January 2022 - COVER STORY: A New Convergence: 2022 Sundance Film Festival
The world has changed in a span of a year. For the Sundance Film Festival, it was an opportunity to bring the world together through technology. The 2021 online event was a success, but festival organizers and attendees were looking forward to the moment that people can gather together as one again in Park City, Utah, live and in-person. Festival Director, Tabitha Jackson, said it best when she released a statement to talk about the upcoming event. “It’s no coincidence that our festival bursts into life at the beginning of each new year. It is a time for new beginnings, to reflect on what has been, and to imagine what might come to be,” shared Jackson. “We have taken this journey around the sun 37 times since 1985, and this ritual repetition, this annual pilgrimage, has only served to affirm the urgency, vitality, and expressive power of independent film and media. By fiercely holding space for independent perspectives and media created outside the mainstream market, we as a community can spark new narratives, protect bold critiques of power, and deepen our understanding of what is possible. It has never been more essential.”
In January 2022, the Sundance Film Festival will be the site of a new convergence. The four-decades-old event will be coming back to in-person attendance, as well as online. The full slate of works for this year’s festival includes 82 feature-length films representing 28 countries, and 39 of 92 (42%) feature film directors are first-time feature filmmakers. Fifteen of the feature films and projects announced today were supported by Sundance Institute in development through direct granting or residency labs. Seventy-five, or 91%, of the Festival’s feature films announced today will be world premieres. These films were selected from 14,849 submissions, including 3,762 feature-length films. Of the 3,762 feature film submissions, 1,652 were from the U.S., and 2,110 were international. Festival’s director of programming, Kim Yutani, is proud of this year’s lineup. “This year’s program reflects the unsettling and uncertain times we’ve been living in for the past year and a half,” says Yuntani. “The artists in the program, through their bold and innovative storytelling, and their sheer determination to create work in this moment, challenge us to look at the world through different lenses and examine and reevaluate how these stories impact us now and in the future.”
Also added this year are eight feature films that have been selected for the Festival’s Satellite Screens, and will play at those seven independent arthouse cinemas across the United States for local audiences during the Festival’s closing weekend, Friday, January 28, through Sunday, January 30, 2022. The films are Alice; Emergency; Every Day in Kaimukī; Free Chol Soo Lee; Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul; La Guerra Civil; Marte Um (Mars One); and Sirens, with additional Short Film participation to be announced. This program will play at Amherst Cinema in Amherst, Massachusetts; a/perture cinema in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Digital Gym Cinema in San Diego, California; Indie Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee; mama.film in Lawrence, Kansas; Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, Washington; and SNF Parkway Theatre, home of the Maryland Film Festival in Baltimore, Maryland. Learn more about the event at Festival.Sundance.org.
2022 SUNDANCE ENTRIES
Here are some of the entries that peaked our curiosity:
WHEN YOU FINISH SAVING THE WORLD
From his bedroom home studio, high school student Ziggy performs original folk-rock songs for an adoring online fan base. This concept mystifies his formal and uptight mother, Evelyn, who runs a shelter for survivors of domestic abuse. While Ziggy is busy trying to impress his socially engaged classmate Lila by making his music less bubblegum and more political, Evelyn meets Angie and her teen son, Kyle, when they seek refuge at her facility. She observes a bond between the two that she’s missing with her own son, and decides to take Kyle under her wing against her better instincts.
Julianne Moore, Finn Wolfhard, Alisha Boe, Directed by Jesse Eisenberg
Recently diagnosed with a rare and incurable disease, Sarah is unsure how to process the news. To help ease her friends’ and family’s impending loss, she is encouraged to participate in a simple futuristic cloning procedure called “Replacement,” after which Sarah’s last days will be spent teaching the clone how to live on as Sarah once she’s gone. But while it takes only an hour for a clone to be made, things become significantly more challenging when that double is no longer wanted.
Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Beulah Koale, Directed by Riley Stearns
Straight-A college student Kunle and his laid-back best friend, Sean, are about to have the most epic night of their lives. Determined to be the first Black students to complete their school’s frat party legendary tour, the friends strap in for their ultimate assignment, Solo cups in hand. But a quick pit stop at home alters their plans when they find a white girl passed out on the living room floor. Faced with the risks of calling the police under life-threatening optics, Kunle, Sean, and their Latino roommate, Carlos, must find a way to de-escalate the situation before it’s too late.
