Thursday, May 25, 2023


Film Independent, the nonprofit organization behind the Spirit Awards, has unveiled the impressive lineup for its 12th annual Documentary Lab. This highly anticipated program is tailored for filmmakers who are currently in the post-production stage of their feature-length documentary films. The Lab offers a unique opportunity for these filmmakers to receive valuable creative feedback and guidance. By connecting them with seasoned professionals in the documentary filmmaking industry, the program aims to propel their careers to new heights.

According to Daniel Cardone, Manager of Nonfiction Programs for Film Independent, documentary filmmakers are true pioneers of innovative cinema. They fearlessly delve into real stories that possess both urgency and accessibility. The selections for the 2023 Film Independent Documentary Lab unequivocally showcase this spirit, as they tackle vital cultural issues with boundless creativity and genuine compassion.

Throughout the Lab, the filmmakers will collaborate closely with Lead Creative Mentors Chris Shellen (renowned for "Mickey: The Story of a Mouse" and "Marwencol") and Ivete Lucas (acclaimed for "Naked Gardens" and "Pahokee"). Additionally, they will receive guidance from esteemed Editing Mentors Bo Mehrad ("The Punk Singer" and "Call Me Miss Cleo") and Amy Foote ("Hail Satan?" and "All the Beauty and the Bloodshed"). Moreover, the Fellows will have the privilege of meeting advisors and guest speakers who will share their invaluable insights.

This year's impressive lineup of Guest Speakers includes notable figures such as Isabel Castro ("Mija"), Keetin Mayakara ("Free Solo"), Larissa Rhodes ("The Social Dilemma"), Diane Quon ("Bad Axe"), Alysa Nahmias ("Wildcat"), Alece Oxendine (Columbia University), and the esteemed UCLA Doc Law Clinic.

As Film Independent celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2023, their Artist Development programs continue to champion independent voices by nurturing filmmakers and supporting the creation of groundbreaking new work. These programs include Project Involve, Filmmaker Labs (Directing, Documentary, Episodic, Producing, and Screenwriting), as well as the Fast Track Finance Market and Fiscal Sponsorship. Grants and Awards are also vital to their efforts, providing visual storytellers over one million dollars annually.

An exceptional highlight of the Documentary Lab is the Cayton-Goldrich Family Foundation Fellowship, a prestigious $10,000 grant awarded to a Jewish filmmaker participating in a Film Independent Artist Development Program. This year, the talented Alina Simone, with her documentary "Black Snow," has been honored as the recipient of this unrestricted cash grant.

The Documentary Lab has an impressive track record of supporting groundbreaking projects that have garnered critical acclaim, including Academy Award-nominated films like Jessica Kingdon's "Ascension," Bing Liu and Diane Quon's "Minding the Gap," Sara Dosa and Shane Boris' "Seer and the Unseen," Sarita Khurana and Smriti Mundhra's "A Suitable Girl," Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown's "United Skates," and Kit Vincent and Ed Owles' "Red Herring," which recently premiered at the True/False film festival.

The Documentary Lab owes its success to the generous support of the Cayton-Goldrich Family Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, whose contributions enable the program to thrive.

The 2023 Documentary Lab projects and Fellows are:


Black Snow

Director: Alina Simone Producer: Kirstine Barfod

Cayton-Goldrich Family Foundation Fellowship Recipient

Logline: When residents of a remote Siberian coal mining settlement discover an old Soviet mine has caught fire beneath their neighborhood, they turn to homemaker-turned-journalist Natalia Zubkova for help. But after Natalia’s independent news coverage goes viral, she finds herself the target of a massive government disinformation campaign.


Flamingo Camp

Director: Chris Coats

Logline: Set in the off-grid squatter town known as Slab City, Flamingo Camp documents the thriving golden days of a queer and trans community on the fringe of society and its tragic collapse after one of its members is brutally murdered.


For Venida, For Kalief

Director/Producer/Cinematographer: Sisa Bueno

Logline: A late mother's poetry echoes a New York movement for criminal justice reform. This lyrical film is an intentional departure from current storytelling approaches, and will instead focus on his impact and the potential closing of Rikers Island to inspire us to reimagine a new legacy for Kalief Browder.



Director: Gabriela Diaz Arp

Logline: MatininĂ³ tells the story of the Villanueva family, a multi-generational family of Puerto Rican women transforming their experience of violence into a science fiction film.


She Cried That Day

Director: Amanda Erickson

Logline: She Cried That Day investigates the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women's crisis through the lens of one woman haunted by her sister's unsolved murder. We bear witness as she battles policeand societal apathy towards MMIW thus laying bare the complex story of America’s treatment of Indigenous peoples.

You Have the Floor

Director: Adina Luo

Logline: You Have the Floor follows a nationally-ranked high school Model United Nations team, where aspiring ambassadors debate the world’s most pressing issues. As diplomatic strategies collide and social tensions mount, each of our students discovers what victory truly means to them.

For over 40 years, Film Independent has helped filmmakers get their projects made and seen. The nonprofit organization’s core mission is to champion creative independence in visual storytelling in all its forms, and to foster a culture of inclusion. We support a global community of artists and audiences who embody diversity, innovation, curiosity and uniqueness of vision.

In addition to producing the Film Independent Spirit Awards, the organization supports creative professionals with Artist Development programs, grants, and labs. Signature mentorship program Project Involve fosters the careers of talented filmmakers from underrepresented communities. Education events and workshops equip filmmakers of all ages and experience levels with tools and resources. Global Media Makers, a cultural exchange program produced in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, provides career-building opportunities for international film professionals. And year-round screening series Film Independent Presents offers a robust program of unique cinematic experiences, including screenings, conversations, Live Reads, and Bring the Noise musical events.

For more information or to become a Member, visit

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