2020 Tribeca Film Festival: ‘Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President’ is the opening-night film

February 17, 2020

Tribeca Film Festival - white logo

Jimmy Carter and Willie Nelson in “Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President” (Photo courtesy of Jimmy Carter Library)

The following is a press release from the Tribeca Film Festival:
The Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, will open its 19th edition on April 15 with the world premiere of “Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President.” It will set the stage for a festival featuring works that celebrate the power of change through art, politics and community. The 2020 Tribeca Film Festival will run April 15-26.

From award-winning director Mary Wharton, producer Chris Farrell and writer Bill Flanagan, the documentary catalogues the role of popular music in helping to propel a peanut farmer from Georgia all the way to the White House.

The world premiere of “Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President” will be followed by live performances from music legend Willie Nelson, Musical Director Paul Shaffer, and others. The event will take place at the Beacon Theatre as part of the City National Bank Screening Series during the Festival.

This rockumentary-style presidential portrait shows how Jimmy Carter’s lifelong passion for music gave him an unexpected edge as a presidential candidate. Through folk, soul, gospel, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll, Carter tapped into a force that transcended racial and generational divides, and often party lines. Carter’s appreciation for all genres of music and friendships with the likes of Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers, and Willie Nelson helped to define his campaign. “Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President” combines intimate interviews with Carter along with rare archival era-defining live performances from: Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Buffett, and Paul Simon among others. Director Mary Wharton traces how Carter’s genuine approachability and the unifying power of music became key to his political appeal, and allowed him to connect with voters who may only have known him as a small town peanut farmer.

Director Mary Wharton won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Music Film for her documentary feature “Sam Cooke: Legend.” Other notable feature film credits include “Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound,” the platinum-selling concert film “Phish: IT,” and “Farrah Fawcett Forever.”

“The film accurately captures my love for all music and the importance music has played in my personal and professional life. I remain hopeful and believe that music can serve to bring us together as a nation. Rosalynn and I are pleased with the fine film Mary and Chris have made and thank all those involved for telling this story. We are thrilled that it will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival,” said President Jimmy Carter.

“We witness the power of art inspiring change and the positive impact of citizens raising their voices against injustice everyday,” said Jane Rosenthal, Co-Founder and CEO of the Tribeca Film Festival.

“As filmmakers, we were inspired to create the Tribeca Film Festival after 9/11 because we believe in the power of art to restore community and inspire change. Mary and Chris’ film, likewise, is a testament to that power.”

To further fortify that movement, Tribeca is partnering with Democracy Works and Civic Alliance, America’s premier nonpartisan coalition of businesses working together to build a future where everyone can vote, volunteer, and take action to shape the country. Tribeca Film Festival audiences will be given access to online tools that make voting easy; sending them text updates and educating them about ways to get involved in their local elections. Tribeca also provides staff with paid time off to vote, working to strengthen employee engagement.

Tribeca expands across the Hudson River to Hoboken
Last year, Tribeca’s opening night brought The Apollo uptown to its namesake theater in Harlem, and this year, the Festival will continue to use cinematic storytelling and experiences to connect communities across the Hudson river to the city of Hoboken, NJ. The city’s rich cinematic history includes scenes filmed from Oscar winner “On the Waterfront,” “Julie & Julia,” “Funny Girl,” “The Station Agent,” among others.

“It’s wonderful to embrace new audiences with our neighbor across the river,” said Rosenthal.

“We are incredibly thrilled to bring the renowned Tribeca Film Festival to Hoboken,” said Ravi Bhalla, Hoboken Mayor. “There’s no better location to host the Festival than our Mile Square, offering a wealth of culture with our local artists, galleries, and The Mile Square Theatre Company, and further cements our City as one of the major cultural destinations in the tri-state area.”

About “Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President”

“Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President” was also produced by Dave Kirkpatrick and Executive Producers include Dan Braun, Peter Conlon, and David Crawford. Submarine will handle sales for the film.

Tickets:
All passes and ticket packages are on sale now. Single tickets to attend the Festival go on sale on March 17, 2020.

#Tribeca2020
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About the Tribeca Film Festival:
The Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, brings artists and diverse audiences together to celebrate storytelling in all its forms, including film, TV, VR, gaming, music, and online work. With strong roots in independent film, Tribeca is a platform for creative expression and immersive entertainment. The Festival champions emerging and established voices; discovers award-winning filmmakers and creators; curates innovative experiences; and introduces new technology and ideas through premieres, exhibitions, talks, and live performances.

The Festival was founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center. Now in its 19th year, the Festival has evolved into a destination for creativity that reimagines the cinematic experience and explores how art can unite communities. The 19th annual edition will take place April 15-26, 2020. www.tribecafilm.com/festival @Tribeca

About Presenting Sponsor AT&T:
As Presenting Sponsor of the Tribeca Film Festival, AT&T is committed to supporting the Festival and the art of filmmaking through access and innovation, while expanding opportunities to diverse creators around the globe. AT&T helps millions connect to their passions – no matter where they are. This year, AT&T and Tribeca will once again collaborate to give the world access to stories from underrepresented filmmakers that deserve to be seen. AT&T Presents: Untold Stories -an Inclusive Film Program in Collaboration with Tribeca, is a multi-year, multi-tier alliance between AT&T and Tribeca along with the year-round nonprofit Tribeca Film Institute.

About the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival Partners:
The Tribeca Film Festival is pleased to announce its 2020 Partners: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), BVLGARI, CHANEL, City National Bank, CNN Films, Diageo, ESPN, Montefiore, National CineMedia (NCM), New York Magazine, NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, P&G, PwC, Spring Studios New York, and Squarespace.

2020 Berlin International Film Festival: programming lineup announced

February 11, 2020

Sigourney Weaver in “My Salinger Year” (Photo courtesy of Memento Films International)

These films have been announced for the largest programs at the 70th Annual Berlin International Film Festival,  which takes place in Germany from February 20 to March 1, 2020.  Updates will be added when announced.

The following descriptions are from Berlin International Film Festival press releases:

With the kind support of ZDF/3sat and CinemaxX, on February 20 at 7.20 pm, the Opening Gala of the 70th Berlinale and the premiere of the opening film will be broadcast in cinemas in four German cities for the first time. In the CinemaxX cinemas in Hamburg-Dammtor, Munich, Essen and Halle (Saale), viewers can follow the Berlinale Opening, presented by Samuel Finzi, live on the big screen. This will be followed by the world premiere of My Salinger Year by screenwriter and director Philippe Falardeau. In addition to Sigourney Weaver, who has been nominated for several Oscars, the top-class cast includes Margaret Qualley and Douglas Booth. The Canadian-Irish production is based on the novel of the same name by US writer Joanna Rakoff. Tickets and further information are now available at https://www.cinemaxx.de/film/my-salinger-year.

The Opening of the Berlinale will also be broadcast live on February 20 at 7.20 pm on 3sat.

Competition

“The Competition films tell intimate and earth-shattering, individual and collective stories that have an enduring effect and gain their impact from their interplay with the audience. If there is a predominance of dark tones, this may be because the films we have selected tend to look at the present without illusion – not to cause fear, but because they want to open our eyes. The trust cinema places in humankind, these suffering, ill-treated, manipulative beings, is unbroken – so unbroken that it consistently views them as its protagonists,” comments Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian.

The Competition programme includes 18 films from 18 countries with 16 world premieres as well as one documentary form.

Welket Bungué in “Berlin Alexanderplatz”

Competition

Berlin Alexanderplatz
Germany / Netherlands
by Burhan Qurbani
with Welket Bungué, Jella Haase, Albrecht Schuch, Joachim Król, Annabelle Mandeng, Nils Verkooijen, Richard Fouofié Djimeli
World premiere

DAU. Natasha
Germany / Ukraine / United Kingdom / Russian Federation
by Ilya Khrzhanovskiy, Jekaterina Oertel
with Natalia Berezhnaya, Olga Shkabarnya, Vladimir Azhippo, Alexei Blinov, Luc Bigé
World premiere

Domangchin yeoja (The Woman Who Ran)
Republic of Korea
by Hong Sangsoo
with Kim Minhee, Seo Younghwa, Song Seonmi, Kim Saebyuk, Lee Eunmi, Kwon Haehyo, Shin Seokho, Ha Seongguk
World premiere

Effacer l’historique (Delete History)
France / Belgium
by Benoît Delépine, Gustave Kervern
with Blanche Gardin, Denis Podalydès, Corinne Masiero
World premiere

El prófugo (The Intruder)
Argentina / Mexico
by Natalia Meta
with Érica Rivas, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Daniel Hendler, Cecilia Roth, Guillermo Arengo, Agustín Rittano, Mirta Busnelli
World premiere

Favolacce (Bad Tales)
Italy / Switzerland
by Damiano & Fabio D’Innocenzo
with Elio Germano, Barbara Chichiarelli, Lino Musella, Gabriel Montesi, Max Malatesta
World premiere

First Cow
USA
by Kelly Reichardt
with John Magaro, Orion Lee, Toby Jones, Scott Shepherd, Gary Farmer, Lily Gladstone
International premiere

Irradiés (Irradiated)
France / Cambodia
by Rithy Panh
World premiere / Documentary form

Le sel des larmes (The Salt of Tears)
France / Switzerland
by Philippe Garrel
with Logann Antuofermo, Oulaya Amamra, André Wilms, Louise Chevillotte, Souheila Yacoub
World premiere

Never Rarely Sometimes Always
USA
by Eliza Hittman
with Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten
International premiere

Rizi (Days)
Taiwan
by Tsai Ming-Liang
with Lee Kang-Sheng, Anong Houngheuangsy
World premiere

The Roads Not Taken
United Kingdom
by Sally Potter
with Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning, Salma Hayek, Laura Linney
World premiere

Schwesterlein (My Little Sister)
Switzerland
by Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond
with Nina Hoss, Lars Eidinger, Marthe Keller, Jens Albinus, Thomas Ostermeier, Linne-Lu Lungershausen, Noah Tscharland, Isabelle Caillat, Moritz Gottwald, Urs Jucker
World premiere

Sheytan vojud nadarad (There Is No Evil)
Germany / Czech Republic / Iran
by Mohammad Rasoulof
World premiere

Siberia
Italy / Germany / Mexico
by Abel Ferrara
with Willem Dafoe, Dounia Sichov, Simon McBurney, Cristina Chiriac
World premiere

Todos os mortos (All the Dead Ones)
Brazil / France
by Caetano Gotardo, Marco Dutra
with Mawusi Tulani, Clarissa Kiste, Carolina Bianchi, Thaia Perez, Alaíde Costa, Leonor Silveira, Agyei Augusto, Rogério Brito, Thomás Aquino, Andrea Marquee
World premiere

Undine
Germany / France
by Christian Petzold
with Paula Beer, Franz Rogowski, Maryam Zaree, Jacob Matschenz
World premiere

Volevo nascondermi (Hidden Away)
Italy
by Giorgio Diritti
with Elio Germano
World premiere

Berlinale Special

“This section provides a platform for films that captivate a wide audience. We call them ‘moving images’ because they move audiences with their expressiveness and their brilliant and courageous performers. The gala premieres fulfil the desire for the stars, glitz and glamour that is part of every big festival. Berlinale Series offers an insight into new forms of storytelling while Berlinale Special presents itself as a forum for debate and discussion and builds bridges between the audience and cinema,” comments Carlo Chatrian, Artistic Director of the Berlinale.

In total, 20 films from 19 countries, among them 15 world premieres, will be shown in the section.

Omar Sy and Virginie Efira in “Police”

Berlinale Special Gala at Friedrichstadt-Palast

High Ground
Australia
by Stephen Maxwell Johnson
with Simon Baker, Jacob Junior Nayinggul, Jack Thompson, Callan Mulvey, Witiyana Marika, Esmerelda Marimowa, Aaron Pedersen
World premiere

Minamata
United Kingdom
by Andrew Levitas
with Johnny Depp, Hiroyuki Sanada, Minami, Bill Nighy
World premiere

Sa-nyang-eui-si-gan (Time to Hunt)
Republic of Korea
by Yoon Sung-hyun
with Lee Je-hoon, Ahn Jae-hong, Choi Woo-shik, Park Jeong-min, Park Hae-soo
World premiere

Berlinale Special at Haus der Berliner Festspiele

The American Sector
USA
by Courtney Stephens, Pacho Velez
World premiere / Documentary form

Golda Maria
France
by Patrick Sobelman, Hugo Sobelman
World premiere / Documentary form

Hillary
USA
by Nanette Burstein
International premiere / Documentary series

Last and First Men
Iceland
by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Narrated by Tilda Swinton
World premiere / Documentary form

Nomera (Numbers)
Ukraine / Poland / Czech Republic / France
by Oleg Sentsov in collaboration with Akhtem Seitablaiev
with Evhen Chernykov, Agatha Larionova, Oleksandr Begma, Maksym Devizorov, Iryna Mak

The Nutty Professor
USA 1963
by Jerry Lewis
with Jerry Lewis, Stella Stevens, Del Moore, Kathleen Freeman, Med Flory, Norman Alden
Screening on the occasion of the Deutsche Kinemathek receiving exclusive documents from the estate of Jerry Lewis, with behind-the-scenes footage being shown prior to the film. The film will be presented by Jerry Lewis’ son Chris Lewis.

