

Call Me Kuchu – Four LGBT Ugandans fight for justice and freedom on the frontlines of Africa’s gay rights movement. At once tragic and hopeful, this is their story.

Katherine Fairfax Wright graduated from Columbia University with a double major in Anthropology and Film. She is the producer of Gabi On the Roof In July, which premiered at Cinequest 2010, and won Best Narrative Feature and Best Actress at the Brooklyn Film Festival. Weaned on a school of vérité filmmakers, she has worked closely with Nelson Walker, Fellipe Barbosa, and Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt. She associate-produced Perlmutt and Walker’s award-winningLumo, which aired on P.O.V. Wright also associate-produced Perlmutt’s Les Vulnerables, the closing short at New York Film Festival 2007. Wright has worked in a producing role on five other films and she is an award-winning photographer.

Malika Zouhail-Worrall is a print and video journalist whose work has been published in The Financial Times and at She has reported for from India, Uganda, China and the U.S., including a feature article on the lack of workplace rights for transgender employees in the U.S. That story was told through the painful experiences of a transman who transitioned from female to male while working at a Connecticut factory. Zouhali-Worrall graduated with a BA from Cambridge University and an MA in International Affairs from the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po).

Gravity – This is the awe-inspiring and touching love story of Carl and Jean Boenish, a young couple who invented the sport of B.A.S.E. jumping.

Marah Strauch graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a dual degree in film and glass art, studied filmmaking and screenwriting at NYU and The New School, and recently attended Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School. She has directed over a dozen short films (NU, Ghoul of My Dreams, Avenue C, Free Form), many of which toured the festival circuit and were shown in galleries nationwide. Marah has been writing, researching, developing and shooting Gravity for over four years, and recently completed restoration of the entire catalogue of Carl Boenish’s pre-B.A.S.E. jumping skydive films. Gravity was recently selected for Film Independent’s Fast Track program at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Marah is also a well-respected commercial and documentary editor/producer, and recently edited a national campaign for American Express, which featured documentary-style portraits of well-known tennis players Billie Jean King, Venus Williams and John McEnroe.

The Light in Her Eyes – In a world rarely seen by outsiders, Houda al-Habash empowers women by teaching Qur’an at her mosque in Damascus, Syria. The story of one summer at Houda’s school reveals why women are choosing Islam in a rapidly changing world.

Julia Meltzer has directed and produced 5 award-winning documentary projects. Her video work with David Thorne, including It’s Not My Memory of It, We Will Live to See These Things and Not a Matter of If But When has been awarded prizes at the European Media Arts Festival, Transmediale, and the Rio de Janeiro Short Film Festival. Recent art work has been exhibited at Modern Art Oxford, Steve Turner Gallery, HomeWorks IV in Beirut, and the 2008 Whitney Biennial. She is a recipient of grants from Art Matters, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, the Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship Fund, the Guggenheim Foundation, and was a Fulbright Fellow in Damascus, Syria in 2005-06. She is a fluent Spanish speaker and proficient in Arabic (Levantine spoken dialect).

Laura Nix recently produced the documentary festival hit The Yes Men Fix the World and is currently a writer on the documentary California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown, about the former governor. Her non-fiction work has been shown on HBO, IFC, Planet Green and the History Channel, in addition to international DVD distribution. She is the writer and director of the narrative feature The Politics of Fur, which played in over 70 film festivals internationally, and won numerous awards including the Grand Jury Prize at Outfest. In 2001, Laura co-founded the production company Automat Pictures, where she produced and/or directed over 100 presentations, including the feature documentary Whether You Like It Or Not: The Story of Hedwig. Previously, she was a member of Oscar-winning filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s production team as Associate Producer of The Celluloid Closet.

The Road to Nasiriyah – This film is the extraordinary journey of two American filmmakers documenting the unprecedented looting of archeological sites following the 2003 Iraq war. This documentary is a story of passion; it is a poetic meditation on post-war Iraq and an intellectual thriller that ends in a dramatic kidnapping.

Marie-Hélène Carleton is a graduate of Johns Hopkins and has been awarded fellowships at the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation. She is an award-winning filmmaker, photographer and writer, and is currently completing her first feature-length documentary, The Road to Nasiriyah. Her film work, writing and photography has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek and the Financial Times, and her 3-part online documentary for the Financial Times was a 2009 Webby Honoree. Marie- Hélène is co-author, with Micah Garen, of the memoir American Hostage, which received starred reviews in Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly. A CBS Sunday Morning segment and her and Micah’s film work in Iraq was an Emmy nominee, and she has been interviewed on ABC, NPR, MSNBC and others about her work as a journalist and filmmaker. Marie- Hélène is a co-founder of the media production company Four Corners Media and has participated in the 2009 IFP Documentary Film Lab.

Micah Garen is an award-winning photographer, author and documentary filmmaker, who has worked in conflict zones around the world, including Iraq, Afghanistan and southern Lebanon. His writing and photographer have been published in Vanity Fair, New York Times, New York Times Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, Financial Times Magazine, and the Associated Press. His documentary film work has appeared online for New York Times, Financial Times, Associated Press and PBS, and in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911. His critically acclaimed first book, American Hostage, a memoir about his time as a hostage in Iraq, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2005. Micah has spoken extensively in the media about his experiences in Iraq, and was profiled in a CBS Sunday Morning piece that was nominated for an Emmy. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation, and was selected to participate in the 2009 IFP Documentary Film Lab. He is currently in post-production on The Road to Nasiriyah, and founded Four Corners Media in 2000 with his partner Marie-Hélène Carleton.

