Review: ‘A Glitch in the Matrix,’ starring Paul Gude, Alex LeVine, Nick Bostrom, Jesse Orion, Emily Pothast, Brother Laeo Mystwood and Chris Ware

February 12, 2021

by Carla Hay

A scene from “A Glitch in the Matrix” (Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

“A Glitch in the Matrix”

Directed by Rodney Ascher

Culture Representation: The documentary “A Glitch in the Matrix” features a group of people (almost all white males, with one white woman and one African American man) of video game addicts, journalists and academics discussing the concept that life on Earth could be a virtual simulation, not the reality that people think it is.

Culture Clash: Different ways of looking at and defining reality are explored, including how video games influence people’s thoughts.

Culture Audience: “A Glitch in the Matrix” will appeal primarily to people who want to listen to ramblings from several people who admit they’re addicted to video games or some other form of virtual reality.

A scene from “A Glitch in the Matrix” (Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

In the Oscar-winning 1999 sci-fi film “The Matrix,” Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity character tells Keanu Reeves’ Neo character that his feeling of déjà vu is “a glitch in the matrix.” It’s meant to explain a mistake in the matrix world where the movie’s characters live in a simulated reality. The documentary “A Glitch in the Matrix” talks to several people who are open to believe or actually believe the idea that the world as we know it is not “real” but is actually a simulation controlled by unknown and unseen forces.

If you want to listen to self-admitted geeks drone on and on about this concept, then by all means, waste your time and watch “A Glitch in the Matrix,” which adds nothing new or interesting to this debate. The movie is also very poorly researched. “A Glitch in the Matrix,” which had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, spent more time gathering a variety of film clips than interviewing a variety of people.

Directed by Rodney Ascher, “A Glitch in the Matrix” is truly a case of style of over substance. It cobbles together a lot of clips from sci-fi flicks, edits them together with some animation, and tries to dazzle the viewer into thinking that movie is going to be a cutting-edge documentary. It’s not.

It’s really just a movie that gives a platform to several self-described video game addicts, who ramble on about how they sometimes have a hard time comprehending what’s reality and what is not. The only facts that this documentary really puts forth are that people can get addicted to video games and those with possible mental health issues can actually start to feel like they’re living in a video game. This problem of video game addiction has been common knowledge for decades, but the filmmakers of “A Glitch in the Matrix” try to make this documentary look as if it’s revealing insightful information. Perhaps they’re living in another reality if they think this lazy film is nothing more than a cash grab to appeal to gamers and other people interested in virtual worlds.

Some of the people interviewed in the documentary don’t even want to show their real faces. Instead, their video game avatars are shown on screen as they talk. These self-confessed video game addicts are:

  • Paul Gude, who appears with a creepy red mask surrounded by a ruby-like orb and wearing a samurai warrior outfit.
  • Brother Laeo Mystwood, who appears with an Anibus head and is decked out mostly in purple.
  • Alex LeVine, who appears as a shaman-like robot with an emoji face and a brain suspended in liquid
  • Jesse Orion, who appears as a space alien in an astronaut suit.

They all look like they’re auditioning to be a new character in a “Mortal Kombat” reboot game. And, clearly, all of them have “issues.” Orion describes himself as a video game addict who feels alienated from the world.

Gude says that when he was a student at the University of Missouri in Columbia in the early 1990s, he first became fascinated with the idea that the human brain is a computer that can be hacked into and manipulated. And he comments that he started to feel like his life was really a simulation when, as a child, he moved from Pontiac, Illinois, to the much smaller city of Dorsey, Illinois. He remembers being somewhat freaked out by things such as going to a shopping mall and seeing hardly any people there. He also thinks people are “chemical robots.”

Mystwood (which is obviously not his real name, but maybe it’s his name in the fantasy world he seems to have in his head) talks about having a religious upbringing that he thinks did some damage to his psyche. (Gude, who is the son of a pastor, describes a similar effect that religion had on him.) Mystwood also says that he got a clearer understanding of “alternate reality” when he experienced going into a sensory deprivation tank. Mystwood describes how his head started to pound and he had an out-of-body experience.

And he then came to this conclusion after going through the experience of the sensory deprivation tank: “I am a code … Nothing on me or anyone is real.” The documentary irresponsibly doesn’t include scientific information on how sensory deprivation can cause hallucinations similar to someone taking a psychedelic drug.

Speaking of psychedelics, what the filmmakers fail to ask in this documentary when people spew all of these paranoid theories is, “How often have you taken psychedelic drugs?” Because a lot of their ranting about discovering “alternate realities” just sounds like people who maybe took LSD or other psychedelics too many times. And a few of them sound like they’re in serious need of psychiatric evaluations.

Billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk is mentioned as somewhat of a hero to people who think that we live in a simulation, because Musk has publicly expressed this theory too. What the documentary doesn’t mention is Musk’s self-admitted drug use. It seems irresponsible for this documentary to not mention the possibility that drug-fueled hallucinations could be behind many of the theories about simulation that some people believe as gospel.

The closest that anyone will admit that being under the influence of substances (legal or illegal) has a lot to do with how they think about reality is when LeVine describes going on a drunken joyride in Mexico with some friends when he was younger. Everyone in the car, including the driver, was very drunk from alcohol and maybe who knows what other substances that LeVine (a Harvard-educated engineer) might not wanted to admit to on camera. After driving the wrong way on a freeway and narrowly missing a head-on collision, the car eventually flipped over and crashed by itself. The car was completely wrecked.

Luckily, no one was killed or seriously injured. LeVine describes having an out-of-body experience and remembers someone carrying him away from the corrupt federales who were going to demand money from these Americans to not arrest them. LeVine says the fact that no one got killed in this serious car crash was a sign that some other forces were at play.

Actually, it’s not unusual for intoxicated people in a car crash to suffer less injuries than people in the crash who were sober. There are many cases of drunk drivers who killed other people in an automobile crash, but the drunk drivers survived with minor injuries. There’s plenty of information available with the statistics.

Medical experts believe that intoxicated people in a car crash have a better chance of surviving and getting less injured, compared to sober people, because intoxicated people’s reactions and reflexes are slower while under the influence of alcohol or another substance. But course, the filmmakers never both to include this medical/scientific information. In fact, they don’t question or try to debunk any of the hallucinatory stories that are in this movie.

The production notes for “A Glitch in the Matrix” describe the documentary interviewees who believe in simulation theory as “eyewitnesses.” LeVine also mentions that he has Crohn’s disease, which is an odd thing to bring up, because the inner workings of his bowels have nothing to do with what this documentary is all about. That’s an example of some of the irrelevant information in this movie, which was in serious need of better editing and sensible research.

“A Glitch in the Matrix” interviews a few journalists and academics (who appear on camera as their real selves), but they just repeat things that they’ve already written about in essays, books or articles that they wrote years ago. In the documentary’s production notes, these talking heads are listed as people providing “expert testimony.” Among those interviewed is writer Erik Davis, author of the 1998 book “Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information.”

There’s also Nick Bostrom, an Oxford University professor who wrote the 2003 article “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?” for Philosophical Quarterly, while he was doing post-doctoral work at Yale University. He believes that there are three possibilities when it comes to simulation disguised as reality: (1) There was extinction before simulation; (2) Simulation technology was abandoned and there are only assets to simulation; (3) Simulation is “real.”

American cartoonist Chris Ware gives a useless interview where he comments on the illustration that he did for The New Yorker’s issue that was dated June 12, 2015. The cover features two girls looking at computers in their bedroom. Ware says that the video game Minecraft inspired the drawing.

Ware also has this to say about Minecraft: “Every time I play it with my daughter, I feel like we’re dead and we’re flying around the world. It’s the only experience that closely approximates what … a disembodied conscience might experience.”

Again. Are these people on drugs? These are the so-called “experts” in this movie.

Also interviewed is Emily Pothast, who wrote a 2019 article on Medium called “The (Deep) Dream of Motivated Reasoning Produces Monsters,” which gives an analysis of how people can be radicalized if they believe that their reality is different from what’s presented by the media. She is the only woman interviewed in this documentary, and she’s the only person in the movie who gives an intelligent cultural context of what can happen when people start to think that their reality is not what most other people think is reality.

Pothast comments, “I do think there’s an inability to separate the real world from digital realities, when you have the [2019 mosque mass-murder] shooter in [Christchurch] New Zealand, livestreaming what he’s doing … and going after people who are Muslims. Or people shooting up synagogues going after people who are constructed as ‘other’ by the media that [these shooters] consume.”

The New Zealand shooter was a white supremacist who appeared to be addicted to social media, such as Facebook, instead of video games. “A Glitch in the Matrix” doesn’t mention that New Zealand subsequently banned video games that were eerily similar to the mosque shootings. And there’s no discussion in this documentary on how substance abuse and/or mental illness play roles in people disconnecting from reality.

The documentary also takes a glib approach when mentioning the 2018 incident of Horizon Air employee Richard Russell stealing a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 plane, with no passengers, from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and doing dangerous tricks in the air. Russell died when he intentionally crashed the plane on the Ketron Island in Puget Sound. During his communication with aircraft control, Russell (who did not have a pilot’s license) said he learned how to fly planes by playing video games. The people in the documentary, such as Orion, who comment on this tragic incident seem to be more impressed with how video games influenced this deadly stunt than caring about what led Russell to commit such a desperate act.

“A Glitch in the Matrix” also shows a clear bias in preference of white men, because all but two people interviewed in the movie fit that description. In addition to Pothast, the only other person interviewed in this documentary who is not a white man is Joshua Cooke, an African American man who was convicted of the 2003 shooting murders of his adoptive parents in Oakton, Virginia. Cooke was 19 when he committed the crime and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He says that he was addicted to “The Matrix” movie and violent video games, and he says that he lost touch with reality. In court, he pled guilty instead of pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

Cooke was so obsessed with “The Matrix” that he dressed like the movie’s Neo character and bought a gun that’s similar to the one that Neo uses in the movie. Cooke does not appear on camera in “A Glitch in the Matrix,” but his comments are heard in audio voiceover from interviews that the filmmakers did with him from prison. Cooke’s story is included in the documentary’s long segment about the huge influence that “The Matrix” movies (especially the first one in the series) have had on people who believe that life is a simulation. Cooke vividly describes how “The Matrix” took over his life and spilled over into murdering the people he thought were the “enemy.”

What the documentary didn’t mention is that there was a history of mental illness with Cooke’s biological parents: His biological mother was schizophrenic, and his father was bipolar. There are no mental health experts interviewed in this documentary about people who believe that the world we live in isn’t real. That gives you an idea of how careless this documentary is.

“A Glitch in the Matrix” strangely and selectively mentions Cooke and Lee Boyd Malvo (also known as one of the DC Sniper serial killers) as the only two examples of people whose obsession with “The Matrix” and violent video games turned into homicide. Everyone knows that black people are not the vast majority of those who commit mass murders or serial killings of this type. And yet, “A Glitch in the Matrix” filmmakers show an appalling racist bias by only singling out black people as examples of those who’ve committed these violent crimes.

The movie gives a lot of screen time to archival footage of a 1977 speaking appearance given by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, who’s cited as another major influence to people who believe that life is a simulation. Several of Dick’s novels and short stories have been adapted into movies, including 1982’s “Blade Runner,” 1990’s “Total Recall,” 2002’s “Minority Report” and 2011’s “The Adjustment Bureau.” The Amazon Prime Video series “The Man in the High Castle” was also based on one of his books.

“A Glitch in the Matrix” includes clips from several movies, such as “The Matrix,” “Total Recall,” “Minority Report,” 1997’s “Starship Troopers,” 1998’s “The Truman Show,” and 2009’s “Avatar.” All of these films have some version of the theme that humans are not as in control of their lives as they think they are because there are outside forces really in control or trying to invade humanity. The documentary also has several eye-catching animation clips, most notably Robert Crumb’s “Plato’s The Cave.”

“A Glitch in the Matrix” spends a lot of time discussing that people who believe that the world is really simulated are those who are usually addicted to video games. And yet, the filmmakers failed to include the perspectives of any video game developers or people who market video games. It’s a glaring oversight that shows how sloppily made and superficial this documentary is.

Some of the movie’s pace tends to drag because the rambling interviews get very boring after a while. The filmmakers also don’t confront a fact which seems pretty obvious from watching the type of people who get hooked on video games: These people have way too much time on their hands, which speaks to larger issues. There’s a certain amount of privilege that someone has to have to be able to spend all that time and money on video games.

“A Glitch in the Matrix” does a woefully inadequate job of addressing these socioeconomic issues. It’s a lot easier to want to escape into a video game world of shootouts and other mayhem if you don’t live in a gang-infested area or a war-torn environment. If any of these video game addicts who think the world isn’t real were taken out of the comfort of their homes and put in an actual war zone, they’d see how “real” the world is.

“A Glitch in the Matrix” doesn’t want to discuss how issues about mental health, substance abuse and socioeconomic status are major factors that link video game addiction to believing that the world isn’t real. The filmmakers just want to present a bright, shiny bubble of a documentary where the perspectives of people in one racial and gender demographic are given more importance over anyone else. And that lack of diversity is anything but what the real world looks like.

Magnolia Pictures released “A Glitch in the Matrix” in select U.S. cinemas and on digital and VOD on February 5, 2021.

Review: ‘Land’ (2021), starring Robin Wright and Demián Bichir

February 9, 2021

by Carla Hay

Robin Wright in “Land” (Photo by Daniel Power/Focus Features)

“Land” (2021)

Directed by Robin Wright

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in rural Wyoming, the dramatic film “Land” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one Latino and some Native American) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: A depressed, middle-aged widow, who is grieving over the loss of her husband and son, decides to isolate herself in a remote mountain cabin without knowing a lot of basic survival skills.

Culture Audience: “Land” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in a movie about coping with grief where the acting is better than some of the plot developments.

Demián Bichir and Robin Wright in “Land” (Photo by Daniel Power/Focus Features)

The dramatic film “Land” is a lot like the rural mountainous area that serves as the backdrop of this story. There are peaks and valleys and a lot of spaces to fill in between, with some parts handled in a rougher way than others. “Land” is the feature-film directorial debut of actress Robin Wright, who also stars in the movie, which had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

“Land” features a lot of scenes of her Edee Holzer character in solitude and sometimes dealing with dangerous elements of the terrain. The performances of Wright and co-star Demián Bichir (the two actors who have the most screen time in the film) elevate “Land” to make it easier to watch this mostly grim and sometimes uplifting movie. It’s a solid directorial debut from Wright, who manages to bring emotional gravitas to a character who remains an enigma for almost the entire movie.

“Land” is supposed to take place mostly in Wyoming, but the movie was actually filmed primarily in Moose Mountain in the Canadian province of Alberta. As a director, Wright displays talent in how striking and immersive she can make the movie’s scenes look, physically and emotionally. (Bobby Bukowski was the cinematographer for “Land.”)

Where the movie needed improvement most was in the screenplay written by Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam. The story dips a little too much into some formulaic “life in the wilderness” tropes before trying to throw in some tearjerking sentimentality during a certain part of the movie where it’s expected. Still, there’s enough to hold people’s interest for anyone curious to see how the movie ends.

The beginning of “Land” shows Edee (whose name is pronounced “ee-dee”) in a therapy session. The therapist asks Edee, “How are you feeling right now?” Edee replies, “I’m feeling like it’s really difficult to be around people because they just want me to get better. Why would anybody want to share it that? They can’t anyway.” The therapist says, “But that means you’re alone with your pain.”

Edee is about to be “alone with her pain” for a lot of this story. The next thing you know, she’s packed up a U-Haul, thrown away her cell phone, and headed to a run-down remote cabin in the mountains. The previous owner was an elderly man who passed away years ago. The person renting out the property is a man named Colt (played by Brad Leland), who meets her at the cabin to make sure that Edee has what she needs to move into the place.

