by: Brent Lang, Variety
Agents, studio executives and movie lovers will resume their annual pilgrimage to Park City as the Sundance Film Festival, the preeminent showcase for indie film, returns to in-person premieres this January. The 2021 version unfolded entirely digitally as a concession to COVID-19.
What they will find in the that thin mountain air is the standard collection of films from auteurs and established directors such as Michel Hazanavicius, Ramin Bahrani, and Lena Dunham, as well as blazingly original works from newcomers whose names are currently unknown, but whose career trajectories will be turbocharged by the cachet and attention that comes with a Sundance debut.
But they will also discover important changes to the program and the way that movies are shared with the wider public, the most significant of which is Sundance’s decision to debut the films it selected both in theaters and on its digital platform. The hybrid nature of the festival allows Sundance to limit the number of people who flock to the ritzy Utah resort town where it is held, as well as to exponentially expand the audience for the movies it highlights.
“The online dimension of the festival was something that after, having done it last year, we valued greatly,” says Tabitha Jackson, the festival’s director. “We need to attract diverse audiences, and for us this idea of sustainability and community and care is all addressed by having an online dimension to the festival. People don’t have to fly here in order to participate. They don’t have to be of a certain socio-economic status to be able to afford to stay for ten days in Park City. They don’t have to be able to physically navigate icy mountain streets. We can expand the range of people who can participate in the festival, in the work and in the conversation.”
As for the work itself, the 2022 edition of Sundance includes a lineup of buzzy projects that could attract splashy deals, such as Hazanavicius’ “Final Cut,” the story of a low-budget film crew who are attacked by zombies; Bahrani’s “2nd Chance,” a documentary about the bankrupt pizza shop owner who invented the bulletproof vest; and Dunham’s “Sharp Stick,” a coming-of-age story set around a young woman’s sexual awakening. In some cases, the subject matter may be the film’s major selling point, as it is with the inspirational sounding “2nd Chance.” In other instances, the films promise a change-of-pace, as with Hazanavicius, an Oscar-winner for the artist painting on a broader canvas, or Dunham, the “Girls” creator” who will return to her indie roots after being an HBO darling. There’s also a number of movies from actors turned filmmakers such as Jesse Eisenberg, who directed the Julianne Moore drama “When You Finish Saving the World,” and Amy Poehler, the SNL star who examines comic icon Lucille Ball in her documentary “Lucy and Desi.” But the biggest star of the festival may be Kanye West. The three-part docu-series entitled “jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” was reportedly acquired by Netflix for $30 million last spring and boasts 21 years of never-before-seen footage from the rapper and erstwhile presidential candidate. Clarence “Coodie” Simmons and Chike Ozah, two of his frequent collaborators, directed the film. If the outspoken West makes the trek to Park City expect him to dominate the coverage much as Taylor Swift did in 2020 when she premiered her own Netflix documentary at the festival.
One of the highest profile films in the lineup is “We Need to Talk About Cosby,” a documentary from stand-up comic and CNN host W. Kamau Bell that looks at the tarnished legacy of Bill Cosby in the wake of multiple allegations of sexual assault and rape against the sitcom star. Its central question, can the artist be separated from the art, is being asked across the entertainment landscape, as critics and audiences reassess works from scandal-plagued creators like Roman Polanski and Woody Allen.
The festival programmers said that this year’s lineup features 82 feature-length films, 42% of which are from first-time feature filmmakers. Sundance did expand the number of films it showcased from the roughly 70 it screened in 2021, but the number is significantly less than the nearly 120 features it debuted in pre-pandemic times. The ten-day event, which unfolds from Jan. 20 to Jan. 30, will screen films in seven Park City venues, as opposed to its standard 10 theaters, another attempt to reduce its footprint. Getting a spot on the list was highly competitive. The relatively compact feature lineup was culled from 3,762 submissions. The majority of the films were shot during COVID, a sign that filmmakers found a way to continue working during an industry-threatening health crisis.
“I was impressed that so much got made during this time and that the quality was so incredible,” says Kim Yutani, Sundance’s director of programming.
Sundance, like other top film festivals, has made a major push to diversify the filmmakers it highlights. Of the 82 feature films in the 2022 lineup, 52% were directed by one or more filmmakers identify as women; 1% was directed by a non-binary filmmaker; 35% were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as people of color; and 10% were made by one or more filmmakers who identify as LGBTQ+. Many filmmakers used their cameras to draw attention to social justice and environmental issues.
“So much of the work we’re seeing reflects what we have collectively been through in the past couple of years,” says Yutani. “In this moment of turbulence and uncertainty we see a lot of work that’s questioning the world around us. One of the strands we see is a desire to fight the system and call into question establishments, institutions, and corporations.”
Among the politically charged works in the 2022 lineup are Mariama Diallo’s “Master,” an occult drama that follows African American women at a elite university with a history of racism; Carey Williams’s “Emergency,” which follows a group of Black and Latino college students as they weigh the costs and benefits of calling the police for help; and Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee’s “Aftershock,” a documentary about the U.S.’s higher rates of maternal morbidity, which disproportionately impact Black women and Native American women.
At a time when the Supreme Court is deciding the future of Roe vs. Wade, several movies contend with women’s reproductive rights. They include Phyllis Nagy’s “Call Jane,” the story of a housewife in the 1960s who becomes an activist after having a life-saving secret abortion and a documentary “The Janes” about the same subject, as well as Audrey Diwan’s “Happening,” another period drama about abortion access that won the Golden Lion at this fall’s Venice Film Festival.
Sundance is moving forward with in-person screenings, but the emergence of the fast-spreading Omicron variant of COVID could complicate those plans. The Berlin Film Festival, for instance, has reportedly explored the possibility of delaying its February event as Europe deals with a surge in cases. Even before Omicron, Sundance had put certain safety measures in place. It requires attendees to show proof of vaccination and will mandate masks at screenings, for instance. The festival will also offer testing and require proof of negative tests for people attending some events.