Yi Zhi You Dao Hai Shui Bian Lan (Swimming Out Till The Sea Turns Blue)
People’s Republic of China
by Jia Zhang-ke
World premiere / Documentary form

Berlinale Special Gala at Berlinale Palast

Charlatan
Czech Republic / Ireland / Poland / Slovakia
by Agnieszka Holland
with Ivan Trojan, Josef Trojan, Juraj Loj, Jaroslava Pokorná
World Premiere

Persian Lessons
Russian Federation / Germany / Belarus
by Vadim Perelman
with Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Lars Eidinger, Jonas Nay, Leonie Benesch, Alexander Beyer, David Schütter, Luisa-Celine Gaffron
World premiere

Police (Night Shift)
France
by Anne Fontaine
with Omar Sy, Virginie Efira, Grégory Gadebois, Payman Maadi
World premiere

 

2020 Athena Film Festival: programming lineup announced

February 10, 2020

by Carla Hay

Athena Film Festival

The 10th annual Athena Film Festival—which takes place at New York City’s Barnard College from February 27 to March 1, 2020—is once again presenting a diverse and international selection of female-focused programming. This year, there’s an unusually high number of female-empowerment films about women who are involved in the legal system, war or politics. Most of the feature-length films are those that have already been released in theaters or have premiered at other events, but the Athena Film Festival has such a unique focus that it’s worth attending for people who haven’t seen these movies yet, want to see the movies again, and/or are interested in checking out the panel discussions or short films. In most cases, the films’ directors attend the festival and do intros or Q&As at the screenings.

The opening-night film is the Helen Reddy biopic “I Am Woman,” directed by Unjoo Moon and starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey as the Australian songstress. The narrative centerpiece film is the mystery thriller “Lost Girls,” directed by Liz Garbus and starring Amy Ryan as a mother searching for her missing 24-year-old daughter. The documentary centerpiece film is the Oscar-nominated “For Sama,” directed by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts, which chronicles al-Kateab and her family’s life in war-torn Syria. The international centerpiece film is “The Perfect Candidate,” directed by Haifaa al-Mansour, a drama about a Saudia Arbian female doctor who ends up running for her local city council. The closing-night film is “Rocks,” a drama directed by Sarah Gavron, about an London teenager who comes home to find her mother missing.

The only film to have its world premiere at the festival is the documentary “Dying Doesn’t Feel Like What I’m Doing,” directed by Paula Weiman-Kelman, about female rabbi/activist Rachel Cowan and how she is living with terminal brain cancer.

The festival has some movies that were originally released in 2019 and have been winning prizes and getting Oscar nominations. In addition to “For Sama,” there is also writer/director Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-nominated version of “Little Women,” based on the classic Louisa May Alcott novel. Other films that received Oscar nominations are the animated sequel “Frozen 2” and the Harriet Tubman biopic “Harriet.”

In addition, there are networking events (most are invitation-only), discussion panels and creative workshops.

Here is the programming lineup for the 2020 Athena Film Festival. More information can be found at the official festival website. (All descriptions listed below are courtesy of the festival.)

 

NARRATIVE FEATURES

Antigone

Director: Sophie Deraspe

Writer: Sophie Deraspe

Inspired by the Greek tragedy of the same title, multi-award-winning filmmaker Sophie Deraspe centers her adaptation around a brilliant teenage girl who chooses to live by her own standards of justice, love and loyalty rather than society’s.

Black Christmas

Director: Sophia Takal

Writers: Sophia Takal and April Wolfe

As Hawthorne College is quieting down for the holidays, sorority girls on campus are being killed by a stalker. In this loose remake of the 1974 Canadian “slasher” classic, the killer is about to discover that today’s generation of fearless women are not willing to become hapless victims.

Carmen & Lola – NEW YORK PREMIERE

Director: Arantxa Echevarria

Writer: Arantxa Echevarría

The love story of two Roma women: bride-to-be Carmen and street artist Lola find themselves in a secret love affair, having to hide it from their families and their community.

Clemency

Director: Chinonye Chukwu

Writer: Chinonye Chukwu

Chinonye Chukwu’s sophomore feature is an enthralling story of Bernadine (Alfre Woodard), a prison warden whose years working on death row takes a psychic toll. After a harrowing botched execution, her growing investment in the next prisoner to be executed encourages her to look more closely at her motivations and relationships and offers a tough-minded inquiry into the morality of capital punishment. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and a 2017 Athena List Winner.

Frozen 2

Directors: Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck

Writer: Jennifer Lee

Why was Elsa born with magical powers? What truths about the past await Elsa as she ventures into the unknown to the enchanted forests and dark seas beyond Arendelle? The answers are calling her but also threatening her kingdom. Together with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, she’ll face a dangerous but remarkable journey. In “Frozen,” Elsa feared her powers were too much for the world. In “Frozen 2,” she must hope they are enough. From the Academy Award®-winning team—directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho and songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez— “Frozen 2” features the voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad.

Harriet

Director: Kasi Lemmons

Writer: Kasi Lemmons and Gregory Allen Howard

Directed and co-written by 2014 Athena Award-winner Kasi Lemmons, “Harriet” tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

I Am Woman OPENING NIGHT FILM AND NEW YORK PREMIERE

Director: Unjoo Moon

Writer: Emma Jenson

For the first time on screen, “I Am Woman” tells the inspiring story of singer Helen Reddy, who wrote and sang the song “I Am Woman” that became the anthem for the women’s movement in the 1970s. The film is a story of fearless ambition and passion, of a woman who smashed through the patriarchal norms of her time to become the international singing superstar she always dreamed of being.

Kuesippan

Director: Myriam Verreault

Writers: Naomi Fontaine and Myriam Verreault

Mikuan and Shaniss grew up as best friends in their Innu community. While Mikuan has a loving family, Shaniss is picking up the pieces of her shattered childhood. As children, they promised to stick together no matter what, but at 17 their friendship is shaken when Mikuan falls for a white boy, and starts dreaming of leaving the reserve that’s now too small for her dreams.

Little Women

Director: Greta Gerwig

Writer: Greta Gerwig

Writer-director Greta Gerwig ‘06 (“Lady Bird”), winner of a 2011 Athena Award, has crafted a “Little Women” that draws on both the classic novel and the writings of Louisa May Alcott, and unfolds as the author’s alter ego, Jo March, reflects back and forth on her fictional life with her three sisters.

The Long Shadow – NEW YORK PREMIERE

Director: Daniel Lafrentz

Writers: Daniel Lafrentz and Stephen Peltier

A Sheriff’s deputy takes on her Louisiana town’s old-money establishment when the woman she loves – an attorney fighting a corporate land grab that will displace the poor – is found murdered.

Lost Girls – NARRATIVE CENTERPIECE AND NEW YORK PREMIERE

Director: Liz Garbus

Writer: Michael Werwie

When 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert mysteriously disappears one night, her mother Mari embarks on a dark journey that finds her face to face with hard truths about her daughter, herself, and police bias. Determined to find her daughter at all costs, Mari Gilbert retraces Shannan’s last known steps and her discoveries force law enforcement and the media to uncover more than a dozen unsolved murders of sex workers, young lives Mari will not let the world forget.

Military Wives

Director: Peter Cattaneo

Writers: Rosanne Flynn and Rachel Tunnard

With their partners serving in Afghanistan, a band of women form a choir on the military base and quickly discover that they can rely on each other for more than beautiful harmonies. The women, who must confront the challenges of having a partner at war, find themselves at the center of a media sensation and global movement.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always – NEW YORK PREMIERE

Director: Eliza Hittman

Writer: Eliza Hittman

Written and directed by Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is an intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) embark across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery and compassion.

The Perfect Candidate – INTERNATIONAL CENTERPIECE AND NEW YORK PREMIERE

Director: Haifaa al-Mansour

Writers: Haifaa al-Mansour, Brad Niemann

Maryam is an ambitious young doctor working in a small town clinic in Saudi Arabia. After she is prevented from traveling to Dubai in search of a better job, a bureaucratic mix-up leads her to stumble on the application for her local city elections and she decides to run. She enlists her two younger sisters and while they face the restriction of women’s traditional roles in the Kingdom at every turn, Maryam’s audacious candidacy starts to build momentum and challenges her conservative community.

A Regular Woman

Director: Sherry Hormann

Writer: Florian Öller

“A Regular Woman” tells the story of 23-year-old Hatun Ayhrun Sürücü, a Turkish-Kurdish woman living in Germany who in February 2005, was shot dead at a Berlin bus stop in an “honor killing” by her youngest brother. This film gives Ayhrun the opportunity to narrate her own story as she leaves her abusive marriage and struggles for a free, self-determined life in the face of her family’s opposition.

Rocks – CLOSING NIGHT FILM

Director: Sarah Gavron

Writer: Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson

In East London, teenager Shola is known as “Rocks” after protecting her childhood friend from bullies. Rocks has big dreams but one day she returns home from school to discover her life is radically altered: her troubled, single mother has disappeared, leaving her responsible for her younger brother.

Sea Fever – NEW YORK PREMIERE

Director: Neasa Hardiman

Writer: Neasa Hardiman

Siobhán’s a marine biology student who prefers spending her days alone in a lab. She has to endure a week on a ragged fishing trawler, where she’s miserably at odds with the close-knit crew. But out in the deep Atlantic, an unfathomable life form ensnares the boat. When members of the crew succumb to a strange infection, Siobhán must overcome her alienation and anxiety to win the crew’s trust, before everyone is lost.

Sister Aimee

Directors: Samantha Buck and Marie Schlingmann

Writers: Samantha Buck and Marie Schlingmann

In 1926, the world’s most famous evangelist, Sister Aimee Semple McPherson, fakes her own death in order to run away to Mexico with her married lover. Once on the road, and equipped with new identities, they find themselves chased by the very persona Aimee so desperately tried to kill. They hire Rey, a former Mexican Soldadera turned smuggler, to help them cross the border, as detectives, the world, and Aimee herself all pose the question, “Who is Sister Aimee Semple McPherson?”

Stars by the Pound

Director: Marie-Sophie Chambon

Writers: Marie-Sophie Chambon and Anaïs Carpita

In this heart-warming story of friendship, acceptance, and the importance of loving yourself, Lois, 16, dreams of becoming an astronaut. Although gifted in physics, she has a big problem: she weighs over 200 pounds. When all seems lost, Lois meets three other teens who, like her, are shattered by life’s tough breaks yet ready for anything in order to leave with her for outer space.

DOCUMENTARIES

Butterfly

Director: Alessandro Cassigoli and Casey Kauffman

Irma “The Butterfly” Testa, a talented 18-year-old, is the first female Italian boxer to be selected for the Olympic Games. Butterfly is an intimate portrait of this determined athlete in the run-up to the games and thereafter, when she has more time to be with her best friend and family.

Dying Doesn’t Feel Like What I’m Doing

– WORLD PREMIERE

Director: Paula Weiman-Kelman

Rachel Cowan was a civil rights activist, community organizer, the first female Jew by choice ordained as a Rabbi, a beloved and influential mindfulness teacher, a grandmother and wise elder. And then she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Living each day fully, she turned dying into an opportunity to experience gratitude.

For Sama – DOCUMENTARY CENTERPIECE

Directors: Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts

“For Sama” is the incredible story of Waad al-Kateab, a journalist/filmmaker who filmed her life for over five years during the conflict in Aleppo, Syria. Waad documented her personal journey as she married a doctor who operated the only functioning hospital in their besieged area, gave birth to a daughter (Sama), and continued filming the cataclysmic events unfolding around her. At its core, this documentary serves as a love letter from a mother to her daughter, as Waad captures deeply moving scenes of love, laughter, loss, sacrifice and survival.

Objector – NEW YORK PREMIERE

Director: Molly Stuart

Like all Israeli youth, Atalya is obligated to become a soldier. Unlike most, she questions the practices of her country’s military, and becomes determined to challenge this rite of passage. Despite her family’s political disagreements and personal concerns, she refuses military duty and is imprisoned for her dissent.

Power Meri – NEW YORK PREMIERE

Director: Joanna Lester

“Power Meri” follows the PNG Orchids, Papua New Guinea’s first national women’s rugby team, on their journey to the 2017 World Cup in Australia. These trailblazers not only must win on the field but also beat intense sexism, a lack of funding, and national prejudice to reach their biggest stage yet.

Queering the Script

Director: Gabrielle Zilkha

Giving queer fandom a voice in the conversation about LGBTQ+ representation, from Showtime’s “The L Word” to FX’s “Pose,” “Queering the Script” examines the rising power of the fans and audience shaping representation on TV, the relationship between fandom and activism, and what lies ahead for visibility and inclusiveness.

Sanctuary

Director: Andrea Cordoba

Amanda Morales, a Guatemalan mother of three U.S.-born children is the first immigrant to claim sanctuary in New York since President Trump took office, publicly resisting her deportation by taking refuge in a church. “Sanctuary” gains rare and intimate access to Amanda and her family as they fight to remain together and adapt to their daily life of resistance.

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

Director: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

An artful and intimate meditation on the life and works of the legendary storyteller and Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison. From her childhood in the steel town of Lorain, Ohio, to book tours with Muhammad Ali, the front lines with Angela Davis, and her own writing room—Morrison explores race, America, history and the human condition.

We Are the Radical Monarchs

Director: Linda Goldstein Knowlton

Set in Oakland, California, this film introduces the Radical Monarchs, an alternative to the Scout movement for girls of color, and its founders, two fierce queer women of color, who have inspired a new generation of social justice activists. The film follows the first troop and its co-founders as they respond to a viral explosion of interest in the troop’s mission while the girls complete programs on the environment, disability justice, and Black Lives Matter.

A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem

Director: Yu Gu

Football and feminism collide in this documentary that follows former NFL cheerleaders who are battling the league to end wage theft and illegal employment practices that have persisted for 50 years.

 

2020 Sundance Film Festival: winners announced

February 1, 2020

The winners of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival were announced in its annual award ceremony, held this year on February 1 in Park City, Utah. The annual festival, which is presented by the Sundance Institute in Park City, runs from January 23 to February 2 this year.

In addition, the Sundance Film Festival announced at the award ceremony that Tabitha Jackson is replacing John Cooper as Sundance Film Festival Director.  Jackson was Director of the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program since 2014. Cooper, who was in the position since 2008, is stepping down to pursue other opportunities. He will continue to be a part of the Sundance Institute as director of special projects.

