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Array and Google have found the first recipient of their $500,000 Feature Film Grant in Hawaiian filmmaker Alika Maikau. The Hawaiian filmmaker is the first recipient of the two companies’ partnership to support rising creatives from historically excluded backgrounds.

The award, fittingly (and coincidentally) announced on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, will include mentorship from the advisory committee that selected Maikau, including producer Gabrielle Glore, Visual Communications executive director Francis Cullado, IllumiNative founder and executive director Crystal Echo Hawk, Film Independent senior director of education and international initiatives María Raquel Bozzi and Mumbai Academy of Moving Image artistic director Smriti Kiran. Google will provide the $500,000 for Maikau’s production, which will be sourced by Array Crew, the database of below-the-line professionals from historically excluded backgrounds, and distributed by Array.

“This film grant, in partnership with Array, allows us to jointly celebrate and showcase the talent of creators like Alika, whose work addresses issues that need to be brought to the forefront urgently,” Google vp marketing Jeffrey Whipps said in a statement. “We’re excited to continue to help amplify more voices from underrepresented communities to tell their authentic, timely and important stories.”

Raised in Kaneohe on the island of Oahu, Maikau will be adapting his short film Moloka’i Bound, which won best live-action short at the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in 2019, into a feature. The short is about a young man, recently released from prison, who looks to reconcile with his ex and reconnect with his son and his native Hawaiian heritage while resisting recidivism.

“The entire Array team, along with our colleagues at Google, instantly connected to Alika’s beautifully written narrative that is set in Hawaii and tells the story of indigenous family traditions, struggles and triumphs,” Array president Tilane Jones said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Alika to bring his vision from script to screen, and to audiences all over the world through our distribution arm Array Releasing.”

Six runners-up are also receiving $5,000 to continue developing the projects they submitted for the Feature Film Grant. The finalists are Mary Evangelista, Cristina Ibarra, David Liu, Suzannah Mirghani, Philiane Phang and Ryan RedCorn.

“Our intention in creating the Feature Film Grant, in partnership with Array, is for it to be part of the broader change needed within the entertainment industry, both on and behind the scenes,” Elle Roth-Brunet, Google’s lead and producer on the project, said in a statement. “Alika’s work is rooted in the local, lived experience that deserves to be seen by a wide audience, and we are excited to help bring it to life. Congrats to all of the finalists who shared such beautiful stories that represent their communities.”

UTA Marketing brokered the partnership with Array on behalf of Google. In May, Google announced the inaugural recipients of its Storytelling Fellowship, a partnership with the Black List.

See Array Filmworks president Paul Garnesbreak the good news to Maikau below, and read on for bios of each of the Feature Film Grant finalists.

Alika Maikau

In 2017 the Honolulu-based Hapa Hawaiian/Asian filmmaker earned a mentorship under Black Pantherco-writer Joe Robert Cole, who oversaw the development of what would become Maikau’s short Mauka to Makai. Maukapremiered at the end of 2018 and was awarded Best Made In Hawai’i Short at the Hawai’i International Film Festival. Alika’s follow-up short, Moloka’i Bound, premiered at the ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in 2019 and won Best Short Work, qualifying it for consideration at the 2021 Academy Awards. In December 2020 Maikau’s feature-length script for Moloka’i Boundwas one of nine screenplays selected to the The Black List, IllumiNative and the Sundance Institute’s inaugural Indigenous List.

Mary Evangelista

Hailing from the Philippines and the Bay Area, Evangelista received an MFA for Writing and Directing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Their short film Fran This Summer, an LGBTQ summer love story, won the Grand Jury Award at L.A. Outfest in 2018 before playing in thirty film festivals internationally. Evangelista co-created Water Melts, a Tribeca Film Institute- and Google-supported VR rom-com that premiered at Tribeca and played at the Rotterdam Film Festival. As a 2019 Project Involve Fellow with Film Independent, they directed the short La Gloria, an HBO Ibero-American Award Shorts Finalist at the Miami Film Festival. Evangelista, a recipient of the 2020 Tribeca All Access grant and a 2021 WIF x Sundance Finance Intensive fellowship, is currently developing their debut feature film, Burning Well.

