Sundance is live and in-person once again! Today the nonprofit Sundance Institute announced the slate of independent films selected across the feature film categories for the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Among the selections is Going Varsity in Mariachi, a new documentary supported by the Chicago Media Project. Let’s dance through the entire Sundance feature film roster…
The 2023 Festival will take place January 19–29, 2023, in person in Park City, Salt Lake City, and the Sundance Resort, along with a selection of films available online across the country January 24–29, 2023. Festivalgoers will once again return to theaters to discover this upcoming year’s most impactful independent stories, after the past two festivals were presented online-only.
Setting the scene, Day One Features will open the Festival in Park City: 11 features, plus a Shorts program, will illustrate the scope of Festival work across genre and form. Day One Features are birth/rebirth, L’Immensità, It’s Only Life After All, Kim’s Video, Little Richard: I Am Everything, The Longest Goodbye, ThePod Generation, Radical, Shayda, Sometimes I Think About Dying, andRun Rabbit Run. In addition, on January 19, the Institute will host the inaugural Opening Night: A Taste of Sundance presented by IMDbPro. The celebration will kick off the Festival welcoming everyone back together again while raising funds for the Institute’s critical year-round artist support. The evening will honor Ryan Coogler, Nikyatu Jusu, W. Kamau Bell, and more whose journeys have been connected to Sundance throughout the years. In addition, in-person attendees will get to experience a robust offering of talks and events during the Festival, with more details to be announced.
Films will become available online during the second half of the Festival — beginning January 24 — and will include all Competition titles (U.S. Dramatic, U.S. Documentary, World Cinema Dramatic, World Cinema Documentary, and NEXT), as well as exciting work across other sections of the feature film program, Indie Episodic Program, and Shorts Program. Audiences can enjoy the selection of films exclusively on the Sundance Film Festival online platform — those that will be available online are noted below. The online offering reinforces the Institute’s commitment to accessibility by allowing audiences coast to coast to take part in the discovery of captivating stories. The Shorts and Indie Episodic lineups for the 2023 Sundance Film Festival will be announced on December 13.
“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.”
“As a program of the Sundance Institute, the Festival provides a place for artists globally to connect with audiences around a shared and inclusive experience of discovery,” said Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute CEO. “These filmmakers reflect the world around us through bold and thrilling storytelling. It is critical for the arts to foster dialogue, especially during unprecedented times — these stories are needed to provoke discussion, share diverse viewpoints, and challenge us. We are delighted to welcome this group of passionate artists to the Festival and look forward to celebrating the films together with audiences.”
“The program for this year’s Festival reiterates the relevancy of trailblazing work serving as an irreplaceable source for original stories that resonate and fuel creativity and dialogue,” said Kim Yutani, Sundance Film Festival Director of Programming. “In so many ways this year’s slate reflects the voices of communities around the world who are speaking out with urgency and finally being heard. Across our program, impactful storytelling by fearless artists continues to provide space for the community to come together to be entertained, challenged, and inspired.”
Chicago Media Project Returns to Sundance with Going Varsity in Mariachi
The Windy City investor collective Chicago Media Project (CMP), led by Paula Froehle and Steve Cohen, return to Park City with the CMP-supported documentary Going Varsity in Mariachi. CMP brought a whopping six films to Sundance in 2022. Going Varsity in Mariachi is led by directors Alejandra Vasquez and Sam Osborn.
In the competitive world of high school mariachi, the musicians from the South Texas borderlands reign supreme. Under the guidance of coach Abel Acuña, the teenage captains of Edinburg North High School’s acclaimed team must turn a shoestring budget and diverse crew of inexperienced musicians into state champions.
Let’s take a look at the rest of the Sundance 2023 lineup…
The 2023 Sundance Film Festival’s Salt Lake City Opening Night Gala Film is Blueback, premiering at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center on January 20. The upcoming Festival will expand its presence in Salt Lake City, providing more places to take part in the thrilling experience, including at The Megaplex Theatres at The Gateway.