Here is the complete list of winners:

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Minari
Steven Yeun  (pictured at right) in “Minari” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Grand Jury Prize: “Minari”

Audience Award: “Minari”

Directing: Radha Blank, “The 40-Year-Old Version”

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Edson Oda, “Nine Days”

Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast: “Charm City Kings”

Special Jury Auteur Award: Josephine Decker, “Shirley”

Special Jury Award for Neorealism: Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Steven Garza in “Boys State” (Photo by Thorsten Thielow).

Grand Jury Prize: “Boys State”

Audience Award: “Crip Camp”

Directing: Garrett Bradley, “Time”

Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker: Arthur Jones, “Feels Good Man”

Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, “The Fight”

Special Jury Award for Editing: Tyler H. Walk, “Welcome to Chechnya”

Special Jury Award for Innovation in Nonfiction Storytelling: Kirsten Johnson, “Dick Johnson Is Dead”

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Sadaf Asgari in “Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.)

Grand Jury Prize: “Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness”

Audience Award: “Identifying Features”

Directing Award: Maïmouna Doucouré, “Cuties”

Special Jury Award for Acting: Ben Whishaw, “Surge”

Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection”

Special Jury Award for Best Screenplay: Fernanda Valadez & Astrid Rondero. “Identifying Features”

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Epicentro” (Photo by Hubert Sauper)

Grand Jury Prize: “Epicentro”

Audience Award: “The Reason I Jump”

Directing Award: Iryna Tsilyk, “The Earth is Blue as an Orange”

Special Jury Award for Editing: Mila Aung Thwin, Sam Soko, Ryan Mullins, “Softie”

Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Micrea Topoleanu, Radu Ciorniciuc, “Acasa, My Home”

Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling: Benjamin Ree, “The Painter and the Thief”

OTHER AWARDS

Christian Vásquez and Armando Espitia in “I Carry You With Me” (Photo by Alejandro López)

NEXT Audience Award: “I Carry You With Me”

NEXT Innovator Award: “I Carry You With Me”

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize: “Tesla”

Sundance Institute NHK Award: Kirsten Tan, “Higher”

Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Narrative Features: Huriyyah Muhammad, “Farewell Amor”

Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Documentary Features: Diane Becker & Melanie Miller of Fishbowl Films, “Whirlybird”

Sundance Institute/Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Documentary: Carla Gutierrez

Sundance Institute/Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Narrative: Affonso Gonçalves

2020 Sundance Film Festival: film slate announced

December 4, 2019

Sundance Film Festival

The nonprofit Sundance Institute announced the showcase of new independent feature films selected across all categories for the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The Festival hosts screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City and at Sundance Mountain Resort, from January 23–February 2, 2020. The Sundance Film Festival is Sundance Institute’s flagship public program, widely regarded as the largest American independent film festival and attended by more than 120,000 people and 1,300 accredited press, and powered by more than 2,000 volunteers last year.

Sundance Institute also presents public programs throughout the year and around the world, including Festivals in Hong Kong and London, an international short film tour, an indigenous shorts program, a free summer screening series in Utah, and more. Alongside these public programs, the majority of the nonprofit Institute’s resources support independent artists around the world as they make and develop new work, via Labs, direct grants, fellowships, residencies and other strategic and tactical interventions.

Robert Redford, President and Founder of Sundance Institute, said, “Independent artists create and enrich global culture. Their art, which we’re proud to present, can entertain – and much more: it can, illuminate, agitate, and empower. This year’s Festival is full of films that showcase myriad ways for stories to drive change, across hearts, minds, and societies.”

Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said, “At this year’s Festival, we’ll explore the theme of “imagined futures,” inside the theaters and in the conversations sparked by the work we are presenting. We believe diverse stories from independent artists around the world open us up to new perspectives and possibilities – at a time when fresh thinking and dialogue is urgently needed.”

John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, said, “The program this year, my last as Director, is a celebration: of art and artists, yes, but also of the community that makes the annual pilgrimage to Park City to see the most exciting new work being made today. Watching this group expand and thrive over the years has been exhilarating and wildly rewarding. Our 2020 Festival’s lively and visionary crop of artists has a contagious passion, and I can’t wait to watch the world meet their work.”

Announced today: 118 feature-length films, representing 27 countries and 44 first-time feature filmmakers. Of the 65 directors in all four competition categories, comprising 56 films, 46% are women, 38% are people of color, and 12% are LGBTQ+. In the U.S. Dramatic Competition, 47% of the directors iare women; 53% are people of color; 5% are LGBTQ+. In this year’s U.S. Documentary Competition, 45% are women; 23% are people of color; 23% are LGBTQ+.

44%, or 52, of all films announced today were directed by one or more women; 34%, or 40, were directed by one or more filmmaker of color; 15% or 18 by one or more people who are LGBTQ+. 23 films announced today were supported by Sundance Institute in development, whether through direct granting or residency Labs. 107 of the Festival’s feature films, or 91% of the lineup announced today, will be world premieres.

These films were selected from a record high of 15,100 submissions including 3,853 feature-length films. Of the feature film submissions, 1,698 were from the U.S. and 2,155 were international; 29% were directed by one or more women; 40% were directed by one or more filmmaker of color; 15% by one or more people who identify as LGBTQ+.

In 2019, the Festival drew more than 122,000 attendees from 48 U.S. states and 53 other countries, generated $182.5 million in economic activity for the state of Utah and supported 11,900 local jobs. The 2021 Sundance Film Festival will take place January 21–31, 2021.

More lineup announcements, including Shorts, Indie Episodic and New Frontier, are forthcoming; watch sundance.org/festival.
The feature films confirmed for the 2020 Sundance Film Festival are:

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Presenting the world premieres of 16 narrative feature films, the Dramatic Competition offers Festivalgoers a first look at groundbreaking new voices in American independent film. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include The Farewell, Honey Boy, Clemency, Eighth Grade, Sorry to Bother You and The Miseducation of Cameron Post. 47% of the directors in this year’s U.S. Dramatic Competition are women; 52% are people of color; 5% are LGBTQ+.

Jahi Di’Allo Winston in “Charm City Kings” (Photo by William Gray)

The 40-Year-Old Version / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Radha Blank, Producers: Lena Waithe, Radha Blank, Inuka Bacote-Capiga, Jennifer Semler, Rishi Rijani) — A down-on-her-luck New York playwright decides to reinvent herself and salvage her artistic voice the only way she knows how: by becoming a rapper at age 40. Cast: Radha Blank, Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin, Reed Birney, Imani Lewis, T.J. Atoms. World Premiere

BLAST BEAT / U.S.A. (Director: Esteban Arango, Screenwriters: Erick Castrillon & Esteban Arango, Producers: Charles D. King, Poppy Hanks, Erick Castrillon, Ty Walker) — After their family emigrates from Colombia during the summer of ‘99, a metalhead science prodigy and his deviant younger brother do their best to adapt to new lives in America. Cast: Moises Arias, Mateo Arias, Daniel Dae Kim, Kali Uchis, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama. World Premiere

Charm City Kings / U.S.A. (Director: Angel Manuel Soto, Screenwriters: Sherman Payne, Chris Boyd & Kirk Sullivan, Barry Jenkins, Producers: Caleeb Pinkett, Clarence Hammond, Marc Bienstock) — Mouse desperately wants to join The Midnight Clique, the infamous Baltimore dirt bike riders who rule the summertime streets. When Midnight’s leader, Blax, takes 14-year-old Mouse under his wing, Mouse soon finds himself torn between the straight-and-narrow and a road filled with fast money and violence. Cast: Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Meek Mill, Will Catlett, Teyonah Parris, Donielle Tremaine Hansley, Kezii Curtis. World Premiere

Dinner in America / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Adam Rehmeier, Producers: Ben Stiller, Nicholas Weinstock, David Hunter, Ross Putman, John Covert, Sam Slater) — An on-the-lam punk rocker and a young woman obsessed with his band go on an unexpected and epic journey together through the decaying suburbs of the American Midwest. Cast: Kyle Gallner, Emily Skeggs, Pat Healy, Griffin Gluck, Lea Thompson, Mary Lynn Rajskub. World Premiere

The Evening Hour / U.S.A. (Director: Braden King, Screenwriter: Elizabeth Palmore, Producers: Lucas Joaquin, Braden King, Derrick Tseng) — Cole Freeman maintains an uneasy equilibrium in his rural Appalachian town, looking after the old and infirm while selling their excess painkillers to local addicts. But when an old friend returns with plans that upend the fragile balance and identity he’s so painstakingly crafted, Cole is forced to take action. Cast: Philip Ettinger, Stacy Martin, Cosmo Jarvis, Michael Trotter, Kerry Bishé, Lili Taylor. World Premiere

Farewell Amor / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ekwa Msangi, Producers: Huriyyah Muhammad, Sam Bisbee, Josh Penn) — Reunited after a 17 year separation, Walter, an Angolan immigrant, is joined in the U.S. by his wife and teenage daughter. Now absolute strangers sharing a one-bedroom apartment, they discover a shared love of dance that may help overcome the emotional distance between them. Cast: Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Zainab Jah, Jayme Lawson, Joie Lee, Marcus Scribner, Nana Mensah. World Premiere

Minari / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lee Isaac Chung, Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh) — David, a 7-year-old Korean-American boy, gets his life turned upside down when his father decides to move their family to rural Arkansas and start a farm in the mid-1980s, in this charming and unexpected take on the American Dream. Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Yeri, Youn Yuh Jung, Will Patton, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho. World Premiere

Miss Juneteenth / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Channing Godfrey Peoples, Producers: Neil Creque Williams, Jeanie Igoe, James M. Johnston, Toby Halbrooks, Theresa Steele, Tim Headington) — Turquoise, a former beauty queen turned hardworking single mother, prepares her rebellious teenage daughter for the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant, hoping to keep her from repeating the same mistakes in life that she did. Cast: Nicole Beharie, Kendrick Sampson, Alexis Chikaeze, Lori Hayes, Marcus Maudlin. World Premiere

Never Rarely Sometimes Always / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Eliza Hittman, Producers: Adele Romanski, Sara Murphy, Rose Garnett) — An intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn and her cousin Skylar embark on a brave, fraught journey across state lines to New York City. Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten. World Premiere

Nine Days / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Edson Oda, Producers: Jason Michael Berman, Mette Marie Kongsved, Matthew Lindner, Laura Tunstall, Datari Turner) — In a house distant from the reality we know, a reclusive man interviews prospective candidates—personifications of human souls—for the privilege that he once had: to be born. Cast: Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Bill Skarsgård, Tony Hale, David Rysdahl. World Premiere. Dolby Institute Fellowship

Palm Springs / U.S.A. (Director: Max Barbakow, Screenwriter: Andy Siara, Producers: Andy Samberg, Becky Sloviter, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Dylan Sellers, Chris Parker) — When carefree Nyles and reluctant maid of honor Sarah have a chance encounter at a Palm Springs wedding, things get complicated the next morning when they find themselves unable to escape the venue, themselves, or each other. Cast: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons, Meredith Hagner, Camila Mendes, Peter Gallagher. World Premiere

Save Yourselves! / U.S.A. (Directors and Screenwriters: Alex Fischer, Eleanor Wilson, Producers: Kara Durrett, Mandy Tagger, Adi Ezroni) — A young Brooklyn couple head upstate to disconnect from their phones and reconnect with themselves. Cut off from their devices, they miss the news that the planet is under attack. Cast: Sunita Mani, John Reynolds, Ben Sinclair, Johanna Day, John Early, Gary Clark. World Premiere

Shirley / U.S.A. (Director: Josephine Decker, Screenwriter: Sarah Gubbins, Producers: Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa, Sue Naegle, Sarah Gubbins, Jeffrey Soros, Simon Horsman) — A young couple moves in with the famed author, Shirley Jackson, and her Bennington College professor husband, Stanley Hyman, in the hope of starting a new life but instead find themselves fodder for a psycho-drama that inspires Shirley’s next novel. Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young, Logan Lerman. World Premiere

Sylvie’s Love / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Eugene Ashe, Producers: Nnamdi Asomugha, Gabrielle Glore, Jonathan Baker, Matthew Thurm) — Years after their summer romance comes to an end, an aspiring television producer and a talented musician cross paths, only to find their feelings for each other never changed. With their careers taking them in different directions, they must choose what matters most. Cast: Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Eva Longoria, Aja Naomi King, Wendi Mclendon-Covey, Jemima Kirke. World Premiere

Wander Darkly / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Tara Miele, Producers: Lynette Howell Taylor, Samantha Housman, Shivani Rawat, Monica Levinson) — New parents Adrienne and Matteo are forced to reckon with trauma amidst their troubled relationship. They must revisit the memories of their past and unravel haunting truths in order to face their uncertain future. Cast: Sienna Miller, Diego Luna, Beth Grant, Aimee Carrero, Tory Kittles, Vanessa Bayer. World Premiere

Zola / U.S.A. (Director: Janicza Bravo, Screenwriters: Janicza Bravo, Jeremy O. Harris, Producers: Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa, Vince Jolivette, Elizabeth Haggard, Dave Franco, Gia Walsh) 2015: @zolarmoon tweets “wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out???????? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.” Two girls bond over their “hoeism” and become fast friends. What’s supposed to be a trip from Detroit to Florida turns into a weekend from hell. Cast: Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Nicholas Braun, Colman Domingo. World Premiere

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Sixteen world-premiere American documentaries that illuminate the ideas, people and events that shape the present day. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include Apollo 11, Knock Down The House, One Child Nation, American Factory, Three Identical Strangers and On Her Shoulders. 45% of the directors in this year’s U.S. Documentary Competition are women; 23% are people of color; 23% are LGBTQ+.

