Five Columbia Films to Premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2021

BY Felix van Kann, December 21, 2020

The Sundance Film Festival has announced the line-up for its 2021 festival with four films by Columbia filmmakers participating in the official selection. Doublespeak, a short film written and directed by student Hazel McKibbin, produced by student Stephanie Fine and associate produced by student Meera Vaidya is set to compete in the Short Films Section. Associate Professor of Professional Practice Ramin Bahrani serves as a producer on Luzzu, a feature film participating in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Alumnus Joshua Cohen '14 has two films showing at the festival. Land, directed by Robin Wright and co-produced by Cohen is showing in the Premiere section; and These Days, directed by Adam Brooks and co-executive produced by Cohen is showing in the episodic section. Snowy, a documentary short co-directed Alex Wolf Lewis '12 (CC) will have its World Premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this year. Alex was also the Director of Photography on the project. 


Doublespeak follows a young woman who grapples with the aftermath of reporting sexual harassment in the workplace. The film was made as an 8-12 project with many Columbia students working on the project. Student Jordan Anstatt served as Co-Editor, student Silvia Chen as Production Coordinator, student Grace Merriman as Wardrobe Designer and Actor, students An Chu and Rider Laskin as Sound Recorders, student Jeff Chiyang Chang as Script Supervisor, student Robert Jones as Grip and student Ethan Mermelstein as a PA. Doublespeak will have its festival premiere on January 4 at 4pm. It previously showed on Short of the Week and was selected as Vimeo Staff Pick: Best of the Month.


“I’m so grateful to the Sundance Institute for championing Doublespeak. The genesis of the film was a difficult experience for me and it’s been very cathartic to see it come full circle and resonate with viewers,” McKibbin commented.


Hazel McKibbin is a British American writer and director based in Brooklyn. She is a 2020 BAFTA Newcomer and is currently working on her thesis at Columbia University, where she is pursuing an MFA in screenwriting and directing. McKibbin is drawn to realism, often through a feminist lens, and the idea that compelling stories can be created from ordinary relationships and interactions.


Stephanie Fine is a New York-based producer and Creative Producing MFA candidate at Columbia University, where she also received her Bachelor’s degree in Film Studies in 2018. She has interned throughout New York City at companies including HBO, FilmNation Entertainment, Oscilloscope Laboratories and Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures. She is currently working For Film Movement as a distribution intern.


Meera Vaidya was born in Mumbai, India and is now a New York based producer. Before moving to the United States, she worked as an assistant director and a production assistant on commercial films for Chrome Pictures in Mumbai where their clients included Tata Salt, Amazon India, and Samsung. She is now finishing her MFA in Creative Producing at Columbia University. She is passionate about telling stories that not only entertain people but also provoke conversations around social issues.

Still from Doublespeak

Luzzu, written and directed by Alex Camilleri and produced by Ramin Bahrani, follows Jesmark, a struggling fisherman on the island of Malta, who is forced to turn his back on generations of tradition and risk everything by entering the world of black market fishing to provide for his girlfriend and newborn baby. It will premiere on January 29 at 9pm. 


Camilleri has previously worked as an assistant editor on Bahrani’s films Fahrenheit 451 and 99 Homes. He also served as the editor on Keep the Change by alumna and Adjunct Assistant Professor Rachel Israel '13.


Ramin Bahrani is an award-winning Iranian American writer, director and producer. His films have premiered in Venice, Cannes, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals. His feature films have won numerous awards, including the FIPRESCI Prize in London (Man Push Cart), FIPRESCI Prize in Venice (Goodbye Solo), the Grand Prize in Deauville (99 Homes), and a Golden Globe nomination for Michael Shannon (99 Homes). Bahrani’s television film, Fahrenheit 451, for HBO, starring Michael B. Jordan, was nominated for 5 Emmys, including Best TV Movie, and won him a PGA award for best television film. Bahrani served as producer of Alexandre Moratto’s Brazilian debut feature, Socrates, which has won over a dozen international prizes and garnered three 2019 Spirit Award nominations. Bahrani directed and executive produced the pilot of Treadstone from the Bourne Identity franchise for UCP.  Bahrani is producing Alexandre Moratto’s new film, 7 Slaves, starring Rodrigo Santoro and Christian Malheiros for Netflix, slated to premiere in 2021. His new feature film, The White Tiger, based on the Man Booker Prize winning novel will be released on Netflix this month.

Still from Luzzu

In Land, directed by Robin Wright and co-produced by Joshua Cohen, a local hunter brings a grieving lawyer back from the brink of death after she retreats to the harsh wilderness of the Rockies.

Still from Land, co-produced by Joshua Cohen '14

In These Days, directed by Adam Brooks and co-executive produced by Cohen, Mae, lonely and self-isolating, navigates the world of online dating during the early days of quarantine. Her first attempt is a comic disaster, then she meets Will and her world begins to change in unexpected ways.


Following his MFA in Creative Producing at Columbia, Cohen worked as a creative executive at Big Beach Films in New York for over six years. During that time he co-produced Film Independent Spirit Award winner The Farewell, as well as films such as Puzzle, White Fang, and NBC documentary The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show. He's now riding out the pandemic in NYC with his wife and dog. 

Still from These Days, co-executive produced by Joshua Cohen '14

In Snowy, Snowy the 4-inch-long pet turtle has lived an isolated life in the family basement for over a decade. With help from a team of experts and his caretaker, Uncle Larry, we ask: Can Snowy be happy and what would it take? This film is both an investigation into animal happiness and an intervention to improve one turtle’s life. 

Still from Snowy, courtesy of Sundance.