Sick Mick and the Boys – This film tells the story of the Charlton brothers in their pursuit to break the motorcycle land speed record. Once estranged by prison, drugs and unemployment, the four brothers band together to build a jet-powered motorcycle in their Cleveland garage.

José Asunción is an award-winning filmmaker from Chicago with an MFA from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, and is a two-time recipient of the prestigious graduate filmmaker scholarship from the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. His works have aired on HBO, MTV3, the Documentary Channel, PBS and has garnered honors from both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. When he is not working on post-production for Sick Mick and the Boys, José enjoys creating animated gifts of documentaries and committing Richard Pryor albums to memory.

Brian Davis is an award-winning director and editor from Central Virginia who received an MFA from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. He has produced works that have aired on MTV, the Documentary Channel and PBS, as well as screened at Slamdance, Seattle and Gen Art film festivals. In 2008, he was awarded the Student Academy Award in the Documentary Category for his film, If a Body Meet a Body, and was named one of Coca-Cola’s Refreshing Filmmakers Finalists. In addition to following people around with a camera and documenting their every move, Brian has filmed professional skateboarding, and is a contributing writer to several skateboard publications.

STRAND: A Natural History of Cinema – What does it mean to go to the movies? Through an examination of the repertory and revival era in San Francisco, this documentary explores this question while uncovering the hidden history of one of the richest moments in film going.

Christian Bruno is a writer and director whose films have played around the world, from Needles, CA to Tehran, Iran. The short documentary Pie Fight ’69 (made with Sam Green) received numerous awards from the Sundance, Black Maria and Chicago Underground film festivals, and continues to play worldwide. He has received commissions from the SF Arts Commission for film and film-based installations, and is a recent fellow of the MacDowell Colony. As a cinematographer, Christian’s work appears in Natalija Vekic’s award-winning short Lost & Found, and in the 2007 feature films Revolution Summer and Rock Haven.

Natalija Vekic is a filmmaker and producer, who was the recipient of the prestigious Princess Grace Award in film, and was invited to participate in the 2003 Bay Area Now III show at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Her initial work as a filmmaker centered on a trilogy of fairy tales, and her films have screened at the New York Underground, Ann Arbor, and Mill Valley film festivals. Her latest short film, Lost & Found, garnered a Golden State Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival, and she was a recipient of a San Francisco Individual Arts Commission Grant. In addition to producing STRAND: A Natural History of Cinema, Natalija is currently writing two feature film scripts, Sarajevo Bluesand Paper Airplanes.

Untitled Gay Retiree Documentary – This film captures the experiences of several LGBTQ seniors as they navigate the adventures, challenges and surprises of their “golden years.”

PJ Raval is an award-winning filmmaker/cinematographer (ASC Charles B. Lang Jr. Heritage Award, Haskell Wexler Award for Best Cinematography), and was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in 2006, Out Magazine’s “100 Out” in 2010, and has been featured in American Cinematographer. PJ’s latest filmTrinidad (co-directed by Jay Hodges) won the Cleveland International Film Festival Documentary Jury Award and can currently be seen on Showtime and MTV’s Logo network. His cinematography credits include the 2009 Academy Award nominated and 2008 Sundance Film Festival Documentary Grand Jury Award Winner Trouble the Water, the 2006 Film Independent Spirit Award nominated Room, the Los Angeles Film Festival Narrative Feature Award winnerGretchenThe Two Bobs, and the recently wrapped Cooler. PJ is currently shooting Fourplay, his second feature with acclaimed director Kyle Henry.

We Women Warriors – This film follows three brave and remarkable native women in Colombia as they nonviolently defend their autonomy amid ongoing warfare.

Nicole Karsin has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and a Masters of Science from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She moved to Bogotá to cover Colombia’s armed conflict and humanitarian crisis as a correspondent for a U.S. audience in 2002 and recently moved back to LA to complete We Women Warriors. She has reported for the New York Times, Village Voice, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR and Pacifica Radio among others. White working as an independent journalist in radio, print and photography, Nicole began producing and directing digital films. She formed Todos Los Pueblos Productions LLC (All the Peoples’ Productions) in 2007 to move audiences to action through artful, character-driven films about global struggles for human rights and dignity. In 2008, NextPix selected We Women Warriors for the “firstPix” grant for an opera primi representing humanistic media.

Film Independent is a non-profit arts organization that champions independent film and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation, and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects, and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff, and constituents, are comprised of an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry leader, or a film lover.

With over 250 annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry. Film Independent offers free Filmmaker Labs for selected writers, directors, and producers; provides cut-rate services for filmmakers; and presents year-round networking opportunities. Film Independent’s mentorship and job placement program, Project:Involve, pairs emerging culturally diverse filmmakers with film industry professionals.

Film Independent produces the Los Angeles Film Festival, celebrating the best of American and international cinema and the Spirit Awards, a celebration honoring films and filmmakers that embody independence and dare to challenge the status quo.

For more information, please visit

Contact: Elise Freimuth, Film Independent
Tel: 310.432.1287 or


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Latino Public Broadcasting is the leader of the development, production, acquisition and distribution of non-commercial educational and cultural media that is representative of Latino people, or addresses issues of particular interest to Latino Americans. These programs are produced for dissemination to the public broadcasting stations and other public telecommunication entities. LPB provides a voice to the diverse Latino community on public media throughout the United States. Latino Public Broadcasting is a registered 501(c)(3), EIN: 95-4776447.
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