Bruce Lee in “Be Water” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

A Thousand Cuts / U.S.A., Philippines (Director and screenwriter: Ramona S. Diaz, Producers: Ramona S. Diaz, Leah Marino, Julie Goldman, Chris Clements, Carolyn Hepburn) — Nowhere is the worldwide erosion of democracy, fueled by social media disinformation campaigns, more starkly evident than in the authoritarian regime of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Journalist Maria Ressa places the tools of the free press—and her freedom—on the line in defense of truth and democracy. World Premiere

Be Water / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Bao Nguyen, Producer: Julia Nottingham) — In 1971, after being rejected by Hollywood, Bruce Lee returned to his parents’ homeland of Hong Kong to complete four iconic films. Charting his struggles between two worlds, this portrait explores questions of identity and representation through the use of rare archival, interviews with loved ones and Bruce’s own writings. World Premiere

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets / U.S.A. (Directors: Bill Ross, Turner Ross, Producers: Michael Gottwald, Chere Theriot) — In the shadows of the bright lights of Las Vegas, it’s last call for a beloved dive bar known as the Roaring 20s. A document of real people, in an unreal situation, facing an uncertain future: America at the end of 2016. World Premiere

Boys State / U.S.A. (Directors: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine, Producers: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss) — In an unusual experiment, a thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up. World Premiere

Code for Bias / U.S.A., United Kingdom, China (Director, screenwriter and producer: Shalini Kantayya) — Exploring the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s startling discovery that facial recognition does not see dark-skinned faces accurately, and her journey to push for the first-ever legislation in the U.S. to govern against bias in the algorithms that impact us all. World Premiere

The Cost of Silence / U.S.A. (Director: Mark Manning, Producers: Mark Manning, Langdon Page, Reuben Aaronson) — An industry insider exposes the devastating consequences of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and uncovers systemic corruption between government and industry to silence the victims of a growing public health disaster. Stakes could not be higher as the Trump administration races to open the entire U.S. coastline to offshore drilling. World Premiere

Crip Camp / U.S.A. (Directors: Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht, Producers: Sara Bolder, Jim LeBrecht, Nicole Newnham) — Down the road from Woodstock in the early 1970s, a revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers, transforming their young lives and igniting a landmark movement. World Premiere. DAY ONE

Dick Johnson Is Dead / U.S.A. (Director: Kirsten Johnson, Screenwriters: Nels Bangerter, Kirsten Johnson, Producers: Katy Chevigny, Marilyn Ness) — With this inventive portrait, a cameraperson seeks a way to keep her 86-year-old father alive forever. Utilizing moviemaking magic and her family’s dark humor, she celebrates Dr. Dick Johnson’s last years by staging fantasies of death and beyond. Together, dad and daughter confront the great inevitability awaiting us all. World Premiere

Feels Good Man / U.S.A. (Director: Arthur Jones, Producers: Giorgio Angelini, Caryn Capotosto, Aaron Wickenden) — When indie comic character Pepe the Frog becomes an unwitting icon of hate, his creator, artist Matt Furie, fights to bring Pepe back from the darkness and navigate America’s cultural divide. World Premiere

The Fight / U.S.A. (Directors: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Producers: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Maya Seidler, Peggy Drexler, Kerry Washington) — Inside the ACLU, a team of scrappy lawyers battle Trump’s historic assault on civil liberties. World Premiere

Mucho Mucho Amor / U.S.A. (Directors: Cristina Costantini, Kareem Tabsch, Producer: Alex Fumero) — Once the world’s most famous astrologer, Walter Mercado seeks to resurrect a forgotten legacy. Raised in the sugar cane fields of Puerto Rico, Walter grew up to become a gender non-conforming, cape-wearing psychic whose televised horoscopes reached 120 million viewers a day for decades before he mysteriously disappeared. World Premiere

Spaceship Earth / U.S.A. (Director: Matt Wolf, Producers: Stacey Reiss, Matt Wolf) — In 1991 a group of countercultural visionaries built an enormous replica of earth’s ecosystem called Biosphere 2. When eight “biospherians” lived sealed inside, they faced ecological calamities and cult accusations. Their epic adventure is a cautionary tale but also a testament to the power of small groups reimagining the world. World Premiere

Time / U.S.A. (Director: Garrett Bradley, Producers: Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn, Garrett Bradley) Fox Rich, indomitable matriarch and modern-day abolitionist, strives to keep her family together while fighting for the release of her incarcerated husband. An intimate, epic, and unconventional love story, filmed over two decades. World Premiere

Us Kids / U.S.A. (Director: Kim A. Snyder, Producers: Kim A. Snyder, Maria Cuomo Cole, Lori Cheatle) — Determined to turn unfathomable tragedy into action, the teenage survivors of Parkland, Florida catalyze a powerful, unprecedented youth movement that spreads with lightning speed across the country, as a generation of mobilized youth take back democracy in this powerful coming-of-age story. World Premiere

Welcome to Chechnya / U.S.A. (Director: David France, Producers: Alice Henty, David France, Askold Kurov, Joy A. Tomchin) — This searing investigative work shadows a group of activists risking unimaginable peril to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ pogrom raging in the repressive and closed Russian republic. Unfettered access and a remarkable approach to protecting anonymity exposes this under-reported atrocity–and an extraordinary group of people confronting evil. World Premiere

Whirlybird / U.S.A. (Director: Matt Yoka, Producers: Diane Becker, Matt Yoka) — Soaring above the chaotic spectacle of ‘80s and ‘90s Los Angeles, a young couple revolutionized breaking news with their brazen helicopter reporting. Culled from this news duo’s sprawling video archive is a poignant L.A. story of a family in turbulence hovering over a city unhinged. World Premiere

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Twelve films from emerging filmmaking talents around the world offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include The Souvenir, The Guilty, Monos, Yardie, The Nile Hilton Incident and Second Mother.

Fathia Youssouf, Medina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah Cami-Goursolas, Myriam Hamma, Demba Diaw, and Maimouna Gueye in “Cuties” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Charter / Sweden (Director and screenwriter: Amanda Kernell, Producers: Lars G. Lindström, Eva Åkergren) — After a recent and difficult divorce, Alice hasn’t seen her children in two months as she awaits a custody verdict. When her son calls her in the middle of the night, Alice takes action, abducting the children on an illicit charter trip to the Canary Islands. Cast: Ane Dahl Torp, Troy Lundkvist, Tintin Poggats Sarri, Sverrir Gudnasson, Eva Melander, Siv Erixon. World Premiere

Cuties / France (Director and screenwriter: Maïmouna Doucouré, Producer: Zangro) — Amy, 11 years old, meets a group of dancers called “Cuties.” Fascinated, she initiates herself to a sensual dance, hoping to join their band and escape family dysfunction. Cast: Fathia Youssouf, Médina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah Cami-Goursolas, Myriam Hamma, Maïmouna Gueye. World Premiere. DAY ONE

Exil / Germany, Belgium, Kosovo (Director and screenwriter: Visar Morina, Producers: Janine Jackowski, Jonas Dornbach, Maren Ade) — A chemical engineer feeling discriminated against and bullied at work plunges into an identity crisis. Cast: Mišel Matičević, Sandra Hüller. World Premiere

High Tide / Argentina (Director and screenwriter: Verónica Chen, Producers: Esteban Mentasti, Hori Mentasti) — Laura is spending a few days at her beach house to supervise the construction of a barbecue shed. One afternoon, she seduces the chief builder, who never returns. Over the following days, the builders continually invade her home – until Laura grows ferocious. Cast: Gloria Carrá, Jorge Sesán, Cristian Salguero, Mariana Chaud, Camila Fabbri, Héctor Bordoni. World Premiere

Jumbo / France, Luxembourg, Belgium (Director and screenwriter: Zoé Wittock, Producers: Anaïs Bertrand, Annabella Nezri, Gilles Chanial) — Jeanne, a shy young woman, works in an amusement park. Fascinated with carousels, she still lives at home with her mother. That’s when Jeanne meets Jumbo, the park’s new flagship attraction… Cast: Noémie Merlant, Emmanuelle Bercot, Sam Louwyck. World Premiere

Luxor / Egypt, United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Zeina Durra, Producers: Mohamed Hefzy, Mamdouh Saba, Gianluca Chakra, Hisham Alghanim) — When British aid worker Hana returns to Luxor, a sleepy city on the banks of the Nile, she comes across Sultan, a talented archeologist and former lover. As she wanders, haunted by the familiar place, she struggles to reconcile the choices of the past with the uncertainty of the present. Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Karim Saleh, Michael Landes, Sherine Reda, Salima Ikram, Shahira Fahmy. World Premiere

Possessor / Canada, United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Brandon Cronenberg, Producers: Niv Fichman, Andrew Starke, Kevin Krikst, Fraser Ash) — Vos is a corporate agent who uses brain-implant technology to inhabit other people’s bodies, driving them to commit assassinations for the benefit of the company. When something goes wrong on a routine job, she finds herself trapped inside a man whose identity threatens to obliterate her own. Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Rossif Sutherland, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean, Jennifer Jason Leigh. World Premiere

Sin Señas Particulares / Mexico, Spain (Director: Fernanda Valadez, Screenwriters: Fernanda Valadez, Astrid Rondero, Producers: Astrid Rondero, Fernanda Valadez, Jack Zagha, Yossy Zagha) Magdalena makes a journey to find her son, gone missing on his way to the Mexican border with the US. Her odyssey takes her to meet Miguel, a man recently deported from the U.S. They travel together, Magdalena looking for her son, and Miguel hoping to see his mother again. Cast: Mercedes Hernández, David Illescas, Juan Jesús Varela, Ana Laura Rodríguez, Laura Elena Ibarra, Xicoténcatl Ulloa. World Premiere

Summer White (Blanco de Verano) / Mexico (Director: Rodrigo Ruiz Patterson, Screenwriters: Rodrigo Ruiz Patterson, Raúl Sebastián Quintanilla, Producer: Alejandro Cortés Rubiales) ― Rodrigo is a solitary teenager, a king in the private world he shares with his mother. Things change when she takes her new boyfriend home to live. He must decide if he fights for his throne and crushes the happiness of the person he loves the most. Cast: Adrián Rossi, Sophie Alexander-Katz, Fabián Corres. World Premiere

Surge / United Kingdom (Director: Aneil Karia, Screenwriters: Rupert Jones, Rita Kalnejais, Producers: Julia Godzinskaya, Sophie Vickers) ― A man goes on a bold and reckless journey of self-liberation through London. After he robs a bank he releases a wilder version of himself, ultimately experiencing what it feels like to be alive. Cast: Ben Whishaw, Ellie Haddington, Ian Gelder, Jasmine Jobson. World Premiere

This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection / Lesotho, South Africa, Italy (Director and screenwriter: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, Producers: Cait Pansegrouw, Elias Ribeiro) — When her village is threatened with forced resettlement due to reservoir construction, an 80-year-old widow finds a new will to live and ignites the spirit of resilience within her community. In the final dramatic moments of her life, Mantoa’s legend is forged and made eternal. Cast: Mary Twala Mhlongo, Jerry Mofokeng Wa Makheta, Makhoala Ndebele, Tseko Monaheng, Siphiwe Nzima. International Premiere

Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness / Iran, France, Germany, Switzerland (Director and screenwriter: Massoud Bakhshi, Producers: Jacques Bidou, Marianne Dumoulin) — Maryam accidentally killed her husband Nasser and is sentenced to death. The only person who can save her is Mona, Nasser’s daughter. All Mona has to do is appear on a TV show and forgive Maryam. But forgiveness proves difficult when they are forced to relive the past. Cast: Sadaf Asgari, Behnaz Jafari, Babak Karimi, Fereshteh Sadr Orafaee, Forough Ghajebeglou, Fereshteh Hosseini. International Premiere

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Twelve documentaries by some of the most courageous and extraordinary international filmmakers working today. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include Honeyland, Sea of Shadows, Shirkers, This is Home , Last Men in Aleppo and Hooligan Sparrow.