Edee knows that the house hasn’t been cleaned or repaired in a long time, but she tells Colt that she doesn’t care. She also asks Colt to have someone pick up the rental car with the U-Haul. Colt expresses concern that Edee would be in this isolated area without a car, but she assures him that this is how she wants to live. Colt also asks Edee if she knows how to take care of herself in this rural environment, but she shrugs off his doubts. Edee also makes it clear to him that she wants to be left alone.

It turns out that Edee is woefully unprepared for what she experiences in this mountain area. Cleaning up the cabin (which has no indoor plumbing or electricity) is easy compared to dealing with freezing temperatures, finding fresh food, and being on the alert for the occasional wild bear. (You can easily predict how the bear scenario goes.) Edee doesn’t even know how to chop wood or go fishing when she starts living at the cabin, but she learns how through trial and error.

During her period of complete isolation, Edee has flashbacks to three very important people in her life: Her husband Adam (played by Warren Christie), their son Drew (played by Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) and Edee’s sister Emma (played by Kim Dickens), who’s close to Edee’s age. Emma was the one who recommended the therapist whom Edee was seeing before Edee decided to leave her old life behind and go “off the grid” to live in solitude.

As soon as the flashbacks start about Adam and Drew (who’s about 7 or 8 years old in the flashbacks), it’s obvious that they have died and that’s why Edee is so depressed. The flashbacks show that Edee and Emma had a very close relationship, but their closeness wasn’t enough for Edee to overcome her depression. An incident is shown that indicates that at one point, Emma was afraid that Edee might harm herself.

Why was Edee so unprepared to be in this rural environment? It turns out she kind of has a death wish that’s not really suicidal, but more like “I’m going to rough it in the wilderness, and if I can’t handle it, oh well …” But there are moments, such as when she has a bear encounter and some other near-disasters, where she does show a will to survive.

Edee is very aware that she’s ill-prepared to last long in this environment unless she knows how to catch her own food. During the harsh winter, there are no plants or fruit to eat. And through a series of circumstances, all the non-perishable food that was in the cabin is now gone.

Therefore, during a brutal winter, Edee begins to starve and almost freeze to death. She eventually collapses from hunger and hypothermia in the living room of her house, and she wakes up at night to find that a man and a woman have come to her rescue. The man’s name is Miguel Borras (played by Bichir) and the woman is a nurse named Alawa Crowe (played by Sarah Dawn Pledge), who gives Edee the necessary medical treatment because Edee refuses to be taken to a hospital.

It’s revealed later in the movie that Edee was found because Miguel had passed by the house when he had gone hunting earlier that day and noticed that smoke was coming out of the house’s chimney. When he passed by later that evening after his hunting trip, he noticed that there was no smoke coming from the chimney, so he went to investigate. When Miguel saw an unconscious Edee in the house, he called Alawa. Miguel and Alawa know each other because as part of his job, he delivers water to the Native American reservation where she lives.

Alawa voices her suspicions to Edee in asking her why Edee is avoiding being around people. Edee assures Alawa and Miguel that she’s not an outlaw or someone who’s trying to hide for shady reasons. Alawa still looks skeptical, but Miguel is more compassionate and understanding. He offers to help Edee recover at home instead of taking her to a hospital. Alawa reluctantly agrees.

After Edee recovers from her near-death experience, Miguel comes back to her house (against her wishes) and tells her that he wants to teach her how to hunt and trap animals for food. (This is not a good movie to watch if you’re a hardcore vegan or vegetarian, although nothing gets too graphic in the hunting scenes.) Miguel tells Edee that after she’s learned these skills, he will leave her alone.

And it should come as no surprise that Edee and Miguel end up becoming close, and she lets him hang out with her longer than she originally expected. There are many scenes of them forming a gradual friendship while Miguel teaches Edee how to catch her own food. Miguel has a German Shepherd named Potter as his constant companion, and Edee grows fond of the dog too, even though she told Miguel that she’s more of a cat person.

Eventually, Miguel opens up to Edee and tells her that he’s a widower whose wife and daughter were killed in a car accident. Edee remains vague about her past when she interacts with Miguel, and she will only say with pain in her eyes, “I had a family once.” Toward the end of the movie, it’s revealed how Edee’s husband and son died.

Miguel is the type of person who offers sage advice in the way that people do in movies like this one, where the right person comes along at the right time. He’s a true gentleman who doesn’t try to take advantage of someone who’s living in isolation. Some of his dialogue can be on the corny side, such as when he lectures Edee about her starvation collapse: “Only a person who’s never been hungry would think starvation is a good way to die.”

But there are some whimsical moments that lighten the mood, such as a running joke that Miguel and Edee have over how off-key he is when he sings Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” which seems to be one of his favorite songs. Edee also affectionately gives Miguel the nickname Yoda, in a nod to the wise and prophetic “Star Wars” character. She’s shocked when Miguel tells her that he’s never seen a “Star Wars” movie.

To its credit, “Land” does not fall into a “romance novel” cliché trap of having a woman being “rescued” by a handsome stranger, and then they fall in love and live happily ever after. That’s not to say that Edee and Miguel don’t have a deep emotional connection. But having them go down a “romance novel” route wouldn’t ring true, since Edee has a lot of self-healing to do and isn’t ready to jump into another serious relationship.

However, some details of “Land” also needed more authenticity. Throughout the movie, Edee is dressed a little too much like a catalogue model for outdoorsy clothing when she’s supposed to be someone who’s given up on life and wants to be alone. Why bother dressing up if she doesn’t want to be seen by anyone? Edee’s “no makeup” look and unfussy hair look realistic, but her clothing sometimes does not.

Those are minor flaws though, because the rapport between Edee and Miguel is what makes this movie worth watching. Because it takes a while to get to that point, some viewers might find “Land” to be a little too slow-paced in the first third of the movie. There’s not much about Edee’s background that is revealed, although it’s implied that Emma is Edee’s closest living relative.

The blanks aren’t completely filled in, and that’s probably because scenes were cut from the film. The Internet Movie Database page for “Land” lists several cast members playing characters who weren’t in the movie. It appears that there were more flashback scenes that didn’t make the final cut. Overall, “Land” is more of a somber character study of grief than a tension-filled wilderness saga, with enough glimmers of hope and empathetic performances that prevent the movie from being completely depressing.

Focus Features will release “Land” in U.S. cinemas on February 12, 2021. The movie’s VOD release date is March 5, 2021.

Review: ‘Mass’ (2021), starring Martha Plimpton, Jason Isaacs, Ann Dowd and Reed Birney

February 6, 2021

by Carla Hay

Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton and Breeda Wool in “Mass” (Photo by Ryan Jackson-Healy)

“Mass”

Directed by Fran Kanz

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the dramatic film “Mass” features an almost all-white cast (with one African American) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two men and two women who have a tragedy in common gather in a church meeting room to air out their differences.

Culture Audience: “Mass” will appeal primarily to people interested in dialogue-heavy movies about grief, mental illness and coping with the violent death of a loved one.

Ann Dowd and Reed Birney in “Mass” (Photo by Ryan Jackson-Healy)

The title of the movie “Mass” can have a double meeting. On the one hand, the movie, which takes entirely at or near an Episcopal church, can refer to the religious ceremony called a mass. On the other hand, it could refer to the deadly mass shooting that has directly affected two men and two women, who have gathered at an Episcopal church in an unnamed U.S. city to have a difficult meeting about this tragedy. (The movie was actually filmed in Hailey, Idaho, but almost all of the scenes in the take place indoors.) Fran Kanz, who is known as an actor in the 2012 horror flick “The Cabin in the Woods” and the sci-fi TV series “JourneyQuest,” makes an impressive debut as a feature-film director in “Mass,” a movie which he also wrote. “Mass” had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

“Mass” is a very well-written and intense film that relies entirely on the actors to make or break the authenticity in this gripping story. The movie centers on four people who have a painful discussion about a tragedy that has left them emotionally broken and damaged. Before these four people meet at the church, the story unfolds in layers, as viewers see a church office manager named Judy (played by Breeda Wool) nervously preparing for these visitors to gather in a room that has been reserved specifically for this meeting.

Judy asks a college-age assistant named Anthony (played by Kagen Albright) to help her get the room ready. Soon, a woman named Kendra (played by Michelle N. Carter) arrives to inspect the room and make sure that it’s appropriate for the meeting. Kendra seems to have been the one to choose the church as a meeting place. Judy is eager to please Kendra, who looks over the room in a business-like and no-nonsense manner.

The first clue that this meeting is about a traumatic, violent incident is when Kendra notices some stained-glass hanging decorations on the windows. Red is one of the decorations’ main colors. And from a distance, the red could look like bloodstains. Judy notices it too, and anxiously explains to Kendra that these stained-class decorations were made by some of the church kids. Judy says that the decorations could be removed before the visitors for the meeting get there. Kendra says it isn’t necessary.

Kendra is obviously the meeting’s facilitator, but she tells Judy that she will not be in the room during the meeting, in order to give the people in the meeting their privacy. It’s another clue that the meeting is of a very sensitive and confidential nature. Is Kendra a social worker? A counselor? Someone else? It’s never really made clear what her occupation is, but in the brief time that she’s on screen, Kendra seems to have the role of someone who is supposed to remain neutral in something that seems to be controversial.

Who are the people who will be participating in this tension-filled meeting? The married couple that viewers see first are Gail and Jay Perry, who drove down from an unnamed city for this gathering. Gail (played by Martha Plimpton) and Jay (played by Jason Isaacs), who are in their 50s, drive up to the church and park their car outside. However, Gail gets nervous and tells Jay to drive away so she can have more time to brace herself for this meeting.

They park near a fenced field that has a red ribbon tied to the fence. The camera lingers on the ribbon. It’s an obvious sign that this was the site of a makeshift memorial. Who died and why are these four people meeting? All the clues are there: A violent death, a makeshift memorial, two couples having an emotional discussion together for the very first time.

Gail feels ready to go back to the church. And when Gail and Jay go back to the church, they are greeted warmly by Judy and Kendra. Based on Judy’s comments, she’s not so eager to meet the other two people who arrive next, although when they do arrive she has a forced, polite smile. The other two visitors are a divorced couple in their 60s. It’s obvious that they’re no longer together when they arrive separately and aren’t seen wearing wedding rings.

Former spouses Richard (played by Reed Birney) and Linda (played by Ann Dowd) haven’t seen each other in a while. Richard no longer lives in the area, because he said that he traveled by plane for this somber occasion, and later he says he won’t be staying in the area for the rest of the day. Richard gives the impression that he’s a busy businessman, while the career backgrounds of Gail, Jay and Linda are never revealed. At one point in the story, Richard says that he isn’t religious, so meeting in a church is outside of his comfort zone.

Linda has brought a bouquet of wild flowers, which she offers to Gail as a gift. Gail declines to take the flowers but later changes her mind in order to not create any further tension. It’s another clue about where the hard feelings are between these four people. After some awkward small talk is exchanged, Kendra and Judy show Gail, Jay, Linda and Richard to the meeting room and leave the four visitors there to talk. Kendra says before she leaves them together, “I’m hopeful that we think this was a good thing to do by the time we leave here today.”

And that’s when the movie starts to peel back the layers of turmoil and trauma that have led to this excruciating meeting. It won’t be revealed in this review who died and who committed the mass murder. But it’s enough to say that those details come out in bits and pieces. And then the floodgates open with the blame, anger, sadness and confusion over how the murders could have been prevented.

What makes “Mass” so outstanding is that there isn’t a single line of dialogue or action that looks or sounds phony. Because 80% of the movie takes place in this one room, “Mass” could very much be a play. It’s not an easy film to watch for anyone who is very sensitive to the topic of mass murder. However, “Mass” presents an excellent story that looks at this type of tragedy from various perspectives of loved ones who are left behind.

All four of the main actors give stellar performances. However, Plimpton and Dowd shine the most because their characters Gail and Linda express their emotions more freely than the men do. “Mass” is also a raw look at different ways that people grieve and try to make sense of a senseless crime. And it’s also a realistic portrayal of survivor guilt and how people who didn’t cause the crime can still feel responsible for it.

Kanz’s directing style is as minimalist as his writing style is rich with naturalistic language. It’s a combination that works for the movie’s setting. And the movie greatly benefits from being well-cast with actors who never strike a false note with their characters. “Mass” is a movie that will linger in people’s memories long after they watch it. And it will be a story that will come to mind when people think about how mass murders cause untold traumas that don’t necessarily make headlines.

Review: ‘Life in a Day 2020,’ the sequel to director Kevin Macdonald’s documentary compiling a day in the lives of people around the world

February 2, 2021

by Carla Hay

A scene from “Life in a Day 2020” (Photo courtesy of YouTube Originals)

“Life in a Day 2020”

Directed by Kevin Macdonald

The movie has several languages in subtitles.

Culture Representation: Taking place in various locations around the world, the documentary “Life in a Day 2020” features racially diverse groups of people (white, black, Asian, Latino and indigenous) who filmed themselves and their surroundings on July 25, 2020.

Culture Clash: The documentary shows people with contrasting lifestyles, socioeconomic backgrounds, religious customs and political ideologies.

Culture Audience: “Life in a Day 2020″ will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching documentaries that are more about quick montages than in-depth profiles.

A scene from “Life in a Day 2020″ (Photo courtesy of YouTube Originals)

On July 24, 2010, director Kevin Macdonald had thousands people around the world film any aspect of their lives on that day. With the help of a large team of editors and other filmmakers, the resulting footage was compiled and edited into the quick-cutting montage documentary “Life in a Day,” which was released in 2011. Ten years after Life in a Day” was filmed, Macdonald revisited the same concept in the same short-attention-span style, but this time the participants filmed on July 25, 2020. The edited results are in the documentary “Life in a Day 2020,” which had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. “Life in a Day 2020” is a sequel that proves that the novelty has definitely worn off of crowdsourcing cinematography, but the movie can be mildly recommended for people who are curious or bored.

According to a written prologue in “Life in a Day 2020,” Macdonald and his team received 324,000 videos from 192 countries. “Life in a Day 2020” has much less appeal than its predecessor documentary because in the 10 years since the original “Life in a Day” was filmed, millions of more people around the world have been putting videos of their daily lives on the Internet. “Life in a Day 2020” is a YouTube Originals documentary, so the movies has a predictable montage of YouTubers who want to be famous. It feels a bit too meta.

People who saw the original “Life in a Day” back in 2011 would be hard-pressed to remember much about it, unless they were in the movie or personally knew someone who was. A frustration with the original movie and the sequel is that they both jump around so fast that these quick cuts don’t allow the viewer enough time to really get to know anyone in the documentary. It’s definitely a case of cramming in as much as possible, with quality sometimes sacrificed for quantity.

However, there’s still enough to hold people’s interest if viewers want to take a whirlwind cinematic ride around the world. Just don’t expect the movie to indicate which countries are being shown in each piece of footage, or the names of people in the footage, unless someone specifically says where they are, or you can identify what language is being spoken. There are no written indicators to guide viewers about the locations of almost all of the footage in the movie. The end credits show a long list of people who appear in the film, but it isn’t much help because the names aren’t put to faces.

The documentary’s editing is random and all over the place. Some parts of the movie are montages of people from different parts of the world doing the same things, such as women giving birth, people praying, or people at weddings. Occasionally, some people are seen in the film in one scene and are revisited later in the movie, such as a young man in an unknown U.S. state who’s standing near a train track and says he has a goal to film seven trains before the end of the day. It’s not exactly compelling or suspenseful, because you know he wouldn’t be in the movie if he didn’t reach that goal.