“The festival is designed to be flexible and accommodate the vagaries of our current public health situation,” says Jackson. “The science isn’t in yet, so it’s going to be a couple of weeks before we understand the prevalence of Omicron and the seriousness of it. This is a daily conversation. We know we have the capability of putting on a great festival, whatever happens. It’s just about responding sensibly to the facts on the ground.”
The full lineup:
The 10 films in this section are all world premieres.
892 (Director and Screenwriter: Abi Damaris Corbin, Screenwriter: Kwame Kwei-Armah, Producers: Ashley Levinson, Salman Al-Rashid, Sam Frohman, Kevin Turen, Mackenzie Fargo) — When Brian Brown-Easley’s disability check fails to materialize from Veterans Affairs, he finds himself on the brink of homelessness and breaking his daughter’s heart. No other options, he walks into a Wells Fargo Bank and says “I’ve got a bomb.“ Cast: John Boyega, Michael Kenneth Williams, Nicole Beharie, Connie Britton, Olivia Washington, Selenis Leyva.
Alice (Director and Screenwriter: Krystin Ver Linden, Producer: Peter Lawson) — When a woman in servitude in 1800s Georgia escapes the 55-acre confines of her captor, she discovers the shocking reality that exists beyond the treeline…it’s 1973. Inspired by true events. Cast: Keke Palmer, Common, Jonny Lee Miller, Gaius Charles.
blood (Director and Screenwriter: Bradley Rust Gray, Producers: David Urrutia, Bradley Rust Gray, So Yong Kim, Elika Portnoy, Alex Orlovsky, Jonathon Komack Martin) — After the death of her husband, a young woman travels to Japan where she finds solace in an old friend. But when comforting turns to affection, she realizes she must give herself permission before she can fall in love again. Cast: Carla Juri, Takashi Ueno, Gustaf Skarsgård, Futaba Okazaki, Issey Ogata.
Cha Cha Real Smooth (Director and Screenwriter: Cooper Raiff, Producers: Dakota Johnson, Ro Donnelly, Erik Feig, Jessica Switch, Cooper Raiff) — A directionless college graduate embarks on a relationship with a young mom and her teenage daughter while learning the boundaries of his new bar mitzvah party-starting gig. Cast: Dakota Johnson, Cooper Raiff, Vanessa Burghardt, Evan Assante, Brad Garrett, Leslie Mann.
Dual (Director and Screenwriter: Riley Stearns, Producers: Nate Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian, Lee Kim, Riley Stearns, Nick Spicer, Maxime Cottray) — After receiving a terminal diagnosis, Sarah commissions a clone of herself to ease the loss for her friends and family. When she makes a miraculous recovery, her attempt to have her clone decommissioned fails, and leads to a court-mandated duel to the death. Cast: Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Beulah Koale.
Emergency (Director: Carey Williams, Screenwriter: KD Davila, Producers: Marty Bowen, Isaac Klausner, John Fischer) — Ready for a night of partying, a group of Black and Latino college students must weigh the pros and cons of calling the police when faced with an unusual emergency. Cast: RJ Cyler, Donald Watkins, Sebastian Chacon, Sabrina Carpenter. DAY ONE
Master (Director and Screenwriter: Mariama Diallo, Producers: Joshua Astrachan, Brad Becker-Parton, Andrea Roa) — Three women strive to find their place at an elite New England university. As the insidious specter of racism haunts the campus in increasingly supernatural fashion, each fights to survive in this space of privilege. Cast: Regina Hall, Zoe Renee, Talia Ryder, Talia Balsam, Amber Gray.
Nanny (Director and Screenwriter: Nikyatu Jusu, Producers: Nikkia Moulterie, Daniela Taplin Lundberg) — Aisha is an undocumented nanny working for a privileged couple in New York City. As she prepares for the arrival of the son she left behind in Senegal, a violent supernatural presence invades her reality, threatening the American dream she is painstakingly piecing together. Cast: Anna Diop, Michelle Monaghan, Sinqua Walls, Morgan Spector, Rose Decker, Leslie Uggams.
Palm Trees and Power Lines (Director and Screenwriter: Jamie Dack, Screenwriter: Audrey Findlay, Producers: Leah Chen Baker, Jamie Dack) — Seventeen-year-old Lea spends her summer aimlessly tanning with her best friend, tiptoeing around her fragile mother, and getting stoned with a group of boys from school. This monotony is disrupted by an encounter with Tom, a man twice her age, who promises an alternative to Lea’s unsatisfying adolescent life. Cast: Lily McInerny, Jonathan Tucker, Gretchen Mol.
Watcher (Director: Chloe Okuno, Screenwriter: Zack Ford, Producers: Roy Lee, Steven Schneider, Derek Dauchy, John Finemore, Aaron Kaplan, Mason Novick) — A young woman moves into a new apartment with her fiancé and is tormented by the feeling that she is being stalked by an unseen watcher in an adjacent building. Cast: Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, Burn Gorman, Ciubuciu Bogdan Alexandru.
The nine films in this section are all world premieres.
Aftershock (Directors and Producers: Paula Eiselt, Tonya Lewis Lee) — Following the preventable deaths of their partners due to childbirth complications, two bereaved fathers galvanize activists, birth workers and physicians to reckon with one of the most pressing American crises of our time – the U.S. maternal health crisis.
Descendant (Director: Margaret Brown, Producers: Essie Chambers, Kyle Martin) — Clotilda, the last ship carrying enslaved Africans to the United States, arrived in Alabama 40 years after African slave trading became a capital offense. It was promptly burned, and its existence denied. After a century shrouded in secrecy and speculation, descendants of the Clotilda’s survivors are reclaiming their story.
The Exiles (Directors: Ben Klein, Violet Columbus, Producers: Maria Chiu, Ben Klein, Violet Columbus) — Documentarian Christine Choy tracks down three exiled dissidents from the Tiananmen Square massacre, in order to find closure on an abandoned film she began shooting in 1989.
