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Inside the 2024 Native Forum: Hear From the Merata Mita Fellow and Inaugural Graton Fellow

It’s windy, gray, and cold outside right now. Unexpected snowfall has brought an extra chill to Park City, Utah, but inside the Native Forum at The Park, the trees still have green leaves and the laughter and joy of the Indigenous Program’s community fills the space with warmth.

Filmmakers, friends, and family catch up over large cups of coffee and fully loaded frybread. Laughter radiates through the venue until the lights come up on Adam Piron, Director of Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program, who leads the program for the afternoon. Bart Powakee and the Red Spirit Singers from the Ute Tribal Nation ground us with a blessing and a song.

After welcomes from Sundance Institute’s CEO Joana Vicente and Board member Amy Redford, Piron made the exciting announcement of the recipients of the Merata Mita Fellowship and the Inaugural Graton Fellowship.

Hear from both Libby Hakaraia and Tazbah Rose Chavez below.

Libby Hakaraia

It is an honor to receive this award. It comes at an exciting time for me, and the projects I have been developing whilst building the Māoriland Film Festival over the past decade. Merata Mita was an inspirational storyteller who challenged Indigenous filmmakers to strive for excellence in their craft. She remains a motivating force for me and for so many others and hence why I am humbled to be the recipient of this year’s Merata Mita Fellowship. With this support from the Sundance Institute, along with that of my mentors within the Indigenous filmmaking community, I intend to be bold and aim for new heights in storytelling. This fellowship will enable me to strengthen my skills, extend my networks, and grow my confidence — and prepare to helm a large-scale genre feature in 2024.”

Tazbah Rose Chavez

“I am honored to be the inaugural recipient of the Graton Fellowship, created to support California Indigenous filmmakers. As a citizen of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, I am grateful to Chairman Greg Sarris, Graton Rancheria, and the Sundance Institute for investing in California Native artists and for their generous support of me and future recipients. This fellowship is vital because California is home to both the film industry and to the largest number of Tribal Nations in the country, and California Native perspectives are sorely missing from the cinematic landscape. The support from the Graton Fellowship comes at a fortuitous time, as I’m developing my first feature film. I began my journey with Sundance interning as a college student for the Native and Indigenous Program. It is a warm welcome home to have their support at this pivotal moment in my career. I am humbled by this recognition and look forward to bringing a Native female-led comedy to cinema together.”

To see more of the magic of the 2024 Festival, click here.