Also announced today, The Pod Generation, screening in the Premieres section, has been named the winner of the 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.
The slate announced to date includes SLAM and The Doom Generation, which are featured in the From the Collection section bringing archival screenings back into focus as part of the Festival.
The Sundance Film Festival is an artist program of the Sundance Institute. Proceeds earned through Festival ticket sales go to uplifting and developing emerging artists on a year-round basis through focused labs, direct grants, fellowships, residencies, and more.
The full slate of works announced today, along with the From the Collection films previously announced, 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. Director demographics are available in an editor’s note below.
U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Presenting 12 world premieres of fiction feature films, the Dramatic Competition offers audiences a first look at groundbreaking new voices in American independent film. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include Nanny, CODA, Passing, Minari, Never Rarely Sometimes Always,The Farewell, Clemency, Eighth Grade, and Sorry to Bother You.
The Accidental Getaway Driver / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Sing J. Lee, Screenwriter: Christopher Chen, Producers: Kimberly Steward, Basil Iwanyk, Andy Sorgie, Brendon Boyea, Joseph Hiếu) — During a routine pickup, an elderly Vietnamese cab driver is taken hostage at gunpoint by three recently escaped Orange County convicts. Based on a true story. Cast: Hiệp Trần Nghĩa, Dustin Nguyen, Dali Benssalah, Phi Vũ, Gabrielle Chan. World Premiere. Available online.
All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Raven Jackson, Producers: Maria Altamirano, Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski, Mark Ceryak) – A decades-spanning exploration of a woman’s life in Mississippi and an ode to the generations of people, places, and ineffable moments that shape us. Cast: Charleen McClure, Moses Ingram, Kaylee Nicole Johnson, Reginald Helms Jr., Sheila Atim, Chris Chalk. World Premiere. Available online.
Fair Play / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Chloe Domont, Producers: Leopold Hughes, Ben LeClair, Tim White, Trevor White, Allan Mandelbaum) — An unexpected promotion at a cutthroat hedge fund pushes a young couple’s relationship to the brink, threatening to unravel far more than their recent engagement. Cast: Phoebe Dynevor, Alden Ehrenreich, Eddie Marsan. World Premiere. Available online.
Fancy Dance / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Erica Tremblay, Screenwriter: Miciana Alise, Producers: Deidre Backs, Heather Rae, Nina Yang Bongiovi, Tommy Oliver) — Following her sister’s disappearance, a Native American hustler kidnaps her niece from the child’s white grandparents and sets out for the state powwow in hopes of keeping what is left of their family intact. Cast: Lily Gladstone, Isabel Deroy-Olson, Ryan Begay, Shea Whigham, Audrey Wasilewski. World Premiere. Available online.
Magazine Dreams / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Elijah Bynum, Producers: Jennifer Fox, Dan Gilroy, Jeffrey Soros, Simon Horsman) — An amateur bodybuilder struggles to find human connection as his relentless drive for recognition pushes him to the brink. Cast: Jonathan Majors, Haley Bennett, Taylour Paige, Mike O’Hearn, Harrison Page, Harriet Sansom Harris. World Premiere. Available online.
Mutt / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Vuk Lungulov-Klotz, Producers: Alexander Stegmaier, Stephen Scott Scarpulla, Jennifer Kuczaj, Joel Michaely) — Over the course of a single hectic day in New York City, three people from Feña’s past are thrust back into his life. Having lost touch since transitioning from female to male, he navigates the new dynamics of old relationships while tackling the day-to-day challenges of living life in between. Cast: Lío Mehiel, Cole Doman, MiMi Ryder, Alejandro Goic. World Premiere. Available online.
The Persian Version / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Maryam Keshavarz, Producers: Anne Carey, Ben Howe, Luca Borghese, Peter Block, Corey Nelson) — When a large Iranian-American family gathers for the patriarch’s heart transplant, a family secret is uncovered that catapults the estranged mother and daughter into an exploration of the past. Toggling between the United States and Iran over decades, mother and daughter discover they are more alike than they know. Cast: Layla Mohammadi, Niousha Noor, Kamand Shafieisabet, Bella Warda, Bijan Daneshmand, Shervin Alenabi. World Premiere. Available online.