A lot of the movie is about showing kids and families at play. The family scenes are fairly typical, very tame, and almost always harmonious. (There are no big family squabbles in this movie.) A Southeast Asian father in India lovingly talks about how today is his daughter’s birthday. An American mother wakes up her kids with a smile and remarks how they have their phones in their hands while sleeping in bed. She says, “This is the generation we live in, where kids go to sleep holding a cell phone.”

There are large sections of the movie that show love and romance. Couples (gay and straight) are seen kissing, in a montage from various locations. Girlfriends coo, “I love you” to boyfriends who are filming them.

And in case people think the documentary only shows love-dovey relationships, there’s a scene with a woman who calmly breaks up with her boyfriend while he’s filming her cooking at a stove. And then she bursts into tears. You have to wonder who sent in this footage for the documentary. (She probably did.)

In another scene, a man proposes to his girlfriend and she won’t give him an answer, but you can tell she wanted to say no, but not on camera. Sitting by himself in his car after this semi-rejection, the man says that all relationships goes through ups and downs. If director Macdonald makes a 2030 version of “Life in a Day,” who wants to bet this couple won’t be together by then?

Speaking of follow-ups, there are a few people who were in the original “Life in a Day” that make a reappearance in Life in a Day 2020.” One of these appearance is memorable and heartbreaking, while the other is innocuous. The re-appearance that’s not very special is of an unidentified boy who’s about 11 or 12 years old, who’s sitting in a diner-styled restaurant somewhere in Asia with his father, stepmother and a girl who’s about 9 or 10 and could be his sister or stepsister. All the boy says is that he was in the first “Life in a Day” movie and his father had remarried since that movie was filmed.

The other reappearance shows an American mother watching “Life in a Day” on her TV and fast-forwarding to the scene of her son Alexander “Alex” or “ATG” Lucas, who was 14 when she filmed herself waking him up in his bed. In “Life in a Day 2020,” the mother, with her voice almost breaking into tears, shows where he is now: His ashes are in an urn. And she says he died of complications from COVID-19. The documentary epilogue shows that “Life in a Day 2020” is dedicated to Lucas.

The COVID-19 pandemic is given some screen time, but not as much as you might think. There’s a montage of funerals for people who’ve died of COVID-19. And throughout the film, there are shots of people wearing masks. But then, there are other scenes of people partying in groups, not wearing masks and not social distancing, as if they’re not in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

Speaking of not wearing masks during the pandemic, there’s a scene of an American man in his 30s who’s shown filming himself jogging in his neighborhood and then stopping at his house and pointing to an American flag. While he looks around, he proudly states that he won’t wear a mask and no one is protesting against him because of it. No one is protesting because he’s on an empty street with no one else nearby.

A middle-aged American man, who says he lost everything because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is shown living out of his van. He says homeless people like him are “the invisible people.” Later, he finds comfort in flying some remote controlled toy aircraft, and he says that this activity helps him take his mind off of his problems.

“Life in a Day 2020” gives a bare minimum of screen time to all the political and social unrest that was happening around the world in July 2020. The U.S. presidential election or any divisive political issue that was big news in July 2020 is treated like a minefield that the documentary largely wants to avoid. The Black Lives Matter movement gets less screen time in the documentary than montages of people acting goofy in their homes.

If there’s one major flaw of “Life in a Day 2020,” it’s that there should have been more footage for things that look specific to 2020. The worldwide racial reckoning that reached a fever pitch in July 2020 is barely acknowledged. There’s a quick scene of a shrine to George Floyd outside of the place where he died in Minneapolis. And there are a few African Americans throughout the movie who talk about police brutality and racism, including the deaths of Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

A woman in her 20s films herself in a car trying not to get emotional about a police department refusing to release video of what happened when a young, unarmed black man died in police custody. She says she has two brothers who died this way. And in another scene, an African American man in his 20s drives past a house covered in Confederate flags. “This is something I have to deal with every day,” he says in a rueful voice.

Meanwhile, in another part of the movie, an avid Donald Trump supporter named Gerardo Duran, a former first class sergeant in the U.S. military, is at his home and proudly shows off a framed 2017 letter that was signed from Donald and Melania Trump. In the letter (which clearly shows his name), Duran gets birthday greetings and a thank you for his military service. He also shows photos of himself on duty when he was in the military.

And for comic relief, the documentary includes selfie video footage of a traffic officer in Los Angeles as he gives out parking tickets. There’s a montage of people whining or giving excuses for why they shouldn’t get a ticket, but he remains unmoved and gives them tickets anyway. The camera shows him muttering sarcastic remarks to himself about the types of people he has to deal with when he’s working. No word on what this traffic officer’s boss will think when seeing this footage.

And then there’s another scene that’s unintentionally funny. A middle-aged American man, who appears to be some kind of New Age counselor with symbols painted on face, is leading a small group meeting. In the middle of his spacey babbling about how he’s such a giving person, he starts to cry. “I’ve been giving for 50 years, and it’s like medicine for me,” he sobs. It looks like a comical parody of a hipster “soul cleansing” session, but it’s obvious that everyone there was being serious.

Something that’s a little odd about “Life in a Day 2020” is that there’s a lot of footage of women being filmed by their boyfriends or husbands, not the other way around. It definitely gives the movie a very “male gaze.” Seriously, out of all the thousands of hours of footage that was sent for this documentary, the filmmakers couldn’t find enough footage of women taking videos of their significant others to balance things out? Women can hold a phone that has a videocamera just as easily as men can.

One of the people who gets more than one scene in the movie is an American woman being filmed by her husband or love partner (who’s not seen on camera), as she goes into a medical facility to get the results of her pregnancy test while he waits in the car. When she comes out of the building and goes back to the car, she tells him that she’s not pregnant and then she bursts into tears. He comforts her and tells her that they’ll keep trying to get pregnant, and then they talk about possibly going through in vitro fertilization treatments. Later in the movie, she has cheered up a little bit and talks about how becoming a mother is the most important thing she wants to do in her life.

And there’s another emotionally moving scene of loved ones dealing with some medical issues. A wheelchair-bound father and his daughter, who’s about 7 or 8 years old, talk about the future. (They sound like they have Australian or New Zealand accents.) He says he wants to get well and the daughter shows optimism that he will. There are also some scenes of people in hospitals or in their homes as invalids. The movie doesn’t slow down long enough to say what kinds of illnesses these people have.

On a lighter note, there are a few eccentrics who are in the documentary. An elderly man is shown introducing the spiders in his home, who all have names that he’s given them. A transgender woman somewhere in Asia struts her stuff and holds her head high, even when she is taunted by a few men on the street. And then she bursts into song.

There are also several predictable scenes of people in all types of environments interacting with their pets (dogs, cats, birds, goats, etc.) and sometimes treating the pets like humans. And there’s a montage of wildlife too, on land and in open waters. There’s also footage of farm animals that are being handled as future meat for people. (Look away if the sight of helpless baby chickens on a conveyor belt is too much for you.)

The documentary has a few references to environmental issues. There are many scenes showing places that range from literally dumpy (such as a garbage landfill) to beautifully scenic and pristine, and everything in between. In Nigeria, a man is shown in the middle of a flood and worries about what will happen to his home. And since July is winter in some parts of the world, the seasonal landscapes look different, depending on the country. It’s too bad the documentary doesn’t tell viewers the specific city or country of where each scene takes place.

Ultimately, “Life in a Day 2020” is a documentary that looks a lot like a compilation of social media videos from around the world. Back in 2011, it might have looked more fascinating. But now, smartphones have become so common that anyone with a smartphone can become a filmmaker and put the footage on the Internet. If people really want to see everyday lives around the world, they can do that anytime on the Internet without waiting 10 years for another documentary about it.

YouTube Originals will premiere “Life in a Day” on February 6, 2021.

2021 Sundance Film Festival: winners announced

February 2, 2021

by Carla Hay

The winners of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival were announced in its annual award ceremony, held this year as a virtual event (hosted by Patton Oswalt) on February 2 in Park City, Utah. The annual festival, which is presented by the Sundance Institute, runs from January 28 to February 3 this year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire festival was virtual.

“CODA” won top prizes in the U.S. Dramatic categories, as not only the Grand Jury winner, but also the Audience Award winner. The comedy/drama, which is about a Massachusetts teenager who has deaf parents and a deaf brother, also broke the record for the highest monetary acquisition for a movie that premiered at Sundance. The movie’s cast includes Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur.

Apple TV+ purchased “CODA” for a reported $25 million, breaking the previous record held by the Andy Samberg comedy “Palm Springs,” which Hulu purchased for $17.5 million (and 69 cents) acquisition in 2020. “CODA” also won the Sundance prizes for and Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic (for director Siân Heder) and U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast.

In the World Dramatic Feature categories, director Blerta Basholli’s drama “Hive” was the top winner with three prizes, for the Grand Jury Award, Audience Award and Best Director. The movie is about a women in Kosovo who starts an ajvar business after her husband goes missing.

The top U.S. documentary winner was “Summer of Soul (… Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. “Summer of Soul” received the Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award. The documentary is the directorial debut of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. The animated film “Flee,” about a Afghanistan immigrant living in Denmark, was the winner of the World Documentary Grand Jury Award. “Writing With Fire,” about the only Indian newspaper operated by Dalit women, received the World Documentary Audience Award.

Here is the complete list of winners:

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Emilia Jones in “CODA” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Grand Jury Prize: “CODA”

Audience Award: “CODA”

Directing: Siân Heder, “CODA”

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch, “On the Count of Three”

Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast: “CODA”

Special Jury Best Actor Award: Clifton Collins Jr., “Jockey”

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Sly Stone in “Summer of Soul (… Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” (Photo courtesy of Mass Distraction Media)

Grand Jury Prize: “Summer of Soul (… Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”

Audience Award: “Summer of Soul (… Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”

Directing: Natalia Almada, “Users”

Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker: Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt, “Cusp”

Special Jury Award for Editing: Kristina Motwani and Rebecca Adorno, “Homeroom”

Special Jury Award for Nonfiction Experimentation: Theo Anthony, “All Light, Everywhere”

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Yllka Gashi, Molikë Maxhuni, Kaona Sylejmani and Blerta Ismajli in “Hive” (Photo by Alexander Bloom)

Grand Jury Prize: “Hive”

Audience Award: “Hive”

Directing Award: Blerta Basholli, “Hive”

Special Jury Award for Acting: Jesmark Scicluna, “Luzzo”

Special Jury Award for Creative Vision: Baz Poonpiriya, “One for the Road”

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Flee” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Grand Jury Prize: “Flee”

Audience Award: “Writing With Fire”

Directing Award: Hogir Hirori, “Sabaya”

Special Jury Award for Editing: Kristina Motwani and Rebecca Adorn, “Homeroom”

Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking: Camilla Nielsson, “President”

Special Jury Award for Impact for Change: Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, “Writing With Fire”

SHORT FILMS

Pamilerin Ayodeji in “Lizard” (Photo by British Broadcasting Corporation and Potboiler Productions Ltd.)

Grand Jury Prize: “Lizard”

U.S. Fiction Jury Award: “The Touch of the Master’s Hand”

International Fiction Jury Award: “Bambirak”

Nonfiction Jury Award: “Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma”

Animation Jury Award: “Souvenir Souvenir”

Special Jury Award for Acting: “Wiggle Room”

Special Jury Award for Screenwriting: “The Criminals”

OTHER AWARDS

Lucien Guignard, Idella Johnson and Hannah Pepper in “Ma Belle, My Beauty” (Photo by Lauren Guiteras)

NEXT Audience Award: “Ma Belle, My Beauty”

NEXT Innovator Award: “Cryptozoo”

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize: “Sons of Monarchs”

Sundance Institute NHK Award: Meryman Joobeur, “Motherhood”

Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Fiction: Natalie Qasabian, “Run”

Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Nonfiction: Nicole Salazar, “Philly D.A.”

Sundance Institute/Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Nonfiction: Juli Vizza

Sundance Institute/Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Fiction: Terilyn Shropshire

Review: ‘CODA,’ starring Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin, Daniel Durant, Eugenio Derbez, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Amy Forsyth

January 28, 2021

by Carla Hay

Emilia Jones in “CODA” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

“CODA”

Directed by Siân Heder

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Massachusetts cities of Gloucester and Boston, the comedy/drama “CODA” features a predominantly white cast (with some Latinos, Asians and African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A teenage girl, who has the ability to hear, while her immediate family members (mother, father and brother) are deaf, has to decide if she will stay in the family fishing business or go to Berklee College of Music to pursue a singing career.

Culture Audience: “CODA” will appeal primarily to people who like heartwarming movies about families and pursuing dreams while realistically addressing the challenges and prejudices faced by people in the disabled community.

Amy Forsyth, Daniel Durant, Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur in “CODA” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

“CODA” is an acronym for “child of deaf adult(s)”, but the word could have a double meaning if it applies to the musical term “coda,” which means a passage that brings a composition to an end. It’s a fitting analogy, because music and the rite of passage of deciding what to do with one’s life after high school are major themes in this well-acted and memorable film about a teenager and her deaf family. Capably written and directed by Siân Heder, “CODA” is an American remake of the 2014 French film “La Famille Bélier,” which translates to “The Bélier Family” in English. “CODA” had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and should prove to be a notable milestone in American cinema in representation of deaf people, as well as a breakout role for star Emilia Jones.

In “CODA,” Jones plays the central character, Ruby Rossi, a teenager in Gloucester, Massachusetts, who’s in her last year of high school and has spent almost her entire life being a translator for her deaf family members: father Frank (played by Troy Kotsur), mother Jackie (played by Marlee Matlin) and older bother Leo (played by Daniel Durant), who appears to be in his early 20s. Deafness is a genetic trait in the family, except for Ruby, who was born with hearing abilities.

Fishing is the Rossi family business, and Ruby usually accompanies Frank and Leo on the family boat Angela + Rose for their fishing expeditions. Frank is a laid-back hippie type, while Leo is a generally good guy but he can be quick-tempered. Jackie is the type of woman who doesn’t want to be frumpy matron. She still wants to be vibrant and sexy and she likes to remind her family that once on the Yankee Miss Pageant. Because they all depend on Ruby for interactions with hearing people, they all have a co-dependent relationship with each that will reach a crossroads during this story.

The movie opens with Ruby, Frank and Leo on one of their fishing excursions. And it’s here that viewers see from the beginning that Ruby loves singing and music. She’s belting out Etta James’ “Something’s Got a Hold Me” as it plays on a tiny transistor radio. Ruby isn’t shy about singing in front of her family, but she’s definitely self-conscious about people who can hear her sing and possibly judge her singing abilities.

Because Ruby is a translator for her family to communicate with the hearing world, she knows the prejudice that her deaf loved ones can get from bigoted people who think deaf people are automatically less intelligent than hearing people. Therefore, Ruby is very protective and assertive in negotiating prices when the family has to sell fish. Their biggest customer is a local business called Salgado’s Seafood Company, whose owner Tony Salgado (played by John Fiore) and his employees often try to lowball the Rossi family when negotiating purchase prices for the Rossi’s fish. Ruby isn’t afraid to speak up and demand high prices so people won’t take advantage of the family.

At Gloucester High School, Ruby isn’t as self-confident. She’s quiet and keeps mostly to herself. And Ruby is perceived as a misfit, who gets taunted by some of the school’s “mean girls” for not conforming to what their idea of “cool” is. For example, when Ruby is in the school hallway near her locker, a group of these snobs walk by her and one of them snipes in a disgusted tone of voice, “Do you smell fish?” Later, when Ruby’s parents pick her up from school, she’s mortified that her father is loudly playing rap music, because the other kids react by smirking and laughing at Ruby and her parents.

