Xixi Wang '19 and Current Student Nehir Tuna Named Sundance Institute Fellows

BY Felix van Kann, June 25, 2020

Alumna Xixi Wang '19 and current student Nehir Tuna have been selected as 2020 Director and Screenwriting Lab Fellows by the Sundance Institute. In this year’s digital version of the event, which takes place between June 1 and June 25, Wang and Tuna were two of only eleven winners to get the opportunity to develop their feature film projects within the context of the lab. 


According to the Sundance Institute, “At the Directors Lab, filmmakers will participate in a rigorous schedule of advisor presentations, scene analysis sessions, directing exercises, one-on-one meetings, and - new this year - collaborative conversations across a wide range of industry disciplines, including casting, production design, film scoring, and producing. Immediately following, the Screenwriters Lab provides the opportunity to process the insight gained from the Directors Lab through one-on-one story sessions with screenwriter advisors, and find inspiration and guidance for continued development of their screenplays.”


Wang’s project Sisyphus is based on true events. A single mother fights to uncover the truth after her son dies in a subway station in China. Over the course of the investigation, she confronts an impenetrable bureaucracy but also rediscovers herself. It was previously named Project of the Year by FIRST Financing Forum and is co-written by Creative Producing alumna Meng Xiong '19.


Tuna was selected for his project Yurt. Forced to leave the comfort of his middle class lifestyle at his father’s behest, eleven-year-old Ahmet is sent to an all-boys religious dormitory where he must navigate familial expectations, his religious obligations, and the childhood to which he so desperately clings. 


“I was extremely happy when I heard about my selection the first time, quite hyped, couldn't believe at first,” Tuna said in a comment about the award. “My first time in the lab was in the 2019 January lab. And later, they supported us with a grant. It's such a creative boost in the incredibly hard path of making films. I am highly grateful for their continuing support.”


Xixi Wang is a Chinese writer and director. Her films have screened at major Chinese and international festivals. Wang was selected by Asian Film Academy 2019 that is co-host by Busan International Film Festival, and also was shortlisted for Locarno Film Academy 2019. In May 2019, her MFA thesis film, Greenhouse, won the Vimeo Award for Best Director, IFP Audience Award, and Jury Selects at Columbia University Film Festival. Wang received her undergraduate degree from Beijing Film Academy. She is currently teaching in the Department of Screenwriting and Film Studies at Beijing Film Academy.


Nehir Tuna is a Turkish screenwriter and director. Tuna is a 2019 Sundance Institute Feature Film Program Fellow and 2018 Nipkow Fellow. He has written and directed various short films, including The Shoes, a prequel to his forthcoming feature. Tuna is currently in the MFA Graduate Film Program at Columbia University and holds an MFA in directing from Rochester Institute of Technology.    


Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and media to create and thrive. The Institute's signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. Sundance Co//ab, a digital community platform, brings artists together to learn from each other and Sundance Advisors and connect in a creative space, developing and sharing works in progress. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences and artists to ignite new ideas, discover original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling.