Two South Asian American Filmmakers Among 2021 Wyncote Fellows
Pakistani American writer-director, editor, and composer Amman Abbasi (l) and Sri Lankan American director Sai Selvarajan have been selected for the 2021 Wyncote Fellowship. Selvarajan wrote and directed the short film, “Sugarless Tea,” narrated by Indian American political comic Hari Kondabolu. (amdoc.org photos)
India-West Staff Reporter
American Documentary, the nonprofit behind the award-winning series, “POV” and “America ReFramed,” hosted the fourth Wyncote Fellowship program at this year’s PBS Annual Meeting. Among those named Wyncote Fellows were Pakistani American filmmaker Amman Abbasi and Sri Lankan American director Sai Selvarajan.
On hiatus last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program resumed this year with a virtual format focusing on providing fellows with a greater understanding of the PBS ecosystem and positioning independent filmmakers as a vital part of the future public media.
“Wyncote was proud to support another cohort of independent makers attending PBS Annual Meeting” said David Haas, vice chair of the Wyncote Foundation. “Providing these fellowships for filmmakers, along with a similar program for PBS station staff to attend the biennial IDA Getting Real conference, bolsters public media’s mission to amplify diverse voices, by strengthening relationships and deepening awareness of the challenges and opportunities in the system.”
Over two weeks, the Wyncote Fellows participated in closed sessions and met with PBS leadership and station staff. Consultants Artemis Independent scheduled one-on-one meetings between filmmakers and stations in over 20 key markets that were tailored to program-specific goals and objectives, stated a press release.
Abbasi is a writer-director, editor, and composer from Little Rock, Arkansas. His film, “Dayveon,” premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, was an Official Selection at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival and went on to get two Film Independent Spirit Award nominations in 2018, including in the coveted Someone to Watch category.
Abbasi’s upcoming projects include “The Quench” (co-writer/director), which is set up at BRON Studios, and the short, “Udaan” (Soar), which will premiere as part of Firelight Media, CAAM and Reel South’s series Hindsight.
Prior to narrative films, Abbasi had worked in documentary for several years, traveling the world and discovering undocumented stories. In 2011, while working with the Renaud Brothers, Abbasi traveled to Haiti to cover the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake for The New York Times for a documentary piece, which went on to win the prestigious duPont Award.
Abbasi’s music compositions have appeared in several commercials, films, and documentaries, and most recently he was a music consultant for “Halloween” (2018) and “Halloween Kills” (2020).
Selvarajan was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in Nigeria and moved to Dallas with his family when he was nine.
“He brings a fierce passion for storytelling, coupled with great design acumen, resulting in stylistically intense pieces that linger through their emotional resonance,” according to American Documentary.
He graduated in 2001 from the University of Texas at Arlington with a degree in film and graphic design. In his last semester, Selvarajan stumbled into stardom with a short film called “Blood & Oil,” and parlayed that into super-stardom with a narrative short, “Separated by Light,” according to his bio on IMDb.
He also wrote, directed and edited the short film, “Sugarless Tea,” narrated by Indian American political comic Hari Kondabolu, which made festival rounds.