Ruby’s only real friend at school is a brash flirt named Gertie (played by Amy Forsyth), who cares more about dating guys (usually much older men) than she cares about being part of a stuck-up girls’ clique. While waiting in line to sign up for after-school activities, Gertie is surprised that Ruby has chosen the school choir. “You’re already socially challenged enough around here,” Gertie says sarcastically. Ruby is undeterred and tells Gertie nonchalantly, “I sing all the time.”

During auditions for the school choir, the choir leader Bernardo Villalobos (played by Eugenio Derbez), who likes his students to call him Mr. V, lets it be know that he’s a fussy yet sassy taskmaster who won’t tolerate anything less than excellence. He plays the piano to accompany the singers during choir rehearsals.

To determine their singing range, he quips, “Let’s see if you’re a soprano, an alto or watched too many episodes of ‘Glee.'” The students audition by each singing “Happy Birthday.” But when it’s Ruby’s turn, she panics and runs out of the room.

On another day, a sheepish Ruby returns to the classroom when Mr. V is alone. She wants another chance to audition, but he’s skeptical that she has what it takes to sing in front of an audience. She opens up to him about how she was scared during the first audition because she’s self-conscious about her voice. She tells him that when she was younger, she was teased a lot for her speaking voice, because she sounded like a deaf person.

Mr. V seems to show a glimmer of empathy when he realizes that Ruby is the student with the deaf family who’s apparently talked about a lot in school. He sees that Ruby has a passion for singing, but she doesn’t quite know how to express it yet. Mr. V tells Ruby, “There are plenty of pretty voices with nothing to say. Do you have something to say?”

When Ruby says “yes,” Mr. V then tells her “I’ll see you in class.” The odd thing about this scene is that Ruby never actually sings anything before Mr. V tells her she can be in the class. She could’ve been a horrible singer, and he just gave her easy acceptance into the choir that he takes very seriously. But there would be no “CODA” movie if Ruby had no singing talent.

And there’s another reason why Ruby wants to be in this singing group: She has a crush on a fellow classmate named Miles Patterson (played by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), who’s also in the choir. Miles has the type of pleasant pretty-boy persona that gives the impression that he’s a sensitive and romantic type. Ruby is too shy to do anything about her crush on Miles, so she has to settle for furtive glances at Miles when she sees him at school.

The next time that Ruby sings in front of the choir, the students are rehearsing Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” Mr. V also has them do breathing exercises where the students have to inhale and exhale as if they’re various-sized dogs. These unorthodox exercises seem to boost Ruby’s confidence, so when it comes time for her to do a solo, she belts out “Let’s Get It On” as if she’s a soulful R&B singer.

Mr. V and the other students are impressed with Ruby’s singing talent. And because Miles sees this other side to Ruby, a spark of admiration for her starts to become evident. And you know what that means for a movie like this one.

And what do you know, Mr. V just happens to select Ruby and Miles to perform what’s supposed to be a show-stopping duet at the choir’s big recital, which will be shown later in the story. He tells them that they have to sing Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “You’re All I Need to Get By,” so that means that Ruby and Miles have to spend time together rehearsing their duet. How convenient.

During one of those rehearsals at Ruby’s home, she’s mortified when she and Miles hear the sounds of Ruby’s parents having sex in a nearby room. It’s one of the funnier scenes in the movie. Her parents stop what they’re doing and try to be cool about it by forcing a “let’s be mature about this and talk about what happened” moment with Ruby and Miles in their living room. It just makes Ruby even more embarrassed.

Frank and Jackie have a happy marriage, but it’s come under strain due to financial problems in the family business. In one scene, Ruby eavesdrops on an argument that Frank and Jackie have because one of Jackie’s credit cards was declined. Jackie suggests that Frank sell their boat to pay off their debts, but he’s vehemently against the idea because fishing has been in his family for generations, and he says he doesn’t know how to do anything else with his life.

Meanwhile, there’s a subplot about Gertie being attracted to Leo. When Gertie tells Ruby about it, Ruby tells Gertie that Leo is off-limits because Ruby hates the idea of her best friend dating her brother. When Gertie asks Ruby how to tell someone in sign language that she wants to hook up for sex, Ruby instead shows her how to to sign the words, “I have herpes.” Gertie doesn’t know that though, so Leo gets quite a surprise when Gertie tells him that in sign language.

“CODA” has several comedic moments, but there’s also some emotional drama too. The Rossi family business goes through a big change where Ruby is needed more than ever to help out with the business. And then, Mr. V offers to privately tutor Ruby. He also wants to recommend her for the prestigious Berklee College of Music, his alma mater. It should come as no surprise that these demands on her time eventually cause conflicts.

The more Ruby starts to feel her confidence and identity blossoming because of her singing talent, the more she’s pulled back into family obligations. Jackie gives Ruby more of a guilt trip about it than Frank does, while Leo thinks that Ruby should pursue her singing dreams. And, of course, Ruby must eventually make a choice.

“CODA” benefits from impressive performances from the main cast members, with Jones excelling in her very authentic portrayal of a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. Kotsur, Matlin and Durant give fine portrayals of family members who often feel like “outsiders” in the hearing world. But in their own family, this trio’s deafness gives them a bond that unintentionally makes Ruby feel like an outsider.

Derbez and his often-flamboyant Mr. V character isn’t a one-note clown, since the character shows some emotional depth when he mentions how being a Mexican immigrant shaped his outlook on life. He also has a snappy comeback during an argument with Ruby when she suggests that he’s a failure because he’s a teacher instead of a professional musician. Forsyth is also quite good in her portrayal of Gertie, but Gertie’s confident character isn’t given much screen time, other than to just show up as a counterpoint to Ruby’s more hesitant personality.

“CODA” tends to rely a bit too much on “TV-movie-of-the-week” type of montages to further the story. And there are a few too-cutesy moments when Mr. V. gives Ruby some kind of pep talk, and Ruby just suddenly transforms from wishy-washy and insecure to someone who sings like a seasoned pro. This effect that Mr. V has on Ruby is played almost like he’s a hypnotist who can snap his fingers and make Ruby believe what he tells her, and then she can sing right on cue in the way he wants her to sing. It’s a little too much of a “movie moment” and should have been filmed in a more natural way.

The “CODA” song soundtrack will delight fans of pop, rock and R&B music from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Some of the other songs that are prominently in the movie that are sung by cast members include Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” the Kiki Dee Band’s “I’ve Got the Music in Me” and David Bowie’s “Starman.” There’s also a rousing sequence set to the Clash’s version of “I Fought the Law.”

This is not a movie that wants to be trendy, but instead it leans heavily toward trying to look and sound classic. In other words, “CODA” won’t look embarrassingly dated a few years after the movie is released. With breezy charm and some unabashed sentimentality, “CODA” also gives a valuable perspective of a family affected by deafness. However, this movies speaks to universal truths that self-doubt, not a physical disability, is often the biggest obstacle that people have to overcome in pursuing a dream.

UPDATE: Apple TV+ will premiere “CODA” on a date to be announced.

2021 Sundance Film Festival: film slate announced

December 15, 2020

The following is a press release from the Sundance Institute:

The nonprofit Sundance Institute announced today the showcase of new independent work selected across the Feature Film, Short Film, Indie Series and New Frontier categories for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. The Festival will take place digitally via a feature-rich, Sundance-built online platform and in person on Satellite Screens across the country (public health permitting) from January 28-February 3, 2021. Additionally, Festival attendees can gather in virtual waiting rooms, participate in live Q&As, and congregate in new, inspired online environments to interact in a range of ways both new and familiar. The Institute shared details of how the Festival will meet audiences on the online platform and Satellite Screens earlier this month

The Sundance Film Festival is the flagship public program of Sundance Institute. Throughout the year the majority of the Institute’s resources support independent artists around the world as they make and develop new work through access to Labs, direct grants, fellowships, residencies and other strategic and tactical interventions.

“Togetherness has been an animating principle here at the Sundance Institute as we’ve worked to reimagine the Festival for 2021, because there is no Sundance without our community,” said Sundance Institute Founder and President Robert Redford. “Under Tabitha’s leadership, we’ve forged a new collective vision: one that honors the spirit and tradition of these invigorating yearly gatherings in Utah, while making room for imaginative new possibilities in a new online format.”

“Of course, the pandemic year demanded adaptation,” said Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute’s Executive Director. “On a deeper level, we also recognize the urgency of supporting independent storytellers at a time of great upheaval in the film and media fields. We’re proud this edition of the Festival is fiercely independent, and will reach people everywhere, celebrating both the theatrical experience at our Satellite Screens and streaming on our platform.”
 
“This Festival is a singular response to a singular year – both in design and curation – and we are excited about the new dimensions of possibility it will reveal. But at its core is something that speaks to our most enduring values,” said Tabitha Jackson, Director of the Sundance Film Festival. “For thousands of years humans have gathered to tell stories and make meaning. In this pandemic year we gather to celebrate a constellation of artists with unique perspectives that express this current moment and who together are saying, ‘We exist. This is who we are. And this is what we see.'”
 
“The work in this year’s program is groundbreaking, imaginative, and formally daring,” said Kim Yutani, the Festival’s Director of Programming. “With over half the program made by first-time directors, a sense of discovery remains true to us at Sundance. This year’s Festival presents irrefutable evidence that despite the challenges, the independent voice is as strong as ever.”
 
Day One films debuting on the platform to open the Festival will be Censor, CODAFleeOne for the Road, In The Same Breath, and Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised).
 
Son of Monarchs, screening in the NEXT section, has been named the winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize.

Announced today: the full 2021 slate of works, including 72 feature-length films, representing 29 countries and 38 first-time feature filmmakers. 14 films and projects announced today were supported by Sundance Institute in development, through direct granting or residency Labs. 66 of the Festival’s feature films, or 92% of the lineup announced today, will be world premieres. These films were selected from 14,092 submissions including 3,500 feature-length films. Of the feature film submissions, 1,377 were from the U.S. and 2,132 were international. Director demographics are available in an editor’s note below.

The projects confirmed for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival are:

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Presenting the world premieres of 10 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 Minari, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, The Farewell, Honey Boy, Clemency, Eighth Grade, and Sorry to Bother You.

“CODA” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

CODA / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Siân Heder, Producers: Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi, Patrick Wachsberger) — As a CODA – Child of Deaf Adults – Ruby is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her parents. Cast: Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Daniel Durant, and Marlee Matlin. World Premiere.DAY ONE

I Was a Simple Man
 / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Christopher Makoto Yogi, Producers: Sarah S. Kim, Christopher Makoto Yogi, Matthew Petock, Yamato Cibulka) — As a family in Hawai’i faces the imminent death of their eldest, the ghosts of the past haunt the countryside. Cast: Steve Iwamoto, Constance Wu, Kanoa Goo, Chanel Akiko Hirai, Tim Chiou, Boonyanudh Jiyarom. World Premiere

Jockey
 / U.S.A. (Director: Clint Bentley, Screenwriters: Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar, Producers: Clint Bentley, Greg Kwedar, Nancy Schafer) — An aging jockey is determined to win one last championship, but his dream is complicated when a young rookie shows up claiming to be his son. Cast: Clifton Collins Jr., Molly Parker, Moises Arias. World Premiere

John and the Hole
 / U.S.A. (Director: Pascual Sisto, Screenwriter: Nicolás Giacobone, Producers: Elika Portnoy, Alex Orlovsky, Mike Bowes) — A nontraditional coming-of-age story, set in the unsettling reality of John, a kid who holds his family captive in a hole in the ground. Cast: Charlie Shotwell, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Ehle, Taissa Farmiga. World Premiere

Mayday / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Karen Cinorre, Producers: Jonah Disend, Lucas Joaquin, Karen Cinorre, Sam Levy) — Ana is transported to a dreamlike and dangerous land where she joins a team of female soldiers engaged in a never-ending war along a rugged coast. Though she finds strength in this exhilarating world, she comes to realize that she’s not the killer they want her to be. Cast: Grace Van Patten, Mia Goth, Havana Rose Liu, Soko, Théodore Pellerin, Juliette Lewis. World Premiere

On the Count of Three / U.S.A. (Director: Jerrod Carmichael, Screenwriters: Ari Katcher, Ryan Welch, Producers: David Carrico, Adam Paulsen, Tom Werner, Jake Densen, Ari Katcher, Jimmy Price) — Two guns. Two best friends. And a pact to end their lives when the day is done. Cast: Jerrod Carmichael, Christopher Abbott, Tiffany Haddish, J.B. Smoove, Lavell Crawford, Henry Winkler. World Premiere

Passing
 / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Rebecca Hall, Producers: Forest Whitaker, Nina Yang Bongiovi, Margot Hand, Rebecca Hall) — Two African-American women who can “pass” as white choose to live on opposite sides of the color line in 1929 New York in an exploration of racial and gender identity, performance, obsession and repression. Based on the novella by Nella Larsen. Cast: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Alexander Skarsgård, Bill Camp. World Premiere

Superior
 / U.S.A. (Director: Erin Vassilopoulos, Screenwriters: Erin Vassilopoulos, Alessandra Mesa, Producers: Benjamin Cohen, Grant Curatola, Patrick Donovan) — On the run, Marian returns to her hometown in upstate New York to hide out with her estranged identical twin sister, Vivian. Struggling to put the past behind her, Marian lies about the reason for her return, leaving her sister in the dark until their two worlds begin to collide. Cast: Alessandra Mesa, Ani Mesa, Pico Alexander, Jake Hoffman, Stanley Simons. World Premiere

Together Together
 / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Nikole Beckwith, Producers: Anthony Brandonisio, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Tim Headington) — When young loner Anna is hired as the surrogate for Matt, a single man in his 40s, the two strangers come to realize this unexpected relationship will quickly challenge their perceptions of connection, boundaries and the particulars of love. Cast: Ed Helms, Patti Harrison, Tig Notaro, Julio Torres, Anna Konkle. World Premiere

Wild Indian
 / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr., Producers: Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr., Thomas Mahoney, Eric Tavitian) — Two men are inextricably bound together after covering up the savage murder of a schoolmate. After years of separation following wildly divergent paths, they must finally confront how their traumatic secret has irrevocably shaped their lives. Cast: Michael Greyeyes, Chaske Spencer, Jesse Eisenberg, Kate Bosworth, Phoenix Wilson, Julian Gopal. World Premiere

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Ten 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 Boys State, Crip Camp: A Disability RevolutionApollo 11, Knock Down The House, One Child Nation, American FactoryThree Identical Strangers and On Her Shoulders.

