Film Independent Announces 14 New Fellows and Six New Projects for 2021 Documentary Lab

Press Contact: Seanna Hore, Ginsberg/Libby

Gladys Santos, Ginsberg/Libby


Mentors Marjan Safinia and Laura Nix will be joined by guest speakers
including Academy Award Nominees Jim LeBrecht and Smriti Mundhra

LOS ANGELES (March 15, 2021) — Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards, announced the 14 filmmakers and six projects selected for its 2021 Documentary Lab. The Lab is an intensive program for filmmakers currently in post-production on their feature-length documentary films. The program advances the careers of its Fellows by introducing them to film professionals who provide invaluable creative feedback and practical mentorship on both the craft and business of documentary filmmaking.

“The films selected for this year’s Lab represent true diversity in storytelling and artistic style, taking us from Black women organizer-superheroes in 1970s Las Vegas to scrappy youth on the streets of Naples, Italy,” said Lisa Hasko, Director of Artist Development. “From personal to political and everywhere in between, these boundary-pushing filmmakers challenge us to think beyond our bubbles in the most creative, immersive ways.”

During the Lab, filmmakers will work with Lead Creative Mentors Marjan Safinia (And She Could be Next, Seeds) and Laura Nix (The Yes Men Are Revolting, Inventing Tomorrow). Additionally, Fellows will be introduced to advisors and guest speakers on both the craft and business of documentary filmmaking. This year’s Documentary Lab Mentors and Guest Speakers include Elizabeth Lo and Shane Boris (Stray), Alex O’Flinn (The Underground Railroad, The Rider), Miranda Yousef (Inequality for All), Academy Award and Film Independent Spirit Award nominee Jim LeBrecht (Crip Camp), Matthew Radecki (Founder, Different By Design), and Academy Award nominee Smriti Mundhra (St. Louis Superman, Indian Matchmaking), along with industry partners the UCLA Doc Law Clinic and

Film Independent Artist Development programs promote unique independent voices by helping filmmakers create and advance new work through Project Involve, Filmmaker Labs (Directing, Documentary, Episodic, Producing and Screenwriting), Fast Track Finance Market and Fiscal Sponsorship, as well as through Grants and Awards that provide over one million dollars annually to visual storytellers.

The Documentary Lab is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Notable past Documentary Lab-supported projects include Academy Award-nominated and Spirit Award-winning Minding the Gap, from Fellows Bing Liu and Diane Quon; Sara Dosa and Shane Boris’ Seer and the Unseen; Sarita Khurana and Smriti Mundhra’s A Suitable Girl; Dustin Nakao Haider, Daniel Dewes and Derek Doneen’s Shot in the Dark; Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown’s United Skates; and Ann Kaneko and Jin Yoo-Kim’s Manzanar Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust, which recently premiered at the Big Sky Doc Festival.

For more information on the Documentary Lab and the projects supported through the program, please contact Lisa Hasko, Director of Artist Development, at Additional information and an application form can be found at

The 2021 Documentary Lab projects and Fellows are:

Director: Cynthia Lowen
Producers: Rebecca Stern, Steffie van Rhee
Logline: With rare access to three women who lead formidable anti-abortion organizations, Battleground is a feature documentary depicting how the pro-life movement has emerged as a central force in American politics.

Hide and Seek (Nascondino)
Director: Victoria Fiore
Producers: Aleksandra Bilic, Jen Corcoran
Logline: Among the narrow streets of contemporary Naples, Hide and Seek (Nascondino) follows four years in the life of nine-year-old Entoni and his grandmother Dora during a critical state crackdown on crime that threatens Entoni’s future with forced removal and imprisonment.

Razing Liberty Square
Director: Katja Esson
Producer: Ann Bennett
Logline: Miami is ground zero for sea level rise. Elevation becomes real estate gold as the rich move inland from the low-lying beaches. When residents of Miami’s infamous Liberty Square public housing learn about a $300 million dollar revitalization project, they brace themselves against gentrification. What they don’t know is that the sudden interest is because their neighborhood is located on the highest and driest ground in Miami. But the residents are ready to fight this new form of racial-injustice: climate gentrification.

Sam Now
Director: Reed Harkness
Producer: Jason Reid
Logline: A mother’s disappearance sends pain and mystery through her family. Sam Now follows her son’s quest for answers – and healing.

Director: Katrina Sorrentino
Producer: Tiffany Fisher-Love
Logline: A family hangs in limbo, caring for their comatose son who may never wake. Love and denial blur as seasons circle. A meditation on time, acceptance, grief – and letting go.

Storming Caesars Palace
Director: Hazel Gurland
Producer: Naz Habtezghi
Logline: Activist Ruby Duncan and a band of Black mothers launch one of the most extraordinary feminist, anti-poverty movements in our history, providing a blueprint for an equitable future.


Film Independent is the nonprofit arts organization that champions creative independence in visual storytelling 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 is 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 professional or a film lover.

In addition to producing the Spirit Awards, Film Independent produces Film Independent Presents, a year-round screening series for its members that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.

Through 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’s Artist Development program offers free labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year-round networking opportunities. Project Involve is Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry.

For more information or to become a Member, visit