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In his brief remarks before the first public screening of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Robert Redford praised the Sundance Institute's ongoing filmmaker development labs as "our core," noting that the festival itself was conceived "to create an audience for the filmmakers in our lab program."
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"May in the Summer."That program has now birthed a series of satellite Sundance labs all over the world, including the one in Jordan that was responsible for developing actress-writer-director Cherien Dabis' May in the Summer, a buoyant comic drama about three Palestinian-American sisters navigating currents of love, loss, and dysfunctional parent-child relationships in present-day Amann. May, one of four opening-night selections to screen in Park City Thursday night, is Dabis' second feature, following 2009's Amreeka, also a Sundance lab project.
Where Amreeka looked at a Palestinian Christian family emigrating from Ramallah to suburban Illinois, May charts an opposite journey, with American-born May (played by Dabis herself) traveling from New York to Amann to prepare for her impending nuptials. She's a published author who's just written a book about Arabic proverbs; her fiancé, Ziad, is an Islamic studies professor who, much to the chagrin of May's devoutly Christian mother (the great Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass), happens to be Muslim. That's just the start of the familial complications: Mom is divorced from May's American diplomat father (Bill Pullman), who has recently gotten remarried to a younger Indian woman (Ritu Singh Pande). Sister Yasmine (Nadine Malouf) is a party girl newly laid off from her job, while sister Dahlia (Arrested Development's hilarious Alia Shawkat) is a lesbian tentatively trying to step out of the closet. And then there's Ziad (Syriana's Alexander Siddig), who's conspicuous by his absence on May's arm.