“Ailey” (Photo by Jack Mitchell)

Ailey / U.S.A. (Director: Jamila Wignot, Producer: Lauren DeFilippo) — Alvin Ailey was a visionary artist who found salvation through dance. Told in his own words and through the creation of a dance inspired by his life, this immersive portrait follows a man who, when confronted by a world that refused to embrace him, determined to build one that would. World Premiere

All Light, Everywhere
/ U.S.A. (Director: Theo Anthony, Producers: Riel Roch-Decter, Sebastian Pardo, Jonna McKone) — An exploration of the shared histories of cameras, weapons, policing and justice. As surveillance technologies become a fixture in everyday life, the film interrogates the complexity of an objective point of view, probing the biases inherent in both human perception and the lens. World Premiere

At the Ready / U.S.A. (Director: Maisie Crow, Producers: Hillary Pierce, Maisie Crow, Abbie Perrault) — Home to one of the region’s largest law enforcement education program, students at Horizon High School in El Paso train to become police officers and Border Patrol agents as they discover the realities of their dream jobs may be at odds with the truths and people they hold most dear. World Premiere

Cusp
 / U.S.A. (Directors: Parker Hill, Isabel Bethencourt, Producers: Zachary Luke Kislevitz, Parker Hill, Isabel Bethencourt) — In a Texas military town, three teenage girls confront the dark corners of adolescence at the end of a fever dream summer. World Premiere

Homeroom
 / U.S.A. (Director: Peter Nicks, Producers: Peter Nicks, Sean Havey) — Following the class of 2020 at Oakland High School in a year marked by seismic change, exploring the emotional world of teenagers coming of age against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world. World Premiere

Rebel Hearts
 / U.S.A. (Director: Pedro Kos, Producers: Kira Carstensen, Shawnee Isaac-Smith, Judy Korin) — A group of pioneering nuns bravely stand up to the Catholic Church patriarchy, fighting for their livelihoods, convictions and equality against an all-powerful Cardinal. From marching in Selma in 1965 to the Women’s March in 2018, these women have reshaped our society with their bold acts of defiance. World Premiere

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It
 / U.S.A. (Director: Mariem Pérez Riera, Producers: Brent Miller, Mariem Pérez Riera, Ilia J. Vélez-Dávila) — Rita Moreno defied both her humble upbringing and relentless racism to become one of a select group who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award. Over a seventy year career, she has paved the way for Hispanic-American performers by refusing to be pigeonholed into one-dimensional stereotypes. World Premiere

Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) / U.S.A. (Director: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Producers: David Dinerstein, Robert Fyvolent, Joseph Patel) — During the same summer as Woodstock, over 300,000 people attended the Harlem Cultural Festival, celebrating African American music and culture, and promoting Black pride and unity. The footage from the festival sat in a basement, unseen for over 50 years, keeping this incredible event in America’s history lost – until now. World Premiere. DAY ONE

Try Harder!
 / U.S.A. (Director: Debbie Lum, Producers: Debbie Lum, Lou Nakasako, Nico Opper) — In a universe where cool kids are nerds, the orchestra is world class and being Asian American is the norm, seniors at Lowell High School compete for the top prize: admission to the college of their dreams. World Premiere

Users
 / U.S.A., Mexico (Director: Natalia Almada, Producers: Elizabeth Lodge Stepp, Josh Penn) — A mother wonders, will my children love their perfect machines more than they love me, their imperfect mother? She switches on a smart-crib lulling her crying baby to sleep. This perfect mother is everywhere. She watches over us, takes care of us. We listen to her. We trust her. World Premiere

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION

“The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Ten 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, YardieThe Nile Hilton Incident and Second Mother.

The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet / Argentina (Director: Ana Katz, Screenwriters: Ana Katz, Gonzalo Delgado, Producers: Laura Huberman, Ana Katz) — Sebastian, a man in his thirties, works a series of temporary jobs and he embraces love at every opportunity. He transforms, through a series of short encounters, as the world flirts with possible apocalypse. Cast: Daniel Katz, Julieta Zylberberg, Valeria Lois, Mirella Pascual, Carlos Portaluppi. World Premiere

El Planeta
 / U.S.A., Spain (Director and Screenwriter: Amalia Ulman, Producers: Amalia Ulman, Kathleen Heffernan, Kweku Mandela) — Amidst the devastation of post-crisis Spain, mother and daughter bluff and grift to keep up the lifestyle they think they deserve, bonding over common tragedy and an impending eviction. Cast: Amalia Ulman, Ale Ulman, Nacho Vigalondo, Zhou Chen, Saoirse Bertram. World Premiere

Fire in the Mountains
 / India (Director and Screenwriter: Ajitpal Singh, Producers: Ajay Rai, Alan McAlex) — A mother toils to save money to build a road in a Himalayan village to take her wheelchair-bound son for physiotherapy, but her husband, who believes that an expensive religious ritual is the remedy, steals her savings. Cast: Vinamrata Rai, Chandan Bisht, Mayank Singh Jaira, Harshita Tewari, Sonal Jha. World Premiere

Hive
 / Kosovo, Switzerland, Macedonia, Albania (Director and Screenwriter: Blerta Basholli, Producers: Yll Uka, Valon Bajgora, Agon Uka) — Fahrije’s husband has been missing since the war in Kosovo. She sets up her own small business to provide for her kids, but as she fights against a patriarchal society that does not support her, she faces a crucial decision: to wait for his return, or to continue to persevere. Cast: Yllka Gashi, Çun Lajçi, Aurita Agushi, Kumrije Hoxha, Adriana Matoshi, Kaona Sylejmani. World Premiere

Human Factors
 / Germany, Italy, Denmark (Director and Screenwriter: Ronny Trocker, Producers: Susanne Mann, Paul Zischler, Martin Rehbock) — A mysterious housebreaking exposes the agony of an exemplary middle class family. Cast: Sabine Timoteo, Mark Waschke, Jule Hermann, Wanja Valentin Kube, Hannes Perkmann, Daniel Séjourné. World Premiere 

Luzzu / Malta (Director and Screenwriter: Alex Camilleri, Producers: Rebecca Anastasi, Ramin Bahrani, Alex Camilleri, Oliver Mallia) — Jesmark, a struggling fisherman on the island of Malta, is forced to turn his back on generations of tradition and risk everything by entering the world of black market fishing to provide for his girlfriend and newborn baby. Cast: Jesmark Scicluna, Michela Farrugia, David Scicluna. World Premiere

One for the Road/ China, Hong Kong, Thailand (Director: Baz Poonpiriya, Screenwriters: Baz Poonpiriya, Nottapon Boonprakob, Puangsoi Aksornsawang, Producer: Wong Kar Wai) — Boss is a consummate ladies’ man, a free spirit and a bar owner in NYC. One day, he gets a surprise call from Aood, an estranged friend who has returned home to Thailand. Dying of cancer, Aood enlists Boss’ help to complete a bucket list – but both are hiding something. Cast: Tor Thanapob, Ice Natara, Violette Wautier, Aokbab Chutimon, Ploi Horwang, Noon Siraphun. World Premiere. DAY ONE

The Pink Cloud / Brazil (Director and Screenwriter: Iuli Gerbase, Producer: Patricia Barbieri) — A mysterious and deadly pink cloud appears across the globe, forcing everyone to stay home. Strangers at the outset, Giovana and Yago try to invent themselves as a couple as years of shared lockdown pass. While Yago is living in his own utopia, Giovana feels trapped deep inside. Cast: Renata de Lélis, Eduardo Mendonça. World Premiere

Pleasure
 / Sweden, Netherlands, France (Director and Screenwriter: Ninja Thyberg, Producers: Eliza Jones, Markus Waltå, Erik Hemmendorff) — A 20-year-old girl moves from her small town in Sweden to LA for a shot at a career in the adult film industry. Cast: Sofia Kappel, Revika Anne Reustle, Evelyn Claire, Chris Cock, Dana DeArmond, Kendra Spade. World Premiere 

Prime Time / Poland (Director: Jakub Piątek, Screenwriters: Jakub Piątek, Łukasz Czapski, Producer: Jakub Razowski) — On the last day of 1999, 20-year-old Sebastian locks himself in a TV studio. He has two hostages, a gun, and an important message for the world. The story of the attack explores a rebel’s extreme measures and last resort. Cast: Bartosz Bielenia, Magdalena Popławska, Andrzej Kłak, Małgorzata Hajewska-Krzysztofik, Dobromir Dymecki, Monika Frajczyk. World Premiere

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

“Faya Dahi (Photo by Jessica Beshir)

Ten documentaries by some of the boldest filmmakers working around the world today. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include Honeyland, Sea of ShadowsShirkers, This is HomeLast Men in Aleppo and Hooligan Sparrow.

Faya Dayi / Ethiopia, U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter and Producer: Jessica Beshir) — A spiritual journey into the highlands of Harar, immersed in the rituals of khat, a leaf Sufi Muslims chewed for centuries for religious meditations – and Ethiopia’s most lucrative cash crop today. A tapestry of intimate stories offers a window into the dreams of youth under a repressive regime. World Premiere

Flee / Denmark, France, Sweden, Norway (Director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Producers: Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen) — Amin arrived as an unaccompanied minor in Denmark from Afghanistan. Today, he is a successful academic and is getting married to his long-time boyfriend. A secret he has been hiding for 20 years threatens to ruin the life he has built. World Premiere. DAY ONE

Inconvenient Indian / Canada (Director and Screenwriter: Michelle Latimer, Producers: Stuart Henderson, Justine Pimlott, Jesse Wente) — An examination of Thomas King’s brilliant dismantling of North America’s colonial narrative, which reframes history with the powerful voices of those continuing the tradition of Indigenous resistance. International Premiere

Misha and the Wolves
 / United Kingdom, Belgium (Director and Screenwriter: Sam Hobkinson, Producers: Poppy Dixon, Al Morrow, Matthew Wells, Gregory Zalcman, Jürgen Buedts) — A woman’s Holocaust memoir takes the world by storm, but a fallout with her publisher-turned-detective reveals her story as an audacious deception created to hide a darker truth. World Premiere

The Most Beautiful Boy in the World
 / Sweden (Directors: Kristina Lindström, Kristian Petri, Producer: Stina Gardell) — Swedish actor/musician Björn Andresen’s life was forever changed at the age of 15, when he played Tadzio, the object of Dirk Bogarde’s obsession in Death in Venice – a role which led Italian maestro Luchino Visconti to dub him “the world’s most beautiful boy.” World Premiere

Playing With Sharks / Australia (Director and Screenwriter: Sally Aitken, Producer: Bettina Dalton) — Valerie Taylor is a shark fanatic and an Australian icon – a marine maverick who forged her way as a fearless diver, cinematographer and conservationist. She filmed the real sharks for Jaws and famously wore a chainmail suit, using herself as shark bait, changing our scientific understanding of sharks forever. World Premiere

President
 / Denmark, U.S.A., Norway (Director: Camilla Nielsson, Producers: Signe Byrge Sørensen, Joslyn Barnes) — Zimbabwe is at a crossroads. The leader of the opposition MDC party, Nelson Chamisa, challenges the old guard ZANU-PF led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, known as “The Crocodile.” The election tests both the ruling party and the opposition – how do they interpret principles of democracy in discourse and in practice? World Premiere

Sabaya 
/ Sweden (Director and Screenwriter: Hogir Hirori, Producers: Antonio Russo Merenda, Hogir Hirori) — With just a mobile phone and a gun, Mahmud, Ziyad and their group risk their lives trying to save Yazidi women and girls being held by ISIS as Sabaya (abducted sex slaves) in the most dangerous camp in the Middle East, Al-Hol in Syria. World Premiere

Taming the Garden 
/ Switzerland, Germany, Georgia (Director Salomé Jashi, Producers: Vadim Jendreyko, Erik Winker, Martin Roelly, Salomé Jashi) — A poetic ode to the rivalry between men and nature. World Premiere

Writing With Fire / India (Directors and Producers: Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh) — In a cluttered news landscape dominated by men, emerges India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women. Armed with smartphones, Chief Reporter Meera and her journalists break traditions on the frontlines of India’s biggest issues and within the confines of their own homes, redefining what it means to be powerful. World Premiere

NEXT

Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling populate this program. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include The InfiltratorsSearchingSkate KitchenA Ghost Story and Tangerine. NEXT presented by Adobe.

“The Blazing World” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)


The Blazing World / U.S.A. (Director: Carlson Young, Screenwriters: Carlson Young, Pierce Brown, Producers: Brinton Bryan, Elizabeth Avellán) — Decades after the accidental drowning of her twin sister, a self-destructive young woman returns to her family home, finding herself drawn to an alternate dimension where her sister may still be alive. Cast: Udo Kier, Carlson Young, Dermot Mulroney, Vinessa Shaw, John Karna, Soko. World Premiere

Cryptozoo 
/ U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Dash Shaw, Producers: Kyle Martin, Jane Samborski, Bill Way, Tyler Davidson) — As cryptozookeepers struggle to capture a Baku (a legendary dream-eating hybrid creature) they begin to wonder if they should display these rare beasts in the confines of a cryptozoo, or if these mythical creatures should remain hidden and unknown. Cast: Lake Bell, Michael Cera, Angeliki Papoulia, Zoe Kazan, Peter Stormare, Grace Zabriskie. World Premiere

First Date 
/ U.S.A. (Directors and Screenwriters: Manuel Crosby, Darren Knapp, Producers: Brandon Kraus, Manuel Crosby, Darren Knapp, Lucky McKee, Charles Horak) — Conned into buying a shady ’65 Chrysler, Mike’s first date with the girl-next-door, Kelsey, implodes as he finds himself targeted by criminals, cops, and a crazy cat lady. A night fueled by desire, bullets and burning rubber makes any other first date seem like a walk in the park. Cast: Tyson Brown, Shelby Duclos, Jesse Janzen, Nicole Berry, Ryan Quinn Adams, Brandon Kraus. World Premiere

Ma Belle, My Beauty / U.S.A., France (Director and Screenwriter: Marion Hill, Producers: Ben Matheny, Kelsey Scult, Marion Hill) — A surprise reunion in southern France reignites passions and jealousies between two women who were formerly polyamorous lovers. Cast: Idella Johnson, Hannah Pepper, Lucien Guignard, Sivan Noam Shimon. World Premiere

R#J 
/ U.S.A. (Director: Carey Williams, Screenwriters: Carey Williams, Rickie Castaneda, Alex Sobolev, Producers: Timur Bekmambetov, Igor Tsay, John J. Kelly, Alex Sobolev, Anna Soboleva) — A re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet, taking place through their cell phones, in a mash-up of Shakespearean dialogue with current social media communication. Cast: Camaron Engels, Francesca Noel, David Zayas, Diego Tinoco, Siddiq Saunderson, Russell Hornsby. World Premiere

Searchers/ U.S.A. (Director: Pacho Velez, Producers: Pacho Velez, Joe Poletto, Cathy Tankosic, Sam Roseme)  In encounters alternately humorous and touching, a diverse set of New Yorkers navigate their preferred dating apps in search of their special someone.World Premiere

Son of Monarchs 
/Mexico, U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Alexis Gambis, Producers: Abraham Dayan, Maria Altamirano) — After his grandmother’s death, a Mexican biologist living in New York returns to his hometown, nestled in the majestic monarch butterfly forests of Michoacán. The journey forces him to confront past traumas and reflect on his hybrid identity, sparking a personal and spiritual metamorphosis. Cast: Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Alexia Rasmussen, Lázaro Gabino Rodríguez, Noé Hernández, Paulina Gaitán, William Mapother. Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize

Strawberry Mansion/ U.S.A. (Directors and Screenwriters: Albert Birney, Kentucker Audley, Producers: Taylor Shung, Sarah Winshall, Emma Hannaway, Matisse Rifai) — In a world where the government records and taxes dreams, an unassuming dream auditor gets swept up in a cosmic journey through the life and dreams of an aging eccentric named Bella. Together, they must find a way back home. Cast: Penny Fuller, Kentucker Audley, Grace Glowicki, Reed Birney, Linas Phillips, Constance Shulman. World Premiere

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
 / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Jane Schoenbrun, Producers: Sarah Winshall, Carlos Zozaya) — A teenage girl becomes immersed in an online role-playing game. Cast: Anna Cobb, Michael J. Rogers. World Premiere

PREMIERES

A showcase of world premieres of some of the most highly anticipated fiction and nonfiction films of the coming year.. Films that have premiered across the Documentary Premieres category include The Dissident, On the Record, and Miss Americana, and in Premieres past titles include Kajillionaire, Promising Young Woman, The Report, Late Night, The Big Sick and Call Me By Your Name.

“Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir” (Photo courtesy of KPJR Films)

Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir / U.S.A. (Director: James Redford, Producers: Karen Pritzker, Cassandra Jabola) — Amy Tan has established herself as one of America’s most respected literary voices. Born to Chinese immigrant parents, it would be decades before the author of The Joy Luck Club would fully understand the inherited trauma rooted in the legacies of women who survived the Chinese tradition of concubinage. World Premiere, Documentary

Bring Your Own Brigade / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Lucy Walker, Producers: Lucy Walker, Julian Cautherley, Holly Becker, Lyn Lear) — A character-driven verité and revelatory investigation takes us on a journey embedded with firefighters and residents on a mission to understand the causes of historically large wildfires and how to survive them, discovering that the solution has been here all along. World Premiere, Documentary

Eight for Silver/ U.S.A., France (Director and Screenwriter: Sean Ellis, Producers: Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon, Sean Ellis) — In the late 1800s, a man arrives in a remote country village to investigate an attack by a wild animal but discovers a much deeper, sinister force that has both the manor and the townspeople in its grip. Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Kelly Reilly, Alistair Petrie, Roxane Duran, Aine Rose Daly. World Premiere, Narrative

How it Ends/ U.S.A. (Directors, Screenwriters and Producers: Daryl Wein, Zoe Lister-Jones) — On the last day on Earth, one woman goes on a journey through LA to make it to her last party before the world ends, running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way. Cast: Zoe Lister-Jones, Cailee Spaeny, Olivia Wilde, Fred Armisen, Helen Hunt, Lamorne Morris. World Premiere, Narrative

In The Earth 
/ United Kingdom (Director and Screenwriter: Ben Wheatley, Producer: Andy Starke) — As a disastrous virus grips the planet, a scientist and a park scout venture deep into the forest for a routine equipment run. Through the night, their journey becomes a terrifying voyage through the heart of darkness as the forest comes to life around them. Cast: Joel Fry, Ellora Torchia, Hayley Squires, Reece Shearsmith. World Premiere, Narrative

In The Same Breath / U.S.A. (Director: Nanfu Wang, Producers: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn) — How did the Chinese government turn pandemic coverups in Wuhan into a triumph for the Communist party? An essential narrative of firsthand accounts of the coronavirus, and a revelatory examination of how propaganda and patriotism shaped the outbreak’s course – both in China and in the U.S. World Premiere, Documentary.DAY ONE 

Land / U.S.A. (Director: Robin Wright, Screenwriters: Jesse Chatham, Erin Dignam, Producers: Allyn Stewart, Lora Kennedy, Leah Holzer, Peter Saraf) – The poignant story of one woman’s search, in the aftermath of an unfathomable event, for meaning in the vast and harsh American wilderness. Cast: Robin Wright, Demián Bichir, Kim Dickens. World Premiere, Narrative

Marvelous and The Black Hole / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Kate Tsang, Producer: Carolyn Mao) — A teenage delinquent befriends a surly magician who helps her navigate her inner demons and dysfunctional family with sleight of hand magic, in a coming-of-age comedy that touches on unlikely friendships, grief, and finding hope in the darkest moments. Cast: Miya Cech, Rhea Perlman, Leonardo Nam, Kannon Omachi, Paulina Lule, Keith Powell. World Premiere, Narrative

Mass / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Fran Kranz, Producers: Fran Kranz, Casey Wilder Mott, JP Ouellette, Dylan Matlock) — Years after a tragic shooting, the parents of both the victim and the perpetrator meet face-to-face. Cast: Jason Isaacs, Ann Dowd, Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney. World Premiere, Narrative

My Name is Pauli Murray 
/ U.S.A. (Directors: Betsy West, Julie Cohen, Producer: Talleah Bridges McMahon) — Overlooked by history, Pauli Murray was a legal trailblazer whose ideas influenced RBG’s fight for gender equality and Thurgood Marshall’s landmark civil rights arguments. Featuring never-before-seen footage and audio recordings, a portrait of Murray’s impact as a non-binary Black luminary: lawyer, activist, poet, and priest who transformed our world. World Premiere, Documentary

Philly D.A. 
/ U.S.A. (Created By: Ted Passon, Yoni Brook, Nicole Salazar, Producers: Ted Passon, Yoni Brook, Nicole Salazar, Josh Penn, Michael Gottwald) — A groundbreaking inside look at the long shot election and tumultuous first term of Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s unapologetic District Attorney, and his experiment to upend the criminal justice system from the inside out. World Premiere, Episodic Documentary

Prisoners of the Ghostland/U.S.A. (Director: Sion Sono, Screenwriters: Aaron Hendry, Reza Sixo Safai, Producers: Michael Mendelsohn, Laura Rister, Ko Mori, Reza Sixo Safai, Nate Bolotin) — A notorious criminal is sent to rescue an abducted woman who has disappeared into a dark supernatural universe. They must break the evil curse that binds them and escape the mysterious revenants that rule the Ghostland, an East-meets-West vortex of beauty and violence. Cast: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Nick Cassavetes, Bill Moseley, Tak Sakaguchi, Yuzuka Nakaya. World Premiere, Narrative

The Sparks Brothers 
/ United Kingdom (Director: Edgar Wright, Producers: Nira Park, Edgar Wright, George Hencken, Laura Richardson) — How can one rock band be successful, underrated, hugely influential, and criminally overlooked all at the same time? Take a musical odyssey through five weird and wonderful decades with brothers Ron & Russell Mael, celebrating the inspiring legacy of Sparks: your favorite band’s favorite band. World Premiere, Documentary

Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street 
/ U.S.A. (Director: Marilyn Agrelo, Producers: Trevor Crafts, Ellen Scherer Crafts, Lisa Diamond) — How did a group of rebels create the world’s most famous street? In 1969 New York, this “gang” of mission-driven artists, writers and educators catalyzed a moment of civil awakening, transforming it into Sesame Street, one of the most influential and impactful television programs in history. World Premiere, Documentary

MIDNIGHT

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 RelicGreener Grass, Hereditary, Assassination Nation, and The Babadook.

“Coming Home in the Dark” (Photo courtesy of Goldfish Creative)

Censor / United Kingdom (Director: Prano Bailey-Bond, Screenwriters: Prano Bailey-Bond, Anthony Fletcher, Producer: Helen Jones) — When film censor Enid discovers an eerie horror that speaks directly to her sister’s mysterious disappearance, she resolves to unravel the puzzle behind the film and its enigmatic director – a quest blurring the lines between fiction and reality in terrifying ways. Cast: Niamh Algar, Nicholas Burns, Vincent Franklin, Sophia La Porta, Adrian Schiller, Michael Smiley. World Premiere. DAY ONE

Coming Home in the Dark / New Zealand (Director: James Ashcroft, Screenwriters: Eli Kent, James Ashcroft, Producers: Mike Minogue, Catherine Fitzgerald, Desray Armstrong) — A family’s outing descends into terror when teacher Alan Hoaganraad, his wife Jill and stepsons Maika and Jordon explore an isolated coastline. An unexpected meeting with a pair of drifters, the enigmatic psychopath Mandrake and his accomplice Tubs, thrusts the family into a nightmare when they find themselves captured. Cast: Daniel Gillies, Erik Thomson, Miriama McDowell, Matthias Luafutu. World Premiere

A Glitch in the Matrix / U.S.A. (Director: Rodney Ascher, Producer: Ross M. Dinerstein) — A multi-media exploration of simulation theory – an idea as old as Plato’s Republic and as current as Elon Musk’s Twitter feed – through the eyes of those who suspect our world isn’t real. Part sci-fi mind-scrambler, part horror story, this is a digital journey to the limits of radical doubt. World Premiere

Knocking / Sweden (Director: Frida Kempff, Screenwriter: Emma Broström, Producer: Erik Andersson) — When Molly moves into her new apartment after a tragic accident, a strange noise from upstairs begins to unnerve her. As its intensity grows, she confronts her neighbors – but no one seems to hear what she is hearing. Cast: Cecilia Milocco. World Premiere

Mother Schmuckers / Belgium (Directors and Screenwriters: Lenny Guit, Harpo Guit, Producers: David Borgeaud, Erika Meda) — Issachar & Zabulon, two brothers in their twenties, are supremely stupid and never bored, as madness is part of their daily lives. When they lose their mother’s beloved dog, they have 24 hours to find it – or she will kick them out. Cast: Harpo Guit, Maxi Delmelle, Claire Bodson, Mathieu Amalric, Habib Ben Tanfous. World Premiere

Violation / Canada (Directors, Screenwriters and Producers: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Dusty Mancinelli) — A troubled woman on the edge of divorce returns home to her younger sister after years apart. But when her sister and brother-in-law betray her trust, she embarks on a vicious crusade of revenge. Cast: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Anna Maguire, Jesse LaVercombe, Obi Abili, Jasmin Geljo, Cynthia Ashperger. International 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.

“Night of the Kings” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Night of the Kings / France, Ivory Coast, Canada, Senegal (Director and Screenwriter: Philippe Lacôte, Producers: Delphine Jaquet, Yanick Létourneau, Ernest Konan, Yoro Mbaye) — A young man is sent to La Maca, a prison on the Ivory Coast in the middle of the forest ruled by its prisoners. With the red moon rising, he is designated by the Boss to be the new “Roman” and must tell a story to the other prisoners. Cast: Koné Bakary, Steve Tientcheu, Digbeu Jean Cyrille, Rasmané Ouédraogo, Issaka Sawadogo, Denis Lavant

The World to Come / U.S.A. (Director: Mona Fastvold, Screenwriters: Ron Hansen, Jim Shepard, Producers: Casey Affleck, Whitaker Lader, Pamela Koffler, David Hinojosa, Margarethe Baillou) — Somewhere along the mid-nineteenth century American East Coast frontier, two neighboring couples battle hardship and isolation, witnessed by a splendid yet testing landscape, challenging them both physically and psychologically. Cast: Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Casey Affleck, Christopher Abbott. North American Premiere

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Life in a Day 2020/ United Kingdom, U.S.A. (Director: Kevin Macdonald, Producers: Jack Arbuthnott, Tim Partridge) — An extraordinary, intimate, global portrait of life on our planet, filmed by thousands of people across the world, on a single day: 25th July 2020. World Premiere

NEW FRONTIER

Since its launch, the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier has served as a showcase for dynamic, innovative work at the crossroads of film, art, and technology. At the Festival’s 2021 edition, a global audience will be able to engage with the works, the artists, and fellow Festivalgoers via a bespoke spatialized platform, developed in partnership with digital experience agency Active Theory and accessible via computer and VR headsets. The New Frontier Gallery hosts the complete slate of live performances, AR, VR, and other emerging media works. Cinema House is the Festival’s social, fully immersive cinema, and Film Party is an interactive bar with 6 screens and more intimate rooms available to the entire community of accredited Festivalgoers so that all can safely gather together, connecting via avatar with proximity audio and video chat.

2020 saw that the entire world can shift and leave humanity in an entirely new state of being. As we stand on the precipice of a new era, we need our artists and visionaries to illuminate the way forward,” said Shari Frilot, Senior Programmer and New Frontier Chief Curator. “The lineup of new media works this year challenge what we once knew to be true. Their works glisten with world building wisdom, and offer time machines that extract the cancer of colonial narratives planted deep within our biology.”

Frilot added, “More than ever, we need to gather our community in a meaningful way. This is why New Frontier has built three spatialized digital venues that orbit the earth right alongside the International Space Station. And at any time, Festivalgoers can take leave of the mothership to visit the astronauts aboard the Station, in the immersive experience Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, co-directed by Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël, or spend a night on earth, bar hopping in Amsterdam through IDFA DocLab’s do {not} play.

The Sundance Institute New Frontier Program is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Unity Technologies, Adobe, Dell Technologies, The Walt Disney Studios’ StudioLAB, and Oculus from Facebook.

“4 Feet High VR” (Photo by Natalia Roca)

4 Feet High VR / Argentina, France (Lead Artists: María Belén Poncio, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Damian Turkieh, Ezequiel Lenardón, Key Collaborators: Marie Blondiaux, Marcos Rostagno, Eugenia Foguel, Matias Benedetti, Manuel Yeri, Martin Lopez Funes, Guillermo Mena) — Juana, a 17-year-old wheelchair user, aims to explore her sexuality but is ashamed of her body. Trying to find her place in a new high school, she will go through failure, friendship, fear and politics until she builds her own pride. Cast: Marisol Agostina Irigoyen, Florencia Licera, Marcio Ramses, Natalia Di Cienzo, Francisca Spinotti.

7 Sounds/ U.S.A. (Lead Artist: Sam Green, Key Collaborator: JD Samson) — An immersive live-streamed audio-video work exploring the universal influence of sound, weaving seven specific audio recordings into a meditation on the power of sound to bend time, cross borders, and profoundly shape our perception.

Beyond the Breakdown/ U.S.A. (Lead Artists: Tony Patrick, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Grace Lee, Key Collaborators: Jesse Cahn Thompson, Aldo Velasco) — Imagining alternate narratives for our near-future reality, inside a browser designed to hack our normal online behaviors and cultivate collaborative spaces for self-reflection and renewal.

The Changing Same: Episode 1 / U.S.A. (Lead Artists: Michèle Stephenson, Joe Brewster, Yasmin Elayat, Key Collaborators: James George, Alexander Porter, Rad Mora, Elliott Mitchell) — An immersive, episodic virtual reality experience where the participant travels through time and space to witness the connected historical experiences of racial injustice in America. A respectful, haunting story infused with magical realism and Afrofuturism about the uninterrupted cycle of the 400-year history of racial terror — past and present.

Fortune!/ France, Canada (Lead Artists: Brett Gaylor, Nicolas Bourniquel, Arnaud Colinart, Key Collaborators: Marianne Lévy-Leblond, Rob McLaughlin, Dash Spielgeman, Rolito, Clement Chériot) — Money, from bills to coins, has no intrinsic value beyond what we’ve collectively agreed to grant it. However, there’s no denying that money governs our lives. This series of animated documentary shorts in AR for smartphones, tablets and social media platforms, explores that relationship. Cast: Frank Bourassa.

Namoo / U.S.A. (Lead Artist: Erick Oh, Key Collaborators: Maureen Fan, Larry Cutler, Eric Darnell, Kane Lee, David Kahn) — A narrative poem brought to life as an animated VR film, and an ode to a grandfather’s passing, this story follows the journey of a budding artist – and his tree of life – from beginning to end.

Nightsss/ Poland (Lead Artists: Weronika Lewandowska, Sandra Frydrysiak, Key Collaborators: Marcin Macuk, Piotr Apostel, Kaya Kołodziejczyk, Marek Straszak, Arek Zub, Przemek Danowski) — A virtual erotic poem created in artistic animation with ASMR and interactive elements, immersing the viewer in the sensual experience of poetry and dance.

Prison X – Chapter 1 : The Devil and The Sun/ Australia, Bolivia, India (Lead Artists: Violeta Ayala, Alap Parikh, Maria Corvera Vargas, Roly Elias, Key Collaborators: Daniel Fallshaw, Rilda Paco Alvarado, Alberto Santiago) — Heavy doors open and you are swept into an infamous Bolivian jail, where you live among devils, saints, wicked characters, corrupt prison guards and even a Western filmmaker. In Prison X, inhabit the dreams and nightmares of the Neo-Andean underworld. Cast: Violeta Ayala, Genesis Owusu, Celina Debassey, Anamaria Gómez Jaramillo, Jesse Odom, Nicole Ukelele.

Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran / United Kingdom, Iran (Lead Artists: Javaad Alipoor, Kirsty Housley, Key Collaborator: Nick Sweeting) — A darkly comedic, urgent new play about entitlement, consumption and digital technology, exploring the ubiquitous feeling that our societies are falling apart through the story of two young members of the Iranian elite, asking what their deaths tell us about climate change, social collapse and Instagram. Cast: Javaad Alipoor, Peyvand Sadeghian.  

