Libby Hakaraia and Tazbah Rose Chavez earned a fellowship at the Sundance Film Festival

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Libby Hakaraia and Tazbah Rose Chavez

Here we applaud two new fellowship winners from the Sundance Institute. The institute announced the winners of the inaugural Graton Fellowship for Artists from California-based tribes and the Merata Mita Fellowship on Saturday during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Libby Hakaraia has been selected as the winner of the Merata Mita Fellowship, an annual program dedicated in memory of the late Māori director Merata Mita, which supports Indigenous women-identified artists pursuing their first feature film. Tazbah Rose Chavez was honored with the Graton Fellowship, which was established to assist Indigenous artists from tribes in California. At the Sundance Film Festival Native Forum Celebration was hosted by NBC Universal Launch and Nia Tero.

In addition, Piron recognized the seven Indigenous-made films from around the globe making their world premieres at this week’s Sundance Film Festival and revealed the names of five Native Lab fellows.

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“Libby and Tazbah earning the Merata Mita and Graton Fellowships, respectively, this year seems really important,” said Piron. “We’re thrilled to be supporting both of these established artists’ upcoming projects with these incredible opportunities, as they have deep ties to their communities and the histories that these fellowships are rooted in.”

Hakaraia is an Indigenous storyteller who has worked as a director, writer, and producer for over 30 years. Kōkā and Cousins is produced by her. Hakaraia expressed gratitude, “I plan to be bold and strive for new heights in storytelling with this support from the Sundance Institute.” “With the help of this fellowship, I will be able to develop my abilities, widen my networks, and boost my self-assurance as I get ready to direct a major genre film in 2024”, she revealed her plans.

The fellowship, which is in its eighth year, offers a monetary award, mentorship opportunities, access to strategic and creative services provided by Sundance Institute’s artist programs, and year-round help with activities.

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Chavez, originally from the Bishop Paiute Reservation, is a performance poet who is now a TV writer and director. She is now the episodic director and co-executive producer of Reservation Dogs on FX. She directed Max’s The Sex Lives of College Girls, worked on Syfy’s Resident Alien and Peacock’s Rutherford Falls, and is a writer-director on Fox’s upcoming series Accused.

Chavez stated: “This fellowship is essential because the majority of the nation’s tribal nations are located in California, which is also home to the film industry, and because California Native perspectives are sadly lacking from the landscape of film.” Given that I’m working on my first feature film, the Graton Fellowship grant is timely.

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