January 2023 - COVER STORY: 2023 Sundance Film Festival
Sundance is back in full force, deciding to have both in-person and virtual for the 2023 season. The festival, presented by The Sundance Institute, continues to allow moviegoers to see new films and documentaries from around the world. They also continue pushing for change, making diversity the forefront of their 45-year-old program.
“Maintaining an essential place for artists to express themselves, take risks, and for visionary stories to endure and entertain is distinctly Sundance,” said Robert Redford, Sundance Institute Founder and President. “The Festival continues to foster these values and connections through independent storytelling. We are honored to share the compelling selection of work at this year’s Festival from distinct perspectives and unique voices.”
Opening Night festivities will begin with Opening Night: A Taste of Sundance, presented by IMDbPro on January 19th. The evening will honor Ryan Coogler, writer/director/producer (Creed, Black Panther, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), with the first annual Sundance Institute | Variety Visionary Award. The award recognizes notable Sundance Institute students who are deeply connected to the organization and its programs and have established extraordinary careers that personify a unique perspective embodying a commitment to impactful storytelling.
Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute CEO, shared, “Kicking off the 2023 edition of the Festival with this new celebration is a great opportunity to champion the storytellers we support and contribute to sustaining Sundance Institute grants, mentorships, and other critical resources that enable artists to bring their stories to life.”
Coogler is no stranger to the Sundance organization. Coogler went through the Feature Film Lab, where he developed Fruitvale Station as a 2012 Screenwriters Lab fellow. He continued to receive additional creative, tactical, and granting support on the project and made his directorial debut with the film at the 2013 Festival. Fruitvale Station went on to win the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for dramatic film and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film, two of the Festival’s top honors. He has also served as an Advisor for the 2013 Screenwriters Intensive and as an artist trustee. Coogler has an ongoing connection to Sundance Institute, and his compelling works continue to influence the arts and entertain and impact audiences, adding richly to the cultural conversation.
The evening will also include the annual Vanguard Awards, presented by Acura, will be given during the evening, honoring artists whose work highlights the art of storytelling and creative independence in both nonfiction and fiction. W. Kamau Bell, director of We Need to Talk About Cosby, will be presented with The Vanguard Award for nonfiction, and Nikyatu Jusu, director of Nanny, will be presented with The Vanguard Award for fiction.
“We look forward to gathering together again in Park City to shine a light on the vision, originality, and independent spirit of artists whose careers we have supported,” said Vicente. The opportunity to recognize Ryan with the Visionary Award and his contributions to the industry and Institute for over a decade is a special moment for us. We are equally honored to be able to present both Nikyatu and Kamau with the Vanguard Awards.”
This year’s festival is full of exciting and informative new films, invoking thought-provoking moments. Announced on December 7, 2022, The full slate of works, along with the “From the Collection” films, includes 101 feature-length films representing 23 countries. The 2023 program is made up of 32 of 115 (28%) feature film directors who are first-time feature filmmakers, and 17 of the feature films and projects announced today were supported by Sundance Institute in development through direct granting or residency labs.
World premieres make up 93, or 94%, of the Festival’s 99 feature films announced today.
These films were selected from 15,855 submissions, including 4,061 feature-length films. Of the 4,061 feature film submissions, 1,662 were from the U.S., and 2,399 were international. You can check out the full program of films at https://festival.sundance.org/program/
2023 Sundance Entries
Every year we take a look at the feature films being presented and choose the ones that jump out at us to watch. Here are the top 10 list of feature films that caught our eye:
An amateur bodybuilder struggles to find a human connection as his relentless drive for recognition pushes him to the brink.
Following Ben, Miko, and Alice as they navigate a range of interpersonal relationships and traverse the country in search of the ideal connection.
Sometimes I Think About Dying
Fran likes to think about dying. It brings sensation to her quiet life. When she makes the new guy at work laugh, it leads to more: a date, a slice of pie, a conversation, a spark. The only thing standing in their way is Fran herself.
Investigative journalist Rae de Leon travels nationwide to uncover and examine a shocking pattern: Young women tell the police they’ve been sexually assaulted, but instead of finding justice, they’re charged with the crime of making a false report, arrested, and even imprisoned by the system they believed would protect them.
DIRECTOR: Nancy Schwartzman
Georgie is a dreamy 12-year-old girl who lives happily alone in her London flat, filling it with magic. Out of nowhere, her estranged father turns up and forces her to confront reality.
Saúl Armendáriz, a gay amateur wrestler from El Paso, rises to international stardom after he creates the character Cassandro, the “Liberace of Lucha Libre.” In the process, he upends not just the macho wrestling world, but also his own life.
Set against the backdrop of San Francisco's vibrant cultural scene in the 1970s and '80s, chronicling a father-daughter relationship as it evolves from an era of bohemian decadence to the heartbreaking AIDS crisis. Based on the best-selling memoir Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father by Alysia Abbott.
Fashion revolutionary Bethann Hardison looks back on her journey as a pioneering Black model, modeling agent, and activist, shining a light on an untold chapter in the fight for racial diversity.
It's Only Life After All
Blending 40 years of home movies, film archives, and intimate present-day vérité, a poignant reflection from Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of iconic folk rock duo Indigo Girls. A timely look into the obstacles, activism, and life lessons of two queer friends who never expected to make it big.
Murder In Big Horn
The deaths of a group of Native American women in rural Montana are the focus as Native families, journalists, and local law enforcement reveal a violent crisis set in motion almost 200 years ago.
For a full list of films and to purchase tickets visit www.sundance.org.