The Earth Is Blue as an Orange” (Photo courtesy of the Sundance Institute)

Acasa, My Home / Romania, Germany, Finland (Director: Radu Ciorniciuc, Screenwriters: Lina Vdovii, Radu Ciorniciuc, Producer: Monica Lazurean-Gorgan) — In the wilderness of the Bucharest Delta, nine children and their parents lived in perfect harmony with nature for 20 years–until they are chased out and forced to adapt to life in the big city. World Premiere

The Earth Is Blue as an Orange / Ukraine, Lithuania (Director: Iryna Tsilyk, Producers: Anna Kapustina, Giedrė Žickytė) — To cope with the daily trauma of living in a war zone, Anna and her children make a film together about their life among surreal surroundings. World Premiere

Epicentro / Austria, France, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Hubert Sauper, Producers: Martin Marquet, Daniel Marquet, Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Paolo Calamita) — Cuba is well known as a so-called time capsule. The place where the New World was discovered has become both a romantic vision and a warning. With ongoing global cultural and financial upheavals, large parts of the world could face a similar kind of existence. World Premiere

Influence / South Africa, Canada (Directors and Screenwriters: Diana Neille, Richard Poplak, Producers: Bob Moore, Neil Brandt) — Charting the recent advancements in weaponized communication by investigating the rise and fall of the world’s most notorious public relations and reputation management firm: the British multinational Bell Pottinger. World Premiere

Into the Deep / Denmark (Director: Emma Sullivan, Producers: Mette Heide, Roslyn Walker) — In 2016, a young Australian filmmaker began documenting amateur inventor Peter Madsen. One year in, Madsen brutally murdered Kim Wall aboard his homemade submarine. An unprecedented revelation of a killer and the journey his young helpers take as they reckon with their own complicity and prepare to testify. World Premiere

The Mole Agent / Chile (Director and screenwriter: Maite Alberdi, Producer: Marcela Santibañez) — When a family becomes concerned about their mother’s well-being in a retirement home, private investigator Romulo hires Sergio, an 83 year-old man who becomes a new resident–and a mole inside the home, who struggles to balance his assignment with becoming increasingly involved in the lives of several residents. World Premiere

Once Upon a Time in Venezuela / Venezuela, United Kingdom, Brazil, Austria (Director: Anabel Rodríguez Ríos, Screenwriters: Anabel Rodríguez Ríos, Sepp R. Brudermann, Producer: Sepp R. Brudermann) — Once upon a time, the Venezuelan village of Congo Mirador was prosperous, alive with fisherman and poets. Now it is decaying and disintegrating–a small but prophetic reflection of Venezuela itself. World Premiere

The Painter and the Thief / Norway (Director: Benjamin Ree, Producer: Ingvil Giske) — An artist befriends the drug addict and thief who stole her paintings. She becomes his closest ally when he is severely hurt in a car crash and needs full time care, even if her paintings are not found. But then the tables turn. World Premiere. DAY ONE

The Reason I Jump / United Kingdom (Director: Jerry Rothwell, Producers: Jeremy Dear, Stevie Lee, Al Morrow) — Based on the book by Naoki Higashida this immersive film explores the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people around the world. World Premiere

Saudi Runaway / Switzerland (Director and screenwriter: Susanne Regina Meures, Producer: Christian Frei) — Amjad, a young, fearless woman from Saudi Arabia, is tired of being controlled by the state and patronized by her family. With an arranged marriage imminent, a life without rights and free will seems inevitable. Amjad decides to escape. An unprecedented view inside the world’s most repressive patriarchy. World Premiere

Softie / Kenya (Director and screenwriter: Sam Soko, Producers: Toni Kamau, Sam Soko) — Boniface Mwangi is daring and audacious, and recognized as Kenya’s most provocative photojournalist. But as a father of three young children, these qualities create tremendous turmoil between him and his wife Njeri. When he wants to run for political office, he is forced to choose: country or family? World Premiere

The Truffle Hunters / Italy, U.S.A., Greece (Directors: Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw, Producers: Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw) — In the secret forests of Northern Italy, a dwindling group of joyful old men and their faithful dogs search for the world’s most expensive ingredient, the white Alba truffle. Their stories form a real-life fairy tale that celebrates human passion in a fragile land that seems forgotten in time. World Premiere

NEXT

Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling populate this program. Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity promises that the films in this section will shape a “greater” next wave in American cinema. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include The Infiltrators, Searching, Skate Kitchen , A Ghost Story and Tangerine. NEXT presented by Adobe.

“Summertime” (Photo by John Schmidt)

Beast Beast / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Danny Madden, Producers: Benjamin Wiessner, Matt Miller, Tara Ansley) — Three interwoven stories of youths navigating identity, first love, petty crime, and gun violence in a southern American town. Cast: Shirley Chen, Will Madden, Jose Angeles, Courtney Dietz, Daniel Rashid. World Premiere

Black Bear / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lawrence Michael Levine, Producers: Julie Christeas, Jonathan Blitstein, Rick Bosner, Aubrey Plaza, Lawrence Michael Levine, Sophia Takal) — At a remote lake house, a filmmaker plays a calculated game of desire and jealousy in the pursuit of a work of art that blurs the boundaries between autobiography and invention. Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, Sarah Gadon. World Premiere

I Carry You With Me / U.S.A., Mexico (Director: Heidi Ewing, Screenwriters: Heidi Ewing, Alan Page Arriaga, Producers: Mynette Louie, Heidi Ewing) — An epic love story spanning decades is sparked by a chance encounter between two men in provincial Mexico. Based on a true story, ambition and societal pressure propel an aspiring chef to leave his soulmate and make the treacherous journey to New York, where life will never be the same. Cast: Armando Espitia, Christian Vázquez, Michelle Rodríguez, Ángeles Cruz, Arcelia Ramírez, Michelle González. World Premiere

The Killing of Two Lovers / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Robert Machoian, Producers: Scott Christopherson, Clayne Crawford, Robert Machoian) — David desperately tries to keep his family of six together during a separation from his wife. They both agree to see other people but David struggles to grapple with his wife’s new relationship. Cast: Clayne Crawford, Sepideh Moafi, Chris Coy, Aver Pizzuto, Arri Graham, Ezra Graham. World Premiere

La Leyenda Negra / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Patricia Vidal Delgado, Producers: Alicia Herder, Marcel Perez) — In Compton, a soon-to-be undocumented teenager fights for her right to stay in America while risking her family, her friendships, and her first love. Cast: Monica Betancourt, Kailei Lopez, Irlanda Moreno, Justin Avila, Sammy Flores, Juan Reynoso. World Premiere

The Mountains Are a Dream That Call to Me / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Cedric Cheung-Lau, Producers: Alexandra Byer, Madeleine Askwith) — On the Annapurna Massif, Tukten, a young Nepali man setting off for a new life as a laborer in Dubai, encounters an older Australian woman who causes him to change course and discover his homeland in a new light. Cast: Sanjay Lama Dong, Alice Cummins. World Premiere

Omniboat: A Fast Boat Fantasia / U.S.A. (Directors and Screenwriters: The Daniels, Hannah Fidell, Alexa Lim Haas, Lucas Leyva, Olivia Lloyd, Jillian Mayer, The Meza Brothers, Terence Nance, Brett Potter, Dylan Redford, Xander Robin, Julian Yuri Rodriguez, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Producers: Olivia Lloyd, Matthew Perniciaro, Michael Sherman, Taylor Shung) — It’s not just a speed boat ride, it’s a Miami adventure. Cast: Mel Rodriguez, Finn Wolfhard, Casey Wilson, Adam Devine, Jessica Williams, Robert Redford. World Premiere

Some Kind of Heaven / U.S.A. (Director: Lance Oppenheim, Producers: Darren Aronofsky, Kathleen Lingo, Melissa Oppenheim Lano, Pacho Velez, Jeffrey Soros, Simon Horsman) — Behind the gates of a palm tree-lined fantasyland, four residents of America’s largest retirement community, The Villages, FL, strive to find happiness and meaning. World Premiere

Spree / U.S.A. (Director: Eugene Kotlyarenko, Screenwriters: Gene McHugh, Eugene Kotlyarenko, Producers: Matthew Budman, Sumaiya Kaveh, John Lang, Eugene Kotlyarenko) — Kurt Kunkle, a rideshare driver thirsty for followers, has figured out a deadly plan to go viral. As his disturbing livestream is absurdly embraced by the social media hellscape, a comedienne emerges as the only hope to stop this rampage. Cast: Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, David Arquette, Kyle Mooney, Mischa Barton, Josh Ovalle. World Premiere

Summertime / U.S.A. (Director: Carlos Lopez Estrada, Screenwriters: Dave Harris, 19 Get Lit Poets, Producers: Kimberly Stuckwisch, Jeffrey Soros, Alisa Tager, Simon Horsman, Diane Luby Lane) — In the heat of the summer, the lives of 25 strangers collide. A love letter to Los Angeles written and performed by a collective of young spoken word poets. Cast: 19 Get Lit Poets. World Premiere. DAY ONE

PREMIERES

A showcase of world premieres of some of the most highly anticipated narrative films of the coming year. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include The Report, Late Night, The Big Sick and Call Me By Your Name.

Glenn Close and Mila Kunis in “Four Good Days” (Photo by Igor Jadue Lillo)

Downhill / U.S.A. (Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, Screenwriters: Jesse Armstrong, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, Producers: Anthony Bregman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stefanie Azpiazu, Erik Hemmendorff, Ruben Östlund) Barely escaping an avalanche during a family ski vacation in the Alps, a married couple is thrown into disarray as they are forced to reevaluate their lives and how they feel about each other. Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Zach Woods, Zoë Chao, Miranda Otto. World Premiere

Dream Horse / United Kingdom (Director: Euros Lyn, Screenwriter: Neil McKay, Producers: Katherine Butler, Tracy O’Riordan) — Jan, a cleaner and bartender, decides on a whim to breed a race horse in her Welsh village. As the horse rises through the ranks against all odds, Jan and the townspeople are pitted against the racing elite in a nail-biting race for the national championship. Cast: Toni Collette, Damian Lewis. World Premiere

Falling / Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark (Director and screenwriter: Viggo Mortensen, Producers: Viggo Mortensen, Daniel Bekerman, Chris Curling) — When 80-year-old independent farmer Willis travels to Los Angeles for an indefinite stay with son John and his family, two very different worlds collide. Mentally declining, Willis’ abrasiveness is both caustic and funny, bringing old wounds from the past and years of mutual mistrust to the surface. Cast: Lance Henriksen, Viggo Mortensen, Terry Chen, Sverrir Gudnason, Hannah Gross, Laura Linney. World Premiere. CLOSING NIGHT

The Father / United Kingdom, France (Director: Florian Zeller, Screenwriters: Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller, Producers: Philippe Carcassonne, Jean-Louis Livi, David Parfitt) — Anthony is 80 years old. He lives alone in London and refuses the nurses that his daughter tries to impose upon him. Yet help is becoming more pressing, as she has decided to move to Paris. At once comedic and profound, this is a moving story of our human condition. Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Williams. World Premiere

Four Good Days / U.S.A. (Director: Rodrigo Garcia, Screenwriters: Rodrigo Garcia, Eli Saslow, Producers: Jon Avnet, Marina Grasic, Jake Avnet, Jai Khanna, Rodrigo Garcia, Sage Scroope) — Ten years of opioids have left Molly’s life in shambles. A new drug may give her a chance to break free if she is able to stay clean for four days, with the help of her mother Deb, a tough, clear-eyed woman. Their love will be tested to the limits. Cast: Glenn Close, Mila Kunis, Stephen Root, Joshua Leonard. World Premiere

The Glorias / U.S.A. (Director: Julie Taymor, Screenwriters: Julie Taymor, Sarah Ruhl, Producers: Alex Saks, Lynn Hendee) — An equal rights crusader, journalist and activist: Gloria Steinem embodies these and more. From her role in the revolutionary women’s rights movement to her travels throughout the U.S. and around the world, Steinem has made an everlasting mark on modern history. A nontraditional chronicle of a trailblazing life. Cast: Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Bette Midler, Janelle Monae, Timothy Hutton, Lorraine Toussaint. World Premiere

Herself / Ireland, United Kingdom (Director: Phyllida Lloyd, Screenwriters: Clare Dunne, Malcolm Campbell, Producers: Rory Gilmartin, Ed Guiney, Sharon Horgan) — Struggling to provide her daughters with a safe, happy home, Sandra decides to build one – from scratch. Using all her ingenuity to make her ambitious dream a reality, Sandra draws together a community to lend a helping hand to build her house and ultimately recover her own sense of self. Cast: Clare Dunne, Harriet Walter, Conleth Hill. World Premiere

Horse Girl / U.S.A. (Director: Jeff Baena, Screenwriters: Jeff Baena, Alison Brie, Producers: Alana Carithers, Jeff Baena, Alison Brie) — A socially awkward woman with a fondness for arts and crafts, horses, and supernatural crime shows finds her increasingly lucid dreams trickling into her waking life. Cast: Alison Brie, Debby Ryan, John Reynolds, Molly Shannon, John Ortiz, Jay Duplass. World Premiere

Ironbark / United Kingdom (Director: Dominic Cooke, Screenwriter: Tom O’Connor, Producers: Adam Ackland, Ben Browning, Ben Pugh, Rory Aitken) — The true story of a British businessman unwittingly recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history. Forming an unlikely partnership with a Soviet officer hoping to prevent a nuclear confrontation, the two men work together to provide the crucial intelligence used to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Rachel Brosnahan, Jessie Buckley. World Premiere

Kajillionaire / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Miranda July, Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner) — Low-stakes grifters, Old Dolio and her parents invite a chipper young woman into their insular clan, only to have their entire world turned upside down. Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Gina Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger. World Premiere

The Last Shift / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Andrew Cohn, Producers: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, Sam Bisbee, Alex Lipschultz, Bert Kern) — Stanley, an aging fast food worker, prepares to work his final graveyard shift after 38 years. When he’s asked to train his replacement, Jevon, Stanley’s weekend takes an unexpected turn. Cast: Richard Jenkins, Shane Paul McGhie, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Birgundi Baker, Allison Tolman, Ed O’Neill. World Premiere

The Last Thing He Wanted / U.S.A. (Director: Dee Rees, Screenwriters: Marco Vallalobos, Dee Rees, Producers: Cassian Elwes, Dee Rees) — A veteran D.C. journalist loses the thread of her own narrative when a guilt-propelled errand for her father thrusts her from byline to unwitting subject in the very story she’s trying to break. Adapted from the Joan Didion novel of the same title. Cast: Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Rosie Perez. World Premiere

Lost Girls / U.S.A. (Director: Liz Garbus, Screenwriter: Michael Werwie, Producers: Anne Carey, Kevin McCormick) — When Mari Gilbert’s daughter disappears, police inaction drives her own investigation into the gated Long Island community where Shannan was last seen. Committed to finding the truth, her search brings attention to over a dozen murdered sex workers Mari will not let the world forget. Inspired by true events. Cast: Amy Ryan, Thomasin McKenzie, Lola Kirke, Oona Laurence, Gabriel Byrne, Miriam Shor. World Premiere

The Nest / United Kingdom, Canada (Director and screenwriter: Sean Durkin, Producers: Ed Guiney, Derrin Schlesinger, Rose Garnett, Sean Durkin, Amy Jackson, Christina Piovesan) — Charismatic entrepreneur, Rory, relocates his family to England with dreams of profiting from booming 1980’s London. But as his wife, Allison, struggles to adapt, and the promise of a lucrative new beginning starts to unravel, the couple have to face the unwelcome truths lying beneath the surface of their marriage. Cast: Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Charlie Shotwell, Oona Roche. World Premiere