Shortcomings / U.S.A. (Director: Randall Park, Screenwriter: Adrian Tomine, Producers: Margot Hand, Randall Park, Hieu Ho, Jennifer Berman, Howard Cohen, Eric d’Arbeloff) — Following Ben, Miko, and Alice as they navigate a range of interpersonal relationships and traverse the country in search of the ideal connection. Cast: Justin H. Min, Sherry Cola, Ally Maki, Debby Ryan, Tavi Gevinson, Sonoya Mizuno. World Premiere. Available online.
Sometimes I Think About Dying / U.S.A. (Director: Rachel Lambert, Screenwriters: Kevin Armento, Stefanie Abel Horowitz, Katy Wright-Mead, Producers: Alex Saks, Daisy Ridley, Dori Rath, Lauren Beveridge, Brett Beveridge) — 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. Cast: Daisy Ridley, Dave Merheje, Parvesh Cheena, Marcia DeBonis, Meg Stalter, Brittany O’Grady. World Premiere. Available online. DAY ONE
The Starling Girl / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Laurel Akira Parmet, Producers: Kevin Rowe, Kara Durrett) — Seventeen-year-old Jem Starling struggles with her place within her Christian fundamentalist community, but everything changes when her magnetic youth pastor Owen returns to their church. Cast: Eliza Scanlen, Lewis Pullman, Jimmi Simpson, Wrenn Schmidt, Austin Abrams, Jessamine Burgum. World Premiere. Available online.
Theater Camp / U.S.A. (Directors and Screenwriters: Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman, Screenwriters: Noah Galvin, Ben Platt, Producers: Erik Feig, Samie Kim Falvey, Julia Hammer, Ryan Heller, Will Ferrell, Jessica Elbaum) — When the beloved founder of a run-down theater camp in upstate New York falls into a coma, the eccentric staff must band together with the founder’s crypto-bro son to keep the camp afloat. Cast: Molly Gordon, Ben Platt, Noah Galvin, Jimmy Tatro, Patti Harrison, Ayo Edebiri. World Premiere. Available online.
A Thousand and One / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: A.V. Rockwell, Producers: Eddie Vaisman, Julia Lebedev, Lena Waithe, Rishi Rajani, Brad Weston) — Convinced it’s one last, necessary crime on the path to redemption, unapologetic and free-spirited Inez kidnaps 6-year-old Terry from the foster care system. Holding on to their secret and each other, mother and son set out to reclaim their sense of home, identity, and stability in New York City. Cast: Teyana Taylor, Will Catlett, Josiah Cross, Aven Courtney, Aaron Kingsley Adetola. World Premiere. Available online.
U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
World-premiere American documentaries that illuminate the ideas, people, and events that shape the present day. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include Fire of Love, Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Boys State, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, APOLLO 11, Knock Down the House, One Child Nation,American Factory, Three Identical Strangers, and On Her Shoulders.
AUM: The Cult at the End of the World / U.S.A. (Directors and Producers: Ben Braun, Chiaki Yanagimoto, Producers: Dan Braun, Josh Braun, Rick Brookwell) — On the morning of March 20, 1995, a deadly nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway sent the nation and its people into chaos. This exploration of Aum Shinrikyo, the cult responsible for the attack, involves the participation of those who lived through the horror as it unfolded. World Premiere. Available online.
Bad Press / U.S.A (Directors: Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, Joe Peeler, Producers: Conrad Beilharz, Garrett F. Baker, Tyler Graim) — When the Muscogee Nation suddenly begins censoring its free press, a rogue reporter fights to expose her government’s corruption in a historic battle that will have ramifications for all of Indian country. World Premiere. Available online.
