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January 2024 - Cover Story: Sundance Film Festival Celebrates 40 Years of Independent Filmmaking



The snow mountaintops of Park City, Utah at The Sundance Film Festival 2019
Sundance Film Festival

The renowned Sundance Film Festival is about to reach a momentous milestone as it gears up to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Established in 1985 by Robert Redford, the nonprofit Sundance Institute has consistently supported independent artists and their captivating stories. As the festival prepares to present a diverse lineup of 82 films, eight episodic titles, and a New Frontier interactive experience, audiences in Utah and beyond look forward to engaging with groundbreaking cinema. With a rich history of nurturing creativity and sparking conversations, the Sundance Film Festival remains dedicated to providing a platform for daring artists to share their unique visions with the world.


Robert Redford, Sundance Institute Founder and President, said, "From the first edition in 1985, Sundance Film Festival has aimed to provide a space to gather, celebrate, and engage with risk-taking artists that are committed to bringing their independent visions to audiences — the Festival remains true to that goal to this day. It continues to evolve, but its legacy of showcasing bold work that starts necessary conversations continues with the 2024 program."


Sundance is celebrating 40 years of movies. The 2024 Sundance Film Festival has just announced its lineup, featuring 82 films, eight episodic titles, and a New Frontier interactive experience. Presented by the nonprofit Sundance Institute, the Festival will take place from January 18 to January 28, 2024, with in-person screenings in Park City and Salt Lake City. Additionally, some titles will be available online from January 25 to January 28, 2024. This milestone edition of the Festival aims to unite audiences in Utah and beyond, honoring Sundance's legacy of supporting captivating new stories and groundbreaking independent artists. In-person ticket packages and passes, as well as online ticket packages and passes, are currently available for purchase, and single film tickets will go on sale on January 11 at 10 a.m. MT.


To kick things off, the Festival will begin at noon MT on January 18th with premieres in Park City, showcasing the range of offerings in this year's lineup across categories. On the evening of January 18th, the Institute will host the Opening Night Gala: Celebrating 40 Years Presented by Chase Sapphire®, which will serve as a fundraiser to benefit the year-round artist support work of the Sundance Institute.

Films will debut in Park City starting January 18th, with additional showings in Park City and Salt Lake City throughout the Festival. Starting January 25th, select titles will also become available online, including all Competition titles (U.S. Dramatic, U.S. Documentary, World Cinema Dramatic, World Cinema Documentary, and NEXT), as well as additional selections from the feature, episodic, and shorts programs. Audiences can experience the curated online selection exclusively via festival.sundance.org. The short film selections and 40th edition programming for the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, were announced on December 12th.


Eugene Hernandez, Director of the Sundance Film Festival and Public Programming, expressed his excitement, saying, "Sundance's passion and power shines through its programming. Curation is Sundance's secret sauce, and we're energized by the range of films, stories, and artists we've watched and selected from around the world. This Festival has had a vital history of first impressions: introductions to new talent, new friends, and new worlds — our commitment to our artists and our audiences is fundamental to our work. Our programming team, led by Kim Yutani, has curated 11 days of exciting new voices and stories for the many audiences we serve, whether they're joining us in Utah or experiencing the Festival offerings from afar. Sundance 2024 will be a special year for discovery and community."


The full slate of works includes 82 feature-length films representing 24 countries. The 2024 program consists of 40 of 101 (40%) feature film directors who are first-time feature filmmakers, and 11 of the feature films and projects were supported by Sundance Institute in development through direct granting or residency labs. World premieres make up 85, or 94%, of the Festival's 90 feature films and episodic programs announced today.


Kim Yutani, Sundance Film Festival Director of Programming, explained, "While we don't set out to program the Festival with a defined theme in mind, it became apparent this year that our slate's biggest strength is how it showcases the vitality of independent storytelling. Our program is tightly curated and covers a broad cross-section of form, perspective, and genre that we're looking forward to sharing with audiences. These titles are inventive and they beautifully represent the kind of groundbreaking work we've sought to amplify at Sundance throughout our history."


The winner of the 2024 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, an annual award given to an artist with the most outstanding depiction of science and technology in a feature film, was also announced. This year, the prize has gone to Love Me, which will be screened in the U.S. Dramatic Competition category.

The Sundance Film Festival is an artist program of the Sundance Institute, a nonprofit that has impacted thousands of artists every year, plus thousands more through its public programming. Proceeds earned through Festival ticket sales go towards uplifting and developing emerging artists on a year-round basis through focused labs, direct grants, fellowships, residencies, and more.


Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute CEO, added, "The Institute takes great pride in the role the Festival plays in advancing our mission to support artists creating audacious work. This year is especially significant as we look back on our history of showcasing stories that surprise and delight, spark empathy and reflection, and honor our shared humanity. We're all thrilled for this opportunity to celebrate the power of storytelling as we gather in January to introduce captivating works from acclaimed filmmakers and discover more new voices."