Fire of Love (Director: Sara Dosa, Producers: Shane Boris, Ina Fichman, Sara Dosa) — Intrepid scientists and lovers Katia & Maurice Krafft died in a volcanic explosion doing the very thing that brought them together: unraveling the mysteries of volcanoes by capturing the most explosive imagery ever recorded. A doomed love triangle between Katia, Maurice and volcanoes, told through their archival footage. DAY ONE
Free Chol Soo Lee (Directors: Julie Ha, Eugene Yi, Producers: Su Kim, Jean Tsien, Sona Jo, Julie Ha, Eugene Yi) — After a Korean immigrant is wrongly convicted of a 1973 San Francisco Chinatown gang murder, Asian Americans unite as never before to free Chol Soo Lee. A former street hustler becomes the symbol for a landmark movement. But once out, he self-destructs, threatening the movement’s legacy and the man himself.
I Didn’t See You There (Director: Reid Davenport, Producer: Keith Wilson) — Spurred by the spectacle of a circus tent that goes up outside his Oakland apartment, a disabled filmmaker launches into an unflinching meditation on freakdom, (in)visibility, and the pursuit of individual agency.
The Janes (Directors: Tia Lessin, Emma Pildes, Producers: Emma Pildes, Daniel Arcana, Jessica Levin) — In the spring of 1972, police raided an apartment on Chicago’s South Side. Seven women were arrested. The accused were part of a clandestine network. Using code names, blindfolds and safe houses, they built an underground service for women seeking safe, affordable, illegal abortions. They called themselves JANE.
Jihad Rehab (Director: Meg Smaker, Producers: Meg Smaker, Bryan Storkel) — A group of Al-Qaeda members are transferred from Guantanamo to a secretive rehabilitation center for Islamic extremists.
TikTok, Boom. (Director: Shalini Kantayya, Producers: Ross M. Dinerstein. Shalini Kantayya, Danni Mynard) — With TikTok now crowned the world’s most downloaded app, these are the personal stories of a cultural phenomenon, told through an ensemble cast of Gen-Z natives, journalists and experts alike. This film seeks to answer, “why is an app, best known for people dancing, the target of so much controversy?”
The 10 films in this section are all world premieres.
Brian And Charles (U.K. – Director: Jim Archer, Screenwriters: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Producer: Rupert Majendie) — A story of friendship, love, and letting go. And a 7ft tall robot that eats cabbages. A comedy shot in documentary format. Cast: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Louise Brealey, Jamie Michie, Lowri Izzard, Mari Izzard.
The Cow Who Sang A Song Into The Future (Chile-France-U.S.-Germany – Director and Screenwriter: Francisca Alegría, Screenwriters: Fernanda Urrejola, Manuela Infante, Producers: Tom Dercourt, Alejandra García) — Cecilia and her children travel to her aging father’s dairy farm after he has a heart attack. Back in her childhood home, Cecilia is met by her mother, a woman dead for many years, whose presence brings to life a painful past chorused by the natural world around them. Cast: Leonor Varela, Mia Maestro, Alfredo Castro, Marcial Tagle, Enzo Ferrada, Luis Dubó.
Dos Estaciones (Mexico – Director and Screenwriter: Juan Pablo González, Screenwriters: Ana Isabel Fernández, Ilana Coleman, Producers: Jamie Gonçalves, Ilana Coleman, Bruna Haddad, Makena Buchanan) — In the bucolic hills of Mexico’s Jalisco highlands, iron-willed businesswoman Maria Garcia fights the impending collapse of her tequila factory. Cast: Teresa Sánchez, Tatín Vera, Rafaela Fuentes, Manuel García-Rulfo.
Gentle (Hungary – Directors: Anna Eszter Nemes, László Csuja, Screenwriters: László Csuja, Anna Eszter Nemes, Producers: András Muhi, Gábor Ferenczy) — Edina, a female bodybuilder, is ready to sacrifice everything for the dream she shares with Adam, her partner and trainer: to win the world championship. The odd love she finds on her way there makes her see the difference between her dreams and her true self. Cast: Eszter Csonka, György Turós, Csaba Krisztik.
Girl Picture (Finland (Director: Alli Haapasalo, Screenwriters: Ilona Ahti, Daniela Hakulinen, Producers: Leila Lyytikäinen, Elina Pohjola) — Mimmi, Emma and Rönkkö are girls at the cusp of womanhood, trying to draw their own contours. In three consecutive Fridays two of them experience the earth-moving effects of falling in love, while the third goes on a quest to find something she’s never experienced before: pleasure. Cast: Aamu Milonoff, Eleonoora Kauhanen, Linnea Leino.
Klondike (Ukraine-Turkey – Director and Screenwriter: Maryna Er Gorbach, Producers: Maryna Er Gorbach, Mehmet Bahadir Er, Sviatoslav BulakovskyI) — The story of a Ukrainian family living on the border of Russia-Ukraine during the start of war. Irka refuses to leave her house even as the village gets captured by armed forces. Shortly after, they find themselves at the center of an air crash catastrophe on July 17, 2014. Cast: Oxana Cherkashyna, Sergey Shadrin, Oleg Scherbina, Oleg Shevchuk, Artur Aramyan, Evgenij Efremov.
Leonor Will Never Die (Philippines – Director and Screenwriter: Martika Ramirez Escobar, Producers: Monster Jimenez, Mario Cornejo) — Fiction and reality blur when Leonor, a retired filmmaker, falls into a coma after a television lands on her head, compelling her to become the action hero of her unfinished screenplay. Cast: Sheila Francisco, Bong Cabrera, Rocky Salumbides, Anthony Falcon.
Marte Um (Mars One) (Brazil – Director and Screenwriter: Gabriel Martins, Producer: Thiago Macêdo Correia) — In Brazil, a lower-middle-class Black family of four tries to keep their spirits up and their dreams going in the months that follow the election of a right-wing president, a man who represents everything they are not. Cast: Rejane Faria, Carlos Francisco, Camilla Souza, Cícero Lucas. DAY ONE
Utama (Bolivia-Uruguay-France – Director and Screenwriter: Alejandro Loayza Grisi, Producers: Santiago Loayza Grisi, Federico Moreira, Marcos Loayza, Jean-Baptiste Bailly-Maitre) — In the Bolivian highlands, an elderly Quechua couple has been living the same daily life for years. When an uncommon long drought threatens their entire way of life, Virginio and his wife Sisa face the dilemma of resisting or being defeated by the environment and time itself. Cast: Jose Calcina, Luisa Quispe, Santos Choque.
You Won’t Be Alone (Australia – Director and Screenwriter: Goran Stolevski, Producers: Kristina Ceyton, Sam Jennings) — In an isolated mountain village in 19th century Macedonia, a young feral witch accidentally kills a peasant. She assumes the peasant’s shape to see what life is like in her skin, igniting a deep-seated curiosity to experience life inside the bodies of others. Cast: Noomi Rapace, Anamaria Marinca, Alice Englert, Carloto Cotta, Félix Maritaud, Sara Klimoska.
The 10 films in this section are all world premieres.
All That Breathes (India-U.S.-U.K. – Director and Producer: Shaunak Sen, Producers: Aman Mann, Teddy Leifer) — 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.
Calendar Girls (Sweden – Directors, Screenwriters and Producers: Maria Loohufvud, Love Martinsen) — A coming-of-golden-age look at Florida’s most dedicated dance team for women over 60, shaking up the outdated image of “the little old lady,” and calling for everyone to dance their hearts out, while they still can.
A House Made of Splinters (Denmark – Director: Simon Lereng Wilmont, Producer: Monica Hellström) — In Eastern Ukraine, follow the daily life of children and staff in a special kind of home: an institution for children who have been removed from their homes while awaiting court custody decisions. Staff do their best to make the time children have there safe and supportive.
Midwives (Myanmar – Director: Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing, Producers: Bob Moore, Ulla Lehman, Mila Aung-Thwin, Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing) — Two midwives work side-by-side in a makeshift clinic in Myanmar.
The Mission (Finland – Director and Screenwriter: Tania Anderson, Producers: Isabella Karhu, Juho-Pekka Tanskanen) — A revelation of the inner lives of young LDS missionaries, as they leave their homes for the first time and embark upon the most emotionally, physically and psychologically challenging period of their life.
Nothing Compares (Ireland-U.K. – Director: Kathryn Ferguson, Producers: Eleanor Emptage, Michael Mallie) — The story of Sinéad O’Connor’s phenomenal rise to worldwide fame and subsequent exile from the pop mainstream. Focusing on O’Connor’s prophetic words and deeds from 1987 to 1993, the film reflects on the legacy of this fearless trailblazer through a contemporary feminist lens.
Sirens (U.S.-Lebanon – Director, Screenwriter and Producer: Rita Baghdadi, Producer: Camilla Hall) — On the outskirts of Beirut, Lilas and Shery, co-founders and guitarists of the Middle East’s first all-female metal band, wrestle with friendship, sexuality and destruction in their pursuit of becoming thrash metal rock stars.
Tantura (Israel – Director and Screenwriter: Alon Schwarz, Screenwriter and Producer: Shaul Schwarz. Producer: Maiken Baird) — In 1948, the State of Israel was established and war broke out. Hundreds of Palestinian villages were destroyed with their inhabitants killed or exiled. The film focuses on one village: Tantura, bringing to light Israel’s founding myth and its society’s inability to come to terms with its dark past. DAY ONE
The Territory (Brazil-Denmark-U.S. – Director: Alex Pritz, Producers: Will N. Miller, Sigrid Dyekjær, Lizzie Gillett, Darren Aronofsky) — When a network of Brazilian farmers seizes a protected area of the Amazon rainforest, a young Indigenous leader and his mentor must fight back in defense of the land and an uncontacted group living deep within the forest.
We Met in Virtual Reality (U.K. – Director, Screenwriter and Producer: Joe Hunting) — Filmed entirely inside the world of VR, this vérité documentary captures the excitement and surprising intimacy of a burgeoning cultural movement, demonstrating the power of online connection in an isolated world.
The seven films in this section are world premieres unless otherwise specified.
The Cathedral (Italy – Director and Screenwriter: Ricky D’Ambrose, Producer: Graham Swon) — An only child’s account of an American family’s rise and fall over two decades. Cast: Brian d’Arcy James, Monica Barbaro, Mark Zeisler, Geraldine Singer, William Bednar-Carter. North American Premiere.
Every Day In Kaimukī (Director: Alika Tengan, Screenwriters: Naz Kawakami, Alika Tengan. Producers: Jesy Odio, Chapin Hall, Alika Tengan, Naz Kawakami) — A young man is determined to give his life meaning outside of Kaimukī, the small Hawaiian town where he grew up, even if it means leaving everything he’s ever known and loved behind. Cast: Naz Kawakami, Rina White, Holden Mandrial-Santos.
Framing Agnes (Canada – Director: Chase Joynt, Producers: Samantha Curley, Shant Joshi, Chase Joynt) — After discovering case files from a 1950s gender clinic, a cast of transgender actors turn a talk show inside out to confront the legacy of a young trans woman forced to choose between honesty and access. (Documentary.)
A Love Song (Director and Screenwriter: Max Walker-Silverman, Producers: Dan Janvey, Jesse Hope, Max Walker-Silverman) — Two childhood sweethearts, now both widowed, share a night by a lake in the mountains. A love story for those who are alone. Cast: Dale Dickey, Wes Studi, Michelle Wilson, Benja K. Thomas, John Way, Marty Grace Dennis. DAY ONE
Mija (Director: Isabel Castro, Producers: Tabs Breese, Isabel Castro, Yesenia Tlahuel) — Doris Muñoz is a young, ambitious music manager whose undocumented family depends on her ability to launch pop stars. When she loses her biggest client, Doris hustles to discover new talent and finds Jacks, another daughter of immigrants for whom “making it” isn’t just a dream: it’s a necessity. (Documentary.)
Riotsville, USA (Director: Sierra Pettengill, Producers: Sara Archambault, Jamila Wignot) — 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. (Documentary.)
Something in the Dirt (Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Screenwriter: Justin Benson, Producers: David Lawson, Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson) — When neighbors John and Levi witness supernatural events in their Los Angeles apartment building, they realize documenting the paranormal could inject some fame and fortune into their wasted lives. An ever-deeper, darker rabbit hole, their friendship frays as they uncover the dangers of the phenomena, the city and each other. Cast: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead.
The 21 films in this section — a mix of fiction and documentary features — are all world premieres.
2nd Chance (Director and Screenwriter: Ramin Bahrani, Producers: Daniel Turcan, Johnny Galvin, Charles Dorfman, Ramin Bahrani, Jacob Grodnik) — Bankrupt pizzeria owner Richard Davis invented the modern-day bulletproof vest. To prove that it worked, he shot himself 192 times. He launched a multi-million-dollar company and became a cult figure among police. Davis’ rise and fall reveals a man of contradictions and the nature of power and impunity in America. (Documentary.)
Am I OK? (Directors: Stephanie Allynne, Tig Notaro, Screenwriter: Lauren Pomerantz, Producers: Jessica Elbaum, Will Ferrell, Erik Feig, Dakota Johnson, Ro Donnelly, Lauren Pomerantz) — Lucy and Jane have been best friends for most of their lives and think they know everything there is to know about each other. But when Jane announces she’s moving to London, Lucy reveals a long-held secret. As Jane tries to help Lucy, their friendship is thrown into chaos. Cast: Dakota Johnson, Sonoya Mizuno, Jermaine Fowler, Kiersey Clemons, Molly Gordon, Sean Hayes.
Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power (Director and Producer: Nina Menkes) — Based on Nina Menkes’ acclaimed talk “Sex & Power: The Visual Language of Cinema,” a mesmerizing journey into how shot design intersects with the twin epidemics of sexual abuse/assault and employment discrimination against women. Containing over 175 film clips, this will unalterably change the way we view and make movies.
Call Jane (Director: Phyllis Nagy, Screenwriters: Hayley Schore, Roshan Sethi, Producers: Robbie Brenner, David Wulf, Kevin McKeon, Lee Broda, Claude Amadeo, Michael D’Alto) — Chicago, 1968: after having a life-saving secret abortion, a suburban housewife seeks to give women access to healthy and safe abortions through an underground collective of women known as “Jane.” Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver, Chris Messina, Kate Mara, Wunmi Mosaku, Cory Michael Smith.
Downfall: The Case Against Boeing (Director: Rory Kennedy, Screenwriters: Mark Bailey, Keven McAlester, Producers: Rory Kennedy, Mark Bailey, Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes, Keven McAlester, Amanda Rohlke) — An investigation of the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people, exploring both the root causes and the human cost. At once a chilling portrait of a crumbling corporate culture and a fierce indictment of Wall Street’s corrupting influence.
Emily the Criminal (Director and Screenwriter: John Patton Ford, Producers: Tyler Davidson, Aubrey Plaza, Drew Sykes) — 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. Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Theo Rossi, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Gina Gershon.
Final Cut (France – Director and Screenwriter: Michel Hazanavicius, Producers: John Penotti, Noëmie Devide, Alain de la Mata, Brahim Chioua, Michel Hazanavicius, Vincent Maravalr) — Things go badly for a small film crew shooting a low-budget zombie movie when they are attacked by real zombies. Cast: Romain Duris, Bérénice Bejo, Grégory Gadebois, Finnegan Oldfield, Matilda Lutz, Raphaël Quenard.
God’s Country (Director: Julian Higgins, Screenwriters: Shaye Ogbonna, Julian Higgins, Producers: Miranda Bailey, Halee Bernard, Julian Higgins, Amanda Marshall) — When a grieving college professor confronts two hunters she catches trespassing on her property, she’s drawn into an escalating battle of wills with catastrophic consequences. Cast: Thandiwe Newton, Jeremy Bobb, Joris Jarsky, Jefferson White, Kai Lennox, Tanaya Beatty.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (U.K. – Director: Sophie Hyde, Screenwriter: Katy Brand, Producers: Debbie Gray, Adrian Politowski) — Nancy Stokes, a retired school teacher, is yearning for some adventure, and some sex. Good sex. And she has a plan: she hires a young sex worker named Leo Grande. Cast: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack.
Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul (Director and Screenwriter: Adamma Ebo, Producers: Daniel Kaluuya, Adanne Ebo, Rowan Riley, Amandla Crichlow, Jesse Burgum, Matthew Cooper) — In the aftermath of a huge scandal, Trinitie Childs, the first lady of a prominent Southern Baptist megachurch, attempts to help her pastor husband, Lee-Curtis Childs, rebuild their congregation. Cast: Regina Hall, Sterling K. Brown.
jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy (Directors: Clarence “Coodie” Simmons, Chike Ozah, Producers: Clarence “Coodie” Simmons, Chike Ozah, Leah Natasha Thomas) — Kanye West in three acts. The story beyond the iconic music, an intimate and empathetic chronicle featuring never-before-seen footage from 21 years in the life of a captivating figure. (Documentary.)
La Guerra Civil (U.K. – Director: Eva Longoria Bastón, Producers: Eva Longoria Bastón, Grant Best, Bernardo Ruiz, Ben Spector, Andrea Cordoba) — The epic rivalry between iconic boxers Oscar De La Hoya and Julio César Chávez in the 1990s sparked a cultural divide between Mexican nationals and Mexican-Americans. A chronicle of a battle that was more than a boxing rivalry, and examines a fascinating slice of the Latino experience in the process. (Documentary.) DAY ONE
Living (U.K. – Director: Oliver Hermanus, Screenwriter: Kazuo Ishiguro, Producers: Stephen Woolley, Elizabeth Karlsen) — In 1952 London, veteran civil servant Williams has become a small cog in the bureaucracy of rebuilding England post-WWII. As endless paperwork piles up on his desk, he learns he has a fatal illness. Thus begins his quest to find some meaning in his life before it slips away. Cast: Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Tom Burke.
Lucy and Desi (Director: Amy Poehler, Producers: Michael Rosenberg, Justin Wilkes, Nigel Sinclair, Jeanne Elfant Festa, Amy Poehler, Mark Monroe) — Lucille Ball had an immense influence on the creation of TV syndication, as she rose to become a true entrepreneur and multi-faceted mogul. Through interviews and archival, a tribute to one of the greatest trailblazers in comedy and entertainment. (Documentary.) SALT LAKE CITY OPENING NIGHT
My Old School (U.K. – Director: Jono McLeod, Producers: John Archer, Olivia Lichtenstein) — The astonishing true story of Scotland’s most notorious imposter. It’s 1993 and 16-year-old Brandon is the new kid in school. Soon he’s top of the class, acing exams and even taking the lead in the school musical. He’s the model pupil, until he’s unmasked. Cast: Alan Cumming. (Documentary.)
The Princess (U.K. – Director: Ed Perkins, Producers: Simon Chinn, Jonathan Chinn) — Princess Diana’s story is told exclusively through contemporaneous archive creating a bold and immersive narrative of her life and death. Turning the camera back on ourselves, it also illuminates the profound impact she had and how the public’s attitude to the monarchy was, and still is, shaped by these events. DAY ONE
Resurrection (Director and Screenwriter: Andrew Semans, Producers: Tory Lenosky, Alex Scharfman, Drew Houpt, Lars Knudsen, Tim Headington, Lia Buman) — 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. Cast: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman, Michael Esper, Angela Wong Carbone.
Sharp Stick (Director and Screenwriter: Lena Dunham, Producers: Lena Dunham, Michael P. Cohen, Kevin Turen, Katia Washington) — Sarah Jo is a naive 26-year-old living on the fringes of Hollywood with her mother (longing for money) and sister (longing for exposure). She just longs to be seen. When she begins an affair with her older employer, she is thrust into an education on sexuality, loss and power. Cast: Kristine Froseth, Jon Bernthal, Scott Speedman, Lena Dunham, Taylour Paige, Jennifer Jason Leigh.
To the End (Director: Rachel Lears, Producers: Sabrina Schmidt Gordon) — Stopping the climate crisis is a question of political courage, and the clock is ticking. Over three years of turbulence and crisis, four remarkable young women of color fight for a Green New Deal, and ignite a historic shift in U.S. climate politics. (Documentary.)
We Need to Talk About Cosby (Director: W. Kamau Bell, Producers: Andrew Fried, Katie A. King, Geraldine L. Porras, Dane Lillegard, Sarina Roma, Jordan Wynn) — Can you separate the art from the artist? Should you even try? While there are many people about whom we could ask those questions, none pose a tougher challenge than Bill Cosby. (Documentary.)
When You Finish Saving the World (Director and Screenwriter: Jesse Eisenberg, Producers: Ali Herting, Dave McCary, Emma Stone) — Evelyn and her oblivious son Ziggy seek out replacements for each other as Evelyn desperately tries to parent an unassuming teenager at her shelter, while Ziggy fumbles through his pursuit of a brilliant young woman at school. Cast: Julianne Moore, Finn Wolfhard. DAY ONE
The six films in this section are all world premieres.
Babysitter (Canada – Director: Monia Chokri, Screenwriter: Catherine Léger, Producers: Martin Paul-Hus, Catherine Léger, Pierre-Marcel Blanchot, Fabrice Lambot) — After a sexist joke goes viral, Cédric loses his job and embarks on a therapeutic journey to free himself from sexism and misogyny. His girlfriend Nadine is exasperated by his narcissistic introspection, until they hire a mysterious and liberated babysitter to help shake things up. Cast: Patrick Hivon, Monia Chokri, Nadia Tereszkiewcz, Steve Laplante, Hubert Proulx.
FRESH (Director: Mimi Cave, Screenwriter: Lauryn Kahn, Producers: Adam McKay, Kevin Messick, Maeve Cullinane) — The horrors of modern dating seen through one young woman’s defiant battle to survive her new boyfriend’s unusual appetites. Cast: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jojo T. Gibbs, Charlotte Le Bon, Andrea Bang, Dayo Okeniyi. DAY ONE
Hatching (Finland – Director: Hanna Bergholm, Screenwriter: Ilja Rautsi, Producers: Mika Ritalahti, Nico Ritalahtit) — While desperately trying to please her demanding mother, a young gymnast discovers a strange egg. She tucks it away and keeps it warm, but when it hatches, what emerges shocks everyone. Cast: Jani Volanen, Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Saija Lentonen, Reino Nordin, Oiva Ollila.
Meet Me in the Bathroom (U.K. – Directors: Dylan Southern, Will Lovelace, Producers: Vivienne Perry, Sam Bridger, Marisa Clifford, Thomas Benski, Danny Gabai, Suroosh Alvi) — An immersive journey through the New York music scene of the early 2000s. Set against the backdrop of 9/11, the film tells the story of how a new generation kickstarted a musical rebirth for New York City that reverberated around the world. Inspired by the book by Lizzy Goodman. (Documentary.)
Piggy (Spain – Director and Screenwriter: Carlota Pereda, Producers: Merry Colomer, David Atlan-Jackson) — Sara deals with constant teasing from girls in her small town. But it comes to an end when a stranger kidnaps her tormentors. Sara knows more than she’s saying and must decide between speaking up and saving the girls or saying nothing to protect the strange man who spared her. Cast: Laura Galán.
Speak No Evil (Denmark – Director and Screenwriter: Christian Tafdrup, Screenwriter: Mads Tafdrup, Producer: Jacob Jarek) — A Danish family visits a Dutch family they met on a holiday. What was supposed to be an idyllic weekend slowly starts unraveling as the Danes try to stay polite in the face of unpleasantness. Cast: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja van Huêt, Karina Smulders, Liva Forsberg, Marius Damslev.
This section represents a collection of films that have already premiered at other festivals.