The Disappearance of Shere Hite / U.S.A. (Director and Producer: Nicole Newnham, Producers: Molly O’Brien, R.J. Cutler, Elise Pearlstein, Kimberley Ferdinando, Trevor Smith) — Shere Hite’s 1976 bestselling book, The Hite Report, liberated the female orgasm by revealing the most private experiences of thousands of anonymous survey respondents. Her findings rocked the American establishment and presaged current conversations about gender, sexuality, and bodily autonomy. So how did Shere Hite disappear? World Premiere. Available online.
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project / U.S.A. (Directors and Producers: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson, Producer: Tommy Oliver) — Intimate vérité, archival footage, and visually innovative treatments of poetry take us on a journey through the dreamscape of legendary poet Nikki Giovanni as she reflects on her life and legacy. World Premiere. Available online.
Going Varsity in Mariachi / U.S.A. (Directors: Alejandra Vasquez, Sam Osborn, Producers: James Lawler, Luis A. Miranda, Jr., Julia Pontecorvo) — In the competitive world of high school mariachi, the musicians from the South Texas borderlands reign supreme. Under the guidance of coach Abel Acuña, the teenage captains of Edinburg North High School’s acclaimed team must turn a shoestring budget and diverse crew of inexperienced musicians into state champions. World Premiere. Available online.
Joonam / U.S.A. (Director: Sierra Urich, Producer: Keith Wilson) — Spurred by a provocative family memory and a lifetime of separation from the country her mother left behind, a young filmmaker delves into her mother and grandmother’s complicated pasts and her own fractured Iranian identity. World Premiere. Available online.
Little Richard: I Am Everything / U.S.A. (Director and Producer: Lisa Cortés, Producers: Robert Friedman, Liz Yale Marsh, Caryn Capotosto) — This celebration of Little Richard reveals the Black queer origins of rock ’n’ roll, finally exploding the whitewashed canon of American pop music. Through archival and performance footage, the revolutionary icon’s life unspools with all of its switchbacks and contradictions. World Premiere. Available online. DAY ONE
Nam June Paik: Moon is the Oldest TV / U.S.A. (Director and Producer: Amanda Kim, Producers: Amy Hobby, David Koh, Mariko Munro, Jennifer Stockman, Jesse Wann) — The quixotic journey of Nam June Paik, one of the most famous Asian artists of the 20th century, who revolutionized the use of technology as an artistic canvas and prophesied both the fascist tendencies and intercultural understanding that would arise from the interconnected metaverse of today’s world. World Premiere. Available online.
A Still Small Voice / U.S.A. (Director and Producer: Luke Lorentzen, Producer: Kellen Quinn) — An aspiring hospital chaplain begins a yearlong residency in spiritual care, only to discover that to successfully tend to her patients, she must look deep within herself. World Premiere. Available online.
The Stroll / U.S.A. (Directors: Kristen Lovell, Zackary Drucker, Producer: Matt Wolf) — The history of New York’s Meatpacking District, told from the perspective of transgender sex workers who lived and worked there. Filmmaker Kristen Lovell, who walked “The Stroll” for a decade, reunites her community to recount the violence, policing, homelessness, and gentrification they overcame to build a movement for transgender rights. World Premiere. Available online.
Victim/Suspect / U.S.A. (Director and Producer: Nancy Schwartzman, Producers: Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Alice Henty, Rachel de Leon, Amanda Pike) — 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. World Premiere. Available online.
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Fiction projects from emerging artists around the world offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include Brian and Charles, Hive, Luzzu, The Souvenir, The Guilty, Monos, Yardie, The Nile Hilton Incident, and Second Mother.
Animalia / France, Morocco, Qatar (Director and Screenwriter: Sofia Alaoui, Producers: Margaux Lorier, Toufik Ayadi, Christophe Barral) — A young, pregnant woman finds emancipation as aliens land in Morocco. Cast: Oumaïma Barid, Mehdi Dehbi, Fouad Oughaou. World Premiere. Available online.