Promising Young Woman / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Emerald Fennell, Producers: Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerly, Josey McNamara, Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell) — Everyone said Cassie was a promising young woman… until something abruptly derailed her future. Nothing in Cassie’s life is as it appears: she’s smart, cunning, and living a double life by night. Now, Cassie has a chance to right the wrongs of the past in this thrilling take on revenge. Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Jennifer Coolidge. World Premiere

Sergio / U.S.A. (Director: Greg Barker, Screenwriter: Craig Borten, Producers: Brent Travers, Daniel Dreifuss, Wagner Moura) — A sweeping drama set in the chaotic aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, where the life of top UN diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello hangs in the balance during the most treacherous mission of his career. Cast: Wagner Moura, Ana de Armas, Garret Dillahunt, Will Dalton, Bradley Whitford, Brían F. O’Byrne. World Premiere

Tesla / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Almereyda, Producers: Avi Lerner, Jeffery Greenstein, Uri Singer, Christa Campbell, Lati Grobman, Isen Robbins) — Highlighting the Promethean struggles of Nikola Tesla, as he attempts to transcend entrenched technology–including his own previous work–by pioneering a system of wireless energy that will change the world. Cast: Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Eve Hewson, Jim Gaffigan, Hannah Gross, Josh Hamilton. World Premiere. Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize

Uncle Frank / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Alan Ball, Producers: Alan Ball, Peter Macdissi, Michael Costigan, Jay Van Hoy, Bill Block, Stephanie Meurer) — In 1973, when 18-year-old Beth and her uncle Frank take a road trip from Manhattan to Creekville, South Carolina for the family patriarch’s funeral, they’re unexpectedly joined by Frank’s lover Walid. A story about family, forgiveness, and our inherent power to choose who we want to be. Cast: Paul Bettany, Sophia Lillis, Peter Macdissi, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer, Margo Martindale. World Premiere

Wendy / U.S.A. (Director: Benh Zeitlin, Screenwriters: Benh Zeitlin, Eliza Zeitlin, Producers: Dan Janvey, Josh Penn, Paul Mezey, Becky Glupczynski) — Lost on a mysterious island where aging and time have come unglued, Wendy must fight to save her family, her freedom, and the joyous spirit of youth from the deadly peril of growing up. The classic story of Peter Pan is wildly reimagined in this ragtag epic. Cast: Devin France, Yashua Mack, Gage Naquin, Gavin Naquin, Ahmad Cage, Krzysztof Meyn. World Premiere. Dolby Institute Fellowship

Worth / U.S.A. (Director: Sara Colangelo, Screenwriter: Max Borenstein) — Kenneth Feinberg, a powerful D.C. lawyer appointed Special Master of the 9/11 Fund, fights off the cynicism, bureaucracy, and politics associated with administering government funds and, in doing so, discovers what life is worth. Based on true events. Cast: Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Amy Ryan, Tate Donovan, Talia Balsam, Laura Benanti. World Premiere

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERES

Renowned filmmakers and films about far-reaching subjects comprise this section highlighting our ongoing commitment to documentaries. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include Ask Dr. Ruth, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, RBG, An Inconvenient Sequel and The Hunting Ground.

“Taylor Swift: Miss Americana” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Aggie / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Catherine Gund, Producers: Catherine Gund, Tanya Selvaratnam) — An exploration of the nexus of art, race, and justice through the story of art collector and philanthropist Agnes Gund who sold Roy Lichtenstein’s painting “Masterpiece” in 2017 for $165 million to start the Art for Justice Fund to end mass incarceration. Cast: Agnes Gund, Darren Walker, Ava DuVernay, Thelma Golden, John Waters, Glenn Ligon. World Premiere

Assassins / U.S.A. (Director: Ryan White, Producers: Jessica Hargrave, Ryan White) — True crime meets global spy thriller in this gripping account of the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of the North Korean leader. The film follows the trial of the two female assassins, probing the question: Were the women trained killers or innocent pawns of North Korea? World Premiere

Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen / U.S.A. (Director: Sam Feder, Producers: Amy Scholder, Sam Feder) — An investigation of how Hollywood’s fabled stories have deeply influenced how Americans feel about transgender people, and how transgender people have been taught to feel about themselves. Cast: Laverne Cox, Mj Rodriguez, Lilly Wachowski, Yance Ford, Chaz Bono, Jamie Clayton. World Premiere

The Dissident / U.S.A. (Director: Bryan Fogel, Screenwriters: Mark Monroe, Bryan Fogel, Producers: Bryan Fogel, Jake Swantko, Mark Monroe, Thor Halvorssen) — When Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappears after entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, his fiancée and dissidents around the world are left to piece together the clues to a brutal murder and expose a global cover up perpetrated by the very country he loved. World Premiere

Giving Voice / U.S.A. (Directors: James D. Stern, Fernando Villena, Producers: James D. Stern, Karen Bove, Fernando Villena, Schoen Smith, Craig Piligian) — Every year, thousands of high schoolers enter the August Wilson monologue competition for a chance to perform on Broadway. This film follows these students, examining how Wilson and his characters speak to a new generation, inspiring them to listen to his words and find their own voice. World Premiere

The Go-Go’s / U.S.A., Ireland, Canada (Director: Alison Ellwood, Producers: Trevor Birney, Corey Russell, Eimhear O’Neill) — As the first all-female band to play their instruments, write their songs and have a No. 1 album, The Go-Go’s made history. Underpinned by candid testimonies, this film chronicles the meteoric rise to fame of a band born in the LA punk scene who became a pop phenomenon. Cast: Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine, Jane Wiedlin. World Premiere

Happy Happy Joy Joy – The Ren & Stimpy Story / U.S.A. (Directors and Screenwriters: Ron Cicero, Kimo Easterwood, Producer: Ron Cicero) — Exploring the rise and fall of the groundbreaking animated series Ren & Stimpy and its controversial creator, John Kricfalusi, through archival footage, show artwork and interviews with the artists, actors and executives behind the show. Cast: John Kricfalusi, Robyn Byrd, Vanessa Coffey, Chris Reccardi, Richard Pursel, Bobby Lee. World Premiere

Okavango: River of Dreams (Director’s Cut) / Botswana (Directors and Producers: Dereck Joubert, Beverly Joubert, Screenwriter: Dereck Joubert) — An insiders’ view of one of the greatest river systems on the planet, presented as a love letter, exploring the layers of paradise, limbo and inferno in a natural history echo of Dante’s Divine Comedy, a river of dreams, or beauty of conflict and turmoil. World Premiere

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind / U.S.A. (Director: Laurent Bouzereau, Producers: Natasha Gregson Wagner, Manoah Bowman, Laurent Bouzereau) — Exploring actor Natalie Wood’s life and career through the unique perspective of her daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner, and others who knew her best. An examination of her personal and professional triumphs and challenges, which have often been overshadowed by her tragic death at age 43. World Premiere

Rebuilding Paradise / U.S.A. (Director: Ron Howard, Producers: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Xan Parker, Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes) — On November 8, 2018, a spark flew in the Sierra Nevada foothills, igniting the most destructive wildfire in California history and decimating the town of Paradise. Unfolding during the year after the fire, this is the story of the Paradise community as they begin to rebuild their lives. World Premiere

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana / U.S.A. (Director: Lana Wilson, Producers: Morgan Neville, Caitrin Rogers, Christine O’Malley) — A raw and emotionally revealing look at one of the most iconic artists of our time during a transformational period in her life as she learns to embrace her role not only as a songwriter and performer, but as a woman harnessing the full power of her voice. Cast: Taylor Swift. World Premiere. DAY ONE

Untitled Kirby Dick/Amy Ziering Film / U.S.A. (Directors: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, Screenwriters: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, Sara Newens, Producers: Amy Ziering, Kirby Dick, Amy Herdy, Jamie Rogers) — A brilliant former hip hop executive grapples with whether to go public about her rape by one of the most powerful men in the music industry. A gripping and profound examination of race, gender, intersectionality, and the toll sexual abuse takes on survivors and on society at large. Cast: Drew Dixon, Sil Lai Abrams, Sheri Hines, Joan Morgan, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Shanita Hubbard. World Premiere

Vivos / Germany, Mexico (Director and Producer: Ai Weiwei) — Since an attack on students of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in 2014 resulted in six deaths and in the forced disappearance of 43, the students’ families have been living in limbo with their unanswered questions, their struggle embodying the psychological and emotional toll of endemic violence upon Mexican society. World Premiere

MIDNIGHT

Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein in “The Nowhere Inn” (Photo by Minka Farthing Kohl)

From horror and comedy to works that defy genre classification, these films will keep you wide awake, even at the most arduous hour. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include Greener Grass, Hereditary, Assassination Nation, The Little Hours and The Babadook.

Amulet / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Romola Garai, Producers: Matthew James Wilkinson, Maggie Monteith) — Tomaz, an ex-soldier now homeless in London, is offered a place to stay at a decaying house, inhabited by a young woman and her dying mother. As he starts to fall for Magda, Tomaz cannot ignore his suspicion that something insidious might also be living alongside them. Cast: Carla Juri, Alec Secareanu, Imelda Staunton, Angeliki Papoulia. World Premiere

Bad Hair / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Justin Simien, Producers: Julia Lebedev, Angel Lopez, Eddie Vaisman, Justin Simien) — In this horror satire set in 1989, an ambitious young woman gets a weave in order to succeed in the image-obsessed world of music television. However, her flourishing career may come at a great cost when she realizes that her new hair may have a mind of its own. Cast: Elle Lorraine, Vanessa Williams, Jay Pharoah, Lena Waithe, Blair Underwood, Laverne Cox. World Premiere. DAY ONE

His House / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Remi Weekes, Producers: Edward King, Martin Gentles, Roy Lee, Aidan Elliott, Arnon Milchan) — A young refugee couple makes a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan, but then they struggle to adjust to their new life in a small English town that has an evil lurking beneath the surface. Cast: Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu, Matt Smith. World Premiere

Impetigore / Indonesia (Director and screenwriter: Joko Anwar, Producers: Shanty Harmayn, Tia Hasibuan, Aoura Lovenson, Ben Soebiakto) — An out-of-luck woman decides to go back to her secluded home village in hopes of inheritance. Little does she know, the villagers have been waiting for her because she got what they needed to lift off a plagueing curse. Cast: Tara Basro, Marissa Anita, Christine Hakim, Ario Bayu, Asmara Abigail. International Premiere

The Night House / U.S.A. (Director: David Bruckner, Screenwriters: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski, Producers: David Goyer, Keith Levine, John Zois) — A widow begins to uncover her recently deceased husband’s disturbing secrets. Cast: Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Stacy Martin, Evan Jonigkeit, Vondie Curtis-Hall. World Premiere

The Nowhere Inn / U.S.A. (Director: Bill Benz, Screenwriters: Carrie Brownstein, Annie Clark, Producers: Jett Steiger, Lana Kim, Annie Clark, Carrie Brownstein) — When St. Vincent sets out to make a documentary about her music, the goal is to both reveal and revel in the unadorned truth behind her on-stage persona. But when she hires a close friend to direct, notions of reality, identity, and authenticity grow increasingly distorted and bizarre. Cast: Annie Clark, Carrie Brownstein. World Premiere

Relic / Australia (Director: Natalie Erika James, Screenwriters: Natalie Erika James, Christian White, Producers: Anna McLeish, Sarah Shaw, Riva Marker, Jake Gyllenhaal) — When Edna, the elderly and widowed matriarch of the family, goes missing, her daughter Kay and granddaughter Sam travel to their remote family home to find her. Soon after her return, they start to discover a sinister presence haunting the house and taking control of Edna. Cast: Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, Bella Heathcote. World Premiere

Run Sweetheart Run / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Shana Feste, Producers: Jason Blum, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Aml Ameen, Dayo Okeniyi, Betsy Brandt, Shohreh Aghdashloo) — A blind date turns violent and the woman has to get home through Los Angeles, with her date in pursuit. Cast: Ella Balinska, Pilou Asbaek, Clark Gregg. World Premiere

Scare Me / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Josh Ruben, Producers: Alex Bach, Daniel Powell, Josh Ruben) — During a power outage, two strangers tell scary stories. The more Fred and Fanny commit to their tales, the more the stories come to life in the dark of a Catskills cabin. The horrors of reality manifest when Fred confronts his ultimate fear: Fanny is the better storyteller. Cast: Aya Cash, Josh Ruben, Chris Redd, Rebecca Drysdale. World Premiere

SPOTLIGHT

The Spotlight program is a tribute to the cinema we love from throughout the past year. Films that have played in this category in recent years include The Biggest Little Farm, The Death of Stalin, The Rider, Ida and The Lobster.

Kyle Marvin and Michael Angelo Covino in “The Climb” (Photo by Zach Kuperstein)

And Then We Danced / Sweden, Georgia, France (Director and screenwriter: Levan Akin, Producers: Mathilde Dedye, Ketie Daniela) — In the conservative confines of modern Tbilisi, Merab, a competitive dancer, is thrown off balance by the arrival of Irakli, a fellow male dancer with a rebellious streak. Cast: Levan Gelbakhiani, Bachi Valishvili, Ana Javakhishvilli, Kakha Gogidze, Anano Makharadze.

The Assistant / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kitty Green, Producers: Kitty Green, Scott Macaulay, James Schamus, P. Jennifer Dana, Ross Jacobson) — A day in the life of Jane, an assistant to a high-powered film executive. Cast: Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Makenzie Leigh, Kristine Froseth, Jon Orsini, Noah Robbins.

The Climb / U.S.A. (Director: Michael Covino, Screenwriters: Michael Covino, Kyle Marvin, Producers: Noah Lang, Michael Covino, Kyle Marvin) Kyle and Mike are best friends who share a close bond—until Mike sleeps with Kyle’s fiancée. A portrait of a tumultuous but enduring relationship between two men across many years of laughter, heartbreak, and rage. Cast: Kyle Marvin, Michael Covino, Gayle Rankin, Talia Balsam, George Wendt, Judith Godrèche.