Secret Garden / U.S.A. (Lead Artist: Stephanie Dinkins, Key Collaborators: Ethan Edwards, John Fitzgerald, Matthew Niederhauser, Danielle McPhatter, Sidney San Martín, Kate Stevenson, Adaora Udoji, Chris White) — An immersive web experience and installation, illuminating the power and resilience in Black women’s stories. Interactive audio vignettes generate a multi-generational narrative that collapses past, present, and future. Cast: Dayne Board, Erlene Curry, Tianna Mendez, Melissa Moore, Brandi Porter, Lisa Sainville.

Tinker / U.S.A. (Lead Artist: Lou Ward, Key Collaborators: Shimon Alkon, Lara Bucarey, Avril Martinez, Aileen Paron, Anthony Alan Garcia, Roberto Tan, Cristopher David, Neil Realubit, Anton Arcega, David Conklin, Evan Chavez) — What happens when the memories we spend a lifetime creating begin to disappear? Step inside the Grandfather’s workshop to discover this answer for yourself. In this live, bespoke unscripted performance, reimagine what it means to play, to connect and to hold fast to the memories we create. Cast: Randy Dixon.  

To Miss The Ending/ United Kingdom (Lead Artists: Anna West, David Callanan, Key Collaborators: Jamie Finlay, Steph Clarke, Dan Tucker)— A VR cubicle of cardboard boxes begins to glitch, revealing an empty dark space in front of you – until something glimmers in the distance, a wave of blue flooding towards you. A chorus of real memories and imagined futures expands, until only the largest memories are left. Cast: Charlotte Berry, Michael Dodds, Houmi Miura, Ben Kulvichit, Anna West.

Traveling the Interstitium with Octavia Butler/ U.S.A. (Lead Artists: Sophia Nahli Allison, idris brewster, Stephanie Dinkins, Ari Melenciano, Terence Nance, Key Collaborators: Yance Ford, Sharon Chang, Kamal Sinclair) — Inspired by the ideas of Octavia Butler, voyaging into the interstitium: a liminal space, a cultural memory, containing the remnants of our ancestors, a place of refuge, a place of recentering, a portal into an alternate dimension.

Weirdo Night/ U.S.A. (Lead Artists: Jibz Cameron, Mariah Garnett) — A filmed edition, hosted by Dynasty Handbag, of the wildly popular, underground, eponymous live performance and comedy event that, until COVID-19, was held monthly in Los Angeles. Cast: Patti Harrison, Smiling Beth, Morgan Bassichis, Sarah Squirm, Hedia Maron, Blasia Discoteca.

SHORTS

Fifty short films will play in the Festival, from 27 countries and chosen from 9,933 submissions – 4,587 from the U.S. and 5,368 international. The Institute’s support for short films extends internationally and year-round, with select Festival shorts presented as a traveling program, virtually in 2020, at theaters in the U.S., Canada and Europe each year, and short films and filmmakers taking part in regional online Master Classes geared towards supporting emerging shorts-makers in several cities. Among the shorts the Festival has shown in recent years are So What If The Goats DieFauve, Aziza, Ghosts of Sugar Land, Thunder Road, Whiplash, Sister and Brotherhood.

“In a year unlike any other, short films are still going strong with art and craft unique to the form. We are thrilled to share a lineup with a wild range of characters, styles, ideas and emotions to our audience, wherever you may be,” said Mike Plante, Senior Programmer, Short Film.

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival Short Film program is presented by Southwest Airlines.

U.S. Fiction

“Ava From My Class” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Ava From My Class/ U.S.A., South Korea (Director: Youmin Kang, Screenwriters: Youmin Kang, Soomin Kang) — Anna thinks Ava is the best actress in her class. International Premiere

Bambirak / U.S.A., Germany (Director and Screenwriter: Zamarin Wahdat) — When Kati stows away in her father’s truck, Faruk must juggle his responsibilities as a single dad while holding down his first job in a new country. As their relationship deepens, a brush with covert racism tests their bond. North American Premiere

BJ’s Mobile Gift Shop/ U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Jason Park) — A young Korean-American hustler runs throughout the city of Chicago making sales out of his “mobile gift shop.” World Premiere

Bruiser/ U.S.A. (Director: Miles Warren, Screenwriters: Miles Warren, Ben Medina) — After his father gets into a fight at a bowling alley, Darious begins to investigate the limitations of his own manhood. World Premiere

Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma/ U.S.A., Germany, France, Italy (Directors and Screenwriters: Topaz Jones, rubberband.) — In 1970, Black educators in Chicago developed an alphabet flashcard set to provide Black-centered teaching materials to the vastly white educational landscape and the Black ABCs were born. Fifty years later, twenty-six scenes provide an update to their meanings. World Premiere

Doublespeak / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Hazel McKibbin) — A young woman grapples with the aftermath of reporting sexual harassment in the workplace.

i ran from it and was still in it/ U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Darol Olu Kae) — A poetic meditation on familial loss and separation, and the love that endures against dispersion.

In the Air Tonight/ U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Andrew Norman Wilson) — An insider’s take on the meaning behind Phil Collins’ 1980 single “In the Air Tonight.”

LATA / U.S.A., India (Director: Alisha Mehta, Screenwriters: Alisha Mehta, Mireya Martinez) — Lata, a 23 year old domestic worker, navigates her way through an upper class home in South Mumbai. Doors consistently open and close, giving Lata selective access to the various contending realities that occupy this space.

Raspberry/ U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Julian Doan) — A son struggles to say goodbye to his dead father. World Premiere

The Touch of the Master’s Hand/ U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Gregory Barnes) — Troubled by an unnatural temptation, a young Mormon missionary must confess the humiliating depths of his pornography addiction. World Premiere

White Wedding / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Melody C Roscher) — Amidst a racially tense Southern wedding, a biracial bride has the chance to confront her estranged Black father after accidentally hiring his wedding band to perform. World Premiere

Wiggle Room / U.S.A. (Directors and Screenwriters: Sam Guest, Julia Baylis) — Determined to save her wheelchair ramp from repossession, Daisy confronts the shady insurance agent who owes her money. World Premiere

Yoruga / U.S.A., Colombia (Director and Screenwriter: Federico Torrado Tobón) — A lonely old man pays a visit to Yoruga, one of the last animals on Earth. World Premiere 

You Wouldn’t Understand/ U.S.A. (Director: Trish Harnetiaux, Screenwriters: Trish Harnetiaux, Jacob A. Ware) — An idyllic picnic of one is upended after the arrival of a stranger.

International Fiction

“The Affected” (Photo by Torjus Thesen)

The Affected / Norway (Director: Rikke Gregersen, Screenwriters: Rikke Gregersen, Trond Arntzen) — Minutes before takeoff, a situation occurs, preventing an airplane from departing: in an attempt to prevent the deportation of one passenger, another refuses to sit down – forcing the pilot to take a political stand.

Black Bodies / Canada (Director and Screenwriter: Kelly Fyffe-Marshall) — A Black man laments as he comes face-to-face with the realities of being Black in the 21st century. International Premiere 

The Criminals/ France, Romania, Turkey (Director and Screenwriter: Serhat Karaaslan) — In a town in Turkey, a young couple is looking for some privacy. They are rejected from the hotels because they do not have a marriage certificate. When they think they found a way, the situation gets out of hand. World Premiere 

Excuse Me, Miss, Miss, Miss/ Philippines (Director: Sonny Calvento, Screenwriter: Arden Rod Condez) — Vangie, a miserable contractual sales lady, is about to lose her job. But in her desperate attempt to convince her boss not to sack her, Vangie uncovers the ultimate jaw-dropping secret to regularization.

Five Tiger / South Africa (Director and Screenwriter: Nomawonga Khumalo) — A god-fearing woman in present-day South Africa finds herself in a transactional relationship as she tries to support her sick husband and daughter. North American Premiere

Flex/ Sweden (Directors and Screenwriters: Josefin Malmen, David Strindberg) — He may be god enough, but is he good enough? A slightly surreal comedic exploration of the fine line between a bodybuilder’s self-loathing and self-loving.

Like the Ones I Used to Know/ Canada (Director and Screenwriter: Annie St-Pierre) — December 24, 1983, 10:50 p.m.: Julie and her cousins ate too much sugar, Santa Claus is late. Denis, alone in his car, is anxious at the idea of setting foot in his ex-in-law’s house to pick up his children. World Premiere

Lizard/ United Kingdom (Director: Akinola Davies, Jr., Screenwriter: The Davies Brothers) — Juwon, an 8-year-old girl with an ability to sense danger, gets ejected from Sunday school service. She unwittingly witnesses the underbelly in and around a megachurch in Lagos. International Premiere

The Longest Dream I Remember / Mexico (Director: Carlos Lenin, Screenwriters: Carlos Lenin, Isa Mora Vera) — As Tania leaves her hometown, she must confront what her absence will mean in the search for her disappeared father. World Premiere

Mountain Cat / Mongolia, United Kingdom (Director and Screenwriter: Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir) — A troubled girl is coerced into seeing a shaman. Trapped by the ancient beliefs that pacify her mother, she finds peace in the physical realm, unleashing her repressed, youthful spirit on the shaman when she realizes his true identity. U.S. Premiere

Unliveable / Brazil (Directors and Screenwriters: Matheus Farias, Enock Carvalho) — In Brazil, where a trans person is murdered every three days, Marilene searches for her daughter Roberta, a trans woman who is missing. While running out of time, she discovers one hope for the future. North American Premiere

The Unseen River / Vietnam, Laos (Director and Screenwriter: Phạm Ngọc Lân) — Stories told along the river: a woman reunites with her ex-lover at a hydroelectric plant; meanwhile, a young man travels downstream to a temple in search of a cure for his insomnia.

We’re Not Animals / France (Director and Screenwriter: Noé Debré) — His ex Marie became an Instagram star (thanks to an activist group focused on the female orgasm). Depressed, Igor believes this is a deliberate campaign to prevent him from finding someone else. World Premiere

Non-Fiction

“A Concerto Is a Conversation” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

A Concerto Is a Conversation / U.S.A. (Directors: Ben Proudfoot, Kris Bowers) — A virtuoso jazz pianist and film composer tracks his family’s lineage through his 91-year-old grandfather from Jim Crow Florida to the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Dear Philadelphia/ U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Renee Osubu) — With the help of their family, friends, and faith, three fathers unravel the incomparable partnership of forgiveness and community in North Philadelphia. International Premiere

The Field Trip/ U.S.A. (Directors: Meghan O’Hara, Mike Attie, Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck) — A group of fifth graders learn what it takes to get ahead in the modern American workplace. World Premiere

My Own Landscapes / France (Director: Antoine Chapon) — Before going to war, a former military game designer made video game scenarios that prepared soldiers for cultural shocks and healed trauma. Once back from the war, his relationship with his identity, with life and with the video game changed.

The Rifleman / U.S.A. (Director: Sierra Pettengill, Screenwriters: Daniel Garber, Sierra Pettengill) — Told entirely through archival material, tracing Harlon Carter, considered the “father of the modern NRA,” across the decades, revealing the links between the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Border Patrol, and gun culture.

Snowy/ U.S.A. (Directors: Kaitlyn Schwalje, Alex Wolf Lewis) — Snowy, a 4-inch-long pet turtle, has lived an isolated life in the family basement. With help from a team of experts and his caretaker, Uncle Larry, we ask: Can Snowy be happy and what would it take? World Premiere

Spirits and Rocks: an Azorean Myth/ Switzerland, Portugal (Director: Aylin Gökmen) — On a volcanic island, inhabitants are caught in an unending cycle: the threat of impending eruptions, and the burden of past traumas, loom over them. Some draw upon myth and religious beliefs to interpret their precarious situation; others demonstrate resilience. International Premiere

Tears Teacher/ Japan (Director: Noemie Nakai) — Yoshida is a self-proclaimed “tears teacher.” A firm believer that regular crying promotes healthier living, he’s made it his mission to make more people weep.

This is the Way We Rise / U.S.A. (Director: Ciara Lacy) — An exploration into the creative process, following Native Hawaiian slam poet Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, as her art is reinvigorated by her calling to protect sacred sites atop Maunakea, Hawai`i.

To Know Her / U.S.A., Hong Kong (Director: Natalie Chao) — A poetic exploration of the camera’s gaze and a family’s relationship with the filmmaker’s mother. International Premiere

When We Were Bullies/ U.S.A., Germany (Director and Screenwriter: Jay Rosenblatt) — A mind-boggling “coincidence” leads the filmmaker to track down his fifth grade class – and fifth grade teacher – to examine their memory of and complicity in a bullying incident fifty years ago. World Premiere

Up at Night / Democratic Republic of the Congo, Belgium (Director and Screenwriter: Nelson Makengo) — As dusk fades and another night without electricity falls, Kinshasa’s neighborhoods reveal an unstable environment of violence, political conflict and uncertainty over the building of the Grand Inga 3 hydroelectric dam, promising a permanent source of energy to the Congo. U.S. Premiere

Animation

“The Fire Next Time” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

The Fire Next Time/ United Kingdom (Director: Renaldho Pelle, Screenwriter: Kerry Jade Kolbe) — Rioting spreads as social inequality causes tempers in a struggling community to flare, but the oppressive environment takes on a life of its own as the shadows of the housing estate close in.

Forever/ U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Mitch McGlocklin) — A life insurance company uses an AI algorithm to determine the risk of a new applicant. The subsequent denial sparks a period of introspection for the individual in question.

The Fourfold/ Canada (Director and Screenwriter: Alisi Telengut) — An exploration of the indigenous worldview and wisdom based on ancient shamanistic traditions and animistic beliefs in Siberia and Mongolia. With hand-crafted animation, a testament of reclaiming animism for environmental ethics and non-human materialities.

Ghost Dogs/ U.S.A. (Director: Joe Cappa, Screenwriters: Joe Cappa, J.W. Hallford) — A family’s new rescue pup is terrorized by deceased pets in this mind-bending horror.

GNT / Australia (Directors and Screenwriters: Sara Hirner, Rosemary Vasquez-Brown) — Glenn is a woman on an unwholesome mission, but just how far will she go to conquer the clique – and social media at large?

KKUM/South Korea, U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Kang-min Kim) — My mother’s dreams have always been strong premonitions for important moments in my life. I rely on her dreams more than any religion.

Little Miss Fate/ Switzerland (Director and Screenwriter: Joder von Rotz) — When the opportunity arises, Little Miss Fate slips into the role of the world leader. Unintentionally she creates a monster, which greedily wants to suck up all the love of the world. Overwhelmed by the rapid development, she loses control.

Misery Loves Company/ U.S.A., South Korea (Director: Sasha Lee, Screenwriters: Sasha Lee, Yejin Choi) — As Seolgi is lying on a grass field with friends, a shooting star falls, and dark, intrusive thoughts hit her. Her melancholy blooms into bright and colorful “flower people,” dancing and wishing for a meteorite to end the world.

Souvenir Souvenir/ France (Director and Screenwriter: Bastien Dubois) — For ten years, I’ve pretended to make a movie out of my grandfather’s Algerian war souvenirs. Today, I’m not sure I want to hear what he has to say.

Trepanation/ U.S.A. (Director: Nick Flaherty) — What was once familiar is now unrecognizable. All previous desires are overshadowed by the need to disappear completely.

INDIE SERIES PROGRAM

A dedicated showcase for emerging creators of independently produced episodic content for broadcast, web, and streaming platforms. Previously Indie Episodic. Past projects that have premiered within this category include Work in Progress, State of the Union, Gentefied, Wu Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men and Quarter Life Poetry. The Indie Series Program is presented by DoorDash.