RJ Cyler, Donald Elise Watkins, Directed by Carey Williams
LUCY AND DESI
One day in 1940, two budding stars met for the first time in the RKO Pictures commissary, unaware that together they would change the face of pop culture. After surviving a tumultuous upbringing, a teenage Lucille Ball left her family for New York City, where she first found success as a model before moving to Hollywood to begin working in movies. Hailing from Santiago de Cuba, Desi Arnaz was a paid musician by 16 and quickly broke out as a multitalented entertainer. The two would go on to consistently challenge the status quo in entertainment both in front of and behind the camera.
Directed by Amy Poehler
GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE
Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) doesn’t know good sex. Whatever it may be, Nancy, a retired schoolteacher, is pretty sure she has never had it, but she is determined to finally do something about that. She even has a plan: It involves an anonymous hotel room, and a young sex worker who calls himself Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack). Leo is confident, dapper, and takes pride in being good at his job. He also appears to be intrigued by Nancy — one of many things to surprise her during their time together.
Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack, Directed by Sophie Hyde
Living in a cheap motel in Atlanta and separated from his wife and child, former U.S. Marine veteran Brian Easley is desperate. Driven to the brink by forces beyond his control, the soft-spoken, kind man decides to rob a bank and hold hostages with a bomb.
Decades after her untimely death, Princess Diana continues to evoke mystery, glamour, and the quintessential modern fairy tale gone wrong. As a symbol of both the widening fissures weakening the British monarchy and the destructive machinery of the press, the Princess of Wales navigated an unparalleled rise to fame and the corrosive challenges that came alongside it. Crafted entirely from immersive archival footage and free from the distraction of retrospective voices, this hypnotic and audaciously revealing documentary takes a distinctive formal approach, allowing the story of the People’s Princess to unfold before us like never before.
Directed by Ed Perkins
Alice spends her days enslaved on a rural Georgia plantation restlessly yearning for freedom. After a violent clash with plantation owner Paul, Alice flees through the neighboring woods and stumbles onto the unfamiliar sight of a highway, soon discovering that the year is actually 1973. Rescued on the roadside by a disillusioned Black activist named Frank, Alice uncovers the lies that have kept her enslaved and the promise of Black liberation.
Keke Palmer, Common, Jonny Lee Miller, Directed by Krystin Ver Linden
No one at Camp Jened could’ve Sandra (Thandiwe Newton) is very tired. It’s been years of trying (and failing) to please her recently deceased mother, while also navigating the challenging politics and power dynamics at the college where she teaches. And then there is the racism, sexism, and toxic masculinity she encounters wherever she goes. But it’s a confrontation with two hunters trespassing on her property that ultimately tests Sandra’s self-restraint, pushing her grief and mounting anger to their limits. God’s Country examines one woman’s grieving process and determination to be taken seriously amid her refusal to surrender to the confines of society.
Thandiwe Newton, Jeremy Bobb, Joris Jarsky, Directed by Julian Higgins
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?
Romain Duris, Bérénice Bejo, Grégory Gadebois, Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
EMILY THE CRIMINAL
Emily is saddled with student debt and locked out of the job market due to a minor criminal record. Desperate for income, she takes a shady gig as a “dummy shopper,” buying goods with stolen credit cards supplied by a middleman named Youcef. Faced with a series of dead-end job interviews, Emily soon finds herself seduced not only by the quick cash and illicit thrills of black market capitalism, but also by her ardent mentor Youcef.
Aubrey Plaza, Theo Rossi, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Gina Gershon, Directed by John Patton Ford
Since the beginning of her career, Sinéad O’Connor has used her powerful voice to challenge the narratives she was surrounded by while growing up in predominantly Roman Catholic Ireland. Despite her agency, depth, and perspective, O’Connor’s unflinching refusal to conform means that she has often been patronized and unfairly dismissed as an attention-seeking pop star.
In this accomplished debut feature, Kathryn Ferguson navigates O’Connor’s rocky path to stardom with great clarity. The director makes a conscious choice to focus on the late 1980s and early 1990s, when O’Connor was establishing herself as an artist while fighting an onslaught of misogyny and prejudice in the male-dominated music industry and beyond.
Directed by Kathryn Ferguson
For a full list of films and to purchase tickets visit www.sundance.org.
UPDATE: On January 5th, due to the Omnicon variant and increasing COVID numbers, The Sundance Institute made the difficult, but moral decision to cancel in-person attendance for this year. “This was a difficult decision to make,” the festival said in a statement. “As a nonprofit, our Sundance spirit is in making something work against the odds. But with case numbers forecasted to peak in our host community the week of the festival we cannot knowingly put our staff and community at risk. The undue stress to Summit County’s health services and our more than 1,500 staff and volunteers would be irresponsible in this climate.”All films can be seen online. Tickets can be purchased at sundance.org.