Collective / Romania, Luxembourg (Director and screenwriter: Alexander Nanau, Producers: Alexander Nanau, Bianca Oana) — Investigative journalists uncover massive fraud in the Romanian health care system revealing the price of corruption and ultimately, the price of truth. Cast: Catalin Tolontan, Mirela Neag, Razvan Lutac, Tedy Ursuleanu, Vlad Voiculescu, Camelia Roiu. U.S. Premiere

Ema / Chile (Director: Pablo Larraín, Screenwriters: Guillermo Calderón, Alejandro Moreno, Producer: Juan de Dios Larraín) — After a shocking incident upends her family life and marriage to a tempestuous choreographer, Ema, a reggaeton dancer, sets out on an odyssey of personal liberation in this incendiary story of art, desire, and the modern family. Cast: Mariana Di Girolamo, Gael García Bernal, Santiago Cabrera.

La Llorona / Guatemala, France (Director and screenwriter: Jayro Bustamante, Producers: Jayro Bustamante, Herminio Gutiérrez, Gustavo Matheu, Marina Peralta, Georges Ranand) — Enrique, a retired general who oversaw the Maya genocide, is haunted by his devastating crimes. A tale of horror and fantasy, reimagining the Latin American fable as an urgent metaphor of Guatemalan recent history and its unhealed political wounds. Cast: María Mercedes Coroy, Sabrina De La Hoz, Julio Diaz, Margarita Kénefic, Juan Pablo Olyslager, Ayla-Elea Hurtado.

The Perfect Candidate / Germany, Saudi Arabia (Director: Haifaa Al Mansour, Screenwriters: Haifaa Al Mansour, Brad Niemann, Producers: Roman Paul, Gerhard Meixner, Haifaa Al Mansour, Brad Niemann) — A determined young Saudi doctor’s surprise run for office in the local city elections sweeps up her family and community as they struggle to accept their town’s first female candidate. Cast: Mila Alzahrani, Dhay, Khalid Abdulrahim, Shafi Al Harthy. DAY ONE

KIDS

Keira Chansa, David Oyelowo, Reece Yates and Jordan Nash in “Come Away” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

This section of the Festival is especially for our youngest independent film fans. Programmed in cooperation with Utah Film Center, which presents the annual Tumbleweeds Film Festival, Utah’s premiere film festival for children and youth. Films that have played in this category in recent years include The Elephant Queen, Science Fair, My Life as a Zucchini, The Eagle Huntress and Shaun the Sheep.

Binti / Belgium (Director and Screenwriter: Frederike Migom, Producer: Katleen Goosens) — Twelve-year-old Binti dreams of becoming a famous vlogger like her idol Tatyana. But when the police raid her home, and try to deport her and her dad, they are forced to flee. Together with her friend Elias she now plots the perfect plan to stay in the country. Cast: Bebel Tshiani Baloji, Mo Bakker, Joke Devynck, Baloji, Caroline Stas, Noa Jacobs. U.S. Premiere

Come Away / United Kingdom, U.S.A. (Director: Brenda Chapman, Screenwriter: Marissa Kate Goodhill, Producers: Leesa Kahn, James Spring, David Oyelowo, Steve Richards, Andrea Keir) — Before Alice found Wonderland, and Peter became Pan, they were brother and sister. When their brother dies in an accident, they seek to save their parents from downward spirals until finally they’re forced to choose between home and imagination, setting the stage for their iconic journeys into Wonderland and Neverland. Cast: Angelina Jolie, David Oyelowo, Jordan Nash, Keira Chansa, Reece Yates, Michael Caine. World Premiere

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made / U.S.A. (Director: Tom McCarthy, Screenwriters: Stephan Pastis, Tom McCarthy, Producers: Tom McCarthy, Jim Whitaker) — The hilarious exploits of Timmy Failure and his 1,500-pound polar bear partner, Total, as they operate Total Failure, Inc., a Portland detective agency. Based on the book by Stephan Pastis. Cast: Winslow Fegley, Ophelia Lovibond, Wallace Shawn, Craig Robinson, Kyle Bornheimer. World Premiere

The Sundance Film Festival®

The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Eighth Grade, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Beasts of the Southern Wild , Fruitvale Station, Whiplash , Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth , Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs and sex, lies, and videotape. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®.

2020 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire; AT&T; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Amazon Studios, DIRECTV, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom Group, Southwest Airlines®, Stella Artois®, WarnerMedia; Sustaining Sponsors – Audible, Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dell Technologies, GEICO, High West Distillery, Hulu, IMDbPro, Lyft, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Variety, The Wall Street Journal. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Partner seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival

Sundance Institute

Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. Sundance Co//ab, a digital community platform, brings artists together to learn from each other and Sundance Advisors and connect in a creative space, developing and sharing works in progress. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences and artists to ignite new ideas, discover original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as The Farewell, Late Night, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Eighth Grade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, RBG, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Top of the Lake, Winter’s Bone, Dear White People, Little Miss Sunshine, Beasts of the Southern Wild , Fruitvale Station, State of the Union, Indecent, Spring Awakening , A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

2019 DOC NYC movie review: ‘Mai Khoi & the Dissidents’

November 18, 2019

by Carla Hay

Mai Khoi
Mai Khoi in “Mai Khoi & the Dissidents”

“Mai Khoi & the Dissidents”

Directed by Joe Piscatella

Vietnamese with subtitles

World premiere at DOC NYC in New York City on November 13, 2019.

There have been many pop stars who have changed their safe, politically neutral images to making music that’s edgy or politically controversial. But what if a pop star does that and is then persecuted by the government? That’s what Vietnamese singer Mai Khoi has experienced, according to this compelling film that clocks in at a brisk 70 minutes. This documentary chronicles her ongoing struggles in fighting that persecution and for her rights to freedom of expression.

She first became famous in Vietnam for doing fluffy, inoffensive pop songs. In 2010, Vietnam Television awarded her the prizes of Album of the Year and Song of the Year (for “Viet Nam”). But, as she says in the documentary about her former life as a pop star: “I felt comfortable having a lot of money, but I felt something missing inside me.” Her Australian husband, Ben Swanton, a fellow left-wing social activist whom she married in 2013, says: “She caused a major national scandal when she said that she didn’t want to get married and have children.”

She caused another scandal with her song “Selfie Orgasm,” which essentially dropped the final bomb in her “safe” pop-star image. Khoi says that the song was a social commentary on narcissism, but it was eventually banned by Zing, which is the Vietnamese version of YouTube. By then, a political fire had been began to roar inside her, and she ran for political office as an independent, for a seat in the National Assembly of Vietnam. However, the Vietnamese government, specifically the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, made sure that her name was left off of the ballot.

Khoi’s 2016 meeting with then-U.S. president Barack Obama when he visited Vietnam made her even more of an enemy to the Vietnamese government, she says in the movie. In March 2016, the police raided her concert in Saigon, and she’s been banned from performing in Vietnam. But in one scene in the movie, she does a secret show anyway, and braces herself for the consequences. Viewers see in the film that the government’s reaction is swift and severe: In retaliation for Khoi doing the secret show, the government forced her landlord to evict her. One of the people interviewed in the documentary is Nguyen Qui Duc, also known as radical blogger Anh Chi, who says he’s also been harassed by the Vietnamese government for speaking out against the government.

The movie also shows her botched attempt to hang a banner saying “Keep the Internet Free” from the Long Biên Bridge in Hanoi. She dropped the banner into the Red River after only five minutes, out of fear of being arrested. However, that experience perhaps emboldened her to do an even more daring protest publicity stunt.

The election of Donald Trump as U.S. president added more fuel to her fire. In 2017, when Trump visited Vietnam for the first time as U.S. president, she made headlines around the world for holding a banner up as his motorcade passed by on the streets of Hanoi. The banner said, “Piss on you Trump,” with “iss” crossed out to read “Peace on You Trump.” She was quickly visited by the police, who harassed her. Some of the harassment was caught on camera, but the police eventually forced the cameraperson to stop filming. Despite the police attempting to silence Khoi, her protest achieved its goal of international attention, since video of Khoi holding up the banner became a viral sensation.

A great deal of the movie also documents the recording of Khoi’s first album with her all-male band the Dissidents, whose members all have left-leaning political beliefs, but some of them express a certain trepidation about how being in the band will make them targets of harassment from the government. The musicianship  isn’t particuarly impressive, but the album isn’t about crafting catchy pop songs, and the song lyrics clearly mean more to the band than the music.

It’s not a spoiler to say the “Mai Khoi & the Dissidents” album was released in 2017. The album, which was picked up by a Norwegian record company to be released in Norway, became only the second album from a Vietnamese artist to be released outside of Vietnam, according to the documentary. Khoi also received the Human Rights Award from the Oslo Freedom Forum, but the Vietnam government censored this news in the BBC report that was televised in Vietnam.

As a documentary, “Mai Khoi & the Dissidents” is at its most riveting when it conveys the fear and tension after Khoi does something to agitate the Vietnam government. It leaves viewers wondering what’s going to happen next, and what kind of harassment Khoi will experience. What’s less interesting is footage of Khoi and her bandmates in the recording studio, because the musicianship is, frankly, mediocre.

There’s a poignant scene at the end of the film when Khoi seriously contemplates moving from Vietnam to Australia, even though she would be leaving her entire biological family behind. You’ll have to see the movie to find out what she decided in her dilemma to leave Vietnam or stay. The biggest downside to this movie is that in the unpredictable world of a firebrand like Mai Khoi, she’ll inevitably make headlines again for bold and risk-taking activism, and this documentary will then be rendered very outdated.

2019 DOC NYC movie review: ‘Healing From Hate: Battle for the Soul of a Nation’

November 18, 2019

by Carla Hay

Tony McAleer, Amar Kaleka and Sammy Rangel in “Healing From Hate: Battle for the Soul of a Nation” (Photo courtesy of Big Tent Productions)

“Healing From Hate: Battle for the Soul of a Nation”

Directed by Peter Hutchison

World premiere at DOC NYC in New York City on November 13, 2019.

The rise of hate crimes in recent years has led to an increase in documentaries and news reports about bigotry and its effects on our culture. “Healing From Hate: Battle for the Soul of a Nation” focuses on former extreme racists who have devoted their lives to helping others get out of the belief systems and lifestyles of hate groups. The three main stars of the film are Life After Hate co-founders Frank Meeink (the real-life inspiration for the dramatic film “American History X”) and Tony McAleer, as well as Sammy Rangel, a Latino former gang member who founded the group Formers Anonymous for ex-bigots. (Rangel says in the documentary that he used to hate white people.) All of the men openly admit to committing several hate crimes in the past, and they’ve spent time in prison.

The film points out several common denominators of people who join extreme racist groups: They usually had abusive childhoods; they feel mistreated by mainstream society and joined hate groups to have surrogate families; and they often abuse drugs and/or alcohol, even if they leave the hate groups. All of the ex-racists in this documentary fit this profile, and they talk about their ongoing struggles with substance abuse.

McAleer, who is originally from Vancouver, says he changed his ways after the birth of his daughter and son. One of the more effective parts of the film is when he returns to his hometown to visit members at Temple Shalom, where his hate crimes started. Another standout scene is when McAleer and Rangel visit the Sikh temple (gurdwara) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where in 2012, a white supremacist murdered six people and wounded four others before committing suicide. In an emotionally powerful moment, the documentary shows McAleer and Rangel going to the scene of the crime to meet with Amar Kaleka, son of the gurdwara’s murdered founder, as they talk and pray about the tragedy. The movie’s archival footage includes the 2017 deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Other people featured in the movie are Randy Blazak, a criminologist and researcher of hate groups; Thomas Engelmann, founder and ex-member of the Aryan Brotherhood, which does a lot of recruiting in prisons; and author Michael Kimmel, a founder of Stony Brook University’s Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities. Also interviewed are former neo-Nazi Randy Furniss and African American activist/radio host Julius Long, who formed an unlikely friendship with each other after Long rescued Furniss from being attacked by an angry crowd protesting against white supremacist Richard Spencer’s 2017 speech at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Spencer is featured in the movie getting into a spirited debate about racism with Life After Hate co-founder Christian Picciolini, who is no longer affiliated with Life After Hate. You might notice a pattern here: This is a very male-centric movie.

The documentary, although well-intentioned, can’t quite overcome its biggest flaw: It basically ignores women. Current and former racists who are women are not mentioned or interviewed. In addition, most of the men in these reform groups have children, but the mothers of these children aren’t interviewed either. The film never bothers to answer these questions: What are these mothers’ perspectives? How are these children being raised? What happens when one parent leaves a hate group, but the other parent wants to stay? The filmmakers don’t mention if any effort was made to include an adequate number of female viewpoints in the documentary.

Although it’s true that the vast majority of violent hate crimes are committed by men, and most of the white supremacists who march at rallies are men, it’s also indisputable that women are a big part of white supremacy, and women’s roles in this damaging movement have been irresponsibly overlooked in this documentary. For example, women who are racists have other insidious methods of inflicting fear on the targets of their hate, besides committing violence. Viral videos and several news reports have proven that female racists like to call the police on people of color who are minding their own business and not breaking the law.

“Healing From Hate” also avoids discussing that within the white supremacy movement is an inherent culture of misogyny because of the belief that white, Christian males are the most superior of the human race. However, the movie does not address any sexist beliefs these former racists probably had while in the movement, and the documentary never mentions if their therapy also includes “detoxing” from the overwhelming sexism in white supremacy. (A more accurate title of the movie is “Healing From Male Racists,” not “Healing From Hate.”)