Bad Behaviour/ New Zealand (Director and Screenwriter: Alice Englert, Producers: Molly Hallam, Desray Armstrong) — Lucy, a former child actor, seeks enlightenment at a retreat led by spiritual leader Elon while she navigates her close yet turbulent relationship with her stunt-performer daughter, Dylan. Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Ben Whishaw, Alice Englert, Ana Scotney, Dasha Nekrasova, Marlon Williams. World Premiere. Available online.
Girl/ U.K. (Director and Screenwriter: Adura Onashile, Producers: Rosie Crerar, Ciara Barry) — Eleven-year-old Ama and her mother, Grace, take solace in the gentle but isolated world they obsessively create. Ama’s growing up threatens the boundaries of their tenderness and forces Grace to reckon with a past she struggles to forget. Cast: Déborah Lukumuena, Danny Sapani, Le’Shantey Bonsu, Liana Turner. World Premiere. Available online.
Heroic/ Mexico, Sweden (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: David Zonana, Producers: Michel Franco, Eréndira Núñez Larios) — Luis, an 18-year-old boy with Indigenous roots, enters the Heroic Military College in hopes of ensuring a better future. There, he encounters a rigid and institutionally violent system designed to turn him into a perfect soldier. Cast: Santiago Sandoval Carbajal, Fernando Cuautle, Mónica del Carmen, Esteban Caicedo, Carlos Gerardo García, Isabel Yudice. World Premiere. Available online.
MAMACRUZ/ Spain (Director and Screenwriter: Patricia Ortega, Screenwriter: José Ortuño, Producer: Olmo Figueredo) — With the help of her newly emigrated daughter, a religious grandmother learns how to use the internet. However, an accidental encounter with pornography poses a dilemma for her. Cast: Kiti Mánver. World Premiere. Available online.
Mami Wata/ Nigeria (Director and Screenwriter: C.J. “Fiery” Obasi, Producer: Oge Obasi) — When the harmony in a village is threatened by outside elements, two sisters must fight to save their people and restore the glory of a mermaid goddess to the land. Cast: Evelyne Ily, Uzoamaka Aniunoh, Kelechi Udegbe, Emeka Amakeze, Rita Edochie, Tough Bone. World Premiere. Available online.
La Pecera/ Puerto Rico, Spain (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Glorimar Marrero Sánchez, Producers: Amaya Izquierdo, José Esteban Alenda) — As her cancer spreads, Noelia’s ultimate decision is to return to her native Vieques, Puerto Rico, and claim her freedom to decide her own fate. She reunites with her friends and family, who are still dealing with the contamination of the U.S. Navy after sixty years of military practices. Cast: Isel Rodríguez, Modesto Lacén, Magali Carrasquillo, Maximiliano Rivas, Anamín Santiago, Idenisse Salamán. World Premiere. Available online.
Scrapper/ U.K. (Director and Screenwriter: Charlotte Regan, Producer: Theo Barrowclough) — 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. Cast: Harris Dickinson, Lola Campbell, Alin Uzun, Ambreen Razia, Olivia Brady, Aylin Tezel. World Premiere. Available online.
Shayda/ Australia (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Noora Niasari, Producer: Vincent Sheehan) — Shayda, a brave Iranian mother, finds refuge in an Australian women’s shelter with her 6-year-old daughter. Over Persian New Year, they take solace in Nowruz rituals and new beginnings, but when her estranged husband re-enters their lives, Shayda’s path to freedom is jeopardized. Cast: Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Osamah Sami, Leah Purcell, Jillian Nguyen, Mojean Aria, Selina Zahednia. World Premiere. Available online. DAY ONE
Slow/ Lithuania, Spain, Sweden (Director and Screenwriter: Marija Kavtaradze, Producer: Marija Razgute) — Dancer Elena and sign language interpreter Dovydas meet and form a beautiful bond. As they dive into a new relationship, they must navigate how to build their own kind of intimacy. Cast: Greta Grinevičiūtė, Kęstutis Cicėnas. World Premiere. Available online.