“Seeds of Deceit” (Photo by Sjors Mosman and Kevin Vidal)

4 Feet High/ Argentina, France (Directors: María Belén Poncio, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Executive Producers: Ezequiel Lenardón, Marie Blondiaux) — Juana, a 17-year-old wheelchair user, aims to explore her sexuality but is ashamed of her body. Trying to find her place in a new high school, she will go through failure, friendship, fear and politics until she builds her own pride. Cast: Marisol Agostina Irigoyen, Florencia Licera, Marcio Ramses, Natalia Di Cienzo, Francisca Spinotti. World Premiere

Seeds of Deceit/Netherlands (Director: Miriam Guttmann, Executive Producers: Monique Busman, Michiel van Erp, Judith Reuten) — The revelation that Dr. Karbaat clandestinely used his own semen to inseminate more than 65 of his patients shocked the world. A vivid portrayal of how that happened and all the ways it haunts those affected: the emotional trauma of coming to terms with a changed life, a new identity. World Premiere

These Days / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Adam Brooks) — Mae, lonely and self-isolating, navigates the world of online dating during the early days of quarantine. Her first attempt is a comic disaster; then, she meets Will and her world begins to change in unexpected ways. Cast: Marianne Rendón, William Jackson Harper, Amy Brenneman, Parker Young. World Premiere 

Would You Rather/ France, Germany (Creators: Lise Akoka, Romane Guéret, Executive Producer: Pierre Grimaus, Jean Dathanat) — Sixteen-year-olds Shaï, Djeneba, Aladi, and Ismaël grew up in a working-class Paris neighborhood. Together, they watch hours drift by, cracking jokes, and playing their favorite game, “Would you rather?” As the group’s equilibrium suddenly shifts, they have to start making choices – in their lives and their game. Cast: Fanta Kebe, Shirel Nataf, Zakaria Lazab, Mouctar Diawara. North American 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 Clemency, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Zola, On The Record, Boys State, The Farewell, Honeyland, One Child Nation, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Fruitvale Station, WhiplashBrooklynPreciousThe CoveLittle Miss SunshineAn Inconvenient TruthNapoleon DynamiteHedwig and the Angry InchReservoir Dogs and sex, lies, and videotape. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute. 2021 Festival sponsors to date include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire, Adobe; Leadership Sponsors – Amazon Studios, AT&T, DoorDash, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom Group, Southwest Airlines® , WarnerMedia; Sustaining Sponsors – AMC, Audible, Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dell Technologies, Documentary Plus, GEICO, IMDbPro, Stella Artois®, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health, White Claw Hard Seltzer, Zoom; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, NPR, The New York Times, Variety, Vulture, 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. sundance.org/festival

Sundance Institute
As a champion and curator of independent stories for the stage and screen, the nonprofit Sundance Institute provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, film composing, and digital media to create and thrive. Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, the Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs which are dedicated to developing new work and take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally, are supported largely through contributed revenue.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 Clemency, Never Rarely Sometimes AlwaysZola, On The Record, Boys State, The Farewell, HoneylandOne Child NationThe Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Fruitvale StationCity So Real, Top of the Lake, Between the World & Me, Wild Goose Dreams and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.

# # #

EDITOR NOTE: DIRECTOR DEMOGRAPHICS
The data we are sharing reflects information provided directly by the artists. Some artists chose to not self identify in all data areas.

FULL SLATE: Across 140 films and projects, 50%, or 70, were directed by one or more women; 4% or 6, were directed by one or more non-binary individuals; 51%, or 71, were directed by one or more artists of color; 15% or 21 by one or more people who identify as LGBTQ+. 

U.S. COMPETITION:

Dramatic: 50% of the 10 directors in this year’s U.S. Dramatic Competition identify as women; 40% as BIPOC.

Documentary: 64% of the 11 directors in this year’s U.S. Documentary Competition identify as women; 73% as BIPOC; 9% as LGBTQ+. 

WORLD COMPETITION:

Dramatic: 50% of the 10 World Dramatic Competition identify as women.

Documentary: 50% of the 12 directors in the World Documentary Competition identify as women.

FEATURE FILM SUBMISSIONS: Of the feature film submissions, 1,377 were from the U.S. and 2,132 were international; 27% were directed by one or more women; 2% were directed by one or more non-binary individuals; 42% were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as BIPOC; 11% by one or more filmmakers who identify as LGBTQ+.

ALL FEATURES: Of the 72 feature films, 47% were directed by one or more women; 3% were directed by one or more non-binary individuals; 43% were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as BIPOC; 8% by one or more filmmakers who identify as LGBTQ+.

NEW FRONTIER: Of the 32 artists across the 14-project section, 44% identify as women, 9% as non-binary, 44% as BIPOC, and 22% as LGBTQ+.

SHORTS: Comprising 50 films, 48% or 24 of all short films announced today chose to indicate they were directed by one or more women; 2% or 1 was directed by one or more non-binary individuals; 64% or 32 were directed by one or more artists of color; 20% or 10 by one or more people who identify as LGBTQ+. Of the 60 directors across the section, 42% indicated they identify as women, 2% as non-binary, 56% as BIPOC, and 20% as LGBTQ+.

January 12, 2021 UPDATE:

The nonprofit Sundance Institute today adds two more world premiere feature films  to the 2021 Sundance Film Festival lineup. The 2021 Festival will take place digitally via a feature-rich, Sundance-built online platform and in person on Satellite Screens across the country (public health permitting) from January 28-February 3, 2021. Tickets for these additions are now on sale at festival.sundance.org.
 
“We are delighted to welcome these powerful works into our program,” said Festival Director Tabitha Jackson, “In a year where our Festival already exemplifies the vanguard of bold, visionary storytelling from around the world, they help further expand our boundaries.”

The latest films confirmed to join the 2021 Sundance Film Festival slate are:
 
PREMIERES SECTION
 
Judas and the Black Messiah / U.S.A. (Director: Shaka King, Screenwriters: Will Berson, Shaka King, Producers: Ryan Coogler, Charles D. King, Shaka King) — FBI informant William O’Neal infiltrates the Illinois Black Panther party when J. Edgar Hoover fears charismatic leader Chairman Fred Hampton will emerge as a Black Messiah. O’Neal lives in fear of discovery and cannot escape the deadly trajectory of his betrayal. Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Lil Rel Howery, Martin Sheen. World Premiere
 
Judas and the Black Messiah will premiere on Monday, February 1 at 6:00 p.m. Mountain Time on the digital platform, and will also play at the following Satellite Screens:
 
THE PLAZA THEATER PRESENTED BY ATLANTA FILM SOCIETY
1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA, 30306
 
DAD’S GARAGE DRIVE-IN PRESENTED BY ATLANTA FILM SOCIETY
569 Ezzard St SE , Atlanta, GA, 30312
 
JOURDAN-BACHMAN PIONEER FARMS PRESENTED BY AUSTIN FILM SOCIETY
10621 Pioneer Farms Drive, Austin, TX, 78754
 
SIDEWALK DRIVE-IN
1801 1st Ave. N. , Birmingham, AL, 35203
 
SIDEWALK FILM CENTER AND CINEMA
1821 2nd Ave N, Birmingham, AL, 35203
 
SPOTLIGHT CINEMAS CAPITAL 8 PRESENTED BY THE LUMINAL THEATER
201 Columbia Mall Blvd, Suite 211, Columbia, SC, 29223
 
THE TEXAS THEATRE PRESENTED BY AVIATION CINEMAS
231 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas, TX, 75208
 
MOONSTRUCK DRIVE-IN PRESENTED BY HOUSTON CINEMA ARTS SOCIETY
100 Bringhurst St, Houston, TX, 77020
 
FILMSCENE AT THE CHAUNCEY
404 E. College St, #100, Iowa City, IA, 52240
 
THE SPEED ART MUSEUM
2035 S. 3rd Street, Louisville, KY, 40208
 
MALCO SUMMER DRIVE-IN PRESENTED BY INDIE MEMPHIS
5310 Summer Ave, Memphis, TN, 38122
 
RIVERVIEW THEATER PRESENTED BY FILMNORTH
3800 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN, 55406
 
BELCOURT DRIVE-IN
2102 Belcourt Ave, Nashville, TN, 37212
 
THE LOFT OPEN AIR CINEMA
3233 East Speedway Blvd., Tucson, AZ, 85716
 
ADMIRAL TWIN DRIVE-IN PRESENTED BY CIRCLE CINEMA
7355 E Easton St, Tulsa, OK, 74115
 
CIRCLE CINEMA
10 S Lewis Ave, Tulsa, OK, 74104
 
STARLITE DRIVE-IN PRESENTED BY MAMA.FILM
3900 S Hydraulic Ave, Wichita, KS, 67216
 
WORLD DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION SECTION
 
Captains of Zaatari / Egypt (Director and Producer: Ali El Arabi) — Mahmoud and Fawzi, two best friends trapped in Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, dream of becoming professional football players. When a world renowned sports academy scout visits the camp, both have a chance to make their dreams come true. World Premiere
 
Captains of Zaatari will premiere on Sunday, January 31 at 6:00 p.m. Mountain Time on the Festival’s digital platform.

With today’s stats, the program includes 73 feature-length films, representing 30 countries and 39 first-time feature filmmakers. 14 films and projects announced today were supported by Sundance Institute in development, through direct granting or residency Labs. 68 of the Festival’s feature films, or 93% of the lineup announced today, will be world premieres. These films were selected from 14,092 submissions including 3,500 feature-length films. Of the feature film submissions, 1,377 were from the U.S. and 2,132 were international. Director demographics are available in an editor’s note below.



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 Clemency, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Zola, On The Record, Boys State, The Farewell, Honeyland, One Child Nation, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Fruitvale Station, WhiplashBrooklynPreciousThe CoveLittle Miss SunshineAn Inconvenient TruthNapoleon DynamiteHedwig and the Angry InchReservoir Dogs and sex, lies, and videotape. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute. 2021 Festival sponsors to date include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire, Adobe; Leadership Sponsors – Amazon Studios, AT&T, DoorDash, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom Group, Southwest Airlines® , WarnerMedia; Sustaining Sponsors – AMC, Audible, Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dell Technologies, Documentary Plus, GEICO, IMDbPro, Stella Artois®, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health, White Claw Hard Seltzer, Zoom; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, NPR, The New York Times, Variety, Vulture, 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. sundance.org/festival
 
Sundance Institute
As a champion and curator of independent stories for the stage and screen, the nonprofit Sundance Institute provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, film composing, and digital media to create and thrive. Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, the Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs which are dedicated to developing new work and take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally, are supported largely through contributed revenue. 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 Clemency, Never Rarely Sometimes AlwaysZola, On The Record, Boys State, The Farewell, HoneylandOne Child NationThe Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Fruitvale StationCity So Real, Top of the Lake, Between the World & Me, Wild Goose Dreams and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.

# # #


EDITOR NOTE: DIRECTOR DEMOGRAPHICS
The data we are sharing reflects information provided directly by the artists. Some artists chose to not self identify in all data areas.
 
FULL SLATE: Across 141 films and projects, 49%, or 69, were directed by one or more women; 4% or 6, were directed by one or more non-binary individuals; 50%, or 71, were directed by one or more artists of color; 15% or 21 by one or more people who identify as LGBTQ+.
 
U.S. COMPETITION:
Dramatic: 50% of the 10 directors in this year’s U.S. Dramatic Competition identify as women; 40% as BIPOC. Documentary: 64% of the 11 directors in this year’s U.S. Documentary Competition identify as women; 73% as BIPOC; 9% as LGBTQ+.
 
WORLD COMPETITION:
Dramatic: 50% of the 10 World Dramatic Competition identify as women.
Documentary: 42% of the 12 directors in the World Documentary Competition identify as women.
 
FEATURE FILM SUBMISSIONS: Of the feature film submissions, 1,377 were from the U.S. and 2,132 were international; 27% were directed by one or more women; 2% were directed by one or more non-binary individuals; 42% were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as BIPOC; 11% by one or more filmmakers who identify as LGBTQ+.
 
ALL FEATURES: Of the 73 feature films, 45% were directed by one or more women; 3% were directed by one or more non-binary individuals; 42% were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as BIPOC; 8% by one or more filmmakers who identify as LGBTQ+.
 
NEW FRONTIER: Of the 32 artists across the 14-project section, 44% identify as women, 9% as non-binary, 44% as BIPOC, and 22% as LGBTQ+.
 
SHORTS: Comprising 50 films, 48% or 24 of all short films announced today chose to indicate they were directed by one or more women; 2% or 1 was directed by one or more non-binary individuals; 64% or 32 were directed by one or more artists of color; 20% or 10 by one or more people who identify as LGBTQ+. Of the 60 directors across the section, 42% indicated they identify as women, 2% as non-binary, 56% as BIPOC, and 20% as LGBTQ+.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival inaugural event features partnerships with YouTube and several film festivals, including Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, Cannes, Toronto and London

April 27, 2020

 

The following is a press release from We Are One: A Global Film Festival:

Tribeca Enterprises and YouTube jointly announced today We Are One: A Global Film Festival, an unprecedented 10-day digital film festival exclusively on YouTube, bringing together an international community of storytellers to present festival programming for free to audiences around the world. Set to begin on May 29, 2020, on YouTube.com/WeAreOne, the festival will feature programming curated by the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Guadalajara International Film Festival, International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM), Jerusalem Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, San Sebastian International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, and moKarlovy Vary International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, San Sebastian International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Venice Film Festival and more, immersing audiences in stories from around the world and providing a voice for filmmakers on a global stage.

 Core to the DNA of film festivals is the belief that artists and creators have the power to bring people together and create meaningful connections during a time when the world needs it most. Through We Are One: A Global Film Festival, audiences will not only get a peek into different cultures through a new lens, they’ll be able to support local communities by directly donating to organizations helping the relief efforts for those affected by COVID-19. The festival will benefit the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as local relief partners in each region.

“We often talk about film’s uniquely powerful role in inspiring and uniting people across borders and differences to help heal the world. All of the world needs healing right now,” said Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal. “We Are One: A Global Film Festival unites curators, artists and storytellers to entertain and provide relief to audiences worldwide. In working with our extraordinary festival partners and YouTube we hope that everyone gets a taste of what makes each festival so unique and appreciates the art and power of film.”

“One of the most unique and inspiring aspects of the world staying home is our ability to come together and experience an event as one, and We Are One: A Global Film Festival is just that,” said Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer, YouTube. “Along with Tribeca Enterprises and our incredible partners, we are bringing fans the opportunity to experience the curated programming each of these festivals provides as part of our ten-day long event. It’s an event that’s never been done before and we’re proud to be the home for this fantastic content that is free to fans around the world.”

“We are proud to join with our partner festivals to spotlight truly extraordinary films and talent, allowing audiences to experience both the nuances of storytelling from around the world and the artistic personalities of each festival,” said Pierre Lescure, President of the Cannes Film Festival, and Thierry Frémaux, Cannes Film Festival General Delegate.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival will run from May 29 – June 7, 2020, on YouTube.com/WeAreOne. Programming will be available for free, and will include films, shorts, documentaries, music, comedy, and conversations. A full schedule will be available closer to the festival start date.

About Tribeca Enterprises

Tribeca Enterprises is a multi-platform storytelling company, established in 2003 by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. Tribeca provides artists with unique platforms to expand the audience for their work and broadens consumer access to experience storytelling, independent film, and media. The company operates a network of entertainment businesses including the Tribeca Film Festival; the Tribeca TV Festival; and its branded entertainment production arm, Tribeca Studios.

About YouTube

Launched in May 2005, YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch, and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small. YouTube is a Google company.

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 following is a press release from the Sundance Institute:

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.

“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

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

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

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.