After Yang (Director and Screenwriter: Kogonada, Producers: Andrew Goldman, Caroline Kaplan, Paul Mezey, Theresa Park) — In the near future, a father and daughter try to save the life of Yang, their beloved robotic family member. Cast: Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith. Justin H. Min, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, Haley Lu Richardson. North American Premiere.
Happening (France – Director and Screenwriter: Audrey Diwan, Screenwriter: Alice Girard, Producers: Edouard Weil, Alice Girard) — France, 1963. Anne is a bright student with a promising future. But when she falls pregnant, she sees the opportunity to escape the constraints of her social background disappearing. With final exams approaching and her belly growing, Anne resolves to act, even if she must risk prison to do so. Cast: Anamaria Vartolomei, Kacey Mottet-Klein, Luana Bajrami, Louise Chevillotte, Pio Marmai.
Neptune Frost (U.S.-Rwanda – Directors: Anisia Uzeyman, Saul Williams, Screenwriter: Saul Williams, Producers: Ezra Miller, Stephen Hendel, Dave Guenette, Maria Judice) — In an otherworldly e-waste dump camp, a subversive hacking collective attempts a takeover of the authoritarian regime exploiting the region’s natural resources — and its people. When an intersex runaway and an escaped coltan miner find each other through cosmic forces, their connection sparks glitches within the greater divine circuitry. Cast: Cheryl Isheja, Elvis Ngabo “Bobo”, Bertrand Ninteretse “Kaya Free”, Eliane Umuhire, Rebecca Muciyo, Trésor Niyongabo.
Three Minutes – A Lengthening (Netherlands – Director and Screenwriter: Bianca Stigter, Producer: Floor Onrust) — Three minutes of footage are the only moving images known of the Jewish inhabitants of Nasielsk in Poland before the Holocaust. An examination of that film — in color, random, full of life — reveals historical and personal dimensions. Narrated by Helena Bonham Carter. (Documentary.)
The Worst Person in the World (Norway – Director: Joachim Trier, Screenwriter: Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier, Producer: Thomas Robsahm, Andrea Berentsen Ottmar) — Four years in the life of Julie, a young woman who navigates the troubled waters of her love life and struggles to find her career path, leading her to take a realistic look at who she really is. Cast: Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Herbert Nordrum. DAY ONE
The two films in this section are both world premieres.
Maika (Vietnam – Director and Screenwriter: Ham Tran, Producers:Jenni Trang Le, Duy Ho, Anderson Le, Bao Nguyen) — After a meteor falls to earth, 8-year-old Hung meets an alien girl from the planet Maika, searching for her lost friend. As Hung helps her otherworldly friend search, the alien inadvertently helps Hung make new friends and heal a broken heart. But danger lurks everywhere… Cast: Phu Truong, Diep Anh Tru, Tin Tin, Ngoc Tuong, Kim Nha.
Summering (Director and Screenwriter: James Ponsoldt, Producers: Peter Block, P. Jennifer Dana) — During their last days of summer and childhood — the weekend before middle school begins — four girls struggle with the harsh truths of growing up and embark on a mysterious adventure.
This world premiere documentary will be followed by an extended conversation.
LAST FLIGHT HOME (Director: Ondi Timoner, Producers: Ondi Timoner, David Turner) — An examination of Eli Timoner’s intentional death and his family’s emotional turmoil as they grapple with his decision to end his own life. The family journeys back through Eli’s remarkable, painful life to discover what true love looks like and help him shed shame he’s carried for 40 years.
Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (Director and Screenwriter: Leslie Harris, Producers: Leslie Harris, Erwin Wilson) — A Brooklyn young woman, smart, witty, and confident, is not just another teenager on the NYC subway. Determined to make it out of her neighborhood and become a doctor, she confronts adversity while navigating challenging waters to achieve her dreams and goals. Cast: William Badget, Chequita Jackson, Ebony Jerido, Ariyan Johnson, Kevin Thigpen, Jerad Washington. Digitally restored.
The six episodic entries in this section are all world premieres.
Bring on the Dancing Horses (Director and Screenwriter: Michael Polish, Producers: Kate Bosworth, Michael Polish) — An assassin is out to complete her list of targets and exact her own brand of justice. Cast: Kate Bosworth, Jasper Polish, Lance Henriksen, Happy Anderson, DJ Qualls, Thomas Francis Murphy.
Chiqui (Director and Screenwriter: Carlos Cardona, Producers: Daniel Fermín Pfeffer, Sophia de Baun) — It’s 1987. Chiqui and Carlos immigrate from Colombia to the United States to find a better life for themselves and their unborn son. Upon their arrival, they quickly realize that the American dream is not as easy to achieve as they thought. Cast: Brigitte Silva, Sebastián Beltranini, Catherine French, Gregg Prosser.
Culture Beat (Directors: Andre Hyland, Kitao Sakurai, Screenwriters: Andre Hyland, Kitao Sakurai, Eric Andre, Producers: Eric Andre, Kitao Sakurai, Andre Hyland) — A show that investigates high culture institutions through the lowbrow lens of various characters. The 2021 love child of Da Ali G Show and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. Cast: Andre Hyland. (Documentary.)
The Dark Heart (Sweden – Director: Gustav Möller, Screenwriter: Oskar Söderlund, Producers: Anna Carlsten, Caroline Landerberg) — Sweden: in a mythological landscape, search parties roam through forests of spruce, secret conversations are whispered in open fields, and verbal duels fought on narrow country roads. A story of family feuds, inheritances and forbidden love. Cast: Aliette Opheim, Clara Christiansson Drake, Gustav Lindh, Peter Andersson.
Instant Life (Directors: Mark Becker, Aaron Schock, Producers: Mark Becker, Aaron Schock, Julie Gaynin) — Destitute without electricity and running water, Yolanda Signorelli Von Braunhut has lost control of her late husband Harold’s iconic Amazing Live Sea Monkeys novelty. Yet she alone knows their secret formula, and from her crumbling estate on the Potomac, Yolanda wages legal and existential battles to fully win them back. (Documentary.)