Sorcery/ Chile, Mexico, Germany (Director and Screenwriter: Christopher Murray, Screenwriter: Pablo Paredes, Producers: Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín, Rocío Jadue, Nicolás Celis) — On the remote island of Chiloé in the late 19th century, an Indigenous girl named Rosa lives and works with her father on a farm. When the foreman brutally turns on Rosa’s father, she sets out for justice, seeking help from the king of a powerful organization of sorcerers. Cast: Valentina Véliz, Daniel Antivilo, Sebastian Hulk, Daniel Muñoz. World Premiere. Available online.
When It Melts/ Belgium (Director and Screenwriter: Veerle Baetens, Screenwriter: Maarten Loix, Producers: Bart Van Langendonck, Ellen Havenith, Jacques-Henri Bronckart) — Many years after a sweltering summer that spun out of control, Eva returns to the village she grew up in with an ice block in the back of her car. In the dead of winter, she confronts her past and faces up to her tormentors. Cast: Charlotte De Bruyne, Rosa Marchant. World Premiere. Available online.
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Documentaries by some of the boldest global filmmakers capturing the world today. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include All That Breathes, Flee, Honeyland, Sea of Shadows, Shirkers, This Is Home, Last Men in Aleppo, and Hooligan Sparrow.
5 Seasons of Revolution/ Germany, Syria, Netherlands, Norway (Director: Lina, Producer: Diana El Jeiroudi) — An aspiring video journalist in her 20s finds herself already facing self-reckoning. Born in Damascus, Syria, Lina starts to report on the events around her until she is compelled to become a war reporter and, later, the unexpected narrator of her own destiny. World Premiere. Available online.
20 Days in Mariupol/ Ukraine (Director and Producer: Mstyslav Chernov, Producers: Michelle Mizner, Raney Aronson-Rath, Derl McCrudden) — As the Russian invasion begins, a team of Ukrainian journalists trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol struggle to continue their work documenting the war’s atrocities. World Premiere. Available online.
Against the Tide/ India (Director and Producer: Sarvnik Kaur, Producer: Koval Bhatia) — Two friends, both Indigenous fishermen, are driven to desperation by a dying sea. Their friendship begins to fracture as they take very different paths to provide for their struggling families. World Premiere. Available online.
The Eternal Memory/ Chile (Director and Producer: Maite Alberdi, Producers: Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín, Rocío Jadue) — Augusto and Paulina have been together for 25 years. Eight years ago, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Both fear the day he no longer recognizes her. World Premiere. Available online.
Fantastic Machine/ Sweden, Denmark (Directors and Producers: Axel Danielson, Maximilien Van Aertryck) — From the first camera to 45 billion cameras worldwide today, the visual sociologist filmmakers widen their lens to expose both humanity’s unique obsession with the camera’s image and the social consequences that lay ahead. World Premiere. Available online.
Iron Butterflies/ Ukraine, Germany (Director: Roman Liubyi, Producers: Andrii Kotliar, Volodymyr Tykhyy, David Armati Lechner, Isabelle Bertolone, Trini Götze) — In summer 2014, sunflower fields and coal mines in eastern Ukraine turned into a 12 square kilometer crime scene. A multi-layered investigation into the downing of flight MH17, in which a butterfly-shaped shrapnel was found in the pilot’s body, implicated the state responsible for a war crime that remains unpunished. World Premiere. Available online.
Is There Anybody Out There?/ U.K. (Director: Ella Glendining, Producer: Janine Marmot) — While navigating daily discrimination, a filmmaker who inhabits and loves her unusual body searches the world for another person like her, and explores what it takes to love oneself fiercely despite the pervasiveness of ableism. World Premiere. Available online.
The Longest Goodbye/ Israel, Canada (Director and Producer: Ido Mizrahy, Producers: Nir Sa’ar, Paul Cadieux) — Social isolation affects millions of people, even Mars-bound astronauts. A savvy NASA psychologist is tasked with protecting these daring explorers. World Premiere. Available online. DAY ONE
Milisuthando/ South Africa (Director and Screenwriter: Milisuthando Bongela, Producer: Marion Isaacs) — Set in past, present, and future South Africa — an invitation into a poetic, memory-driven exploration of love, intimacy, race, and belonging by the filmmaker, who grew up during apartheid but didn’t know it was happening until it was over. World Premiere. Available online.
