Mountainfilm is proud to announce Alina Simone as its 2022 Emerging Filmmaker with her first feature documentary, Black Snow. Simone was born in the city of Kharkiv in Ukraine and immigrated with her family to the United States as part of the post-Soviet diaspora. She is a New York-based journalist and author whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, California Sunday, Slate, and NPR, among others. As the recipient of the Emerging Filmmaker Fellowship for her first feature-length documentary, Simone has access to a yearlong mentorship, festival networking, and development assistance. The purpose of the fellowship is to give rising filmmakers a boost to their careers. In addition to yearlong support, Simone will have the opportunity to travel to Telluride for the 2023 festival over Memorial Day weekend.
“The Emerging Filmmaker Fellowship is Mountainfilm’s way of supporting first-time feature filmmakers,” said Mountainfilm Senior Programmer and Festival Manager Lucy Lerner. “The fellowship committee was drawn to Alina’s vision for her story and subject, which focuses on environmental justice and indomitable spirit, both of which resonate with the ethos of Mountainfilm.”
Black Snow tells the story of the residents of a remote Siberian coal-mining city and their discovery that an abandoned underground mine has caught fire, pushing toxic gas into their homes. They turn to homemaker-turned-journalist Natalia Zubkova for help. But after her independent news coverage goes viral, they suddenly find themselves the targets of a massive government disinformation campaign, forcing Natalia to embark on a dangerous and revelatory quest to reveal the full extent of the environmental catastrophe unfolding in their midst.
“Independent documentary filmmaking can be such a lonely pursuit,” Simone says. “Every minute you spend filming together with your subjects is dwarfed by the number of months — let’s face it, years — spent alone in a room, transcribing, editing, writing grants, or doing the million other things it takes to keep your film alive. The pandemic only deepened this feeling of isolation, which makes my Mountainfilm fellowship especially meaningful. After more than three years of filming and working towards a rough cut, I suddenly find myself supported by a community of veteran documentary filmmakers, curators, and industry professionals who can provide the kind of narrative feedback and career guidance I could never find Googling or sifting through random Reddit boards. More than anything, I am thrilled that Black Snow and its iconoclastic protagonist, Natalia Zubkova, the “Erin Brockovich of Russia,” is being embraced by Mountainfilm, a festival born in a former mining town which has, for decades, embodied both environmental ideals and the idea that an ordinary person can accomplish extraordinary things.”
Mountainfilm is thrilled to be working with Simone this year. She plans to have Black Snow completed for an upcoming Mountainfilm festival.