April Dobbins’ documentary, Alabamaland, is certain to open thought-provoking discussion and provide important on-screen representation – and the Sundance Institute agrees.

The part-time University of Miami graduate student, full-time UM Director of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships in the Office of Academic Enhancement, and UM adjunct faculty can add Sundance Institute Documentary Fund Grantee to her remarkable list of accolades.

“Having all these responsibilities has taught me a great deal about time and project management,” said Dobbins. “My time at UM has taught me to pivot when necessary and the entire CIM faculty have been outstanding in their support of my work in all ways.”

Alabamaland centers on the Dobbins’ 688-acre farm, Jones Farm, situated in the heart of western Alabama, and three generations of African-American women’s ties to the land. This is the same land their ancestors once labored as slaves, intrinsically shaping their identities. The film examines African-American farms and land ownership in the American South, emphasizing the value of African-American Southerners’ way of life.

Production for Alabamaland is ongoing and Sundance Institute’s backing is critical for Dobbins. Sundance Institute has a significant history and firm commitment to championing the most distinctive nonfiction films from around the world.

“The announcement alone has brought new attention to the film and will help propel me forward as I finish this coming year of production. Plus, Sundance is really big on mentoring and connecting, so they will advise me as I push forward,” said Dobbins. “I have to state here too that I was rejected for Sundance funding a few times before receiving this award. I was actually very close to giving up on this funding when they called me.”

Alongside recognition from ArtCenter/South Florida, Firelight Media and Fork Films, the Sundance Institute has presented Alabamaland with its fourth transformative award this year. Not giving up is just one piece of bountiful advice Dobbins has to offer aspiring filmmakers.

“I have so much advice. Take my class [CIM 394]! Seriously, the best advice I can give is this: whatever role you accept on a film set — from director to production assistant — you have to treat that commitment as a job and not an option or a favor you’re doing for someone,” said Dobbins. “When you work with other filmmakers, you are building a reputation for yourself. So, if you volunteer to P.A., or script supervise, or do craft services and you do a really irresponsible job or just don’t show up, it’s the best way to ruin your career in this business — even as a student. Your work speaks more than your excuses or words do.”

Learn more about Alabamaland and April Dobbins’ impassioned work here.