Every January in Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival comes to town. It’s the largest independent film festival in America and prides itself on screening a diverse range of world premieres from around the globe and promoting new filmmaking voices. This year’s line-up is the usual high-quality mix of US and World narrative and documentary features, experimental and future visions, as well as the best of short filmmaking and new indie series. Taking place between 20th and 30th January, this year’s event will be a hybrid mix of in-person and online programming.
Given the nature of the festival, it’s difficult to single out individual films, but we’ve had a go:
Emily The Criminal
Down on her luck and saddled with debt, Emily gets involved in a credit card scam that pulls her into the criminal underworld of Los Angeles, ultimately leading to deadly consequences.
In the spring of 1972, police raided an apartment on the South Side of Chicago. Seven women were arrested and charged. The accused were part of a clandestine network. Using code names, blindfolds, and safe houses to protect their identities and their work, they built an underground service for women seeking safe, affordable, illegal abortions. They called themselves Jane. Facing off against the mafia, the church, and the state, the Janes exhibited unparalleled bravery and compassion for those most in need.
All That Breathes
Against the darkening backdrop of Delhi’s apocalyptic air and escalating violence, two brothers devote their lives to protect one casualty of the turbulent times: the bird known as the Black Kite.
Something In the Dirt
Levi has snagged a no-lease apartment sight unseen in the Hollywood Hills to crash at while he ties up loose ends for his exodus from Los Angeles. He quickly strikes up a rapport with his new neighbor John, swapping stories like old friends under the glowing, smoke-filled skies of the city. One day, Levi and John witness something impossible in one of their apartments. Terrified at first, they soon realize this could change their lives and give them a purpose. With dollar signs in their eyes, these two random dudes will attempt to prove the supernatural.
Welcome to Riotsville, a fictional town built by the U.S. military. Using footage shot by the media and government, the film explores the militarization of the police and the reaction of a nation to the uprisings of the late ’60s, creating a counter-narrative to a critical moment in American history.
Margaret’s life is in order. She is capable, disciplined, and successful. Soon, her teenage daughter, who Margaret raised by herself, will be going off to a fine university, just as Margaret had intended. Everything is under control. That is, until David returns, carrying with him the horrors of Margaret’s past.
In an abandoned building, a low-budget zombie horror film is falling apart on set. The abusive director (Romain Duris) is already pushing the cast and crew to the brink with his obnoxious behavior when he reveals his plan to inject energy and excitement into the project: unlocking a real-life ancient zombie curse. In a frenetic one-shot where body parts and fluids are flying, the actors fight the undead and their director for their lives before the film comes to a shocking conclusion and the credits roll… but is that the whole story?
A revelation of the inner lives of young LDS missionaries as they leave their homes for the first time and travel to the other side of the world in an attempt to convert some of Europe’s most non-religious, private and sceptical people, the Finns, to their faith.
They Are Magical Reindeers at parties and churches, pink fluffy unicorns at Air Force reunions, and zombies at retirement homes. They are the Calendar Girls – Florida’s most dedicated dance team for women over 60.
The Dark Heart
Sanna is the 21-year-old daughter of a rich landowner in southern Sweden. Her father, Bengt, makes his fortune by leasing his vast expanse of inherited land to hardworking family farmers, many of whom struggle to make ends meet. Stern and unyielding, Bengt holds influence over those less fortunate, while Sanna struggles with the idea of becoming his heir apparent. When she begins a relationship with Marcus, the penniless son of a nearby farmer, her father issues an ultimatum — leave Marcus or lose her inheritance.
History exists beyond what is written. The Africatown residents in Mobile, Alabama, have shared stories about their origins for generations. Their community was founded by enslaved ancestors who were transported in 1860 aboard the last and illegal slave ship, Clotilda. Though the ship was intentionally destroyed upon arrival, its memory and legacy weren’t. Now, the long-awaited discovery of the Clotilda’s remains offers this community a tangible link to their ancestors and validation of a history so many tried to bury.
Chicago, 1968. As a city and the nation are poised on the brink of violent political upheaval, suburban housewife Joy leads an ordinary life with her husband and daughter. When Joy’s pregnancy leads to a life-threatening condition, she must navigate a medical establishment unwilling to help. Her journey to find a solution to an impossible situation leads her to the “Janes,” a clandestine organization of women who provide Joy with a safer alternative — and in the process, change her life.
To see the full schedule and purchase tickets, visit the Sundance website.