Cristina Ibarra

The self-described Chicana border crosser’s 2001 directorial debut, Dirty Laundry: A Homemade Telenovela, a comedy short about adolescent sexuality inside a culture-clashing Chicano family, aired as part of the public television series Colorvision. Her documentary about elite Mexican American debutantes, Las Marthas, premiered on PBS’ Independent Lens series in 2014 and won Best U.S. Latino Film at the Cinema Tropical Awards the following year. Ibarra’s most recent film, The Infiltrators, a hybrid documentary and scripted narrative about young undocumented activists who infiltrate a detention center, received both the NEXT Audience and Innovator Awards at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. She is a currently a Chicken & Egg Awardfellow, awarded to women and gender-nonconforming directors.

David Liu

The child of immigrants grew up east of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley, raised on a third-culture diet of ‘90s hip-hop, martial arts serials, and Hardy Boysmysteries. He studied political economy at UC Berkeley and worked as a journalist in the Bay Area before earning his MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where his feature screenplay about jazz legend Charles Mingus was shortlisted for Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Screenplay Competition. Liu’s work as a writer-director has been recognized at festivals and competitions including Palm Springs, Cinequest, Heartland, TIDE, CAAMFest and the L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival. He is a recipient of the CAPE New Writers Fellowship, Visual Communications’ Armed with a Camera Fellowship and the Frieze x Deutsche Bank Film Fellowship supported by GFS and Endeavor Content.

Suzannah Mirghani

The Sudanese writer, researcher and independent filmmaker is a media studies and museum studies graduate. Last year Mirghani wrote, directed and produced the dramatic short Al-Sit,which won several international awards, including three Academy Award qualifying prizes: Best of Fest at L.A. Shorts, Grand Prix at Tampere Film Festival and Best Short Film at Bronzelens. Her most recent short is the experimental documentary Virtual Voice, which premiered at Tribeca in June. Mirghani currently is working on her first feature, Cotton Queen, a magical realist tale set in the cotton fields of Sudan.

Philiane Phang

In 2015, the New York-based writer and director received both Film Independent’s inaugural Ammon Foundation Fellowship for a Female Director and IFP’s inaugural Phosphate Prize, given to a feature screenplay with “a strong and complex lead female character.” The Rutgers Law graduate’s 2016 short film, Gubagude Ko, stars Mahershala Ali and was developed with the support of AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women. In 2017, Conde Nast and Indigenous Media commissioned Phang to write and direct a proof-of-concept for a TV series, The Row. Her feature project, The Space Between, has been chosen to participate in Sundance Screenwriters Intensive, Sundance Producing Lab, Film Independent Screenwriting Lab, Film Independent Directing Lab, Berlinale Talents and Co-Production Market and IFP’s No Borders Co-Production Market.

Ryan RedCorn

Ryan RedCorn (Osage) was born in Tahlequah, Okla., into a family of preachers, politicians and salesmen, which are all the same occupation. He is the ilonpa of Raymond and Elizabeth RedCorn, and the object of jealousy from his three younger brothers – Jon, Alex and Studebaker, who between them have three master’s degrees and two doctorates. Ryan, meanwhile, took six and half years to get an art degree in visual communications from the University of Kansas. To the surprise of many, RedCorn has been able to translate his education, his ilonpa entitlement and his family lineage into something some people think is valuable: He co-founded the Indigenous comedy troupe The 1491s and started a full-service ad agency in the middle of nowhere (Pawhuska, Okla.) called Buffalo Nickel Creative. Sometimes people laugh at him. But he’s ok with all of that. He recently woke one morning and realized he was married and had three daughters. He remarked, “I live a crazy life,” and promptly enrolled in an MFA in screenwriting program to test his capacity for stress. RedCorn graduated in the spring of 2020 and is presently alive and vaccinated.

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