Since men are the only focus of this documentary about current and reformed bigots, it paints an incomplete and inaccurate picture that male racists should be bigger priorities than female racists. And this documentary’s emphasis on male redemption is itself kind of sexist. Not surprisingly, all the group therapy leaders in this documentary are men, and almost everyone interviewed for this movie is a man.

A friendly reminder to the filmmakers: Females are 51 percent of the U.S. population. If you’re going to do a documentary whose subtitle is “Battle for the Soul of a Nation,” it would help if you included perspectives from the gender that represents the majority of this nation. “Healing From Hate” director Peter Hutchison plans to make two companion documentaries: “Angry White Men: American Masculinity in the Age of Trump” (based on the sociology work of Kimmel) and “Auschwitz: Facing the Legacy of Hatred,” which will focus on McAleer’s redemption by showing him visiting the sites of Polish death camps. Let’s hope that the makers of these companion documentaries don’t forget that healing from hatred doesn’t exist in only a male vacuum. Female voices need to be valued and heard too.

2019 DOC NYC movie review: ‘The Longest Wave’

November 18, 2019

by Carla Hay

Robby Naish in "The Longest Wave"
Robby Naish in “The Longest Wave” (Photo courtesy of Red Bull Films)

“The Longest Wave”

Directed by Joe Berlinger

World premiere at DOC NYC in New York City on November 13, 2019.

There comes a time in professional athletes’ lives when they have to decide when they’ll retire from professional sports competitions. But most athletes who’ve been world champions would say that even if they stop competing in professional sports, their sport of choice will always been in their blood. That’s certainly true for windsurfer Robby Naish, who started winning world championships in 1976 at the age of 13. Now that he’s middle-aged, he’s reached a crossroads in the inevitable decision on how much longer it will be before he officially retires.

“The Longest Wave” is ostensibly about Naish’s quest to find and ride the longest wave possible before his advancing age prevents him from taking the kinds of surfing risks that he could when he was younger. It’s a dream he’s been chasing since 2016. But the real issue, which becomes clear early on the documentary, is that Naish is kind of having a mid-life identity crisis. He didn’t really have a “normal” childhood. For decades, his entire life has been about surfing, so it’s unthinkable for him to have any career that doesn’t involve the sport.

“The Longest Wave” director Joe Berlinger doesn’t assume that viewers will know who Naish is before seeing this movie, so Berlinger takes a great deal of time (approximately the first half of the film) to show Naish’s life story, before the second half of the film focuses on Naish’s ultimate quest of finding the longest wave. Naish’s family members (including his father, mother, older brother and two daughters) and colleagues (including surfers Matt Schweitzer, Kai Lenny and Chuck Patterson) are among those who are interviewed. Naish chose Lenny (a Naish protégé in his 20s) and Patterson (a longtime friend who’s closer to Naish’s age) to accompany him on his international journey to chase the longest wave. Their globetrotting included trips to Namibia, Peru and Costa Rica.

Naish’s family members, friends and associates consistently describe him as someone who has a single-minded obsession with surfing and winning any surfing competition that he enters. One of his biggest flaws, they say, is that he’s a sore loser. But on the flip side, he’s also generous about helping and teaching other surfers. Naish essentially admits all of this is true, and he knows that his unwavering commitment to being a pro surfer (which includes constant traveling) has ruined his two marriages. He has a daughter from each of his failed marriages. Naish was going through his second divorce while making this documentary. His ex-wives are not in the film.

Lenny idolized Naish since he was a kid, and he is one of Naish’s best-known protégés, who went into business with Naish’s self-titled brand and signed with many of the same sponsors that Naish has. It should be noted that Red Bull has been a longtime sponsor of Naish, and “The Longest Wave” is from Red Bull Films, so there’s a lot of Red Bull product placement in the movie. Lenny’s smirky cockiness and mugging for the camera easily make him the most annoying person in the film. It’s not surprising later in the movie when he makes a decision that blindsides Naish, but an outside observer watching this documentary can see it coming from a mile away. Meanwhile, Naish’s longtime buddy Patterson has a laid-back presence that’s welcome when Naish and the other members of the team get too high-strung and agitated.

As if going through a divorce hadn’t been bad enough, Naish experienced some major setbacks during the making of this documentary, including a broken pelvis (which required a recovery of at least six months) and a broken foot. While traveling to Walvis Bay, Namibia, the Naish team had the bad luck of several of their luggage items (including Naish’s most-prized surfboard) not arriving, so they spent about six frustrating days watching the surf that they couldn’t ride.

It’s a testament to Naish’s perseverance that he didn’t let these obstacles deter him, but you have to speculate how much longer Naish will be willing to risk getting severe injuries, in order to pursue the kind of extreme surfing that he likes to do. He makes it clear in the movie that he has no regrets, and he’ll keep surfing as long as he’s physically able.

One of the best qualities of the film is the cinematography (there are some truly stunning aerial shots), and it’s why this movie should be seen on the big screen. However, the film’s editing needed to be tighter, because it looks like the filmmakers couldn’t really decide to make this movie a Naish biography or a story about his journey to find the longest wave, so they decided to mash up the two concepts in one movie. You’ll have to see this documentary to find out if Naish ever got to ride his longest wave. You don’t have to be a surfing fan to enjoy this film, because the movie is really about people defining for themselves how they want to chase their dreams.

2019 DOC NYC movie review: ‘Ganden: A Joyful Land’

November 18, 2019

by Carla Hay

Jampa Legshe in “Ganden: A Joyful Land” (Photo by Ngawang Choephel)

“Ganden: A Joyful Land”

Directed by Ngawang Choephel

Tibetan with subtitles

World premiere at DOC NYC in New York City on November 12, 2019.

If you ever wondered about how influential Tibetan Buddhist monestary Ganden survived China’s invasion of Tibet, by relocating to India in 1959, and rebuilding in 1966, this thoughtful documentary explains it all. Ganden is where a young Dalai Lama had his religious origins and his awakening as an activist for world peace. Although the Dalai Lama is not interviewed in the documentary, several Ganden monks who were part of the relocation share their memories of what it was like to be refugees from their native Tibet and to rebuild the monastery in India, a country that welcomed them, with the help of the Dalai Lama.

For the documentary, director Ngawang Choephel (who also narrates the film in a soothing tone) has kept the pacing very deliberate and historically oriented. It’s the kind of film that would be right at home in a museum, a school class on Tibetan Buddhism, or on PBS. In other words, “Ganden: A Joyful Land” might be too slow-paced for those who prefer their documentaries with more flash or quick-cutting editing styles, but just like the monks in the film, tranquility is valued over adrenaline. (Choephel says he began filming Ganden in India in 2011, and about half of the monks interviewed in the movie have since passed away, which adds a certain historical weight as archival footage.)

One of the strongest qualities of the film is the cinematography, which is simply gorgeous. Some of the most compelling and colorful imagery is of monks creating mandala paintings for the Tagtse Dumshoe festival, using sand-like paint. Because the movie has first-person accounts of the monks who founded Ganden in India, their stories are the heart and soul of the film. Many of the monks consistently say that even if they didn’t have enough to eat in the early years of the monastery, life at Ganden was extremely fulfilling for them. One of the monks said that when he went home to visit with his family, he couldn’t wait to get back to the monastery.

Of course, the hardships and suffering they endured are not ignored in the film, and neither is a mention of the high number suicides of the refugee monks and the monks who were still in Tibet, because of their despair over China’s invasion and religious persecution. Despite these depressing but necessary aspects of the film, “Ganden: A Joyful Land” is ultimately an inspiring story of faith, hope, and the will to survive in a world where a peaceful existence is always at risk.

2019 DOC NYC movie review: ‘Los Últimos Frikis’

November 18, 2019

by Carla Hay

Los Últimos Frikis
Zeus in “Los Últimos Frikis”

“Los Últimos Frikis”

Directed by Nicholas Brennan

Spanish with subtitles

World premiere at DOC NYC in New York City on November 10, 2019.

If rock music can be described in family terms, heavy metal is often perceived as the trashy, “black sheep” stepchild. For the Cuban heavy-metal band Zeus (which formed in Havana in 1997, during the Fidel Castro regime), getting respect has always been an uphill battle, made all the more difficult because of Cuba’s restrictive policies on rock music. The music primarily comes from Western, capitalist countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, which dominate the shrinking market for heavy-metal music. It’s another reason why Zeus is a metal underdog: Often disrespected in their own country, the members of Zeus also know that because they’re in a Cuban band, the odds are stacked against them that they’ll be accepted in other countries that have embraced U.S. and European metal bands.

Despite all of these obstacles, Zeus is still making music after all these years. “Los Últimos Frikis,” which translates in English to “The Last Freaks” is a primarily a chronicle of the band’s 25th anniversary tour of Cuba, with tour stops in the cities of Camaguey, Santa Clara, Guantanamo and Ciego de Avila. Before viewers get to see the tour, director Nicholas Brennan introduces each band member in segments that show them at home with their families and playing music.

Lead singer Diony Arce is the expected charismatic focus of the band. In the movie, he discusses his turbulent childhood. Arce says that he was on his own since the age of 11, because his singer mother traveled a lot, and as a child, he would live in hotels, sometimes for two or three years at a time. Learning to be self-sufficient at an early age helped shape his rebellious streak and his leadership skills. His first band was Venus, which broke up in the late 1980s, because of pressure from the Cuban government, which branded Venus as too radical. He was arrested and was in prison from 1990 to 1996.

Eduardo Longa Aguilar (drums), who confesses later in the film that he abuses drugs and alcohol, is seen near the beginning of the movie trying to convince a woman to sell him a soda on camera, because she’s afraid she’ll be arrested for it. Hansel Sala (guitar), who says that heavy metal has to be strong, is a family man who’s proud to show his son how to be a musician. Yamil Arias (bass) is a welder by day, and he says that Metallica’s 1988 album “…And Justice for All” was a big early influence for him. Ivan Muñoz (guitar) says that people listen to hard rock/heavy metal to reaffirm their frustrations in life. The center of Zeus’ musical activities is Maximum Rock, a facility that houses a rehearsal studio and management company for rock bands. The Cuban government opened Maximum Rock in 2007, as the government became less restrictive about rock music.

Heavy metal’s popularity peaked in the 1980s, and it’s been on a steep decline ever since, which is why the few hard rock/metal bands from that era that can still headline arenas around the world (for example, Metallica, Guns N’Roses, Judas Priest) are those that arguably made their best music in the ’80s. However, metal fans who still support the music are extremely loyal, and they don’t care if heavy metal is considered an outdated genre or not. The documentary shows that the audiences that Zeus plays to on the tour aren’t very large (about 200 people or less at each concert) because the cities they go to in the documentary are much smaller than Havana. And by today’s slick and high-tech production standards, the band’s outdoor concerts have the bare-bones look of a garage band performing at a backyard party.

It wouldn’t be a heavy-metal tour documentary without a “Spinal Tap” moment, and Zeus has two of them in the film. When they get to the concert site in Ciego de Avila, to the band members’ horror, they find out that Zeus has been booked for a reggaetón festival. Reggaetón is Cuba’s most popular music genre for young people, and the members of Zeus openly express their disdain for reggaetón, which they consider to be mindless garbage. Arce has somewhat of a meltdown and refuses to let the band play at the festival.

Another “Spinal Tap” moment happens in Camaguey (the last stop on the tour), where the band says Zeus is very popular, but when they get there, they’re crushed to find out that nothing has been set up for the concert, and the performance has to be cancelled. It’s a humiliating scene, and at one point, Arce tells the cameraperson to stop filming. In other words, the tour ended with a whimper, not a bang.

It’s mentioned in the movie that concert promoters in Cuba will make sure that reggaetón shows are high-priced and well-organized, but rock concerts are handled in the opposite way. However, you also have to wonder what kind of incompetent management Zeus has for these embarrassing things to have happened to them on such an important tour for the band. That question is never answered in the documentary, since there are no managers or agents shown at all in the movie, which gives the impression that maybe Zeus is self-managed. If that’s the case, then Arce, as the leader of the band, has to take some responsibility for these screw-ups, but he never does. At one point in the movie, he gripes: “This country has made a complete fool out of me.”

Back at home in Havana after the tour ends, Zeus is shown in a career limbo, as the band members lament how hard it is to keep the band going when heavy metal is constantly disrespected and they can’t make enough money as rock musicians to pay their bills. It’s a struggle that hard rock/metal musicians all over the world are facing, especially those who’ve never had a catalogue of big hits to fall back on to bring in the nostalgia crowds.

There’s a huge jump in the timeline toward the end of the film, which shows that Maximum Rock has been shut down, and the building is in disrepair. The band is also coping with disillusionment and wondering if it’s worth it to keep the group going. “Los Últimos Frikis” director Nicholas Brennan obviously filmed this documentary over several years, and the movie is compelling because it’s about a heavy-metal band that’s been able to survive for decades in a restrictive, Communist country. In an era where bands rely on social media to promote themselves, it’s interesting to see Zeus operate as a band in a country where Internet access doesn’t come as easily as it does in other nations. In that sense, much of what’s seen of Zeus looks like a time warp back to the pre-Internet days when heavy metal was at its most popular.

To its credit, the film avoids heavy metal clichés of portraying the band members as dumb partiers. (And considering that the band members have settled into middle-age, they would look kind of ridiculous if they acted like frat boys on tour.) However, the movie would have benefited from better editing to make it a more cohesive story. For example, the ending of the movie feels very tacked-on and too rushed.

But kudos to the filmmakers for getting Dave Lombardo (Slayer’s on-again/off-again drummer, who’s of Cuban heritage) to compose the documentary’s music. Lombardo is also an executive producer of the film. His participation adds an extra layer to the kinship that the Zeus members have for each other and their loyal fans. It’s a connection that comes through loud and clear in the film, and which has stayed with them even during their toughest times.