Australian filmmaker Amie Batalibasi has been named as the 2017 recipient of the Sundance Institute Merata Mita Fellowship for Indigenous Artists, the annual fellowship given in honor of the late Māori filmmaker. Mita was New Zealand’s first Indigenous female filmmaker and served as an advisor and artistic director of the Sundance Institute NativeLab from 2000 to 2009, where she championed emerging Indigenous talent. The announcement was made today at the Sundance Film Festival.
Batalibasi will receive a cash grant and a year-long continuum of support with activities including a trip to Sundance, access to strategic and creative services offered by Sundance Institute artist programs, and mentorship opportunities. Her current project is a feature adaptation of her short film Blackbird, which explores the dark history of “blackbirding,” where from 1863-1904 approximately 60,000 Pacific Islanders were taken, often against their will, to labor on the country’s sugar cane and cotton farms.
For the second consecutive year, Sundance Institute has identified a Native or Indigenous filmmaker from a global pool of nominees. The program champions these independent storyteller through various resources and seeks to inspire self-determination among Native filmmakers and communities by centering Native people in telling their own stories.