Sundance Selects Six Fellows for Trans Possibilities Intensive

Sundance Institute, which hosts the annual film festival in Park City, Utah, has announced the six people who were selected for its Trans Possibilities Intensive.

The fellows for 2023 are Seyi Adebanjo, Rajvi Desai, Malik Ever, Nick Janaye, Jamie John and Tee Park Jaehyung. The second edition of the Trans Possibilities Intensive, which is a three-day event to aid project and professional development for transgender storytellers of color, is taking place from March 27-29.

Moi Santos, who founded the program, is leading the initiative with guidance from creative advisers and Sundance Institute’s Equity, Impact and Belonging Program. This year’s creative advisers include Sydney Freeland (“Drunktown’s Finest”), Aitch Alberto (“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe”), Félix Endara (“Unseen”) and Chase Joynt (“Framing Agnes”). 

Sundance describes the Intensive as an “ancillary environment for participating artists to enhance their voice and craft, foster relationships with each other, and challenge the obstacles that continue to exclude transgender artists.” Founded in 2021, the program directly supports transgender artists of color through project-based granting, supporting the advancement of trans-led projects at all stages of their life-cycles; nurturing and identifying emerging trans talent, as well as year-round custom creative and professional development opportunities. The 2023 Intensive Fellows were selected through a nominations-based application. This year’s Intensive received more than double the nominations of the inaugural cycle of the program.

“Meaningfully supporting and advancing trans people, voices and stories remains a priority for Sundance. The recent incessant and baseless scrutiny is nothing new to trans people, and further reflects the need for opportunities for trans people to have the autonomy to explore their transness on their own terms,” Santos said in a statement. “This year’s cohort uplifts an extensive and essential range of artistic approaches, stories and experiences and we’re looking forward to developing a relationship that will birth creative possibilities, risk-taking and necessary change in this industry.”

As part of the program, Santos will moderate a live conversation on Sundance Collab, Sundance Institute’s digital learning space for artists from around the world. This conversation, called “Trapped in Transit: Transgender Storytelling With Visionary Filmmakers Aitch Alberto and Sydney Freeland,” will take place on March 29 and interrogate the limits, liberties, comforts and confines of trans cultural representation. It is open to the general public.

Below, Sundance Institute shares more about this year’s Trans Possibilities Intensive fellows:

Seyi Adebanjo (director) with “Afromystic” (U.S.A.): “Afromystic” is a lyrical documentary guided by four LGBTQ Yorùbá practitioners across the waters of Nigeria, the U.S. and Brazil reclaiming lost mythologies such as deities who change gender and are born from the love of two womxn. “Afromystic” weaves animated Queer & Trans Òrìṣà mythology, poetry, theater and ritual. Adebanjo is a queer gender-non-conforming Nigerian artist who raises awareness around social issues through video. Seyi’s work exists at the intersection of art, imagination, ritual and politics. Seyi is on Creatives Rebuild New York Think Tank. Seyi was awarded a residency with The Laundromat Project, Fatales Forward: Trans Stories Fellowship.

Rajvi Desai (director, co-producer, co-cinematographer, editor) with “Mother Wit” (U.S.A.): An ailing Black trans matriarch struggles to inculcate the values of education and survival in her community before she runs out of time. Desai is a non-binary South Asian filmmaker and editor based in New York City. Rajvi’s work focuses on gender issues as they intersect with race, class and caste, both in the United States and in South Asia. Rajvi’s work has been published in, The Swaddle and Eastern-Standard Times, as well as screened in film festivals in the U.S. and internationally.

Malik Ever (director/writer) with “GutBucket” (U.S.A.): After his estranged mother’s sudden death, West, a 54-year-old trans man, returns home for the first time in 20 years to clean out his childhood home, where he starts to uncover his mother’s secrets. Ever (they/them) is a trans/nonbinary, queer first generation Algerian American filmmaker. Originating in the theatre as “a heart-wrenching and hilarious physical theater performer and writer” (Phindie), they recently graduated from the AFI Conservatory with an MFA in Directing. Their short film, “Gorditx,” premiered at GLAFF in LA.

Nick Janaye (writer) with “Dead Ringer” (U.S.A.): After volunteering to prepare his father’s destination wedding, a trans man desperate for approval is tasked with killing a shapeshifting entity that ultimately threatens the lives of attendees. Janaye is an award winning screenwriter and graduate of the Sidney Poitier New American Film School. Known for his bold supernatural stories that combat marginalization, Nick is proudly genderfluid and dead set on amplifying LGBTQIA+, neurodivergent and POC representation in film.

Jamie John (director/writer) with “2Spirit Water Carrier” (U.S.A.): “2Spirit Water Carrier” is an experimental work reflecting the Anishinaabe responsibility of carrying water and queer and trans Indigenous bodies. Ideas of gender sovereignty, land and queer body autonomy, and gender variance found throughout nature and history will be communicated through moving images of bodies, gender presentation, landscapes, and text. John is a two-spirit trans and queer Anishinaabe and Korean-American multi-disciplinary artist (he/him and they/themme). They are a tribal citizen of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

Tee Park Jaehyung (writer) with “Destiny in Sedona” (U.S.A.): The lives of various lovelorn transgenders intertwine as they travel through the Arizona desert. A filmmaker originally from Seoul, Korea, her filmography includes “The Pupal Stage,” “Winter Insect Summer Flower” and “Tofu.” A trans woman of immigrant experience, Park’s work explores alienation, unconventional bonds and flawed female protagonists. She’s also a USC Screenwriting graduate and a proud SoCal girl.

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