Sundance Institute Holds Second Mini-Lab at the 38th Havana Film Festival of New Latin American Cinema

GAEL GARCIA BERNAL stars in DESIERTO

Jonas Cuaron’s ‘Desierto’ wins the Coral for best fiction, Argentine Emiliano Torres’ ‘El Invierno’ nabs Coral for best first feature

HAVANA, Dec. 19 (Variety) Speaking at the 38th Havana Film Festival of New Latin American Cinema, Paul Federbush, the international director of the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film mentoring program, noted that theinstitute’s Episodic Labs for television was currently designed to support individuals developing TV series for the U.S. market.

Given the “explosion in the world TV market,” it was only a matter of time before it would be introduced to other international markets, he added. The Institute has exported its labs to various territories, including India, Turkey, Jordan, Greece, Japan and since last year, a mini-lab in Cuba, with three instead of six projects.

At these labs, established mentors meet one-on-one with selected local filmmakers to guide them in their projects. Of last year’s Cuban mini-lab, two are going into production early next year: Armando Capo Ramos’ “August” and “1989” by Toronto-based Cubans Sebastian Barriuso and Rodrigo Barriuso and Lindsay Gossling.

Capo Ramos also received the 2016 Global Filmmaking Award (GFA), which includes a development grant, participation in one of the Sundance Institute’s 24 annual artist development labs, attending the Sundance film fest and ongoing support from the org’s feature film program.

“August” is a coming-of-age story of 14-year old Carlos set in the summer of 1980 when the Castro government has allowed a mass exodus by boat.

“1989” takes place at the onset of Cuba’s Special Period where a young Russian literature professor’s life is upended when he is sent to a hospital to work as a translator for Russian children suffering from radiation poisoning.

Carlos Lechuga (“Melaza”) – whose sophomore pic “Santa y Andres” was rejected by fest backer ICAIC, the state film institute, from premiering at the fest for its storyline about the political censure of a homosexual intellectual in the ‘80s – was among the three filmmakers whose projects were selected for the mini-lab this year.

Ironically, the festival had conceded an award to Lechuga’s script two years ago. An article in the state’s official blog said the “Santa y Andres” plot “highlights political persecution and aggressions that never took place on the island; it’s rewriting history.”

“We’re just grateful that participating in the Sundance lab is allowing us to move on,” said Lechuga’s producing partner, Claudia Calvino. Mini-lab mentors included DV DeVincentis (“The People vs OJ Simpson”), Naomi Foner (“Running on Empty”) and Erik Jendressen (“Band of Brothers”).

“We hope to keep this going as it’s important to keep the dialogue open between the artists in Cuba and the U.S.,” said Federbush.

Sundance senior consultant Bruni Burres also participated in Cuban film school EICTV’s 10th annual Nuevas Miradas, an intensive five-day training, networking and pitching Forum for 16 docu and narrative projects from Cuban and other emerging Latin American filmmakers, working closely with each docu participant.

Havana’s festival luminaries included Oliver Stone, Brian de Palma, Sonia Braga, Kasi Lemmons and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Rapper Common and R&B artist Raphael Saadiq gave a master class on writing music for film.

Meanwhile, Havana’s 38th edition spread its Coral awards on Friday, Dec. 16, with Jonas Cuaron’s “Desierto” winning the top prize. The festival ran from December 8 to 18.