Two Columbia Filmmakers to Participate in Sundance Screenwriting Lab and Intensive

Aisha Amin
February 06, 2023

The Sundance Institute has announced its fellows for its acclaimed Screenwriting Lab and Intensive for the upcoming year, and two Columbia alumni will be participating; Jesahel Newton-Bernal ’22 in the Intensive and Bane Fakih 19 in the Lab. 

Fakih and Newton-Bernal’s projects were selected from a pool of over 2,000 submissions. The screenwriters will further develop scripts with the guidance of advisors under the leadership of Michelle Satter (Founding Senior Director, Sundance Institute’s Artist Programs) and Ilyse McKimmie (Deputy Director, Feature Film Program). 

The Screenwriter’s Lab took place in Park City Utah at the Sundance Mountain Resort from January 14 to18, 2023. During the four-day workshop, the participants along with several creative consultants and acclaimed filmmakers and writers worked on developing their own feature length scripts.

The Screenwriter’s Intensive will take place online from March 2-3, 2023 and will also aid in the development of emerging writers working on their first fiction feature length films.

Fakih’s project, Pigeon Wars, which she is co-writing with Dania Bdeir, follows Rana, a feisty & competitive woman avoiding a secret from her past who becomes obsessed with the male-dominated pigeon wars of Beirut. She befriends Hassan, a kindred spirit with an inner struggle of his own, and against the backdrop of growing political crisis in Beirut, they embark on a mission to catch a rare bird—the Nicobar. The film is a co-production between France, the US and Lebanon.

Newton-Bernal is developing a film titled Leche (U.S.A.). 18-year-old Alma’s purposeful and happy life is disrupted when she must cope with the shock of intrafamily sexual abuse. Alma’s love for her close-knit family forces her to maintain the facade that nothing has changed, resulting in the absolute loneliness that comes with pretending.

Bane Fakih is a Lebanese filmmaker whose shorts Assil and Jad and Vibes screened at Palm Springs ShortsFest and Outfest. After her MFA from Columbia University, Fakih received the Ezra Litwak Award for Screenwriting Distinction. Her feature screenplay Keep It Together was shortlisted for the 2019 Tribeca All Access program.

Jesahel Newton-Bernal is a writer/director born and raised in Ecuador with an MFA from Columbia University. She is currently working towards developing her first feature film. Newton-Bernal strives to use film as a means of collaborative social change, to enrich our understanding of the world and our role in it.