These films were selected from a record number of 17,435 submissions from 153 countries or territories, including 4,410 feature-length films. Of these feature film submissions, 1,679 were from the U.S., and 2,741 were international. The eight episodic projects were selected from 573 submissions, and there were 385 New Frontier submissions.


2024 Sundance Entries

Every year we take a look at some of the films being presented and pick ones that jump out at us. Here is the top 10 list of feature films that caught our eye:


A Different Man - Sebastian Stan
A Different Man - Sebastian Stan

A Different Man

Aspiring actor Edward undergoes a radical medical procedure to drastically transform his appearance. But his new dream face quickly turns into a nightmare, as he loses out on the role he was born to play and becomes obsessed with reclaiming what was lost.

Directed by Aaron Schimberg, Starring Sebastian Stan, Renate Reinsve, and Adam Pearson


A Real Pain - Kieran Culkin and Jesse Eisenberg
A Real Pain - Kieran Culkin and Jesse Eisenberg

A Real Pain

Mismatched cousins David and Benji reunite for a tour through Poland to honor their beloved grandmother. The adventure takes a turn when the pair’s old tensions resurface against the backdrop of their family history.

Directed by Jesse Eisenberg, Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kieran Culkin, Will Sharpe, Jennifer Grey, and Kurt Egyiawan


In the Summers
In the Summers

In The Summers

On a journey that spans the formative years of their lives, two sisters navigate their loving but volatile father during their yearly summer visits to his home in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Directed by Alessandra Lacorazza Samudio, Starring Residente, Sasha Calle, and Lio Mehiel

Directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, Starring Pedro Pascal, Jay Ellis, Normani Kordei Hamilton, Dominique Thorne, and Ben Mendelsohn.


Freaky Tales - Pedro Pascal
Freaky Tales - Pedro Pascal

Freaky Tales

In 1987 Oakland, a mysterious force guides The Town’s underdogs in four interconnected tales: Teen punks defend their turf against Nazi skinheads, a rap duo battles for hip-hop immortality, a weary henchman gets a shot at redemption, and an NBA All-Star settles the score. Another day in the Bay.

Directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, Starring Pedro Pascal, Jay Ellis, Normani Kordei Hamilton, Dominique Thorne, and Ben Mendelsohn.


Love Me - Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun
Love Me - Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun

Love Me

Long after humanity's extinction, a buoy and a satellite meet online and fall in love.

Directed by Sam and Andy Zuchero, Starring Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun


Exhibiting Forgiveness - Andre Holland and Andra Day
Exhibiting Forgiveness - Andre Holland and Andra Day

Exhibiting Forgiveness

Utilizing his paintings to find freedom from his past, a Black artist on the path to success is derailed by an unexpected visit from his estranged father, a recovering addict desperate to reconcile. Together, they learn that forgetting might be a greater challenge than forgiving.

Directed by Titus Kaphar, Starring André Holland, John Earl Jelks, Andra Day, and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor


The American Society of Magical Negroes - Justice Smith, David Alan Grier, Tobin Yelland, Focus Features 2024
The American Society of Magical Negroes

The American Society of Magical Negroes

A young man, Aren, is recruited into a secret society of magical Black people who dedicate their lives to a cause of utmost importance: making white people’s lives easier.

Directed by Kobi Libii, Starring Justice Smith, David Alan Grier, An-Li Bogan, Drew Tarver, Rupert Friend, and Nicole Byer.


Luther: Never Too Much - Luther Vandross
Luther: Never Too Much - Luther Vandross

Luther: Never Too Much

Luther Vandross started his career supporting David Bowie, Roberta Flack, Bette Midler, and more. His undeniable talent earned platinum records and accolades, but he struggled to break out beyond the R&B charts. Intensely driven, he overcame personal and professional challenges to secure his place among the greatest vocalists in history.

Directed by Dawn Porter


Super/Man: The Christopher Reeves Story
Super/Man: The Christopher Reeves Story

Super/Man: The Christopher Reeves Story

Never-before-seen home movies and extraordinary personal archives reveal how Christopher Reeve went from an unknown actor to an iconic movie star as the ultimate screen superhero. He learned the true meaning of heroism as an activist after suffering a tragic accident that left him quadriplegic and dependent on a ventilator to breathe.

Directed by Ian Bonhôte


DEVO
DEVO

Devo

Born in response to the Kent State massacre, new wave band Devo took their concept of “de-evolution” from cult following to near–rock star status with the groundbreaking 1980 hit “Whip It” while preaching an urgent social commentary.

Directed by Chris Smith


Little Death - David Schwimmer
Little Death - David Schwimmer

HONORABLE MENTION - Little Death

Little Death is a dark comedy about a screenwriter’s midlife identity crisis and a crime drama about a pair of taco truck entrepreneurs in search of their next opioid fix. In true Los Angeles fashion, these characters collide at a tragicomic intersection, and the film shifts gears from barbed showbiz satire to an introspective hangout vibe.

Directed by Jack Begert, Starring David Schwimmer, Gaby Hoffman, Dominic Fike, Taila Ryder, Jena Malone, and Sante Bentivoglio.


For a full list of films and to purchase tickets, visit www.sundance.org.

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