1497 Mentor Lab Announces Filmmaking Mentees

The lab is designed to elevate and develop screenplays by writers of South Asian descent. It aims to empower writers in the South Asian diaspora to write whatever stories they feel compelled to tell, unbounded by genre, cultural content, geographic location or any other stereotypical expectation.

1497 Mentor Lab Announces Filmmaking Mentees
In the past two years, 1497 has supported 6 mentee-driven projects. The mentees have all gone on to achieve critical acclaim.

1497 has just announced the finalists of its third annual Features Lab.

The lab is designed to elevate and develop screenplays by writers of South Asian descent, while providing career support. It aims to empower writers in the South Asian diaspora to write whatever stories they feel compelled to tell, unbounded by genre, cultural content, geographic location or any other stereotypical expectation (via 1497.org).

Applications for the Lab were open to screenwriters of South Asian descent from across the globe, and the response was overwhelming. “We started the 1497 Features Lab to empower writers in the South Asian diaspora to tell [the] stories they want to tell, regardless of the societal, industry or stereotypical expectations that so often confine writers in our community to certain genres and cultural storylines,” said the Lab’s co-creators Adeel Ahmed, Lipica Shah and Kamran Khan in a joint statement. “All the Finalists met this challenge, so it wasn’t an easy decision for us and our Selection Committee to make. We’re so excited to support our newest mentees and see how their stories continue to move the needle for South Asian representation on screen.” 

This year, 1497 is conducting the Lab as an artistic retreat in Malibu, CA. Each mentee will be assigned to a pod of four mentors, who they will work with to receive script feedback and career guidance. Additionally, filmmaker and script consultant Adrienne Weiss will work with the mentees to further develop their scripts, emphasizing the emotional journey of their stories.

Mentors for this year’s Lab include a vast array of talent including Sundance darling Minhal Baig (“Hala,” 2019) and Oscar and BAFTA–nominated Mira Nair (“Salaam Bombay,” 1988), as well as Geeta Malick (“India Sweets and Spices,” 2021), Mohammed Ali (“The Fix,” 2018), Uzma Hasan (“Creature,” 2022), Raj Raghavan (“A Crown of Wishes”), Kishori Rajan (“Random Acts of Flyness,” 2018 – 2022), Priya Satiani (“Dream Girl,” 2016), Rabia Sultana (“Edge of Everything,” 2023) and 1497 Features Lab Alums Sofian Khan (“The Interpreters,” 2018), Kaushik Sampath (“Grooming,” 2014) and Iesh Thapar (“Alien Kulture,” 2018).

For this year’s Mentor Lab, all of the industry guests in both the Selection Committees and Mentor Pods include representation from all eight countries that currently comprise South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka). 

The following projects and mentees have been selected for the 2023 Lab:

“The Devil’s Tears” by Maya Bastian

In a remote jungle village within war-torn Sri Lanka, a community fractured by conflict is forced to come together to defend themselves from a parasitic infection that rains from the skies above.

“Mr. & Mrs. Patel” by Jhanvi Motla

New managers of the El Mirage motel, the Patels are met with challenges that not only disrupt their business but virtually crush their marriage.

“Fast Life” by Aden Suchak 

In upstate New York, an entrepreneuring Muslim corner store owner finds himself in a spiraling crisis when a local mobster gives him one week to launder $250,000 in cash

The 1497 Mentor Lab was established in 2020 by Adeel Ahmed, Lipica Shah and Kamran Khan. It is committed to platforming and empowering South Asian creatives in the face of historic underrepresentation in America’s film and television industry. The name 1497 symbolizes the last year that South Asia was free of colonization. The organization aims to reclaim their collective ancestry.