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The Russo Brothers Give Back
by Karen Pecota

Honored at the 2018 Slamdance Film Festival and for good reason, the Russo Brothers were presented with the Festival's Founders Award.

Anthony and Joe Russo, known in the film industry as The Russo Brothers are both American film and television directors. They normally direct films and tv series but occasionally they will venture-off to write scripts, or produce, act or edit film.

The two will never forget their roots in Slamdance. The Slamdance Film Festival opened the door for their first film, Pieces, to receive the spotlight. Steven Soderbergh attended the screening and was so impressed with their talent and passion to create; he offered to produce their next film which was Welcome to Collinwood. Their influence within the indie film industry grew as did some career changes.

FX Network hired them to direct a pilot for a television series called LUCKY. Following that project, filmmaker Ron Howard hired the brothers to direct the tv pilot Arrested Development to which they won an Emmy. The two continued to redeem their talents in television until 2013 where they made their directorial debut with the Marvel Studios in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and later Captain America: Civil War. Both films hit box office heights and won acclaim from critics and fans alike.

Though the brothers have continued down a very successful path, notably with the recent production of the Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel, they find time to go back to their roots to support and attend this year's Slamdance Film Festival. The 2018 festival is especially unique because for the first time, Joe and Anthony will sponsor a brand new opportunity for a new filmmaker to be a part of a mentorship program under their tutelage known as The Russo Brothers Fellowship.

The Russo Brothers Fellowship awards a $25,000 prize, presented by AGBO Films in partnership with the festival designed to enable a deserving filmmaker who is given the opportunity to continue their journey with mentorship from Joe and Anthony and development support from their studio.

The first step for the recipient is the filmmaker must have already been selected to showcase their film at Slamdance 2018. The Russo brothers then select a filmmaker from the festival pool to be the years' recipient of the Fellowship Award. In addition to the cash prize and mentoring from Joe and Anthony, the recipient receives an office at the brothers Los Angeles based studio and a cash stipend for one year.

The festival audience enjoyed a delightful evening with the Russo Brothers learning about their journey as filmmakers, the reason they decided to 'share the love' with their new mentorship program and enjoyed the surprise screening of their pilot for LUCKY.

During the Awards Ceremony held at the end of the festival, Peter Baxter, President and co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival, announced the recipient of the highly anticipated award for The Russo Brothers Fellowship. The 2018 recipient of the inaugural Russo Brothers Fellowship went to Yassmina Karajah, director of the narrative short, Rupture.

Baxter says, “Ever since their first film premiered at Slamdance in 1997, Anthony and Joe Russo have cared deeply about supporting our community. They have continually given back to a festival that helped them—first as programmers and increasingly now as mentors. The Russo brothers embody our ‘by filmmakers, for filmmakers’ paradigm and by awarding Yassmina Karajah with the inaugural Fellowship Award, demonstrate the power of our artist led community to help launch careers.”

Peter Baxter presented the award, and shared these remarks from Anthony and Joe Russo: “There were many special films at Slamdance this year, but Yassmina Karajah brought exceptional direction and an elegant cinematic style to a very difficult and worthy story, portraying the heartbreaking experience of immigrant children. We’re inspired to help her continue her journey as a filmmaker, and greatly look forward to working with her.”