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Chaz Ebert introduced me to the 2019 Sundance Ebert Fellows Niani Scott, Whitney A. Spencer, and Tiffany Walden via Instagram as they were on their way to Park City, Utah, to cover Sundance Film Festival. I read up on these intelligent and extremely talented women, and I was so inspired by their drive and past experience. During our interview in March, we talked about their Sundance experiences, their favorite films from the festival, and the importance of having diverse voices in film criticism.
2019 Sundance Ebert Fellows’ Favorite Films
“Native Son” (2019)
“The Last Black Man in San Francisco” (2019)
“The Farewell” (2019)
Honorable mention: “Give Me Liberty” (2019)
What the Ebert Fellows Are Doing Post-Sundance
REBECCA MARTIN: What are you going to take from Sundance into this year? What are doing after Sundance?
NIANI SCOTT: We connected with a ton of people at Sundance. Since Sundance, I’ve directed a film and submitted it to Cannes Film Festival just based on the connections that I made. It’s been an incredible past month and a half. I’ve literally been to Chicago every weekend since we got back, leaving campus. So I’ve been trying to balance being a student and working toward being a producer/director.
WHITNEY A. SPENCER: My life has been consumed a lot with school, and my thesis project, but I just finished my first narrative short film script, so I’m passing that off to some folks and getting some feedback so I can get back to the writing process.
I just met with Tiffany and Morgan Johnson to talk about a couple projects possibly connected through The TRiiBE. Both of them are documentary focused. One is focused on what I think is this new Black Chicago Renaissance. After our meeting, I think it’s going to become a hybrid project of history of Black figures in Hollywood, as well as modern, talking about today’s current artists that are following in the footsteps of a lot Black Chicagoans.
The other one is focused on Black women in the health care system. I think the goal is for us to be able to look at women who are using alternative forms of medicine outside of Western medicine because Black women are having such difficult times, particularly thinking about childbirth and just being believed in Western medicine.
TIFFANY WALDEN: Right after Sundance, I had to be tuned into Chicago’s elections, so that took over my entire life. I spent the whole month of February covering that and getting the community engaged in the election. So now that we’re going off into a runoff, I have to continue to tell stories about the election.
But The TRiiBE itself, my business partner, Morgan Elise Johnson, is a filmmaker. She came out of Kartemquin and has does some productions. And so The TRiiBE does function as a news media platform, but we’re also functioning as a production house, so we’re trying to get more shorts and more docs and at some point a feature coming out of The TRiiBE. So Morgan has been working with “Unapologetic,” which is a documentary about the activist movement here by women of color. We have Whitney here who we’ve been talking to. And then we have a couple in-house projects too that we’re about to submit for some possible grant funding.