My Trip to Spain (Director and Screenwriter: Theda Hammel, Producers: Allie Jane Compton, John Early) — Alexis, a successful trans woman, is heading to Spain to get some cosmetic surgery. She has asked her embittered old friend Charlie to housesit while she’s away. During the handoff, he tries his best to convince her to cancel, while simultaneously pursuing a sexual liaison with her brooding gardener Bruno. Cast: John Early, Theda Hammel, Gordon Landenberger.
The 15 multimedia projects and installations in this program are world premieres unless otherwise specified.
32 Sounds (Lead Artist: Sam Green) — An immersive documentary and sensory film experience that explores the elemental phenomenon of sound and its power to bend time, cross borders, and profoundly shape our perception of the world around us. The film will be presented in its “live cinema” form, featuring live music and live narration. DAY ONE
Atua (New Zealand – Lead Artists: Tanu Gago, Jermaine Dean, Key Collaborators: Kat Lintott, Carthew Neal, Nacoya Anderson) — Reimagining the realm of Pacific gods in this sculptural AR experience. Claiming space for gender diverse communities impacted by colonial contact, to see themselves reflected as vital to their cultural heritage and an intrinsic part of the cosmos.
Child of Empire (U.K. – Lead Artists: Sparsh Ahuja, Erfan Saadati, Stephen Stephenson, Omi Zola Gupta, Key Collaborators: Sam Dalyrmple, Saadia Gardezi, Jayosmita Ganguly) — Experience the largest forced migration in human history, the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan. Embody the childhood memories of two survivors, as they reflect on their journeys across a divided homeland.
Cosmogony (Switzerland – Lead Artists: Gilles Jobin, Susana Panadés Diaz, Camilo de Martino, Tristan Siodlak, Key Collaborator: Pierre-Igor Berthet) — A live digital performance in which three dancers are motion captured in Geneva and projected remotely in real time. North American Premiere.
Diagnosia (Lead Artists: Mengtai Zhang, Lemon Guo, Producers: Mengtai Zhang, Lemon Guo, Yue Huang) — In this VR experience, the director locks us inside his teenage memories of being incarcerated in a military-operated internet addiction camp in Beijing in 2007, where internet addiction and other youth issues were treated as severe mental disorders, and sometimes by violent means. North American Premiere.
Flat Earth VR (Brazil – Lead Artist: Lucas Rizzotto) VR is known as the ultimate empathy machine that lets users experience others’ perspectives. But what happens when those perspectives are delusional? Experience the ultimate flat-earther fantasy: ascend into the stars and prove all globe-earthers wrong by taking photos of the planet as it truly is: flat like a pancake.
Gondwana (Australia – Lead Artists: Ben Joseph Andrews, Emma Roberts, Key Collaborators: Lachlan Sleight, Michelle Brown, The Convoy) — A durational VR experience that runs over 24 hours, and a constantly-evolving virtual ecosystem chronicling the possible futures of the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, the Daintree. Powered by climate data, each showing is unrepeatable and speculative, a meditation on time, change and loss in an irreplaceable landscape.
On the Morning You Wake (To the End of the World) (U.K. – Lead Artists: Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, Mike Brett, Steve Jamison, Arnaud Colinart, Pierre Zandrowicz, Key Collaborators: Jo-Jo Ellison, Bobby Krlic) — On a regular Saturday morning in January 2018, as Hawaiian citizens went about their daily routines, the entire state population received an SMS from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, which read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Seven Grams (France – Lead Artist: Karim Ben Khelifa, Key Collaborators: TT Hernandez, Quentin Noirfalisse) — An entirely new way for people to understand the human cost that went into producing their smartphones. This project brings the Democratic Republic of Congo’s tragic mining industry straight to the smartphone that its mineral resources helped make, via an app on both IOS and Android systems. North American Premiere.
Suga’ – A Live Virtual Dance Performance (Lead Artist: Valencia James, Key Collaborators: Thomas Wester, Simon Boas) — An immersive experience that features live dance performance as volumetric video in social virtual reality space. The performance weaves together movement, family stories, and cultural heritage to imagine virtual environments as a site for healing and reclamation of spaces that were historically filled with pain and injustice.
Surrogate (Lead Artist: Lauren Lee McCarthy, Key Collaborators: Dorothy R. Santos, David Leonard, Stefanie Tam) — How do we relate to the future while living in a world in crisis? Amidst climate change, inequity, and pandemic, it’s no longer possible to view ourselves as separate from past and future. How much control should we have over a birthing person’s body, and a life before it’s born? North American Premiere.
The Inside World (Lead Artists: Jennifer McCoy, Kevin McCoy, Key Collaborators: Annie J. Howell, Peter Rostovsky) — The city of Las Vegas is now operated by artificial intelligence. Fourteen AI “Managers” handle every sector of the city. The problem is, one of them is secretly human… Digital Art NFTs meet gameplay in this community driven mystery.
The State of Global Peace (Lead Artists: Daanish Masood Alavi, Key Collaborators: Igal Nassima, Erica Newman) — The prime minister of a fictitious country – played by you – is about to deliver a speech at a virtual UN General Assembly in the near future. A group of students hijacks the security system and takes over the screens, asking to have a dialogue.
They Dream in My Bones – Insemnopedy II (France – Lead Artist: Faye Formisano, Key Collaborators: Ludovic De Oliveira, Lilou-Magali Robert, Cindy Coutant) — Immersed on virtual veils, this VR360 experience tells the story of Roderick Norman, a researcher in onirogenetics, the science he founded, which makes it possible to extract dreams from an unidentified skeleton at the frontier of gender and the human. North American Premiere.
This Is Not a Ceremony (Canada – Lead Artist: Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon), Key Collaborators: Olivier Leroux, James Monkman, Jessica Dymond) — Darkly humorous and occasionally caustic, this cinematic VR experience offers insights into the struggles and conflicts of growing up an Indigenous man.
Emergency: Producer - Paul Davis
Emily The Criminal: Production Designer - Liz Toonkel
Summering: Production Designer - Adam Reamer
My Trip to Spain: Director of Photography - Arlene Muller