Pianoforte/ Poland (Director: Jakub Piątek, Producer: Maciej Kubicki) — Young pianists take part in the legendary International Chopin Piano Competition. A unique chance of a lifetime, portrayed from backstage and set to Chopin’s music. World Premiere. Available online.
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood/ Estonia, France, Iceland (Director: Anna Hints, Producer: Marianne Ostrat) — In the darkness of a smoke sauna, women share their innermost secrets and intimate experiences, washing off the shame trapped in their bodies and regaining their strength through a sense of communion. World Premiere. Available online.
Twice Colonized/ Greenland, Denmark, Canada (Director: Lin Alluna, Producers: Emile Hertling Péronard, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Stacey Aglok MacDonald, Bob Moore) — Renowned Inuit lawyer Aaju Peter has long fought for the rights of her people. When her son suddenly dies, Aaju embarks on a journey to reclaim her language and culture after a lifetime of whitewashing and forced assimilation. But can she both change the world and mend her own wounds? World Premiere. Available online.
Visionary works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling populate this program. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include A Love Song, RIOTSVILLE, USA, The Infiltrators, Searching, Skate Kitchen, A Ghost Story, and Tangerine. NEXT is presented by Adobe.
Bravo, Burkina! / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Walé Oyéjidé, Producers: Giulia Alagna, Heather Barnes) — A Burkinabé boy flees his village and migrates to Italy. When disillusioned by heartbreak and haunted by memories of home, he travels through time in hope of regaining all he has lost. Cast: Alain Tiendrebeogo, Mousty Mbaye, Noel Minougou, Aissata Deme, Afissatou Coulibaly. World Premiere. Fiction. Available online.
Divinity / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Eddie Alcazar, Producer: Steven Soderbergh) —Two mysterious brothers abduct a mogul during his quest for immortality. Meanwhile, a seductive woman helps them launch a journey of self-discovery. Cast: Stephen Dorff, Moises Arias, Jason Genao, Karrueche Tran, Bella Thorne, Scott Bakula. World Premiere. Fiction. Available online.
Fremont / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Babak Jalali, Screenwriter: Carolina Cavalli, Producers: Marjaneh Moghimi, Sudnya Shroff, Rachael Fung, George Rush, Chris Martin, Laura Wagner) — Donya works for a Chinese fortune cookie factory in San Francisco. Formerly a translator for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, she struggles to put her life back in order. In a moment of sudden revelation, she decides to send out a special message in a cookie. Cast: Anaita Wali Zada, Jeremy Allen White, Gregg Turkington. World Premiere. Fiction. Available online.
Kim’s Video / U.S.A. (Directors, Screenwriters, and Producers: David Redmon, Ashley Sabin, Producers: Deborah Smith, Dale Smith, Francesco Galavotti, Rebecca Tabasky) — Playing with the forms and tropes of various cinema genres, the filmmaker sets off on a quest to find a legendary lost video collection of 55,000 movies in Sicily. World Premiere. Documentary. Available online. DAY ONE
King Coal / U.S.A. (Director and Producer: Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Producers: Shane Boris, Diane Becker, Peggy Drexler) — The cultural roots of coal continue to permeate the rituals of daily life in Appalachia even as its economic power wanes. The journey of a coal miner’s daughter exploring the region’s dreams and myths, untangling the pain and beauty, as her community sits on the brink of massive change. World Premiere. Documentary. Available online.
KOKOMO CITY / U.S.A. (Director and Producer: D. Smith, Producers: Harris Doran, Bill Butler) — Four Black transgender sex workers explore the dichotomy between the Black community and themselves, while confronting issues long avoided. World Premiere. Documentary. Available online.
To Live and Die and Live / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Qasim Basir, Producers: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker, Amin Joseph, Dana Offenbach, Samantha Basir) — Muhammad returns home to Detroit to bury his stepfather and is thrust into settling his accounts, but Muhammad’s struggles with depression and addiction may finish him before he finishes the task. Cast: Amin Joseph, Skye P. Marshall, Omari Hardwick, Cory Hardrict, Dana Gourrier, Maryam Basir. World Premiere. Fiction. Available online.
The Tuba Thieves / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Alison O’Daniel, Producer: Rachel Nederveld, Wendy Ettinger, Maida Lynn, Su Kim, Maya E. Rudolph) — From 2011 to 2013, tubas were stolen from Los Angeles high schools. This is not a story about thieves or missing tubas. Instead, it asks what it means to listen. World Premiere. Documentary. Available online.
Young. Wild. Free. / U.S.A (Director: Thembi L. Banks, Screenwriters: Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Producers: Charles D. King, James Lopez, Poppy Hanks, Tommy Oliver, Baron Davis, Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd) — High school senior Brandon is drowning in responsibilities when his world is turned upside down after being robbed at gunpoint by the girl of his dreams. Cast: Algee Smith, Sanaa Lathan, Sierra Capri, Mike Epps. World Premiere. Fiction. Available online.
From horror and comedy to works that defy genre classification, these films will keep you wide awake, even at the most arduous hour. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include FRESH, Hereditary, Mandy, Relic, Assassination Nation, and The Babadook.
birth/rebirth / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Laura Moss, Screenwriter: Brendan J. O’Brien, Producers: Mali Elfman, David Grove Churchill Viste) — A single mother and a childless morgue technician are bound together by their relationship to a little girl they have reanimated from the dead.Cast: Marin Ireland, Judy Reyes, A.J. Lister, Breeda Wool. World Premiere. Fiction. DAY ONE
In My Mother’s Skin / Philippines (Director and Screenwriter: Kenneth Dagatan, Producers: Bradley Liew, Bianca Balbuena, Huang Junxiang, Stefano Centini) — Stranded in the Philippines during World War II, a young girl finds that her duty to protect her dying mother is complicated by her misplaced trust in a beguiling, flesh-eating fairy. Cast: Beauty Gonzalez, Felicity Kyle Napuli, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, James Mavie Estrella, Angeli Bayani. World Premiere. Fiction. Available online.
Infinity Pool / Canada (Director and Screenwriter: Brandon Cronenberg, Producers: Karen Harnisch, Andrew Cividino, Christian Piovesan, Noah Segal, Rob Cotterill, Anita Juka) — James and Em are enjoying an all-inclusive beach vacation when a fatal accident exposes the resort’s perverse subculture of hedonistic tourism, reckless violence, and surreal horrors. Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman. World Premiere. Fiction.
My Animal / Canada (Director: Jacqueline Castel, Screenwriter: Jae Matthews, Producers: Andrew Bronfman, Michael Solomon) — Heather, an outcast teenage goalie in a small northern town, falls for newcomer Jonny, an alluring but tormented figure skater. As their relationship deepens, Heather’s growing desires clash with her darkest secret, forcing her to control the animal within. Cast: Bobbi Salvör Menuez, Amandla Stenberg, Stephen McHattie, Heidi von Palleske, Cory Lipman, Joe Apollonio. World Premiere. Fiction.
Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Andrew Bowser, Producers: Clark Baker, Michael Mobley, Olivia Taylor Dudley) — Onyx joins a group of fellow occultists to attend a dark ritual at the mansion of their idol, Bartok. Suspecting Bartok’s nefarious intentions, Onyx is suddenly immersed in a world of monsters, mystery, and mayhem. Cast: Andrew Bowser, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Jeffrey Combs, Ralph Ineson, Rivkah Reyes, T.C. Carson. World Premiere. Fiction.
In-Person Ticket Packages are currently on sale through December 16, Online Ticket Packages go on sale December 13 at 10 a.m. MT, and single film tickets go on sale January 12 at 10 a.m. MT.
Check back here at SCREEN for the latest news from the film festival circuit. You can also click right here to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.